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Flavour Guy: Mind the generation gap on Remembrance Day

The gap widens each year. I am especially conscious of this as I approach Remembrance Day, not that I have ties to the 11th hour of the 11th day. None that I know fought in that war.

My father was born a year before WWI started. My mother, family legend had it, was born on the False Armistice of Nov. 7, 1918 when the war appeared to be over.

She was actually born a few days earlier and her father, she claimed, said she was more likely to start a war than to end one.

I do understand that Remembrance Day now honours all of those who served in conflicts Canada has been involved in; but when I put a poppy in my lapel or hear In Flanders Fields, I see the “crosses row on row” and I don’t think of Afghanistan or Korea or WWII.

How large is the gap? I teach in Concordia’s Journalism Department. My formative years — the late 60s and early 70s — were during the Vietnam War, when I was at university in Massachusetts.

The war in Vietnam was seminal to how today’s media cover conflict. This was when CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, went to report on Vietnam and came back to tell Americans that the war could not be won.

Lyndon Johnson, then President, said “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America” and soon after decided not to run for another term. So much of what we take for granted today with media — the way in which news is reported, the ease of using cameras and mics to get the story, the ability to directly go to where news is
happening and get it broadcast quickly, started in the ‘60s.

That era is burned into my memory, but I don’t expect my students to connect to this. There are almost as many years between when my students were born and the war in Viet Nam as there are from when I was born and the end of WWI. A post-war baby boomer, I can barely relate to WWII never mind WWI.

Each year, the gap widens, but I persist. 

Remembrance Day is a good time to think about this. The teacher also learns and I have learned that my role is not only to help them develop as journalists but to give them context. They work on the who, what and where. I work more on the why and how.

There is a well-known warning in the London Underground to “Mind the Gap” that reminds me not to ignore it; but to pay attention as I step over it.

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What recipe can the Flavourguy make for Remembrance Day? Why poppy seed cookies, of course! The best I know of are the insanely thin, crisp and delicious one from Montreal’s Snowdon Deli. However, here is my best effort.

Poppy seed cookies

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C). Beat 1 egg with 1/4 cup sugar until it is a pale yellow and a little fluffy. Add 1/4 cup of oil gradually as the mixture thickens. Add 3/4 tsp of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 tsp of grated orange rind.

Then add 5 tablespoons of poppy seeds. Mix 1 tsp of baking powder into 1 cup of flour and gradually stir this into the mixture. It forms a thick batter. Knead this briefly to blend everything, form it into a ball, and let it sit in a covered bowl for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough.

Put a layer of parchment onto a large baking sheet. Split the dough into two and roll each on a floured board to a quarter inch thick or less. Cut it into cookies. I use an old tuna fish tin which makes 15 cookies from this recipe, each 3” around. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

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