Winnipeg Center of the Food Universe

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Featured Image: Front of La Vielle Gare Menu
Featured Image: Front of La Vielle Gare Menu

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 21 February 2020

Winnipeg Center of the Food Universe, 1973


I moved to Winnipeg as a PhD student in zoology at the University of Manitoba in 1973 and lived there for about 14 months. I have many memories of this time, but memories of food are particularly strong though the details are vague. Preliminary contact with Winnipeg newspapers and historical societies to verify my memory of restaurant names were fruitless. No helpful strangers. Memory is unreliable as I showed in False Memories & the Mill on the Floss, an article also set in Canada in 1973.

I’ll therefore take the Christopher Isherwood approach from Lions and Shadows 1937.

To the Reader, Christopher Isherwood, Lions & Shadows 1937
To the Reader, Christopher Isherwood, Lions & Shadows 1937

Christopher Isherwood’s autobiography of his school and university years is perhaps reminiscent of my situation in Canada. My recollections are not indiscreet and perhaps not entirely true.

Author, Manitoba Stampede, Morris 1973
Author, Manitoba Stampede, Morris 1973

Why was Winnipeg the Center of the Food Universe?

I use ‘was’ rather than ‘is’ because it was a very long time ago and entirely personal.

Winnipeg in 1973 had a population of around half a million. It has grown very slowly since. The population in 2019 is 808,419. Winnipeg has more restaurants now but they don’t look unique on the net. One feels that they’d be typical of any English speaking small-city anywhere, nowadays. They were perhaps more culturally distinct then. Continue reading “Winnipeg Center of the Food Universe”

What is History 10: Polynesia a Natural Experiment of History

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Jared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steel, 1997

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 23 January 2020

Articles in the What is History? series are 1 Introduction 2 Sleep Patterns, 3 The Medieval Mind, 4 Love,  5  EH Carr Historians & their facts, 6  Religion 7 EH Carr Causation in History, 8 EH Carr History as Progress and 9 Guns, Germs & Steel Overview.

I introduced Jared Diamond and Guns, Germs & Steel in my introductory article on What is History? and again in article 9 with an overview. Diamond is a biologist as I am by training. His foray into history is almost one of frustration. Because as a biologist he understands evolution and is interested how an intelligent naked ape might develop into what we recognise as a human being (Homo sapiens) and how humans might develop agriculture, settled towns, city states, political structures and civilisations.

Yuval Harari (a historian) in Sapiens is attempting something similar from a different perspective.

The development of human history is set in a background of geography, climate, the distribution of plants and animals and other external factors. These sorts of things are quite acceptable as the study of ecology with animals and plants, but suddenly become less acceptable when one deals with human beings and human history.

Diamond’s frustration with history was because mainstream history did not cover the issues of the biological origin of human beings, the development from a hunter gathering background and the influence of such things that can loosely be called environment on human history.

Diamond is frequently labelled as an environmental determinist and dismissed, but that is wilfully misunderstanding what he is trying to do. Part of this is simply an unwillingness to accept a different approach, but Diamond is also at fault for the quirky way he approached his topic.

In article 9, I felt the need to give an overview to the good, the bad and the controversial in Guns, Germs and Steel to get over these issues so that we could begin to look at some of the important findings contained in the book and their implications for human history.

A unique idea

Of a normal book, if I said that Diamond’s one original idea was… I would be readying myself to belittle the work.

However, we are talking about a generalist work in Guns, Germs and Steel whose aim is to examine the impact of external forces on human history. Generalist integrating works are moderately unusual because they require synthesis of a diverse array of disparate academic disciplines and they rarely contain new ideas other than the generalist overview itself.

In spite of this, there is one very original idea in Guns, Germs and Steel, that Diamond appears to have had, which he outlines in Chapter 2 A Natural Experiment of History.

It is Diamond’s apparently novel idea that is the basis for the remainder of this article.

Continue reading “What is History 10: Polynesia a Natural Experiment of History”

Sensual Words

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Goya La Maja Desnuda 1797_1800 97x190

Featured Image: Goya La Maja Desnuda 1797-1800, Oil on Canvas, 97 x 190 cm, Prado, Madrid

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 December 2019

Sensual Words in English

A Thought Experiment

The idea came on me suddenly. I thought of words as visual entities and wondered what a beautiful word would look like. From that it was a small leap to imagine sensual words.

A list came to mind and for some reason the first three were words beginning with ‘l’. In a couple of minutes I had a list of eight ‘l’ words, one of which I wasn’t sure about:

Preliminary List
Luxurious Languid Lipid
Lascivious Liquid Limpid
Lucent Langorous

I thought I was being objective. But, then I wondered whether I was merely being subjective. I needed to treat the subject more seriously somehow. I came up with an experiment. But I would restrict my investigations to ‘l’ words only. Else, things might quickly spiral out of control.

Sensual and Sensuous

Sensual and sensuous are two words that in modern English have converged. I was interested in sensual words and not sensuous ones, but I felt a need to clarify.

John Milton (1608-1674) was an English poet and intellectual. Milton created more new words than Shakespeare or anyone, with Geoffrey Chaucer, Ben Jonson, Jon Donne and Sir Thomas Moore up there as well.

Milton is thought to have invented sensuous in 1641 to avoid the sexual overtones of sensual. Sensuous is the more neutral term meaning: relating to the senses as opposed to the intellect. Sensual relates to the gratification of the senses, especially sexually. Sensuous in Milton’s sense is becoming rare in modern English. Continue reading “Sensual Words”

The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe

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Featured Image: WC Piguenit Flood in the Darling 1890, Oil on Canvas, 1895, 123 x 199 cm

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 November 2019

The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe

Don’t sugarcoat it like that, Kid. Tell her straight. (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, 1969)

It is long past time for sugarcoating. We should be sick of the obfuscation and lies of politicians, policy makers, agribusiness and other vested interests in the Murray-Darling Basin and of the dodging of responsibility by those with the power to act. It is time to act decently in the interests of the whole community. It is time to tell it straight.

This is not a large dams issue in particular but it should be linked to my three large dams articles Large Dams 1: An Introduction, Large Dams 2: Aswan High Dam, Large Dams 3: Oustees India, and is the reason for my claim to expertise in this area. There are several large dams and many smaller ones involved in the Murray-Darling Basin, but these are not the main cause of the catastrophe. However, because of the current drought, new dams are mooted which will exacerbate the tragedy.

One must mention the Snowy Mountains Scheme (begun in 1949 and finished in 1974) a series of linked dams and tunnels, which was the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia and became a national icon. Its purpose was to divert the waters of the Snowy River into the Murray River for agriculture and to provide hydro-electricity. The latter was successful, but the diversion of water for agriculture never really lived up to expectation. One consequence of dams on the Murray River, however, was that it became in effect a series of long pools and never had its scouring pre-colonial flows and overflows. The Murray provides more water than the other rivers in the basin or river system.


The photographs included are part of my involvement in the Murray Darling Basin. They relate exclusively to my favourite areas and are not representative of the basin as a whole. Consequently, the photographs are mostly the semi-arid areas of Western New South Wales around the Darling River. I have other favourite places but not the photographs to go with them. Much of the basin is in the semi-arid zone, but the eastern strip primarily on tablelands receives much higher rainfall. Continue reading “The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe”

Yellowstone 101

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Featured Image: Canada Geese, Mary Bay, Yellowstone Lake

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 October 2019

Yellowstone National Park 101


I mentioned in my recent article Wolves, Bears, Yellowstone that Yellowstone National Park was the first destination on a tour of western national parks on 9 May 2019.

Before we joined the tour Denise and I hired a car and drove from Bozeman, Montana to Cody, Wyoming and back to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody (also mentioned in the previous article). On this drive we skirted the northern boundary and part of the eastern boundary of Yellowstone and saw the mountains of the northern portion of the park for most of the drive. The morning we left Cody it snowed heavily and the hills and mountains were freshly covered with snow up the eastern boundary of Yellowstone. Except for the northern and north-eastern connection roads most of the other roads in Yellowstone were closed up to a week or so before we arrived and up until a day or so before we started. There was still at least one road closed while we were there.

Cody is the gateway to the Eastern Entrance of Yellowstone. On our last evening in Cody we went to hear live music at a boutique hotel. The folksy country singer was based in Texas but originally from near Cody. As an introduction to one of his songs, he talked in pejorative terms about a visitor to the park who complained about the distances and the number of animals on the road. Yellowstone is big and that is one of its main attractions. I list below some of the distances and times it takes to get around the park from its northern end.

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal wonders. As development spread across the West, the 2.2 million acres of habitat within the park became an important sanctuary for the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states. (National Parks Service)

They should no longer say Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, as mentioned in my previous article, there was an earlier one in Mongolia. The map and brochure visitors receive says:

The Park’s ecosystems range from near-desert at the North Entrance to subalpine meadow and forest on Mount Washburn. They support a variety of habitats that sustain diverse wildlife like bison (buffalo), elk, grizzly and black bears, wolves, trumpeter swans, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. (National Parks Service Brochure & Map)

We saw all but the last two animals in our three days in Yellowstone and much more besides, particularly on our guided wildlife morning described in Wolves, Bears, Yellowstone. In this article I’ll concentrate on the thermal wonders and other natural features of the park. Of the former the brochure says:

At the heart of Yellowstone’s past, present and future lies a supervolcano. Huge volcanic eruptions occurred here, the latest about 631,000 years ago. The center of what is now the park collapsed, forming a 30-by-45 mile [50-70 km] caldera or basin. The heat powering those eruptions still fuels the park’s geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudspots. (National Parks Service Brochure & Map)

Continue reading “Yellowstone 101”

Richard Evans Schultes and Rubber

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Lost Amazon Feature

Featured: Wade Davis The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes, 2004.

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 September 2019

Richard Evans Schultes & Rubber


I met a young Swiss man about thirty in Pakistan in 1995. I’ll call him Marc. We shared a jeep with he and his girlfriend up the Kaghan Valley through the snow. The first time I saw Marc, though he was lean and wiry, I mistakenly thought that he was not prepared for the rigours of Pakistan. I was wrong.

He’d walked alone the length of Africa a year or so before. Earlier he’d travelled with a friend in the Pacific. The friend adopted his approach of not wearing shoes through the bush and ended up in hospital with blood poisoning.

I imagine that Richard Evans Schultes was of that type. He was a botanist, explorer and admirer of indigenous tribes for their plant knowledge in the Amazon, at a time when that was still possible.

Schultes’ personal hero [from a young age] was Richard Spruce, a British naturalist who spent seventeen years exploring the Amazon rainforest.

Although George Lucas modelled the character of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark on several famous archaeologists, he could equally have been modelled on Richard Evans Schultes. Like Indiana Jones, at Harvard Schultes dressed as a conservative professor and thought of himself as conservative:

[He was] outfitted in grey flannel slacks, red suspenders, starched white shirt and a white laboratory coat. I was to learn that this was his uniform in Cambridge, as much as his pith helmet, khaki pants, and khaki shirt were his uniform in the Amazon.

He remained continuously in his beloved Amazon Valley [from 1941] until 1953, when a Harvard administrator discovered that he had only taken out a one-year leave of absence, and it was time to return. (Michael J. Balick)

Continue reading “Richard Evans Schultes and Rubber”

Making Rubber Bands in Burma

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Featured Image: Fallow Fields Outside the Weaving Village on Bilu Island

Fallow Fields Outside the Weaving Village on Bilu Island
Fallow Fields Outside the Weaving Village on Bilu Island

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 August 2019

Making Rubber Bands near Mawlamyine, Burma, February 2017

By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea… wrote Rudyard Kipling on his 1889 visit.


Travelfish contends not much has changed from Kipling and apart from the traffic they are partly right. We liked the sleepy backwater atmosphere of Moulmein, renamed Mawlamyine. Travelling out of there by boat, when we left the huge river seemed part of a lost era. George Orwell’s family connections in Burma and one of his postings during his years in the Burma Police were in Moulmein.

Made famous in his essay On Shooting an Elephant, which begins:

In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.

My favourite amongst Orwell’s novels, his only real novel to my mind, is Burmese Days a very funny, but chilling anti-colonial story. U Po Kyin, the corrupt magistrate is one of the great villains of literature. Burmese Days is set in Katha much further north above Mandalay on the Irrawaddy River.

Denise and I spent a month in Burma in early 2017 on our way to a wedding in Thailand. We went to Burma to see how much the country had changed since our last visit in early 1996. The suppression of the population in 1996 was terrible. Things had improved for people dramatically, though the country is still under the stranglehold of the military junta. Ko Ni a prominent legal adviser for Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy and strong critic of the military, who was working on constitutional reform, was assassinated outside Yangon Airport terminal by a gunman with links to the military in the two weeks between us flying up north and returning to go to Bago.

We travelled from Bago and its pagodas outside of Yangon to Mawlamyine by bus, not too unpleasant. The end of our journey was signalled by the magnificent bridge across the Salween River (renamed Than Lwin by the junta).

Continue reading “Making Rubber Bands in Burma”