Tuesday, August 22, 2006

i never thought i would agree with something Leah McLaren wrote but its happened.

Remember that article she wrote for the Spectator back in 2002 when she moved to London? Yes, that article about British men fearing women and therefore paralyzing their self-esteem, leaving them unable to properly court women? The article that caused a huge controversy this side of the Atlantic and a national debate about the sexual nature of British men?

Yes, well, i have to agree with Miss McLaren in her findings unfortunately.

Since moving to the UK almost five months ago, my self-esteem has taken a bash and my self-doubt has been on the uprise. i have to admit: i didn't seem that hard up in Toronto for dates or men who were interested in spending time with me. i was used to being asked out by men back home in Canada. Not so much in the UK. In fact, i have only been asked out once here - and i'm still not certain as to whether or not it was a date. There were other people there, at the pub, so surely that doesn't constitute a date...or does it?

However, i offer a somewhat convoluted and politically incorrect solution; a solution that is too taboo to even discuss in the UK. i propose my solution aware of the sensitivity surrounding it and can only offer it based on my own experiences.

Date working class boys.

Working class boys in the UK are a different breed than those in Canada. They look better, they dress better, and they know how to treat women: they still open doors, pay for meals, and do not shy away from making the first move. Working class boys would probably not be able to afford the gifts that Miss McLaren favours but they would still promise them nonetheless.

True, working class lads drink(a lot), most likely smoke (unbecoming) , are obsessed with football (beyond any sense of reason) and are perhaps unable to dissect 20th Century post-modern British literary theory (and could careless about doing so) but at least these lads are not wracked and consumed with self-doubt crippling them from interacting with the opposite sex.

Yes, proper young men with a good education, family and career could most likely afford someone such as Miss McLaren and gain all the right checkmarks on her list, but unfortunately, in this country, they still don't know how to properly kiss a girl and all those years at an all boy boarding school didn't help them either.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Haggis. The name alone alerts fear in the stomach and makes grown men wince. Made from sheep heart, liver, and lungs and peppered with oatmeal, onion and spices, haggis is boiled in a sheep's stomach and served with "neeps" and "tatties" (turnip and potatoes). Although haggis is considered a traditional Scottish dish, many Scots have never tasted it.

Recently, Scotland has once again seen a resurgence on the pop culture map - thanks to trendy Scottish bands like Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian and Scottish film, such as Red Road, garnering international acclaim.

Haggis, however, has yet to reap the benefits of Scotland's new trendy status. Haggis needs a PR make-over.

Having recently eaten (vegetarian) haggis, it is evident that haggis has fallen victim to a worldwide bad reputation because haggis is gorgeous! Unfortunately I don't eat meat, but people swear that veggie haggis resembles the real thing. In fact, the veggie haggis I had at Stravaigin - along with their crisp and fresh chips - has been the best meal I have had thus far in Bonnie Scotland. The haggis (both veggie and the real thing) at Stravaigin has been voted the best haggis in Scotland and at £7.95 and £8.95, respectively, is a deal. The haggis at Stravaigin - served with creamy and buttery neeps and tatties - is surprisingly spicy and hearty. Haggis is, of course, best finished off with a cold pint of beer.

Robert Burns - Scotland's greatest poet - once put it best, describing haggis as the "great chieftain of the sausage race". A great dish and sadly, a misunderstood one.

A blessing on your honest, hearty face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or chitlins,
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

Friday, August 11, 2006

You're On Notice!

Oh, what i would give to have The Colbert Report shown over! At least we get The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. A day later, of course.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

i have to come clean: i'm not much of a baby person. My insides don't liquefy in the presence of a poop factory (a.k.a. babies) nor do i long to be surrounded by babies. In fact, when i go to a dinner party or some social event at a friend's house, i get irritated when strangers bring their babies. Why? Because people suddenly go from talking about interesting adult subjects - like booze, drugs, music, and sex - to babies, nappies, and teething.

Everyone is suddenly enslaved by the baby at hand.

That being said, however, i find that Europeans are more "rugged", so to speak, with babies and i find that refreshing. For example, parents in North America seem to run on their babies schedule (i.e. nap time and feedings) whereas i find parents here will bring along their babies for adult things like coffee, lunch, and dinner parties and their babies just have to adapt.

So, it's both refreshing and annoying because it seems i am constantly engulfed by screaming mini-humans.

However - and this is a huge HOWEVER - i am in love. i mean, i am butterflies-in-the-stomach, longing-for, head-over-heels in love. My insides melt and i am awash with warm feelings and as if i am drowning in liquid hot butter. Yes, i am in love with that baby pictured.

Everything i ever thought about babies DOES NOT apply to my friends' babies. i'm a hypocrite, i know. But then again, you have probably never met this baby! This baby has a beautiful name - Bronwen - and is the creation of my good friends, Kate and Jason. Bronwen is one of the most beautiful creatures; yes, she is stunningly cute but she is also shy, delicate, and, of course, will one day be a brilliant and kind woman because she's the daughter of two great people.

Nevertheless, my whole point is that i've become a cliche and someone i never thought i would be: see, i've taken to printing off pictures of Bronwen and putting them up at work AND home. i've taken to talking about Bronwen to complete strangers who couldn't give a shit. But really, they have just never met this kid! i long to see Bronwen grow up and i was honestly devastated that i missed her 1st birthday. i have even taken to putting her picture on my computer desktop at work.

My Toronto single friends would be mortified.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jennifer's Guide to Scottish Sweets - a.k.a. How to Rot your Teeth the Glasgow Way!

This waist betrays me; i've known my fair share of sweets in my day. i was a candy connoisseur before there were boutique candy shops to satisfy sugar-addicted folks like myself. i knew which local stores carried foreign and black-market American candy when i was a kid. Before boutique candy shops, you had to hunt around for those sugary sweets guaranteed to rot your mouth.

As such, i have carefully set about eating the sweets of Scotland, braving the cavities and calories of this land's offerings .

1. Tunnock's Snowball

Delicious fluffy marshmallows, whipped into a fervor, and covered in creamy milk chocolate. Do you need a cigarette? i do after writing that.

2. Coconut Ice
(Pictured above)

If you still have your own teeth beware of this achingly sweet treat. Chewy and creamy, this candy is pretty much made out of sugar and coconut. A bit like fudge only better.

3. Tunnock's Tea Cakes

i think i could probably eat at least three of these in one sitting. i think i'm addicted. For all you Canadians, they are kind of like Dare Viva Puffs only they aren't disgusting. Tunnock's Tea Cakes are filled with creamy marshmallow goodness and finished off with a biscuit bottom. i would move across the ocean for you, tea cakes! Err...

4. Caramel Shortcake

Ohmygod. Where do i even begin? The milk chocolate layer which is followed by creamy caramel? Or the buttery shortbread bottom that combines it all into one major mouthgasm. The first time i ate one of these, i had to take a nap afterwards from the sugar crash. My body was unable to digest such quantities of sugar (which is rare) and i could barely string together a sentence. When eating one, i would pencil in a nap afterwards.

5. Polly Pastilles

These are a mix between wine gums and jelly babies. i don't know how else to describe them other than being yummy and, of course, awful for one's dental hygiene.

6. Scottish Tablet

Ok, this might actually be one of the best sweets in the world - but only when it's homemade. There is quite a good restaurant here, The Pig and The Butterfly, who give out complimentary homemade tablet at the end of your meal. Damn, it's worth going to just for the tablet - let alone the food. i'm actually going there for lunch tomorrow and can hardly wait. Forget lunch - just give me mountains of tablet to eat my way out of!

7. Tunnock's Caramel Wafer

A Scottish tradition. A way of life. Milk chocolate enrobes caramel and wafers in this gorgeous wee biscuit. Again, best if they are fresh and haven't been sitting on the shelf at Tesco for months. Apparently Tunnock's makes "more than 4,000,000" of these biscuits every week. i probably account for 1000 of those.

8. Tunnock's Caramel Log

Kind of like the above but with coconut too. i worship at the House of Tunnock's.

Dear People of Scotland,

i've officially become desperate. Could someone please put forward a single lad who would be interested in going on a date with this Canadian girl? K. Thanks.

As a reference, here is my list of DO's and, more importantly, DONT's.


- don't be a drug addict
- don't have white boy dreads and listen to Bob Marley while practicising capoeira in Kelvingrove Park
- don't be some smug upper-class punk whose sense of entitlement allows for you to be an asshole
- don't be a mommy's boy
- don't be a religious fanatic who attends Orange parades
- don't be a football hooligan
- don't over drink (hard in this country, i know)
- don't think that a "Chinese take-away" is exotic food
- don't state that this country is being overrun with immigrants
- don't be a xenophobe
- don't be a junkie
- don't be on the dole


- do have your own teeth
- do be intelligent, charismatic, and witty
- do be a gentleman and open doors and shit
- do be educated and able to formulate your own opinion
- do drive me around Scotland, showing me all the sites
- do know that there is only one kind of hockey: ice hockey
- do have a job/career

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Glasgow on the Cheap or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fish Suppers

You don’t know how or why but somehow you have found yourself in Scotland’s largest city – Glasgow.

Although Glasgow is the second largest shopping centre in the UK (after London, of course), it is still regarded as an afterthought with many slap-dash tourists making a beeline to Edinburgh. Sure, Edinburgh may have a castle and is home to Scottish Parliament, but can you get a deep-fried mars bar, a pint of lager for £1.50, check out Salvador Dali’s, Christ of St John on the Cross for free and get a warm smile from the locals all in one day? Unlikely.

Since moving to Glasgow four months ago, I have made cheap living not only a lifestyle but also an art form. You may be in your mid-twenties laden with student debt - like myself - or you may be a backpacker who has decided to go against the guidebooks and come straight to Glasgow. Either way, I have narrowed down the best of the best places to eat and drink in Glasgow on a budget.


There is no better way of appreciating and absorbing a culture than immersing yourself in the local food. While Glasgow may not resonate on the gastronomical map, it does have a lot of fine food to offer. Unfortunately a lot of the time, to eat well means spending more although it is possible to eat healthy and cheaply in Glasgow.

Canton Express – 407 Sauchiehall Street

Giving a new name to dirty Chinese food everywhere.

From the outside, your senses might tell you stay as far away as possible from this place. However, don’t be fooled – it may look unappealing but the food is ridiculosly cheap and good. It is recommended, however, to eat here after hitting up a club, as it tends to become livelier and more appreciated as the early hours pass. Open until 4am.

Ichiban Noodle Café – 50 Queen Street and 184 Dumbarton Road

One of the few authentic Japanese places in Glasgow, Ichiban offers cheap and delicious lunches for £5.50. From overflowing bento boxes to noodles, Ichiban has lots of healthy and scrumptious dishes.

King’s Café – 71 Elmbank Street

Loved by local band, Travis, King’s Café serves up cheap baked potatoes with any topping of your choice – cheese, tuna, sweet corn, etc – for around £2.50. The potatoes are properly baked and enormous; big enough to satisfy any hunger.

If you’re more adventurous, they also offer traditional Glaswegian meals: sausage suppers (deep-fried sausage with chips), chippy rolls (french fries/chips crammed between a buttered roll and doused in salt and vinegar) and the ubiquitous fish and chips (simply called fish suppers in Glasgow).

Koh-I-Noor – 235 North Street

Glasgow recently re-claimed the title of Curry Capitol of the UK – beating out 15 other cities – and eating out here, it’s obvious. Glasgow has some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten. When it comes to consistency, taste, and price, Koh-i-noor is one of the best. For around £10, you get a main dish and rice. However, the real draw is the all-you-can-eat buffet they offer. I have yet to partake in the buffet myself, although my dinner accompaniments often do, as I am too addicted to their prawn patia dish (highly recommended).

Pret A Manger – various locations

If you’re in a hurry and are somewhat health-conscious, Pret-a-Manger is a great option. They offer lower-fat sandwiches, wraps, rolls and salads as well as some vegetarian options.

Random Chippy/ Take Away Shop

If you’re the more daring type and want to do as the locals do, leave your concern for your health at home and check out any of the chippy/take away shops. They will happily oblige you in your quest to eat whatever you want deep-fried: pickled eggs, sausages, pizza, or fish. It’s all been deep-fried before. In fact, deep-fried pizza has become a quintessential Glasgow dish. Your stomach may regret it but your wallet won’t.


The best thing about living in a country that not only encourages but supports binge drinking is the drink promotions. Throughout the week, various bars will offer special drink promotions – usually a quality pint and/or mixed drink for around £1 to £2.00. Here are but a few samples.

Nice N Sleazy – 421 Sauchiehall Street

With a name like Nice N Sleazy, how can you go wrong? This bar is a legend in it’s own right – from the bands that have played here to the jukebox. It’s an institution. It’s also a great place to get shit-faced and put on some Minor Threat on the jukebox.

Brunswick Cellars – 239 Sauchiehall Street

Word of caution: do not go on a hot evening as this place tends to get crowded and rather warm quite quickly. Since this place is quite small and underground, the air circulation tends to be weak. I suppose they make up for it by offering dirt-cheap pints.

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut – 272a St Vincent Street

The drinks might not be the cheapest in Glasgow but it’s worth going to nevertheless just for the history of this place and the music. Anyone who is anyone in contemporary indie rock has played here. It is now a confirmed legend that Oasis was first “discovered” here. It’s a small intimate place to see a live performance from up-and-coming bands to well-established artists. It’s been named as the UK’s Best Live Music venue for a reason.