2014 was a year of big ups and big downs, each one meriting discussion, but that’s not what’s going to happen here. Instead, I’m going to focus on the little things.

By little, I mean petty annoyances that don’t even qualify as first world problems. They’re the sort of things that bug me at the time (or perhaps multiple times), but not to the point where I would even consider firing off a tweet.

So before we get to the one small victory, here are four things that mildly annoyed me in 2014:

CIBC Bank Machines Not Displaying the Balance as an Option

When I withdraw money from a machine owned by the bank I do business with, the CIBC, it gives me three choices. I can either continue banking, which I generally don’t want to do, exit with no receipt, which means it doesn’t tell me my balance or exit with receipt, which means I’m helping to kill a tree for almost nothing.

Sure, I could very easily continue banking to get the balance, use my memory of what’s in my account or click on the app on my smartphone, but why should I have to? Other banks offer “display balance” as an alternative to printing a receipt, why can’t mine? The programming can’t be that hard to do, and I bet thousands of people have a small piece of paper printed up that they throw away just because displaying the balance isn’t an option.

YouTube Removing the Rick Roll Star Wars Trailer

It looked something like this
It looked something like this

A day before the Star Wars Episode VII trailer was supposed to be released online, I saw in my Facebook feed that someone had already filmed it in the theatre and uploaded it, so naturally I clicked. It looked legit: shaky camera, movie screen, Disney and LucasFilm logos, then Mr. Rick Astley graced us with his presence singing Never Gonna Give You Up.

It was honestly one of the best Rick Rolls I had ever seen. Unfortunately, a few minutes after I had shared it, it was gone.

Why, YouTube, why? I get removing fake trailers pretending to be real, but this one clearly gave up the pretense with the first few bars of the song.

I know Disney’s lawyers aren’t known for their tolerance, but the company does understand satire and its newly acquired fanbase (they’re releasing an unaltered original trilogy on BluRay). This is clearly satire that plays to that fanbase. Removing it just makes no sense.

No Northbound Bus Stop on Girouard and Upper Lachine

First off, I am well aware that people in NDG have way more significant public tansit woes than I did for most of this year. Those could very easily make up a post on this site and have on many more established media outlets.

My issue pales in comparison to overcrowded 105 busses that don’t even stop to pick people up halfway through the route, but this post isn’t about the important stuff. I’m not going to go to Marvin Rotrand with this issue, but I will spill it here.

Why is there no northbound bus stop on Girouard, corner Upper Lachine? There is a southbound one. If I’m taking the 17 or 371 down, I can get off where I need to, but in reverse, say coming from a friend’s house in St-Henri, no dice (unless I play dumb and nice and ask the driver if he can please stop).

The busses pass that corner but don’t stop, instead they turn right towards Decarie, stop at Decarie and deMaisonneuve, then head up to Shebrooke, turn left and take…you guessed it…Girouard! Why do they do this? They’re NOT Vendome busses no matter how hard they try to be.

Maybe it’s difficult to continue up Girouard, you may say. Well, the 420 NDG Express does it. It passes right by the corner of Upper Lachine without stopping until it gets to Sherbrooke beyond Girouard Park.

This is no longer my issue as I now live downtown, but it was a repeated small annoyance for most of 2014.

Cats and Dogs Who Speak Human Languages…Poorly

I’m talking, of course, about certain memes. Animal memes where cats and dogs have miraculously acquired the ability to communicate in English (or another human language) yet have, for one reason or another, stopped before learning proper grammar.

This is akin to a human discovering they are able to fly without mechanical aid and then only using this skill to occasionally fly to the dep down the street. If a cat or dog was able to master human speech, it would be a miracle animal and wouldn’t stop at basic words, it would become more eloquent than you or I in no time flat.

Now, if these memes are meant to represent what the animal is trying to communicate translated into English rather than a world-shaking ability, fine, but the same still applies. Doge can be excused, he’s just mocking hipsters, so can any cat that uses the phrase “I sits” instead of “I am sitting” or “I will sit” as jargon. Grumpy cat’s grammar is fine and so is this cat’s:


But the rest? C’mon.

The Victory: That I Can Write This Post

I guess it’s a small victory that I am sitting here writing this post, venting about minutiae on the internet isn’t something I pioneered. But in a way, it’s a huge personal victory.

I’m sitting here, alive, in the warmth with a roof over my head, enjoying some leftover liquid cheer from Christmas and typing away about small stuff that annoyed me this year. People may even read this, in fact, some will. Maybe they’ll even identify with some of the points I made and like it on Facebook or re-tweet (if you haven’t done either of those things, please do both).

In that way, I’m lucky, and if you have the time to read and enjoy this, so are you.

Happy New Year!

TIME magazine recently included “feminism” in their “Which word should be banned in 2015?” poll. The suggestion was supposed to be meant as joke, but looking back at some of the major news stories from 2014 shows that there’s no joke about it. Feminism is a movement that has not been fully realized and is very much still necessary.

Every day porn actors give willing consent for the world to ogle their naked bodies, and the internet literally gives one millions of options to choose from. The hundreds of mostly female celebrities whose nude photos were leaked in August meanwhile did not give their consent.

Despite this disturbing attack on privacy, after the photo leak celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence were slut-shamed. As Lawrence described in her October 2014 Vanity Fair article, the photos were meant as a private gift for her long distance boyfriend, NOT for the world to dissect on 4chan. One of the drawbacks of being a modern day celebrity is that the public wants to know the most intimate details of your private life. Now that demand for knowledge seems to extend to their most intimate body parts as well.

Another important online story this year was GamerGate. The events surrounding GamerGate may have begun as a protest against corrupt journalism, but it eventually devolved when women who spoke up about issues in the gamer community where harassed and threatened.

Gamer and “Feminist Frequency” author Anita Sarkeesian was one such woman. Sarkeesian had to cancel a speaking appearance in Utah after she was sent an email which threatened a “Montreal Massacre like attack” if she spoke. Thankfully Sarkeesian escaped without incident, unlike the six victims of Elliot Rodger. Rodger’s California shooting spree this past May was allegedly about seeking retribution against women who sexually rejected him.

A poster displaying why she’s a “Women Against Feminism”

Not all feminist hate came from men this year. Women Against Feminism got a lot of press in 2014 with their stated mission being “women’s voices against modern feminism and it’s toxic culture.” Besides the few inane WAF posters who insist they enjoy living in a patriarchal society, most declare they want equal rights for the sexes. Many also correctly point out there’s unfair standards out there for both men and women. So why then do they prefer to be labelled as egalitarian as opposed to feminist?

Perhaps because even in the third wave of the movement, feminism for many still equals angry, man-hating lesbian. “The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating…For the record feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” Emma Watson (recently appointed feminist of the year) said during her eloquent speech at the UN in September.

Some believe that celebrities like Watson standing up for feminism in fact negatively impacts the movement. In her article Emma Watson? Jennifer Lawrence? These aren’t the feminists you’re looking for, feminist writer Roxane Gay worries celebrity culture has muffled the meaning of the feminist movement. She also argues that there’s no need to make feminism more accessible to men.

It’s awesome that Beyonce calls herself a feminist, but do celebrity endorsements of the movement help or muddle its meaning?

Gay’s arguments are worth analyzing. Are celebrities who tweet selfies of themselves with signs saying #HeforShe or #BringBackOurGirls making a big difference? Probably not. But it’s impossible to deny that famous face gives global attention to causes that need it.

And if feminism ever hopes to truly achieve its goals, it does needs to work side by side with men to make it happen. How incredible would it be if male and female feminists could inspire men to be less like pick-up artist Julien Blanc and more like Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai?

Yousafzai is the father of this year’s Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai. In March Yousafzai gave a TED talk (see video below) about misogyny and the patriarchy in developing and tribal societies. By not “clipping his daughter’s wings” and by teaching her as a girl she too had the right to go to school, Malala has inspired a generation of women to stand up for their rights.

Brave families like the Yousafzai’s are the most important reason why feminism still matters. Long after Hollywood has moved on to its next cause du jour, charities like  The Malala Fund will still need support. Twitter may have died down with its #BringBackOurGirls intensity, but it’s important to remember most of those girls are still missing. Women in Saudi Arabia are receiving prison sentences for driving cars. Gang rapes and lack of police interest in the crimes continue to plague India.

So the haters can spout all the nonsense they want about how feminism hurts women. But the rest of us are going to remember that feminism isn’t just a word that Beyoncé calls herself. It’s an important movement that affects all women on the planet, and still has a lot of work ahead.

Here at Food & Drunk, we often talk about what’s going on locally. Yet to frame the city’s food beat, it’s important, once in a while, to place things in a global context. As I did last year, I wanted to take a moment to look back at what mattered in food in 2014.

Here’s an eclectic list of eight touch points.

1. 3D printed food

2013 was the year 3D printing became a household term (even if not yet a household object). In 2014, it began to gain culinary traction. From its origins in simple sugar solutions, we started to see applications ranging from pizza to nursing home meals to interactive art installations.

2. Eating insects


Protein-rich and as-of-yet untapped by global foodways, insects were in the news this year thanks to several startups seeking to exploit their nutritional value. Though many cultures around the world would hardly find this innovative or newsworthy, the Western press started to take a new global movement seriously—one that includes entomologists, chefs and urban agrarians.

Montreal even hosted an international conference on comestible bugs as part of the Future Food Salon (after all, we are the proud home of the Insectarium…remember?). Prediction: we’ll not only see edible insects in the headlines in 2015, but also on our plates.

3. Restaurant no-shows

What was once simply a thorn in a restauranteur’s side became a person to name and shame in 2014. The “shame on no shows” movement gathered great steam, only to fizzle out quickly. However, whether by design or organic growth, a message had stuck. Diners suddenly seemed more conscious of the economic ramifications of this erstwhile frivolous act (especially to small businesses).

In the process, Quebecers were forced to confront the antiquated laws that hinder restaurants, placing them on an oddly unequal footing with similar services and outings (such as hotels or concerts).

4. Aboriginal “fusion” cuisine

In 2013, Newsweek asked the US: “When will Native American cooking finally get its time to shine?

In Canada, the answer came sooner than expected. 2014 heralded a tipping point of sorts for the fusion between aboriginal cuisines of many types and mainstream Western cuisine. We saw Rich Francis show his stylings on Top Chef Canada, Doug Hyndford’s self-described “Métis-fusion” garner national attention in the Gold Medal Plates, and restaurant openings such as the Painted Pony Cafe in Kamloops and Borealis in Toronto.

The movement is only just beginning however. Though US-based, this interview with Chef Loretta Barret Ode of the Potawatomi Nation sheds some light on the issues and opportunities involved.

5. Séralini’s GMO study republished…amidst yet more skepticism


CRIIGEN’s hotly-debated GMO study was republished this year, albeit in a new journal, after a momentous 2013 retraction by Elsevier. If you haven’t yet heard—in some way, shape or form—about the Séralini affair and the utter furor it has provoked on all sides—start with the Wikipedia entry.

The most valuable contribution of the Séralini affair is how it got us talking, thinking and strategizing about our relationship to genetic modification. How we interpret its influence in our midst. In our lives. In our environment and our bodies.

I’m the last to pronounce on whether it truly was dodgy science or not, but it’s impossible to refute that, by virtue of the controversy alone, the study has had a greater impact on popular consciousness (and even legislation) than almost any other in recent memory. For this alone we should be grateful, as it guarantees we’ll stand up and pay attention to the multiple ways in which the effects of GMOs can be interpreted. It’s not hard to predict that GMO studies will be held to ever-higher standards and thus reveal ever more useful data—in part thanks to the Séralini affair.

6. Haute (or hipsterized) meatballs

We should have seen this coming. In the last few years, meatballs have slipped onto hipster, even fine dining, menus. This year the meatball hit pitch fever. Meatballs were extolled left and right by celebrity chefs. Meatball restaurants opened in New York, Toronto and LA. Meatballs were made on virtually every episode of Top Chef. And to cap it all off: we got our very own Meatball House on Notre-Dame.

7. School lunches


Kids eat a significant portion of their meals at school. We all know that a bad childhood diet has links to diabetes and obesity. What could possibly be “controversial” about making school lunches healthier…especially over a gradual ten year span? Ask House Republicans in the US. The latter group pulled out every stop to block reforms to the National School Lunch Program, despite the almost laughingly benign nature of the changes. For example, one “hotly contested” rule merely asked that sodium levels not surpass the total of a six-pack of chicken nuggets with a side of fries at Burger King. Despite the ugly resistance, talk of school lunches soon went viral which, ultimately, might be a subtle win for Michelle Obama’s initiative.

8. Cooking (and provisioning) as a human right

One of the most significant (and underreported) food stories of the year came out of Jordan, where the UN’s World Food Program built a supermarket inside the Azraq refugee camp. The camp, on Jordan’s northern border with Syria, might be the fastest-growing in the world, with a population that is estimated to quadruple to 40 000 in the next few years.

In providing refugees with the semblance of a “more normal life,” the WFP publicly challenged its own long-trodden distribution strategies. In turn, it forced many observers—privileged people from afar— to challenge outdated notions of food aid.

Selecting and cooking one’s own food, even in dire situations, was finally brought to the forefront as a key strategy in maintaining human dignity, morale and even life. It was such that John McKenna penned a highly thought-provoking article in The Guardian questioning whether cooking should be considered a human right. Food for thought indeed.

Thus ends Food & Drunk’s eclectic look back at food in 2014. We’d love to hear what you would add to the list! Leave us a comment below or Tweet @ForgetTheBox or @JoshDavidson.

We look forward to covering more food issues and trends in 2015!