Healthy eating around campus

Whether in their first year, fourth year, or somewhere in between, many students struggle with healthy eating at U of T. The fact that there are so many unhealthy options both on and around campus doesn’t help. Whether you’re a student in residence deciding what to pick up at the buffet or a commuter looking for good food nearby, choosing a good quality, wholesome, and nutritious meal is something that both your body and your brain will thank you for.

Luckily, there are a lot of easy, healthy, and inexpensive food options on campus. A great place for lunch is student volunteer-run Hot Yam!, located in the Cumberland House on St. George Street, which is open from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm every Wednesday. This vegan eatery serves up “mostly local, mostly organic,” all-vegan food. For just $4, students get soup, salad, a main dish, and dessert. The food is always fresh, with the menu changing every week.


If you need your vegetable fix more than once a week, Harvest Noon — a spinoff of Hot Yam! — is another great option. The restaurant occupies the second floor of the Graduate Students’ Union building, and is open all week. It also has slightly longer hours and a wider range of options than its sister-store. Dips, fresh-baked bread, salads, soups, mains, and baked goods are all offered at affordable prices, with the menu changing every week.

Sammy’s Student Exchange, a restaurant located in the basement of Hart House, is another campus restaurant with a focus on healthy alternatives. Although more costly than Hot Yam! and Harvest Noon, Sammy’s has many more options and seating space. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, and Saturdays from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. There are some less nutritious options that you will have to trust yourself not to make when sticking to the healthy-eating diet; skip the sugary drinks in the cooler and go for a healthy and filling salad or main, and try not to grab a cookie while standing in line at the checkout.

Healthy food can be found almost anywhere on the U of T campus — not only in the places mentioned, but also in other restaurants or dining halls. Wherever you choose to go for your meals and snacks, look for options that are unprocessed and high in nutrients so that you can stay healthy and really enjoy your time at U of T.

Trinity Western seeks to block enrollment of gay law students

Religious institutions enjoy special privilege over individual rights

Trinity Western seeks to block enrollment of gay law students

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is considering whether to accredit the law school at Trinity Western University (TWU). TWU is a Christian school famous for a 2001 Supreme Court case in which the court controversially ruled that the British Columbia College of Teachers was wrong to reject the university’s application for certification of its teachers’ college. The university is once again facing opposition due to its Community Covenant — which forbids students from engaging in, among other things, homosexual intimacy. Leading the charge is prominent civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby, who argues that since the new law school will be inaccessible to gays and lesbians, accrediting TWU would  impose a “queer quota” — arbitrarily limiting the number of gay Canadian lawyers.

Disturbingly, Ruby’s defense of equal rights has come under attack in the mainstream media. The National Post’s Jonathan Kay has accused Ruby of a “narrow-minded crusade” against TWU. He cites the 2001 ruling and denounces Ruby for trying “to get around this clear precedent with a new argument based on the claim that, if TWU’s law school is accredited, the legal industry as a whole would then effectively be imposing a “queer quota” on gay lawyers — despite the fact that Canada has almost two dozen other law schools, and that TWU’s 60 first-year law-school slots would comprise less than two per cent of the country’s incoming law-school cohort.”

Similarly, in the Vancouver Sun, Calgary lawyer John Carpay defends TWU’s code of conduct by suggesting that, in addition to homosexuality, it also bans adultery and premarital sex. “Nobody is required to abide by these rules, unless a person voluntarily submits to them,” he argues. “Any student, whether gay or straight, who does not wish to abide by TWU’s code of conduct is free to attend another university.”

It should be deeply distressing to Canadians that such confused commentary is informing public opinion on a topic as important as equal rights. As will be clear to any unbiased observer, Carpay’s argument misses the point; no one is arguing that TWU forces its code of conduct on the general public, or that homosexuality is the only thing proscribed by its covenant, or even that gays and lesbians will have no choice but to attend TWU. What is being objected to is that in order to attend TWU, gay and lesbian students will be forced to hide an integral part of their identities — which is an outrage in and of itself. If a proponent of an anti-semitic university were to protest that “nobody is required to take off his kippa, or tuck in his star of David necklace, or refrain from observing High Holidays unless he voluntarily chooses to attend our school,” or that “any student, whether Jew or Gentile, who does not wish to abide by our (anti-semitic) code of conduct is free to attend another university,” we would regard these arguments as below contempt.

Kay conveys a misunderstanding of equal rights; if there is a single space in a Canadian law school, medical school, barber’s college, or restaurant which is not available to all people, regardless of identity, it is a national disgrace — it does not matter how many other spaces in other institutions are available to these people. If a “whites only” law school were to open in Canada, would anyone care that we have “almost two-dozen other law schools” or that the first-year slots at this “whites only” school would “comprise less than two per cent of the country’s incoming law-school cohort?” Hardly. So why, when the institution seeking to discriminate is religiously-oriented, do such specious arguments appear in the mainstream press?

The Post’s Chris Selley outlines this argument in a recent column: “The mainstream reaction, if we discovered some hitherto unknown whites-only university in the B.C. interior,” he writes, “would be to shut the place down — not its law school, not its engineering faculty, the whole place.” Since there is “no moral difference between anti-gay discrimination and anti-black discrimination” he continues, “the only legal difference is that a religious freedom defense is far more likely in the first case than in the second.” Selley does, however, state that private universities should have the right to admit whomever they want.

If TWU was a secular institution ,there would be no debate about whether to accredit its law school. So the current issue clearly boils down to whether religious institutions should have special privileges to violate individual rights. Many people seem to think that they do, yet it is unclear how to justify this position. Canadian law is  inconsistent in this respect; for example, Rastafarians — for whom smoking marijuana is a spiritual act — have been flatly refused any exemption from Canada’s laws against doing so.

Marijuana is basically harmless, and any harm that it does cause is only to the person who smokes it. Accommodating Rastafarians in this respect would not violate anyone’s rights, yet the courts have decided that Rastafarians’ freedom of religious expression is not important enough to merit an exemption to an illiberal law. Christians, on the other hand, have been granted the right to discriminate against gays — refusing to sanctify marriages or rent our Christian facilities for such purposes. Gay citizens’ rights to equality have therefore been subordinated to others’ religious freedoms by the Supreme Court of Canada.

This radical disparity likely has less to do with any principle than with the ability of Canada’s numerous, well-funded Christian groups to lobby and agitate for their interests. This is a luxury which Rastafarians, a tiny minority, do not enjoy. Furthermore, organizations that claim that preventing them from discriminating against gays would restrict their freedom of religion tend to be conspicuously selective in this regard. As Kay admonishes, Christians “are under absolutely no obligation” to “‘read in’ pro-gay interpretations that serve to invalidate the plain meaning of Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13.” They are, however, apparently free to ignore Leviticus 15:19, which commands them to ostracize menstruating women.

Out of this bewildering mass of injunctions, institutions like TWU blithely disregard the majority, seize upon the one that infringes  upon LGBTQ rights, and insist that they must be allowed to follow it regardless of its effect on the rights of others — since they cannot freely practice their religion otherwise.

This is not a rights-based argument, it is threadbare sophistry. The fact that such reasoning is considered, and accepted, in Canadian law is evidence of the pervasive pro-religion, anti-gay bias that mars both our legal system, and our society in general.


Simon Capobianco is a third-year student in math and philosophy at the University of Toronto

Whose frosh week is it anyway?

Students’ union, divisions clash over frosh kits and orientation planning

Whose frosh week is it anyway?

Disputes between the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and divisional student councils have affected the planning of U of T’s orientation weeks for years. This year, the conflicts over frosh week are in part a continuation of disputes from throughout last year, which culminated in the Engineering Society (EngSoc) and Trinity College voting to divert all fees from the student union. Victoria College held a similar vote, in which students supported diverting fees, but the vote fell short of the required voter turnout.

Frosh weeks at U of T are organized by each individual division however, traditionally divisions will cooperate to buy in bulk for items like frosh kits. In the past, the UTSU has often provided frosh kits to all divisions.

This year, four colleges — Trinity, St. Michael’s, Woodsworth, and New — join the EngSoc in refusing to purchase their frosh kits from the union; all other divisions are getting their frosh kits through the union.


Three years of disputes over kits

This is not the first year in which colleges decided to opt out of UTSU kits. Two years ago, the EngSoc was joined by St. Michael’s, Trinity, Innis, Woodsworth and University Colleges in opting out of the kits. Last year, even with a full subsidy, most college councils opted out of union kits.

In past years, orientation coordinators have cited politically motivated material in kits as a reason not to purchase them. Two years ago, material that seemed to pit the union against U of T —  most notably, that which negatively portrayed U of T President David Naylor — was of particular concern to orientation leaders who opted out of the kits. Multiple leaders also cited complaints from previous freshmen that the frosh kits did not promote unified school spirit. In Trinity’s “Advisory Report on the Proposed UTSU Referendum,” published in March of last year, it was explained that past frosh executives had not purchased kits in part because of a number of requirements imposed on colleges by the union. Requirements included that colleges guarantee their programming would not overlap with union programming and commit not to remove any items the union placed in the kits. Jonathan Warda, an orientation coordinator from Woodsworth, summed up the concerns of many colleges about the way information is presented in the kits: “We find it to be more beneficial to include Woodsworth College branded items rather than UTSU or CFS branded items as frosh week is meant to orient students first and foremost with their home college.”


Divisions make different plans

This year, Mauricio Curbelo, president of EngSoc, told The Varsity that the decision to opt out this year reflects the society’s wider issues with the union. The core of the dispute, he said, is that EngSoc can provide better services for its students without the involvement of the union. Vivek Kesarwani, orientation chair for EngSoc echoed the sentiment, saying simply: “We wanted to see if we could run frosh week without the UTSU.”

Trinity College and St. Michael’s college would not say whether their decision to opt out of union kits was politically motivated. Both colleges expressed that, at this time, they have no intention of including union materials — such as the planner, water bottle, or flyers — in their kits.

Meanwhile, Ryan Lamers, orientation coordinator for Innis College, which is using some union materials, said that his team had come to an agreement with the union that their kits would not include any politically motivated material that Innis deems not beneficial to its student base.

Jenny Pazio, orientation coordinator for Victoria, denied that any of their decisions are politically motivated. “We’re not going to do anything for political reasons. We want students to form their own opinions; any issues we have with the student union are being put aside for the interest of our students,” she said.

Liz Wong, an orientation coordinator for University college, said that her team’s decision to purchase union kits has to do in large part with the fact that they are ethically produced.

Craig Maniscalco, orientation coordinator for New, asserted that New has a good working relationship with the Union. He said that the decision to opt out of using their kits was purely in the interest of finding the most cost effective option.


Some students will pay twice for kits

Innis, Victoria, University, and the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) are contributing to the cost of their kits, while the remainder of the divisions will receive fully subsidized kits.

UTSU president Munib Sajjad stated that this model is a way to accommodate each division according to its needs, since smaller divisions have fewer resources.

Lamers disagrees, arguing that some students end up paying for their kits twice — once through the UTSU levy, which each member pays with their tuition, and again directly to the union. He argues that while smaller divisions have a smaller number of students, everyone pays the same fees, so there should be no difference in how much each division contributes to the cost of their kits.


Several changes of plan during the summer

Originally, the union was not going to provide kits for any divisions this year, and was set to reallocate money saved on subsidizing kits towards getting a better artist for the concert. “Due to lack of demand, the UTSU [had] decided to invest more money into other areas of Orientation,” said Sajjad. In addition, early in the planning stages of frosh week, EngSoc offered to bulk-purchase frosh materials for interested divisions through an alternate provider.

Sajjad said that, to the union’s surprise, several smaller colleges and faculties expressed interest in their kits. Lamers was among the representatives who spoke up and argued that smaller divisions rely on union kits for financial reasons. Lamers added that he and a number of other representatives were concerned with where the money saved on kits would go if the union was not able to book a better artist, saying that they had failed to clarify where excess funds would be used. Sajjad claimed that $60,000 was spent on orientation kits last year, and approximately the same amount has been sent due to the “unforeseen interest.” In response to affordability concerns, the union made arrangements with Innis, Victoria, University, and the Faculties of Music, Architecture, Pharmacy, and Physical Education and Kinesiology, to subsidize and assemble their kits.


EngSoc booked parade permit before the UTSU

Orientation coordinators also cited the annual orientation parade as a source of controversy this year. Normally, the parade is entitled “UTSU Parade” and led by the union. This year, EngSoc attempted to book the permit for the parade before the union did.

The confusion with the parade permit resulted in the establishment of a parade committee. Olivia Birch, a trained mediator, and an orientation coordinator for New College, chairs the committee. It consists of a team of parade marshals — one from each college and faculty. The parade is now to be called the “U of T Parade.”

Birch said that the planning for the parade is now going smoothly, with all divisions working together cooperatively towards the goal of a spirited, inclusive event. Birch hopes future years will use the parade committee model. Curbelo believes the booking of the parade route has led to a more cooperative planning process for frosh week then in previous years. “I highly doubt the UTSU would have been willing to modify any of their programming or allow it to be run collaboratively without some sort of external coercion.”

Curbelo added that the way the union is managing Homecoming parallels his original concerns about the parade. “I attended the first homecoming planning meeting to find out that the UTSU has already decided on the date and the programming, and has already been approaching the university and making logistical arrangements. It does not appear there is a place for divisional student societies to meaningfully contribute, other than just to promote the event,” he said.

Earlier this summer, student representatives from Engineering, Trinity and Victoria held a seven-hour negotiation session with the UTSU, facilitated by law professor Brian Langille. No public change in bargaining position arose from the meeting, and outgoing provost Cheryl Misak is planning a follow up meeting in the late summer.

While most of the conflicts around frosh week are unlikely to be noticed by incoming students, some orientation coordinators are worried that the political turmoil will have practical effects for newcomers.  “We all just want a safe orientation, and politics can make things difficult,” said Liz Wong of University College.


Student–administration cooperation paralyzed in the face of austerity

A call for increased student participation in post-secondary funding discussions

“An institution that is open and accessible to all” is what Peter Cooper, the founder of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art intended when he founded the school in 1859. Since its inception, the prestigious New York City college has not charged students tuition. Following an April 23 administration announcement that some students would be charged tuition beginning in 2014, students and faculty at the Cooper Union occupied President Jamshed Barucha’s office. In mid July, the occupants and the administration announced that they had reached an agreement. One of the key points of that agreement was the creation of a working group comprised of students and administration that would analyze revenue streams and find alternative sources of income, rather than charging tuition.  This type of student-administration cooperation should be the standard at universities across North America; unfortunately this is far from the case.

It is no secret that universities, especially publicly funded institutions like U of T find themselves in a financial bind. Funding from the provincial government is going down and at the same time, the costs of operating such an institution are increasing. Thus far, the remedy to this problem has been to offset the rising costs by making up some of the lost revenue in increased student fees. When such increases are proposed, like when the Faculty of Arts and Science introduced a flat fees payment structure, the argument put forward by university administrations is that they have no choice but to raise fees. It is not the administration pushing these increases, but rather it is just the reality of austerity.  Students are told to be understanding and cooperative, and accept the fees. Students, however, have also been adversely affected by the financial crisis ­— the cost of school, food, and housing as well as the lack of available employment opportunities put a huge strain on them. Raising fees increase a burden on a group of people who are already stretched beyond their means.

This method of dealing with budget shortfalls is unproductive and creates a divide between students and the administration. This is more a top down dictation than a genuine attempt at cooperation.

Students and the administration butt heads throughout the year on a variety of issues, one of them being the issue of student fees. Both agree that the university is in dire need of funds. The current method of dealing with revenue not only leaves students and administration polarized but also distracts attention away from the provincial government, lobbying efforts, and alumni — all sources of revenue that need to be further tapped.

As students at a world-class institution, our futures are staked upon U of T being able to provide us with a quality education, something that can only happen if the university is financially secure.  As we are concerned stakeholders, we should be involved in discussions that concern the university’s revenue stream. Students should be given an opportunity to work with the administration in attempts to lobby the provincial government, court alumni and examine alternative revenue streams. The lack of a united front on this issue weakens the push for more funding and allows the provincial government to quietly bypass their obligation to fund post secondary institutions.

In order to remedy this situation, structures need to be created that bring the student voice to the table when it comes to revenue streams. This process should be open, transparent, and, ideally, accessible to all students, not just to a handful of representatives.  Students also need to come to the table with an open mind and be willing to analyze the different arguments and proposals. This will set the stage for further cooperation between the students and the administration. This is a complex situation and it requires creative solutions. It is my hope that all members of our university community, students, staff, faculty, and the administration can come together to mutually agree on a solution to our financial woes.


Abdullah Shihipar is a third year student studying Cell and Molecular Biology, Psychology and American Studies. He is currently an executive member of the Arts and Science Students’ Union.

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Youtube and the formation of cult-like fan bases

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“Iz u gud? Iz u okay? Cuz I wanted to noe.”

Over the past several weeks, I unleashed myself into the annals of YouTube, amassing a borderline-insurmountable stack of videos that I would try my best to watch. I became a “Nerdfighter” and a “Hopeful”, a “Beard Lover” and a semi-passionate member of the “Nermie Army”, all in an effort to understand the fervor of the members of these groups and what exactly makes them tick.

For the record, I am still unsure. But the key feature of these groups is their undying loyalty for the YouTubers they watch.

On August 3, Shay Carl’s trailer for his new film Vlogumentary went live on YouTube. An in-depth and personal exploration of the tropes of video-blogging (or vlogging), the movie aims to discuss the effect vlogging has on the vlogger and his/her audience.

Shay Carl, who is one of YouTube’s most successful content creators, interviewed many other popular YouTubers for his film, including dailygrace, vlogbrothers, and wheezywaiter, most of whom have millions of subscribers.

However, a point not mentioned in the trailer is that perhaps the most important feature of YouTube popularity is the audience’s impact on the creator.

Take YouTuber Alex Day. In December of 2011, he launched a campaign on his channel nerimon to get his single “Forever Yours” to the top of the UK’s Christmas number one list, which is dominated by larger bands. Unable to attract the attention of radio stations, he turned to his YouTube viewers, asking them to buy the song and its eleven remixes on iTunes and proceed to spread the word.

Consequently, “Forever Yours” slowly began climbing the iTunes charts, surpassing songs by One Direction and Adele. The music video, directed by Charlie McDonnell of the YouTube channel charlieissocoollike, gained over a million views in its first week with the song eventually reaching the number 4 spot, at the time the highest ranking for any unsigned artist.

The incredible success of this song is largely, if not entirely, due to the voluntary participation of several hundred thousand people across the globe. Alex Day gave a ted talk in San Diego discussing the project, mentioning “Forever Yours” high spot on the iTunes charts of many different countries.

The power of his fans, who are dubbed the “Nermie Army,” earned him the title ‘future of music’ from Forbes magazine.

Similarly, the vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green, have incredible influence in the YouTube world. With over five channels collectively boasting over half a billion views, their supporters, nicknamed “Nerdfighters,” are arguably YouTube’s most powerful fanbase. The brothers’ most noteworthy projects include the This Star Won’t Go Out (TSWGO) campaign and  the Project for Awesome (P4A), both charitable endeavors. tswgo aims to raise money for families with children who have cancer and works to alleviate the cost of living expenses, allowing families to focus on their ailing child.

According to the p4a about page, “the Project for Awesome is an annual event that sprung out of various YouTube communities to support charities and other ways of decreasing the overall worldwide level of suck.” On December 17, YouTubers from all over the world upload videos talking about their favorite charities and the top 5 most popular videos dictate which charities will receive the money raised that year.

What makes the vlogbrothers so influential is the response rate of their subscribers and their willingness to participate in theses charitable campaigns. The content creators feel the effects of their participation but, in this case, the effects are just as important to underprivileged families, ailing children, and a whole host of other people.

Benjamin Cook of YouTube channel ninebrassmonkeys started a fantastic, half hour, 12-week segment called “Becoming Youtube” that seeks to understand the rules of YouTube and the work put in by content creators. A recent episode discusses the flip side to large fan bases and the sense of entitlement that exists within passionate groups.

However, there is much more to be said about the positive effect fan bases have. The “number one rule” of the internet ­— never read the comments — can be challenged by the lovely remarks made by those who watch Soul Pancake.

YouTube has a lot more to offer than cinnamon challenge fails and slenderman reaction videos; it is an insight into our need for interaction, and it highlights the many positive possibilities of collective effort.

“We love making videos and one of the best things about Youtube is that we have that direct contact. You inspire us as well!”

New Varsity Blues usher in fresh season

Greg Knox, Rob Underhill, John Campbell, and a multitude of new athletes join Blues

New Varsity Blues usher in fresh season

The Varsity Blues’ athletics department has both refashioned the coaching staff for the men’s football and basketball teams and added new, integral players to the women’s track and field rosters for the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

Greg Knox, the newly appointed defensive coordinator of the Blues’ football team, has a sensational background, having won the Vanier Cup twice ­­­­— once as a player, and once as a coach — as well as two Grey Cup championships with the Calgary Stampeders as a captain and player. In 1994, Knox was also named a Canadian Football League all-star and was a nominee for the Tom Pate “Man of the Year Award.” For the past six seasons, Knox held the position of defensive coordinator at McMaster University. Fans will see more synchronization and play-making recognition through reinforced dominance on the defensive line with Knox as a coach.


In addition to the new defensive coordinator, Rob Underhill will join the Blues’ football squad as a defensive backs coach for the 2013-2014 season. This past season, Underhill worked as the head coach of the Hamilton Hurricanes. He has coached the Hamilton Ironmen for the past 12 years, and also has experience as an assistant coach at McMaster University. Underhill’s expertise will augment implementation of defensive backs in formations, resulting in easier recognition of offensive actions and increased measures to thwart offensive gains. Underhill will reinforce the discipline and defensive schemes supervised by Knox.

John Campbell has been named the new head coach of the men’s basketball team for the season, after an 11-season tenure with the Dalhousie Tigers. Campbell’s experience also includes serving as the head coach of Laurentian University’s women’s basketball team, which has won two Ontario University Athletics titles. In addition to his regional coaching ability, Campbell’s experience on the international basketball scene includes working as the assistant coach of Great Britain’s U20 team in 2012, and as assistant coach for Team Canada’s basketball team during this summer’s Universiade in Kazan.

Dalhousie’s director of varsity athletics, Karen Moore, maintains that Campbell’s skill includes “fixing basketball programs,” which is what the Blues need after last year’s season. Campbell’s expertise also extends to promoting team chemistry and creating a framework with which team members can accomplish momentous results — such as the Tigers-top contender finish in their conference last season.

Varsity Blues football recruit Danny Sprukulis, an offensive lineman, is set to be a tremendous addition to the Blues’ football roster for the upcoming seasons. Sprukulis, an example of head coach Greg Gary’s cultivation of Ontario recruits, will help to control the line of scrimmage — giving a much needed boost to the team’s ongoing battle for a long-overdue successful season. Sprukulis started at both left tackle and defensive line for Holy Trinity CSS.’s senior football team and was named a member of the U18 Team Ontario West squad — where he was recognized as a 2012 Canada Cup all-star. Sprukulis was a valuable competitor for his team, capturing a bronze medal at the TD Waterhouse Stadium in London, Ontario.

Twin brothers Chris Heim and Phil Heim have confirmed their acceptance to study at U of T and have committed to play for the Blues’ football team this fall. The Heim brothers attended Richview Collegiate Institute, and are both accomplished high school basketball and football players. They hail from Etobicoke, Ontario, and are extremely valuable recruits — adding both the prowess and physical impetus needed by the program. While at U of T, Chris and Phil plan on studying political science and economics, respectively.

The already strong women’s track and field team has added four more sprinters to its roster: Alison Fraser, who finished the 2012 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association (OFSAA) championships with a bronze medal in the 400-metre race and won the U18 title in the same race during the 2012 Legion Canadian youth championships; Maggie Hanlon, a masters student who placed first in the 100-metre, 200-metre, and 400-metre races in the B.C. Athletics Championships in 2012 and finished ninth at the Canadian senior track and field championships and Olympic Trials; Ellie Hirst, who won the 200-metre and 400-metre Alberta School’s Athletic Association (ASAA) titles in 2012 and placed sixth at the Canadian junior championships; and Victoria McIntyre, who finished fourth in the senior girls’ 200-metre at the 2012 OFSAA championships, and finished 11th in last summer`s Canadian junior national championships.

Recipes for the student chef

Four basic recipes to start building your repertoire

Recipes for the student chef

You’ve read our definitive guide to becoming a student chef, assembled the necessary tools and learned a few tricks of the trade. Here are a few simple recipes to test your new equipment and skills.


Easy salad dressing

Serves as many as you’d like | Prep time: 2 minutes

Store-bought dressings are usually loaded down with preservatives, sugar, and salt. Whipping up a homemade dressing takes two minutes, tops. A simple vinaigrette dressing always follows the same ratio. Two parts oil to one part acid to half part sugar to half part emulsifier, plus salt and pepper to taste.


If you’re dressing a salad for two people, whisk together the following:

          • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
          • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
          • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
          • 1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
          • salt & pepper to taste

or for a group of four or five looking for a more exotic dressing, try:

          • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
          • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
          • 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
          • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
          • 3/4 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
          • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger


If you’ve got one on hand, it’s even easier to use a small jar to make dressing than it is to whisk in a bowl. Shaking it helps emulsify the ingredients more thoroughly. If you aren’t using the dressing right away, make sure to give it a good stir or shake before pouring on the salad.


Broccoli stir-fry with chicken and peanut sauce

Serves 2–3 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes (including the rice)

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

This stir-fry is your delicious, no-stress solution to weeknight dinner, and usually most of the ingredients are already kicking around the kitchen. The peanut sauce definitely takes this to another level, bringing together this pan full of excellence in under ten minutes. For a vegetarian version, swap in firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes, instead.


          • rice (as much or as little as you’d like)
          • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
          • 1/2 cup just-boiled water
          • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
          • 2 Tbs soy sauce
          • 2 Tbs molasses
          • powdered cayenne (or hot sauce) to taste
          • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
          • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (optional)
          • 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
          • 1/2 large onion, chopped
          • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
          • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch, bite-sized pieces
          • 3 medium heads of broccoli, chopped into florets (about 6 cups)
          • stems of the broccoli, sliced into thin coins


          1. Start cooking the rice according to instructions on the package (cooking time will vary based on the type of rice).
          2. In a medium-sized bowl, assemble the peanut sauce. Whisk together the hot water and the peanut butter until smooth. Stir in the vinegar, soy sauce, molasses, sesame oil, and ginger. Add the cayenne to taste. Set the sauce aside.
          3. In a large, uncovered frying pan or wok, heat the olive oil on high heat. Reduce to medium-high, add the onion, and cook for 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
          4. Add the chicken breast pieces, and allow to sear on the outside, tossing once or twice until they become opaque (about 2 minutes).
          5. Add the broccoli florets and stems, and saute for another 3-5 minutes, or until the florets are bright green and tender. (You can always add a splash of water to the pan if the veggies seem to be drying out too fast.) At this point, check to see if the chicken is done by cutting open the biggest piece you can find. If it’s opaque all the way through and there’s no more pink, it’s done. Otherwise, cook another couple of minutes until it is.
          6. Turn off the heat, but with the pan still on the burner, add the peanut sauce, and stir until the sauce is warmed through. Serve right away, with the rice on the side.


Guacamole with pita chips

Serves: 2–4 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

A healthy, satisfying study snack to get you through a long day at the library.



Pita chips

            • 8 pitas
            • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
            • any spices you’d like for sprinkling (e.g. salt, cayenne, paprika, cumin)


            • 2 Tablespoons minced white onion
            • 1 medium tomato, diced
            • 1 small jalapeno or Serrano pepper (seeded and cored if you like it less spicy), minced
            • 1/4 tsp salt & a dash of pepper, plus more to taste
            • 2 large, ripe avocadoes
            • juice of 1 lime



Pita chips

            1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
            2. Slice your pita into triangles or bite-sized strips. Toss in a bowl with the olive oil, then lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with desired spices.
            3. Bake for 10–15 minutes, tossing once halfway through and watching closely towards the end. The chips are done when they’re golden-brown and crisp. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


            1. In a large bowl, combine the chopped onion, tomato, jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Fresh chilies vary individually in their spice level, so start by adding just half of one, and you can add the rest later if you’d like it spicier. (Also, be careful handling the peppers: wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes for several hours if possible.)
            2. Halve the avocados and reserve one pit. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh into the bowl with the other veggies. Mash it all together very roughly with a fork or two. Then add the lime juice. Mash slowly, until you reach your desired texture.
            3. Taste, and add more salt, pepper, or chili if necessary. If you aren’t eating the guac right away, bury the pit in the leftovers and cover tightly with cling wrap before refrigerating. This will help prevent your guacamole from browning.


Super simple banana bread

Makes: 1 regular loaf or 12 muffins | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 22 minutes

A one-bowl, easy banana bread recipe for all those black bananas that get thrown in the freezer over the year. If you don’t have a loaf pan, bust out the muffin tin. To put this recipe over the top, sprinkle the raw batter with a little sugar before baking it.


            • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
            • 1/3 cup canola oil (or sunflower oil, or melted unsalted butter)
            • 3/4 cup brown sugar
            • 2 eggs, beaten
            • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
            • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
            • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
            • Pinch of ground cloves
            • 1 teaspoon baking soda
            • 1/4 teaspoon salt
            • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips (optional)
            • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
            • 1 1/2 cup of flour
            1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan, or line a muffin tin with paper liners.
            2. In the largest bowl you’ve got, mix the oil into the mashed bananas. Mix in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Mix in the oats (and walnuts or chocolate chips if you’re adding these). Add the flour last, and mix until just combined. Pour mixture into the loaf pan, or spoon it into the muffin cups.
            3. For banana bread, bake for 45–55 minutes; for muffins, 20–25 minutes. Test if your creation is done by inserting a toothpick into the centre, and if it comes out clean (or with dry crumbs) you’re good to go.
            4. Cool on a rack before serving. Both the muffins and the banana bread slices freeze well for up to six months if they’re wrapped in cling wrap.

The student chef

Your parents aren’t cooking for you anymore, and the novelty of surviving off kraft dinner and cereal wears off pretty quickly. ALANNA LIPSON offers a crash course in mastering the art of student cooking

The student chef

During my first year at U of T, in a communal kitchen in Bowles-Gandier residence at Victoria College, I baked a batch of cookies that not only burned to ash, but caused the oven to catch on fire.

Welcome to first-year cooking.

The good news is twofold: first, you’ll get better with time. Second, until you do, you’re not alone. Most students heading to university for the first time probably don’t have a clue what they’re doing in the kitchen either. But there will come a time when your strict regimen of dining hall, pizza, and takeout truck food will grow tiresome. You will suddenly feel desperate for a home-cooked meal. So go make friends with your kitchen, and visit it often. Just like writing essays, translating Ancient Greek, or doing calculus, cooking is a skill that improves with practice.

Once you’ve acquired the necessary tools and practiced the simple techniques detailed below, try your hand at some real cooking with these simple recipes.


Tools of the trade

Before you get started on your culinary adventure, you need to stock your kitchen with the right tools. You don’t need to spend a small fortune, with great deals available at Honest Ed’s, the Tap Phong Trading Co. on Spadina, dollar stores, Value Village, or  —  since you’re likely to head there anyway — Ikea.

Knives: The most important, most useful tools in any kitchen. Of all the items to splurge on, knives are the one. Cheap, dull knives are not only useless but dangerous, as the harder it is to slice something, the more likely it is that the knife will slip and slit your fingers instead. Start with one chef’s knife or santoku knife, and one smaller paring knife. Skip the expensive sets that are full of blades you’ll never use. Department stores like the Bay often have high-quality knives on sale.

Cutting boards: Grab a set, and assign one for onions and garlic, one for meat and fish, and one for the rest. Skip the smaller cutting boards — you will almost always wish you used a larger one.

Kettle: Not good only for tea, but useful for boiling water for noodles if you’re pinched for time or can’t watch the pot.

Baking spatula, wooden spoon, plastic flipper spatula, ladle, and plastic-tipped tongs: So many pans are covered in a non-stick coating these days, it’s not worth buying the metal equivalents of these and risking scratching them.

Baking sheet: Useful for heating up pizza and baking cookies alike. Make sure to check the size of your oven first; don’t buy a sheet that’s too big to fit inside.

Pots and pans: A small, a medium, and a large saucepan; a medium nonstick cast aluminum pan (10-inch); and a large, heavier duty steel pan with steep sides (14-inch). Buy a single lid that will cover the larger pans/pots, or just use a plate.

Measuring cups, measuring spoons, vegetable peeler and can opener: Especially the can opener.

Colander or mesh sieve: It’s not worth losing your noodles in the sink.

Corkscrew: Not one of those horrible ones with arms. Get one that folds into itself, with a mini label-knife.


Getting the grub

Once your kitchen is stocked with tools, all you need is the actual food to make some magic. There are a number of big-box grocery stores around campus, but in addition to being overwhelming, they’re also on the expensive side. Fortunately for you, St. George campus is situated within easy walking distance of two of Toronto’s most vibrant (and least expensive) food neighbourhoods: Kensington Market and Chinatown.

Kensington’s got you covered for local, in-season produce at reasonable prices, and dry-goods stores that offer everything from exotic candy to South American pantry staples, to health food items. The butcher shops and fishmongers are friendly, knowledgeable, and always willing to offer advice on how best to cook their products; however, since the products are usually locally-raised and sustainable, you’ll be paying a higher price in accordance with quality.

If your budget is tight and you aren’t terribly fussed about where your protein came from or what it ate, then Chinatown is the place for you — and if you’re a vegetarian, the tofu is cheaper here too. Some of the bigger stores, like Oriental Harvest or Lucky Moose Food Mart, are your best bet for one-stop grocery shopping. Chinatown produce is the cheapest available downtown, though — as with the meat — it won’t likely be local or in-season. For pantry items, though, Chinatown beats Kensington by far. You’ll find all the same brands for soy sauce, honey, ketchup, jams, peanut butter, and so forth, at prices considerably lower than the major grocery stores.


The basics


Keeping your digits intact

First, secure your cutting board. If it seems like it’s wobbling or slipping, dampen a kitchen towel and place it underneath to stabilize your cutting surface. If you’re gripping your food in your left hand and cutting with your right, make sure to guide the knife with the knuckles of your left hand, and not your fingertips. Always make sure to keep your fingertips curled slightly under, and to bend your thumb out of the way. When you’re learning to chop for the first time, go slowly. You’ll get faster with practise; the goal is precision rather than speed. And, as mentioned above, always use sharp knives; it’s the dull ones that endanger your digits.


Not all produce needs refrigerating

Many fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer if they aren’t refrigerated. Keep your onions and garlic in a dark, dry place like a drawer or cupboard. Keep apples, pears, peaches, all citrus, tomatoes, avocadoes, and bananas in a bowl on your counter. If you’re eating them in the near future, even berries taste better unrefrigerated.


Fresh herbs

To prolong the lifespan of fresh herbs, place them in a glass filled halfway with water. Cover the glass with a small plastic bag and secure it with an elastic. Store in the fridge. Otherwise, chop up the remaining herbs and fill each cube of an ice tray three-quarters of the way full with the herbs. Cover with water and freeze. Then remove the cubes, put in a labelled bag, and throw into soups, stews, or curries.


Dried spices 101

As herbs are dried for storage, their flavour increases in intensity. In general, if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh ones, use about half the amount called for in the recipe. Also, most dried spices usually need to be livened up a little before using (cayenne and other chili powders being the exception). To help revive them, heat a dry saucepan to medium-high, then add the spices. Toast them for about a minute, stirring if necessary, and remove from heat, setting the spices aside in a bowl as soon as they become fragrant. As a rule, dried spices go stale within a few months, so it’s not worth buying them in those massive bags from the grocery store. Better to buy them in small portions from the bulk food sections in Kensington or at any health store.


First-time bakers

It pretty much all comes down to this: don’t over-pack your flour. Flour should be scooped out of the bag with a spoon, and gently shaken into the measuring cup to help aerate it. When the measuring cup is full, level the excess off with your finger. Too much flour will turn your baked goods leaden and dense. Likewise, stir your batters as little as possible, usually until the ingredients are just incorporated, to avoid over-working them, also making them dense.


Always use a bigger bowl or pot thank you think you need

That extra space isn’t going to hurt anyone, and it is truly annoying to start a project in one bowl/pot only to realize halfway through that you’re going to have to switch to another.



A little salt goes a long way. Start by adding small increments — just a pinch or two — and work your way up from there; you can always add more. If you happen to have over-salted your soup, you can try to salvage it by tossing in a couple cubed potatoes. Cook the potatoes until they’re fork-tender (usually about 20 minutes), and they should absorb some of the salt. Remove and discard the potatoes before serving.

How to peel garlic

There are two methods that work well. First, separate your garlic cloves from the head of garlic. Lay an individual clove on its side, and with a chef’s knife chop off the grey nub at the bottom. Then turn your knife on its side, press against the clove, and give it a good smash with your fist. The skin should be loosened enough to slip off. Alternatively, stick as many cloves as you’d like in a metal bowl, and then place a second, inverted bowl on top. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, and the garlic will have peeled itself.


How to chop an onion

Slice the onion in half through the root (the fuzzy nub part). Peel the outer skin off of both halves, and lay them flat, cut-side down. Grip the fuzzy root end in your left hand, and with the tip of the knife pointed towards it, make incisions that go almost-but-not-quite-all-the-way to the root — this allows it to act like as a grip, and keeps the onion from flying everywhere. Turn the knife so it is perpendicular to the cuts you made, and cut again from the outside in (moving towards the root). Discard the little nub that should be left over.


Not just for the kitchen

A lot of the ingredients or tools you have lying around can be used for more than just culinary experiments. Baking soda and vinegar can be used to clear out a clogged drain. Vinegar mixed with water in a spray bottle works well as an inexpensive all-purpose cleaner. Aluminum foil, if crumpled and wet, can be used to clean rust off of most surfaces. If you break a glass, you can press soft slices of bread over the area to catch the shards. Oddly enough you can rub a little mayo onto a water-stained wood surface, and it will help get rid of the mark.

Mostly, cooking is a skill you will hone as you practice. Be sure to wash your dishes as you go, take advantage of your leftovers, and try not to set the kitchen on fire. Improvising is also key and will help you to consolidate your mastery of the kitchen. With a bit of effort, you’ll be making ten course meals for your whole floor in no time (or, at least, some pasta for yourself).