UTSU to pilot online grocery store project with FoodReach

Full program rollout at Student Commons expected September 2018

UTSU to pilot online grocery store project with FoodReach


The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be starting an online grocery store in the next academic year. The service will allow members to order goods online and have them shipped to and stored at the union’s office at 12 Hart House Circle.

The project is in collaboration with non-profit organization FoodReach, which works with agencies that serve local communities and connects them with food wholesalers.

FoodReach provides lower prices by buying in bulk. FoodReach Project Lead Alvin Rebick said that the group acts as a large buying organization that distributes to smaller partners. “This allows agencies with smaller budgets to benefit from pricing that would otherwise only be available to large purchasing bodies.”

The organization “was established to address issues of food access and improved food quality & service to agencies and schools,” wrote Rebick.

According to UTSU Vice-President University Affairs Adrian Huntelar, the program “is being seriously considered for the transition to the Student Commons,” which is expected to be complete in September. The UTSU office is not a suitable permanent home for the program due to a lack of storage space in the office at Hart House Circle.

“We cannot responsibly provide a service that involves perishable food unless we have proper storage space, meaning fridges, freezers, and solid storage rooms,” said Huntelar. “Right now, the UTSU office is simply not equipped to handle large quantities of groceries.”

This won’t stop the union from at least piloting the project. Huntelar sees the program as playing an important role in ensuring food security for students. “The main group that this supports is those who live off-campus without access to a dining hall,” said Huntelar, “but also who are responsible for essentially making their own food.”

With the Student Commons on the horizon, the UTSU also hopes to move the Food Bank, which has been operating in the Multi-Faith Centre every Friday, to the new building to allow for operation every weekday.

Win your next potluck with this killer mac and cheese

A comfort food classic for the holiday season

Win your next potluck with this killer mac and cheese

I love holiday potlucks — in theory. In an attempt to impress my friends and steer away from the usual chips, dips, and desserts, I always end up plotting something far too complicated. Last year, I spent an entire day in the kitchen trying — and failing — to produce some magnificent enchiladas I had dreamed up, only to show up at the party with something that strongly resembled brown mush with a side of guacamole. Needless to say, it was not the first dish to run out.

This year, I’m determined to have a popular dish, and what better way to please my friends than with a dish that all students love? So I’m cooking up a creamy, gooey, homemade mac and cheese that even the pickiest of students will devour.

This potluck season, keep it simple and give the people what they want. Put those traumatizing potluck memories behind you, lace up your apron, and be prepared to win potluck season with this killer mac and cheese.

If you’re making this dish ahead of time, cool the pasta and cheese sauce separately before combining them in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate up to two days. When you remove it from the fridge, heat for 20 minutes at 350º F, then stir in ½ to 1 cup of warm milk. Return to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes. Top with bread crumbs, broil for two to three minutes, and then cover and keep warm until serving!

Homemade mac and cheese

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves: 8

  • 4 cups macaroni pasta (1 lb)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 ½ cups milk + extra as needed
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 ½ tbsp flour
  • ½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350º F.

2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water — use about 1 tbsp of salt for each pound of pasta — until al dente, or until just slightly crunchy and undercooked. Drain the pasta into a colander and let cool while making the sauce. Don’t keep the pasta cooling in the pot you cooked it in, otherwise it will stick to the bottom!

3. Warm the milk in a pot over the stove or in a microwave-safe container in the microwave until hot but not boiling, which should take about two and a half minutes. Set aside. Cook 1 tbsp butter and grated onion in a pan for two minutes over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk the mixture together. Don’t worry if it clumps! Cook the mixture like this for one minute. Very slowly, pour in the hot milk, whisking vigorously to remove the clumps.

4. Stir in the salt, pepper, ½ tsp cayenne, and mustard and let the sauce simmer over medium heat until thickened, about five to seven minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more cayenne, salt, and pepper as needed. Take the pot off the heat and slowly whisk in the grated cheddar until melted and smooth.

5. Return the pasta to the pot and pour in the sauce. Stir until combined. The mixture should be creamy but still quite runny — aim for the runniness of Kraft Dinner. If it’s too thick, slowly add about a ½ cup more milk until you achieve a runnier texture.

6. Pour the pasta into a two-quart baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.

7. Melt 1 tbsp butter and stir in breadcrumbs and parsley. Remove the pasta from the oven, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly on top, and broil for two to three minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Remove and serve!

Greased palms and greasy food

Private industry influences in the nutritional and pharmaceutical sciences need more transparency

Greased palms and greasy food

In 1994, political satirist Christopher Buckley released Thank You for Smoking, a farcical account narrating the woes of tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor that was later adapted into a critically acclaimed film. The twin works accomplished more than simple entertainment. They showcased the inner workings of ‘Big Tobacco’ and the manners in which private industries alter public perception of scientific research.

Although we may imagine ourselves in 2017 to be better informed via the internet of possible corporate chicanery, there are still many ways in which private industries, like Naylor, “filter” the truth.

However, all of this begs the question: why is private funding a concern? The empirical answer is that the source of a research study’s finances may very well bias its conclusions. In one paper, researchers discovered that out of 206 articles on the health effects of non-alcoholic beverages, an industry-backed paper was more than seven times more likely to have a favourable conclusion than a paper with no industry funding.

Much like cigarettes in past decades, junk foods are one of the main comforting or relaxing vices we turn to. And, like their predecessor, there is a scientific consensus that junk foods are harmful to one’s health. Thus, as one might expect, the titans of the junk food industry have spent vast amounts of money funding nutritional research that they hope will either vindicate their products or discover some hitherto-unknown benefit to consumption in large quantities.

A recent target is the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health study. The study will measure a sample group’s cardiovascular health as they consume 15 g of alcohol once a day for 90 months. The results will be compared to a control group that has stayed sober for the same period.

Although it is a publicly funded organization, the NIH was unable to obtain financial backing from the US Congress to carry out the study, forcing it to look for private backers. Unfortunately, this has led to the dubious arrangement of 67 million USD being provided by a cabal composed of companies Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Heineken, and Carlsberg — all among the largest producers of alcoholic beverages in the world.

Some private entities don’t stop at funding otherwise unaffiliated scientists. For organizations with the means and finances, it is not unheard of to create an entirely new corporate branch or private laboratory dedicated to the research of their choice. Frequently, these labs operate solely for the purposes of research and development of new products, such as Google’s Verily Life Science, which is currently developing smart contact lenses.

Other times, scientists research the health benefits and shortfalls of already existing products. A prime example is Mars, Inc.’s Center for Cocoa Health Science, dedicated to unravelling the multifaceted mysteries of the cocoa bean, since its inception in 2012. Mars, Inc. has published studies in over 140 peer-reviewed academic journals since the early 1980s.

In 2013, one paper analyzed industry and non-industry funded studies on the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain. They found that industry-funded papers were five times more likely to determine that there was no link.

Furthermore, there is evidence that industry-backed research not only yields biased theoretical results, but it may distract from effective applications as well. A study found that randomized controlled trials proposed by researchers funded by private companies were less than half as likely than independent researchers to propose a change in diet as a method to combat obesity.

All of this points to a need for greater transparency from researchers. “The funding, research, study design, data analysis, manuscript writing, and publication — all of which are part of the process and all require full transparency,” said Dr. Mary R. L’Abbé, Chair of U of T’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. “Not all should be controlled by the funder… Once the study is funded, its conduct, analysis, and publication are based on the study results, not the funder’s needs or objectives.”

But there are more links in the experiment-to-announcement chain than just the researchers themselves. Once conclusions are drawn and test tubes are put back in the cabinet, scholars must have their findings published in an academic journal to see their results applied beyond the laboratory. Of course, academic journals are also staffed and edited by humans who, like researchers, are then also potential recipients of a corporate payoff.

Published in September in the British Medical Journal, a paper by five University Health Network scientists looked at the growing practice of private industries giving financial payments to academic journal editors.

They scrutinized the payments made to 713 editors from 52 American medical journals. The main measure sought was the amount of money in USD received from private pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers by each study participant in 2014. All participants were at least associate editors in the publishing hierarchy, and all journals were cited as influential.

The authors divided the payments into two categories: research payments, which were for research related activities such as coordinating clinical trial enrolment, and general payments, which were for items more particular to the recipient such as meal or flight reimbursements. Due to their more ambiguous and personal nature, general payments were the focus of the paper.

They discovered that while editors received a median general payment of $11, the mean general payment was a whopping $28,136. This massive right-skew to the data can be explained by the fact that editors in certain esoteric fields, such as endocrinology or cardiology, seemed to attract much more money.

“It is speculative, but certain fields, such as cardiology and orthopedics, have developed innovation in medical devices and this may be driving the increased payments by industry to physician editors in these fields,” explained lead author Dr. Jessica Liu. “Other specialties, such as endocrinology, have innovation in novel drug development to an extent that is not seen in other fields, such as pathology or family medicine, for example.”

Evidently, there is a problem with privately funded research in academia. In her paper, Liu called for editors-in-chief of academic journals to consider the possibility of excluding industry-tied individuals from editorial positions.

However, there are issues with this approach. “This is where a blanket rule on conflict of interest doesn’t exactly work to me. It’s a small world out there after all; if you start eliminating these kinds of conflicts-of-interests you’re not going to be left with many experts,” said Dr. Emanuel Istrate, who is coordinator of VIC172Y1, a course focused on the interactions between society and science and the ethical responsibilities of scientists. “You can find a million people who have no industry ties, but how qualified are they?”

Once more, it seems that the answer lies in increased transparency. “We propose that a good place to start would be for all journals to have accessible, comprehensive, and transparent conflict of interest policies for editors,” said Liu.

Istrate, too, is optimistic. “Now most pharma journals declare conflict of interest or at least declare there is no conflict of interests. Journals are starting to insist a lot more on seeing the reliability of the statistics so that you can’t just have bad statistics or bad sample sizes and just hide it under the rug. So, I’m optimistic things are changing.”

UNITE HERE hunger strikes during convocation

Two of seven hunger strikers are U of T cafeteria workers

UNITE HERE hunger strikes during convocation

As graduates celebrated convocation, hunger strikers camped out with tents on the southeast corner of King’s College Circle.

From June 9 to June 15, UNITE HERE Local 75, which represents food services workers on campus employed by Aramark, led a hunger strike to protest the university’s transition to internal food operations.

Inside Convocation Hall, the university handed out flyers to graduates and their families explaining that the commotion outside was due to the conflict over the transition of food service workers from a subcontract with Aramark to employment by the university itself, effective July 1.

Aramark workers have been in conflict with the university since January, when it was announced that the University of Toronto will take over food services at UTSG after its contract expires in July. Issues of guaranteed reemployment, the severity of probationary periods, the continuity of workplace seniority, and the debate over which union should represent the workers surround the transition.

Participating in the hunger strike

There were seven participants in the hunger strike, which included food services workers employed elsewhere and UNITE HERE international organizing director David Sanders, who said he would participate “halfway.”

Two of the participants were food services workers employed at U of T: Maria Goretti Frias, a campus cafeteria worker for over twenty years and Geneve Blackwood, who has worked as a cook at Sid’s Café for 15 years.

Frias told The Varsity before the strike that she was “very nervous, honestly very nervous. It’s going to affect our personal life.”

She continued, “We feel like we are mistreated. We are on probation, and they are taking our seniority over 30 years.”

“We’re trying to get through a point across campus,” said Blackwood. “They’re stripping us of everything and we don’t think that is right. They’re treating us as we’re new workers and we’ve been working for so long. It’s like we’re starting all over again for the same job we’ve been doing for years.”

The 250 Aramark workers have all been re-hired and they will represent the majority of the work force. There is a 90-day probationary period once they start employment under U of T; they will retain their original “date of hire” and receive a new “start date” under CUPE 3261.Protestors in support of UNITE HERE march on campus NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Changing employers, conditions

Most hourly wages for workers employed by Aramark at the university range between $12.00 to $12.80. Under the university’s employment, wages will increase to $20.29 an hour. They will also receive U of T employee benefits, which include health plans, pension plans, vacation time, tuition waiver for spouses and children, and childcare assistance fund.

“CUPE also negotiated to ensure that the current Aramark employees are covered by the health plan as of day 1 of employment instead of the second month of employment as required by the Collective Agreement,” said CUPE 3261 president Allan James in an email to The Varsity.

“The most immediate issue is probation,” said Sanders. “During probation, you have zero job security, and for any reason at all, your employer can decide that you are not a good fit and therefore you are terminated. It is very normal for people to not make it through probation.”

On top of the concerns he expressed over the probation, Sanders claimed that some of the workers will not retain their jobs.

[pullquote-features]Most hourly wages for workers employed by Aramark at the university range between $12.00 to $12.80. Under the university’s employment, wages will increase to $20.29 an hour.[/pullquote-features]

“The university announced at the very beginning that they expected that only 85 per cent of the people would continue with the university, implying that 15 per cent won’t make it through probation,” he said.

James explained that CUPE 3261 is in negotiations with the university to waive the probationary period. “In my four years as president of CUPE Local 3261, I have not heard of an employee being let go during the probationary period,” he added.

Anne Macdonald, the director of ancillary services, told The Varsity that the university administration remain uncertain about the origin of the 85 per cent retention statistic; the university has issued statements to the contrary.

Macdonald clarified that during the first town hall meeting between the university and the workers, a university top chef mentioned that 85 per cent of the workers would experience no change to their current duties, but that 15 per cent would experience some changes to their job requirements. Most of these changes would centre around workers handling fresh and local food, which was not the case under Aramark’s contract.

“For sure, we did not say that 85 per cent of the staff would retain their jobs and 15 per cent would go,” Macdonald said.

James echoed this sentiment: “We have no idea where anyone is getting this idea. We have directly asked U of T about this rumour and they have categorically denied the idea of only 85% of the employees making it through the probationary period.”

[pullquote-default]“We fight hard for our workers,” Sanders said. “As far as I can tell, CUPE never fights to protect their members, beyond putting up an online petition. ”[/pullquote-default]


At UNITE HERE’s recent rallies, several protesters held signs that read ‘CUPE 3261: Workers should help workers’ and ‘CUPE 3261: Why are you letting U of T hurt us?’

“We fight hard for our workers,” Sanders said. “As far as I can tell, CUPE never fights to protect their members, beyond putting up an online petition. That does not count as fighting as hard as you can to protect the interests of these members.”

Macdonald acknowledged this tense relationship: “I don’t think [relations between the two unions have] been friendly discussions.”

James said, “CUPE Local 3261 has no fight with UNITE HERE Local 75.”

The University of Toronto has a legally-binding agreement with CUPE 3261 for its employees’ collective bargaining. According to Macdonald, if UNITE HERE successfully legally challenged this agreement, that union could assume responsibility for representing the university’s food service workers. Until then, CUPE 3261 will be the sole representative of food services workers on campus.

Where that food actually comes from

Many 'foreign' dishes are not as foreign as you may think

Where that food actually comes from

Fellow foodies, it’s time we discuss the origins of some of our favourite meals. More specifically, it’s time we discuss the truths about some inauthentic foods despite their perceived countries of origin. Although none of us want to accept the fact that our late-night bites and first choices at restaurants are often an inaccurate portrayal of a country’s traditional cuisine, it’s important to note the true origins of these dishes.

As Torontonians, we often like to think of ourselves as a cultural mosaic. But considering that we’re prone to adapting the cuisines of foreign cultures and popularizing them for our own consumption, this claim is only partially accurate. While many of us know of at least one dish from our own culture that has either been appropriated or fabricated in a North American setting, we will continue to eat the food regardless. Most of us eat out at Mandarin or buy a shawarma from Robarts, assuming that what we’re eating is authentically Chinese or Middle-Eastern.

The tale of the ‘Chinese’ fortune cookie

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

Let’s start with the most famous of all westernized cuisines: ‘Chinese’ food.

Before the popularity of shawarmas and Chipotle, Chinese food was far-and-away the most popular take-out food around town. Typical dishes involved greasy spring rolls, sweet-and-sour pork, and most importantly, fortune cookies. Without fortune cookies, are you even capable of success and prosperity?

Little did we know, however, that the beloved cookie was actually developed in Kyoto, Japan over a hundred years before it became popular in the United States. Decades after its creation, Japanese bakers migrated to California where they continued to produce the cookies. So how did fortune cookies end up in Chinese restaurants rather then Japanese ones? One theory is that due to rising Japanese internment camps during World War II, American-Japanese bakers found it increasingly difficult to cultivate culinary businesses, and, as a result, Chinese bakers took over the production of fortune cookies.

From that point on, the fortune cookie became a staple in American-Chinese cuisine, and it continues to remain one of the most beloved features of this so-called Chinese food.

The not-so-Mexican taco

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

Next is the ‘Mexican’ taco. A traditional taco from Mexico consists of a soft corn tortilla, steak or pork, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a garnish of red onion. The taco many of us have grown accustomed to, however, is a hard, yellow taco shell filled with various processed foods, such as hamburger meat, iceberg lettuce, and fake cheese.

This version of a taco has American origins in states bordering Mexico, like Texas and Arizona. Jeffery M. Pilcher — a professor from the University of Minnesota investigating the evolution of Mexican food — told the Smithsonian that Mexicans immigrating to the United States often intended on maintaining their traditional culture but could only do so with the ingredients imported and sold in America.

Yet, the establishment of massive brands such as Old El Paso that specialize in fake-Mexican food have ultimately led to an evolution of the taco that no longer resembles authentic Mexican cuisine.

Fettuccine Alfredo: an ‘Italian’ food for Americans

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

Mia Carnevale/THE VARSITY

You’ve probably seen fettuccine alfredo on a menu somewhere like The Olive Garden or The Old Spaghetti Factory.

As it turns out, the popular ‘Italian’ dish is not entirely Italian. In 1914, an Italian man cooking soft-foods for his pregnant wife concocted an early version of fettuccine alfredo, so as not to upset her stomach. The cook, Alex di Lelio, used parmigiano and butter in the dish and later added the recipe to his restaurant’s menu. Eventually, two actors discovered the dish and brought it back to America.

Following its brief stint in Rome, di Lelio moved his restaurant to Rockefeller Center in New York City, where alfredo sauce became popular, and the final changes were cemented. In Italy, however, if you ask for fettuccine alfredo at a restaurant, the waiters will likely have no idea what you’re talking about.

Five ways you can “clean up” your diet

The “clean eating” trend doesn’t have to be restrictive or expensive

Five ways you can “clean up” your diet

As it happens, the old adage, “you are what you eat” usually holds true. What we consume and how we consume it affects how the trillions of cells in our bodies function. For students especially, eating has the ability to influence our mood, sleeping patterns, energy levels, and immune systems, all of which can be affected by the lack of sleep, exam stress, and lack of self-care students tend to experience.

In order to optimize the functioning of our brain and body, we have to start with what we’re feeding our cells. This means cleaning up the way we eat.

The concept of “clean eating” emerged out of programs like the South Beach Diet and gluten-free trend which advocate for eating more or less of a certain type of nutrient — like carbs or protein. The basis of clean eating is to consume food in the most natural and unrefined state possible. Although the concept has received a bad reputation for being too restrictive and expensive, basic principles of clean eating — like choosing foods that are nutritious and unprocessed — are changes we can all benefit from.

To get everyone started on their journey to optimum health, here are five ways you can clean up your diet.

1. Avoid packaged foods

Although not all packaged foods are bad, like chickpeas and oats, most foods that come in a package are heavily processed. Many processed foods contain additives, preservatives, excess sugar, and sodium. These can have negative effects on our health — not to mention our waistlines. One way to distinguish between “good” packaged foods and “bad” packaged foods is to look at the ingredient list. If the list is full of ingredients you can’t pronounce or is longer than 10 ingredients, it’s best to leave it on the shelf.

Tip: Prepare your meals at the start of every week so you don’t feel the need to buy something fast or pre-packaged when you’re running between classes.

2. Hydrate with water

Juice and soda may momentarily quench your thirst, but these beverages cannot replace the superpowers of water. It’s very easy for students to get caught up in busy routines and forget to stay hydrated, but drinking regular amounts of water throughout the day is important for optimizing your health. The amount of water you should drink in a day depends on your activity level, but the standard is generally eight to ten glasses. Staying hydrated with water is crucial for eliminating toxins from your body, keeping your energy high, and your mind sharp.

Tip: Carry around a large, measured water bottle so you can keep track of how much water you’re drinking throughout the day, making you more conscious of staying hydrated.

3. Fill up on veggies

Vegetables contain essential vitamins and nutrients that are necessary to keep us looking and feeling our best. They also contain fiber, which is not only vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system, but also helps you feel full longer. Besides the nutritional value, one of the advantages of loading up on veggies is that they’re low in calories, so you can eat large portions without worrying about the scale. Adding a serving of vegetables to each meal will do wonders for your body and immune system.

Tip: Vegetables can be cooked a number of different ways and can be mixed with a variety of other foods, so get creative and experiment with different recipes!

4. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit

A crucial part of clean eating is reducing your sugar intake. Anyone with a sweet tooth knows how difficult avoiding donuts or cookies can be when you get a wicked craving, but swapping unhealthy sweets for nature’s candy is a smart way to curb that craving. Fruit is rich in fiber and essential nutrients. It also contains natural sugars, which makes it a sweet and healthy snack.

Tip: If you find eating plain fruit boring, try mixing it with Greek yogurt and granola, and turn it into a nutritious parfait.

5. Focus on the composition of calories, not just the number of calories

Unfortunately, it’s become mainstream to obsessively count every calorie consumed in a day. 100 calories of candy is very different from 100 calories of vegetables, and your body knows the difference. Rather than focusing solely on how many calories you’re consuming each day, focus on the nutrients you’re consuming. Incorporate a balance of healthy fats, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates within your daily caloric intake and your body will thank you for it.

Tip: Shop the nutrient-rich perimeter of the grocery store, and avoid roaming the isles stocked with packaged and processed foods.

Scarborough campus comes into culinary cultural artifacts

UTSC Library acquires 10,000 Chinese restaurant menus

Scarborough campus comes into culinary cultural artifacts

Perhaps motivated by the popularity of Chinese takeout for U of T students — shout-out to New Ho King — UTSC recently acquired 10,000 antique Chinese restaurant menus.

Purchased from collector Harley Spiller for $40,000, the collection was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2005 as being the world’s largest. The arrival of the menus is significant for U of T, as UTSC’s Culinaria Research Centre is North America’s largest food studies research centre according to Professor Daniel Bender. The campus recently kick-started Canada’s first food studies minor program.

Bender, director of the Culinaria Research Centre, foresees the university developing into a global centre for the study of food and society. “We live in a remarkable moment of Canadian history, where we are seeing this remarkable flowering of creative culinary culture,” he said. “So much of that is happening not downtown, where restaurants tend to be cookie cutter, but on the edges of the GTA and the inner suburbs where you find people working incredibly hard to produce incredibly good and interesting food,” Bender explained. “Those kinds of restaurants can provide an insight not only to the economic and social life of diverse communities, but it can also provide a way of thinking about what is really the creative heartbeat of our city.”

On its website, the research centre says it will explore questions relating to the place of food in cultural identity and expression. The menu collection, valued above its purchase price by food studies scholars, will help produce studies that examine the relationship between food, diaspora, and inter-ethnic and inter-cultural contacts.

According to Bender, Spiller chose UTSC for his collection partially because of the location, but also because UTSC plans to make the scholarly collection public. Victoria Owen, chief librarian of the UTSC archives, said the library hopes to share the menus online in the near future.

“Some of them are fragile, some of them are old, some of them have been used, some of the menus were once placemats and some of the menus you can see the food stains and [the way] people have handled them,” Owen said. “We do have to preserve them, and that’s one of the ways of making them widely accessible too, [through] digitization.”

In North America, there are more Chinese restaurants than chain restaurants. According to Bender, “that means we have here, at the University of Toronto, the single largest archival collection of an incredibly economic driver of our daily life and of our economy. The emergence of restaurants — the sheer volume of restaurants — suggests how important public dining has been in diasporic Chinese culture. Not only as a place of community building, but as a sort of economic ambition.”

The menus show how Chinese immigrants could make stable work for themselves even when they faced racist and exclusionary policies. In a shared history, the menus can also provide explanation as to how the idea of American food was conceived.   

“You look at the menus and you see things we might not expect to see,” Bender said. “Hamburgers, steaks, things listed as American food. Things listed as Chinese food. Suddenly it seems like there was a very subtle, but careful way in which Chinese or American food was getting presented to Americans, Canadians, at the Chinese restaurants. We might ask ourselves, did French fries — French fries, or hamburgers — become Canadian, or American, at the Chinese restaurants?”

Once the menus are arranged in a digital archive, the collection will become available to everyone for physical and online research.

“Imagine somebody whose parents or grandparents they know worked in a restaurant or owned a restaurant — imagine them being able to find that menu digitized, available in the menu collection,” Bender said. “That’s a really important service that we are providing. At a university, connecting larger communities to its shared past — I can’t think of anything more important for a public university to do as a public service.”

Correction (February 27, 2016): An earlier version of this article misidentified Victoria Owen.

Chew On This: Cheap and easy-to-make recipes

Laura Yiu shares five of her favourite recipes

Chew On This: Cheap and easy-to-make recipes

HK-Style Stir-fried Egg and Tomato

HK-style stir-fried egg and tomato. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

HK-style stir-fried egg and tomato. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

This mushy, homey delight is cooked up quickly and great for all ages. Ketchup is more of a Hong Kong dinner staple, so to get a more authentic Cantonese feel, dice the tomatoes, add in a bit more sugar, and omit the ketchup. Definitely serve with a bowl of rice.

Yield: 3-4 servings Prep: 5 mins  Cook: 5 mins

4 eggs, beaten

4 tomatoes, roughly sliced into eighths

2 tbsp ketchup

2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste (optional)

2 tbsp cooking oil

Heat one tbsp of oil in a pan at medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and sauté on high for two minutes.

Add ketchup, sugar, salt and mix to coat evenly. Sauté for another minute, then remove from heat and put the tomatoes aside in a bowl or plate.

In a clean pan, add the remaining oil at high heat.

Add the egg. Quickly scramble the egg with your spatula in a folding motion.

Before the egg has completely set, add tomatoes and combine in the same folding motion. Before the egg has completely set, turn the heat off. Serve while hot.

Dad’s Tofu Soup

Dad's tofu soup. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

Dad’s tofu soup. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

This soup makes for a fragrant accompaniment to any dinner. It’s easy to make, healthy, and delicious. If you’re feeling fancy, replace the chicken breast with thin slices of pork tenderloin. If my dad can make it, so can you.

Yield: 4 servings Prep: 5 mins Cook: 8-10 mins

2 bricks silken tofu, gently diced

1 cup coriander, roughly chopped

1 large sheet of dried, unsalted, unprocessed seaweed

1 can of chicken broth

1 cup of chicken breast, diced

1 tsp sugar

1 chicken broth mix

1 cornstarch

1 tsp oil

In a bowl, mix sugar, chicken broth mix, cornstarch, and oil.

In a pot, dilute the chicken broth with an equivalent amount of water. Bring to a boil.

Keep the heat on and add chicken, boiling for about two minutes.

Add seaweed and cook for one more minute.

When it boils again, turn the heat off and stir in coriander. Serve hot.

General TANG’s Cupboard Chicken

General TANG's Cupboard Chicken. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

General TANG’s Cupboard Chicken. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

This chicken recipe is one of the easiest marinades to make. The chili oil flakes are worth the trip to your closest Chinese supermarket; they are absolutely essential in giving your chicken the fragrant, spicy kick it deserves.

Yield: 4-5 servings Prep: 30 mins – overnight Cook: 45 minutes

2 lb chicken drumsticks

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp szechuan chili oil (with chili flakes)

¼ cup honey or sugar

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp Montreal steak seasoning

1 tbsp oil

In a large food-safe mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, chili oil flakes, honey, steak seasoning, and black pepper.

Add drumsticks. Marinate in a container or large zip-lock bag for 30 minutes. For best results, marinate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Oil your baking sheet. Place drumsticks and half the marinade on the sheet. Cook the drumsticks for 35-40 minutes until the centre is no longer pink. Flip them halfway through. The soy sauce burns quickly, so if your sauce is drying up, add the remaining marinade and/or a splash of water.

Remove from oven and let it rest for five minutes. Serve hot.

10-Minute Loaded Ramen

10-minute loaded ramen. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

10-minute loaded ramen. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you can’t eat like a king. Give Mr. Noodle a facelift with some essential kitchen staples. You can customize this recipe however you want, but here’s my take:

Yield: 1 large bowl  Prep: 5 mins Cook: 5-10 mins

1 pack Paldo Gomtang Beef Flavour noodles (or whatever instant noodles you have on hand)

2 hot dogs, cut octopus-style

¼ cup frozen corn kernels

1 clove garlic, minced

1 stalk of green onion, chopped or sliced

3 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tbsp oil

In a pot, preheat your water for the noodles.

While the water is heating, add a half tbsp of oil to your skillet on high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms to the pan and sauté for three minutes or until tender. Stir the mushrooms often to prevent burning. Set aside.

Next, sauté the corn kernels until they defrost for about one minute. Set aside.

Make one egg sunny-side up and slightly runny. Add one tbsp of oil to the skillet at medium-high heat, and then crack the egg into the center of the oil. Turn off the heat when the egg white has become opaque and the edges are beginning to colour. Carefully loosen the edges and shake the pan gently until the egg can move freely around in the pan.

When the water is boiling and ready, cook the noodles according to the package along with the hot dogs.

Just one minute before the noodles are done, remove the pot from heat. Top with the other ingredients and garnish with green onion.

If you are serving in a separate bowl, transfer the noodles from the pot into your bowl. Then arrange the toppings as you desire. Carefully pour the soup into the bowl from the side. Serve hot.

Tater Cakes

Tater Cakes. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

Tater Cakes. Laura Yiu/THE VARSITY

You can never have too many potato recipes. Whip these tater cakes up for a chewier take on hash browns. Serve it as a side with some veggies and rice or noodles.

Yield: 1-2 large cakes Prep: 5 mins  Cook: 10 minutes

2 medium-to-large potatoes, peeled

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 stalk green onion, diced

1 tbsp oil

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp grated black pepper

3 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and minced (optional)

Sriracha sauce (optional)

Grate the potatoes with a coarse grater.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornstarch, salt, pepper, potatoes, shiitake, and green onion. Toss potatoes evenly with the mixture.

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil and spread evenly.

Add all of the potato mixture (or half if you are making two), and turn down to medium heat. Spread and flatten the potatoes gently with a spatula until it is shaped into a pancake.

When the potatoes become slightly translucent (which should take about three minutes), loosen the edges with your spatula. When you are ready, slip the spatula underneath and flip.

Cook for another three minutes or until the potatoes are golden-brown.

Serve hot with a drizzle of Sriracha sauce.