Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not the Roof of the World

On the menu at a place called Everest Cafe on West Queen St. in Toronto, there's a dish called the "Free Tibet Platter," described as Tibetan momos (dumplings) surrounded by chow mien. I didn't order that, but I did have a thing called phing sha (or maybe phing sho or shu, since my notes on it are a little garbled).

I went in hoping for a Tibetan food experience along the lines of Tsampa in New York City (see Oct. 7 & 8, 2004, BTST the Original Blog), but no such luck. The place wasn't bad, but it was terrifically good either. For one thing, the decor was sleek and dark, more like a shot bar in Roppongi than an outpost of Tibet. There were no distinctive Tibetan art or figurines or prayer wheels, and not a single picture of the Dalai Lama, though there might have been one around the corner that I didn't see. In fairness, I don't think the place was supposed to be Tibetan, since only part of its menu was. But still, a nod or two to the Roof of the World would have been nice.

Phing sha is sliced beef or chicken, sauteed with beanthread noodles, sliced potatoes, green peas and moru (muru?) (dried mushrooms), flavored with ginger and emma -- which I understand is a peppercorn-like spice -- and served with basmati rice. Sounded good, from that description, but the noodles were soggy, putting a damper on the rest of the dish. Not bad, as I said, but not worth walking around Toronto to find.

"That was the most politically correct kind of food you could have eaten," joked one of the other people on the tour, when I told him about the place later. Whatever that means. I'm all for a free Tibet, myself. Anything to annoy the tyrants of Beijing. But I also wonder at the selectivity of causes célèbres. I don't know that I've ever seen any "Free Western Sahara" bumper stickers.

On a different note, I didn't know Will Elder, but I will note his passing here. I've known his son Martin for some time. At one time, Martin was the managing editor (in New York) of a magazine I was editor of (in Chicago -- such are the possibilities of e-mail and phone connections). I did know that Martin was the son of the cartoonist back when we were working together, because one time he mentioned that his dad had created "Little Annie Fanny." I wasn't a big fan of that strip, but I knew about it. Until I read some of his obituaries this week, I knew a lot less about the elder Elder's involvement in the early days of Mad magazine, which is detailed in this NYT obit. RIP, Mr. Elder.

Labels: , , ,


At 3:45 PM, Blogger REAL-SAHARA-WATCH said...

Former Refugees in Washington, DC this week speak out for thousands still held in Polisario camps

This week, a group of former Sahrawi refugees held by the Polisario Front in southern Algeria—some for their entire lives—have come to United States to meet with US government officials, media, and human rights organizations. Their mission is to speak out on behalf of their own families and the tens of thousands of other refugees still being held in the tightly-controlled Polisario camps.
Among the group of former refugees are: Naba Deddah El Meki (a former Polisario humanitarian aid coordinator who witnessed systematic corruption and theft), Naha Al Salek Sidi (a handicapped mother of two, who was used by the Polisario to solicit medical supplies from international NGOs – supplies which were subsequently sold), Salma Essalek and Said Abderahman (a pregnant woman and her husband who made their nighttime escape through a minefield, chased by Polisario soldiers), Al Afia Hammidi (a mother of five who, with the assistance of UNHCR, last week won the battle to force the Polisario to return her two youngest children) and Brahim Al Selem (a former Polisario police officer who was imprisoned for speaking out against the Polisario, and who has first-hand knowledge of secret prisons for unwed mothers, and the extensive smuggling and contraband network operating in the region). Their testimonies are hardly unique; they represent hundreds of similar accounts witnessed by international organizations, such as the UN High Commission for Refugees and the World Food Program. Too often, the Polisario Front has used the Western Sahara political impasse to distract attention away from this on-going humanitarian crisis. In fact, just two weeks ago, the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for the Western Sahara, Peter Van Walsum acknowledged that there is also a “moral dilemma” to the situation and lamented that the intolerable status quo is “too readily accepted [. . .] by deeply involved supporters of the Frente Polisario, who do not live in the camps themselves [. . .].” “It is vital for the international community to be aware of these inhumane conditions and denial of refugee rights under international law, including the most basic freedom to leave the Polisario controlled refugee camps,” said Robert Holley, Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. “The overall situation in the Western Sahara is not merely a political conflict, but an unconscionable humanitarian crisis that must be addressed.”


Post a Comment

<< Home