Several years ago, an intoxicated man snuck into the Calgary Zoo after hours and climbed into the Siberian tiger enclosure. The man scaled a 15 foot fence, complete with barbed wire, and then jumped over the second safety fence so that he was directly next to the tiger enclosure. The startled tiger snagged the man's arm with his claw, which resulted in a loss of that arm.
Now there are warning signs all over the zoo, informing people not to climb over fences into the enclosures. This is something that should be obvious but, as shown by the effort put in by the now-one-armed-man, is not.
That man had to work very hard to do something so ridiculous. Scaling a 15 foot barbed wire fence is not an easy task. It is certainly not something a child could do, nor is it something anyone who is thinking properly would do.
Now let's fast forward to the Memorial Day weekend, at the Cincinnati Zoo, where a young boy fell into the gorilla enclosure after scaling a three-foot-high fence and pushing through about four feet of bushes. A three foot high fence is something many children can scale. A small child can squeeze through bushes. This is what happened, and the result was that a gorilla was shot and died.
I cannot begin to describe how sad this makes me. The fact that Harambe the gorilla, a beautiful and intelligent animal, was killed for behaving like a gorilla, in a situation that was not his fault, in an enclosure should be there for his comfort and safety but that is ultimately there for the entertainment of others, is a tragedy. Does this mean that I am prioritizing animal life over human life? No. Do I know what would have been a better solution? I am not a primatologist. I was not there. Even if I was, it is irrelevant. It's done and it's over and it's terribly sad. It is an incredible tragedy that I cannot help but feel could be prevented by better safety fencing, I say from thousands of miles away.
But what about the parents, you say. The safety fencing should not be a factor if the parents had been doing their job. Good parents would not allow this to happen, you say, and to that, I say maybe. Maybe the parents should have kept a better eye on the child, or maybe should have had one of those leashes on his wrist, or maybe should have had him wrapped up in a bubble, I don't know. I do know this: sometimes we as parents look away for a moment. Sometimes we sneeze and in that five seconds our child is doing something we do not want them to do. Sometimes we tie our shoe, assist our other children with a snack, or zone out with exhaustion.
A decade ago I was walking through the Calgary Zoo with my children. My two year-old was walking, holding onto the side of the double stroller, the way I had taught him to. My one year-old started fussing in the stroller and I bent down to see what was wrong. I adjusted his blanket, gave him a kiss, and when I straightened up my two year-old was gone. He was gone. I looked at the crowd of people ahead of and behind me and I started screaming his name. I began running with the stroller to find him, asking people if they had seen him, in an unintelligible voice crazed with panic. I found him, and he was safe.
But I had only looked away for a moment.
He was safe.
I have this crazy idea that places that cater to families and children - such as playgrounds, parks, and zoos - should be safe for children. They should be safe, should a parent be so negligent as to look away for a moment, should a parent be so negligent as to not have their child leashed to their person, should a parent be so negligent as to have other children that may need to be attended to. As a society, a place that is popular with children and families should be a place that it is not easy to put a child into a life and death situation. It should not be easy for a child to climb or fall into an enclosure with a wild animal, no matter what that parent is doing.
And so this situation makes me terribly sad. It breaks my heart that a gorilla is dead, but it also breaks my heart that as a society, we feel the need to crucify because of it. It breaks my heart that there is a lack of compassion on all sides, and that some of us feel that it could never happen to us, because we are good parents who would never let this happen.
There is no winner in this situation, there is only tragedy.
A few weeks ago I was in my favourite local grocery store, and I noticed they had a number of items on sale in the "Baking Needs" aisle. I am a person who loves to bake and who also likes a good sale - I may or may not save my grocery receipts just to show my husband and/ or mother just how much I received in promotional discounts on any given day. What can I say, I like praise.
Anyway, there I was in the "Baking Needs" aisle and I saw that Skor Bits were on sale, $2 off per bag. At first I had myself a private giggle, thinking of the HBO series Vinyl that my husband and I had been watching, and specifically of the scene where the lead singer of the Nasty Bits is found "smacked out" of his mind right before opening for the New York Dolls, wearing nothing whatsoever but a pair of very unattractive white brief underwear and a rubber tie around his arm. Honestly, if you're going to show a guy nearly dead from heroin usage, then I guess you shouldn't glamourize his underwear, so well done, HBO. Then my giggle turned to sadness as I thought of talented people cursed with inner demons and their early demise due to drug usage.
I know! Going from giggles about bad underwear to melancholy about addiction and death, all stemming from the word "Bits." Some people do their best thinking in the shower, I do mine in the grocery store.
I digress. Obviously. My mother's birthday was fast approaching and I had been planning to make her a cake, but I wasn't sure what kind of cake until the grocery store sale on Skor Bits. (Heh, bits.) Skor Bars are her favourite, and I wondered if I could make a cake that would incorporate the flavours of that candy. I used my stand-by favourite recipe for Pot of Gold Cupcakes, tweaked very slightly, with a toffee mid-layer and coconut cream topping. It was a hit! Wait. Not THAT kind of hit. Sigh. It was very good, and my mother was pleased with her birthday cake.
For the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add water, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Stir in vinegar.
Grease or spray two 8-inch round baking pans. Divide batter evenly between the two, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. Set one layer, top down, onto a plate.
For the toffee middle
In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil together with brown sugar, salt, and milk, stirring constantly.
Bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Stir in vanilla extract; beat mixture together with powdered sugar until smooth.
Spread toffee mixture evenly over the bottom layer - the one that is on the plate - and then set the second cake on top.
Top with coconut whipped cream, or regular whipped cream.
Sprinkle 1/4 - 1/3 cup Skor Bits on top.
Variation: In place of Skor Bits, try shaved chocolate or roughly chopped chocolate.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If your house is very warm (i.e., over 21 degrees), store this in the refrigerator!
Want more delicious cake recipes? Try my Best Vanilla Cake Ever, my Not-Just-Plain-Vanilla Cupcakes, or my Red Velvet Cupcakes That Are Not Red Because I Don't Care For Food Colouring (actual name: Va-Va-Va-Voom Velvet Cupcakes).
Okay. So I'm not the hippest girl in town. I'm not always down with the scene, I still say things like "That's the bomb!" like it's still 2009 and "It's steeped!" a la the un-hip mom in that old Tim Hortons' commercial. So I shouldn't have been overly shocked to realize that I'd been using the taco emoji to casually communicate that I was going to have tacos for dinner, while the rest of the world was using the taco emoji to casually communicate something about vaginas.
That was a bit embarrassing.
But, as a friend said when I voiced this embarrassment, sometimes having the gang over for tacos just means having the gang over for tacos, which is what happened a few weeks ago. We had some very good friends over, one of whom is also vegan, and I decided to try something new. These tacos were a hit, and even the non-vegans of the group (i.e., our husbands) thought they were tasty. They are crispy and flavourful and stand up on their own, but I cannot help adding avocado to any dish, any chance I get, hence the avocado cream. Add a little homemade fresh salsa, and you have yourself a delicious taco feast! Literal tacos.
Wait, is there an avocado emoji? Avocado just means avocado, right? Actually, I don't really want to know.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together Panko, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
Whisk together coconut milk, salt, and lime juice in a small bowl.
Dip cauliflower pieces into the coconut milk mixture, and then into the Panko/ cornmeal mixture. Press each cauliflower piece genty to ensure the Panko/ cornmeal adheres.
Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until crisp, flipping once.
Serve immediately on soft tortillas, with salsa, sliced avocado, and avocado cream (recipe below).
Whirl all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
Start with large pieces of cauliflower (a few florets are okay - and unavoidable!).
It reminds me of Shake-and-Bake chicken. All ready for the oven!