Uber cures cancer, ends poverty, brings world peace

Travis Kalanick explains the latest complicated algorithm used to charge your credit card while curing cancer through surge pricing.

September 28, 2016 (San Francisco) – If you have the Uber app on your phone, you need never fear cancer, poverty or war, Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced today.

“Uber is partnering with top cancer researchers around the globe to explore opportunities in developing systems which will eventually see us be able to guarantee that premier clients will never be exposed to the scourge of metastizing cancer,” Kalanick states in a press release he is confident will be run word-for-word by frantically overworked members of the media.

“What is more, through UberEats, we have reached out to leaders in underdeveloped nations to help end hunger everywhere. We have established pilot projects in Syria, Somolia and the Ukraine to give free rides to government agents committed to world peace.”

This pivot on Uber’s part is the logical next step after it announced it would deliver puppies, ice cream, lacy bras for Valentine’s Day, and “hot chick” women drivers in France.

After following up these offers with unlimited rides for $100 and Uber for long haul trucking, the transportation start-up announced Uber for Helicopters, self-driving cars and vertical take-off and landing cars (VTOL – flying cars).

“I know some people are skeptical of our daily announcements, and believe we are just making stuff up to distract from the fact that drivers cannot make a living at Uber. Pessimists insist on pointing out that the average Uber driver lasts 3 months and drives less than 10 hours per week; but I am an optimist. I believe we must be present in all of these emerging categories, or be left in the dust when the future arrives,” Kalanick declares passionately.

“The transportation industry is a relationship-backed business,” Kevin Abbott, long-haul specialist, realist and  vice president at C.H. Robinson recently explained to the Reuters News Agency.  “There’s a lot more to it than just finding a piece of equipment.”

“Kevin Abbot is a sissy,” Kalanick responds. “He worries about things like policies and procedures, driver training, vehicle maintenance and insurance. He is stuck in the past. We are focused on lobbying politicians, avoiding expensive regulatory regimes and delivering for the long-haul clients who rely on our service. Which is why, as soon as we actually have some long-haul clients, we will pay them to appear and speak in support of Uber at all levels of government.”


For more information, remember there is no more information. There is just this press release. Don’t be a silly pest asking for details – LOOK! SHINY FLYING CARS ARE DELIVERING PUPPIES IN SEXY BRAS!!!

–Satire by Rita Smith


Things we take for granted: competent civil servants, and flushing toilets

One of the most important things we take for granted, every day: a working toilet.


It’s so easy to take great things for granted, living in a prosperous Western nation.

I’m going to make a bold statement and say, I imagine most of us take flushing toilets completely for granted. We have them; we use them; we fully expect them to flush away everything we wish to be flushed away. Beyond that, we give them no thought. We take them entirely for granted.

For the past month, I’ve been wrestling with a toilet challenge (two toilet challenges, actually) that has been a total pain in the ass, pun intended, and made me pause to think about how fortunate I really am.

Mostly I am known for writing, posting photos, and shooting videos about food. Growing food, buying food, cooking food, serving food. Of course, what goes in must come out and so you can’t be enthralled with food and cooking if you don’t have working toilets. This is the simple truth.

Here, I pause to give a fantastic amount of credit to diligent civil servants. One of Durham Region’s super-competent civil servants called me in July with in inquiry:

“Mrs. Smith, how many people live in your house?” she asked.

“Just me,” I replied. “I had lots of company at Christmas,” I added, “but other than that, it’s just me.”

“You are using as much water as a family of 4 to 8 people,” she broke the bad news to me. “Is it possible you could have a leak somewhere?”

“In my brand new house?” I gasped, shocked. “Geez, I hope not! That would be horrible!”

In fact, when I checked my bills I noted that for one month I spent $60 on electricity; $20 on natural gas; and $261 on water. Whoops! How did I miss that?

Durham offered to send someone out to check my meter and look around my house. Again, a super-competent woman came out and inspected my meter, with which she found no problem.

“The leak must be past the meter, inside the house,” she noted. “Can I look at your toilets?”

I removed the lid from my guest room toilet; she stared intently into the tank for several moments.

“Your toilet is running constantly,” she pointed out the water lever which just exactly, invisibly, imperceptibly forming a sort of Meniscus curve at the very edge of the drain pipe.

“It’s so quiet you don’t hear it; but it’s constantly draining the tank, 24 hours per day.” It turned out that my en suite toilet was doing the exact same thing. Two toilets running 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. $261 worth of water in one short month.

I thanked the lady from Durham Region and set about figuring how to fix the problem. I turned to YouTube, which is a GREAT source of “How to” videos, and decided I needed to replace the floater assembly.

I won’t bore you with the seemingly-endless details, but it took me several different days dedicated to toilet repair to fix the problem. John at Newcastle Rona was incredibly helpful. I did indeed need to purchase two new, completely different floater assemblies – the kind that have an adjustable “collar” to allow me to adjust the floater height, which the original toilets did not have – but for almost a month I did not have use of my en suite bathroom.

Which is surely the definition of a first world problem, except that it exactly coincided with the nightmare of a giant spider bite in my nether regions. Since my own bathroom was mostly out of commission, I wound up with gauze, sensitive bandages, Polysporin, hydrogen peroxide, mirrors and goose neck lights everywhere: in my bathroom, in the guest bathroom, in my bedroom….

“I thought the whole point of having my own bathroom was that I got to keep my private stuff private!” I finally fumed. “This toilet will be fixed today, no matter what happens. Nothing else will happen until I get my bathroom back!”

Today, I think it finally is fixed. I’ve got the collar mechanism on the floater assembly figured out. It didn’t help that a washer went wandering during the process and caused another leak, but I was pretty quick to figure that out.

I am going to celebrate by completely tidying and organizing the bathroom – I get to pack away the wrenches, the plumbing products, the spider-bite first aid items, and get back to having an actual bathroom with a working toilet.

For which I am truly grateful!

And thanks, Durham Region.

Salsa Verde: now is the time!





Mmmmmm….crispy chili & cheese Quesadillas with Salsa Verde and sour cream. You can only get green tomatoes once per year, and that time is now!

I must be a pathetic sight, hanging around the parking lot of Price’s Country Market, waiting for green tomatoes to be available.

“Come back NEXT MONTH!” Natalie laughed at me last summer. I was there in July. Green tomatoes are not available until almost the end of August – at least, the big, fat, crunchy -almost-done-growing-but-not-yet-red ones are not available until then.

But when they are! You make Salsa Verde. And Green Tomato Mincemeat. And Green Tomato Pickles. And you make so many people so, so happy.

Click here for the link to the video. 

50 Clove Garlic Soup

Soup still
This is not a soup to serve to company. This is a soup for hand-to-hand combat with colds and sore throats.

It may be as much placebo or superstition as garlic and chicken broth, but I have not had a cold in 5 years (knock wood!)

I make 50 Clove Garlic Soup in the fall and freeze it in one-cup portions. Anytime I feel a tickle in my throat, I eat a bowl. Maybe all the garlic just keeps people away so that I am not EXPOSED to any germs…who knows? It is warm and comforting and delicious, and it’s working for me!

Click here for the video


Olive oil (for frying)

One large onion

50 cloves of garlic, chopped (or one whole jar of Derlea Chopped Garlic)

One cup of fresh Thyme, cleaned and chopped OR one quarter cup dried thyme. Or a mixture of both.

6 cups chicken broth

One can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

Salt and pepper to taste


Indian Relish

2 tsp mustard seed

2 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

10 hot chilies

2 cups vinegar

3 cups sugar

6 cups chopped cucumbers

3 cups chopped onions

3 cups chopped green or red peppers*


Boil the brine first and adjust for taste before adding the chopped vegetables and re-heating to boiling.

*I often leave out the peppers.

Delicious irony


It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work with Erik Waddell, who is an amazing dad and a good proof reader.

Not just ironic, but DELICIOUSLY ironic – that’s the only way I can describe one hilarious event at our birthday party blast yesterday.

Erik Waddell, his wife Trista, and their three bright, energetic kids Abigail, Spencer and Sam came to spend a day with me swimming, laughing, and eating ice cream cake.  We were celebrating both my birthday and Abby’s, and my only goal was happiness: happy kids, happy parents, happy food, happy birthday!

While Trista and I were preparing food in the kitchen, I asked if Erik had ever told her the proof reading story, which remains one of my favourite ever. She had never heard it!

“When I was Director of Communications at Health Canada and Erik was our Press Secretary, we launched Canada’s New Food Guide and were printing 4 million copies on the first print run. We not only had a printing press on stand-by; we had a paper mill on stand-by!

“Obviously this document could not go to press with a single typo, but the day the ‘blues’ were scheduled to be approved I had to travel with the Minister and could not be there myself. I asked Erik, ‘Are you a good proof reader?’

‘I have a Master’s Degree in Political Science!’ Erik replied indignantly, clearly offended.

‘That doesn’t answer the question asked,’ I pointed out. ‘I asked if you are a good proof reader. Those are two different things.’

‘Yes, I am a good proof reader,’ Erik answered, and so was assigned the task of approving the final document before it went up on the printing press.”

(And, I am pleased to say, no typographical errors have ever been found in the many millions of copies that have been printed since. It is the second-most requested document from Canada’s federal government; only income tax forms are requested more often.)

Trista and I were laughing merrily at this little display of Erik’s pride in his educational achievements versus real life practicality when we walked out into the yard. I even shared with Trista the fact that when Erik recently asked if I would provide him a reference because he was applying for a new job, I filled the glowing reference with multiple positive statements and ended with a final observation: “Erik is an excellent proof reader.” Once again, it was our little joke. Well, OK, my little joke at Erik’s expense, but I thought I was being very cute and witty.

Fast forward to lighting the candles on Abby’s birthday ice cream cake: I had really struggled with the store-bought icing tubes I used to write on the cakes. The frosting is thick and slow to come out of the tube, and has an infuriating way of lifting right back off of the cake when you finish a letter and raise the tube.

I was so focused on maneuvering to keep the frosting ON the cake, I did not notice other essential elements of cake decorating.

“Why is ‘happy’ spelled with 3 p’s?” Erik asked when he saw the cake.

The extra “P” stands for more happiness. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


“It’s not!” I exclaimed. “Look: H-A-P-P….oh dear!” I realized in dismay that I had, in fact, spelled ‘Happy’ – ‘Happpy.’

Of course, the third ‘p’ in ‘Happpy’ has now taken on a life of its own: friends have noted that it just means ‘more happy.’ Or more frosting to eat.

To me, it means that I’m not as smart as I think I am and I should perhaps focus more on being humble and less on being clever.

And Erik? He posted this Facebook message:

Erik Waddell This typo (icing-o? ) was a highlight of the day. :)”

Well, I set out to make people happy, so Mission Accomplished, I guess…

Congratulations on your new job, Erik – wishing you a Happpy Summer!

July 23 update: Trista posted this photo of Abby’s 4th birthday cake to make me feel better. I really appreciated it…

trista cake







Sweet Garlic Dill Pickles


These are the hands-down Smith Family Favourite.

You can use fresh dill and fresh garlic if you have access to those ingredients; or, as I often do, use dried dill and prepared garlic (quicker and simpler!)

Click here for the video of my process.

Please note – this is not a “how to can” video. I’ll do a separate one of those later. There are great instructions on Bernardin’s website.


Ontario has suffered a Basil blight for 4 years! It appears as though 2016 may be the first time we can make and freeze Pesto since 2012. YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!

Pesto pasta, Pesto pizza, Pesto potatoes (with green beans and slivered almonds!) Pesto potato salad…there are SO many fabulous dishes which need only a little dash of Pesto to make them magical.

So it has been really awful that Ontario has endured a “Basil blight” for almost 4 years now. I kept buying plants, only to watch them wither and die in front of my eyes: spotty leaves, brown patches, wilting stems. Even professional growers told me: “No one can grow Basil. A blight is killing the plants.”

Well, somebody figured out something – we must have a more resistant strain of plants this year – because for the first time in 4 years, Basil is growing like gangbusters!

I can’t believe I was able to harvest enough leaves to make a triple batch of Pesto on only June 19th! By August, my freezer will be stuffed full, I promise.

Click here for the video.

Here is the base recipe I use, from the Joy of Cooking. As you will see watching the video, mostly I work by taste and I switch out pine nuts for ground almonds, which are cheaper and more flavourful.

Go for the gusto! Plant lots of Basil!

Mangia, mangia!

Pesto, from “The Joy of Cooking”

2 cups loosely packed Basil leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts (I use ground almonds, or sometimes, walnuts)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I find this to be about 2x as much oil as you need)

Salt and pepper to taste


Why is God male?

One of the most enduring images of all ages: a mother and a baby. Madonna and child – this beautiful cast of the Donatello original is one of my most prized possessions. The artisan who cast it for me handed it to me with no ceremony: I was in awe. “Why would you give this to me?” I gasped. He didn’t know. “I just thought you should have it,” he shrugged.


Why is God male?

Over the years I did a lot of reading on the male/female dynamic in society and I never ceased to be fascinated by it.

I devoured books and essays on Christianity, Goddess worship, monotheism and polytheism, struggling to grasp what seemed essential to know.

What was the U.S. Sacagawea coin, but mint version of a mother and child?

During the debate in the run-up to the legalization of same sex marriage, we were told by some that the bond between a man and a woman is the most ancient and pervasive link that exists between two human beings: marriage pre-dates all forms of government, and therefore government has no right to alter or amend the definition of marriage.

I balked at this concept: the bond between one man and one woman is the oldest link in history? Really? Because for much of history – and to the current day – the link between men and women seems to be often tenuous.

Most cultures make lots of room for relationships between men and women that are strictly limited to one or a few sexual encounters. Courtesans in ancient Greece, Rome or China; barbarians raping and pillaging. Rape slaves in modern day Syria or Iraq. Young adults dating in a hook-up culture. Bootie calls. Baby daddies.

In addition to such situations made by choice, men go to work, and to war, face injury, illness and early death.

tom mom dave cropped
A lot of babies make it to adulthood with no father. Very few make it with no mother. This does not mean fathers are not missed; it means they are missed so much, we needed to create elaborate social constructs to replace them.

That’s why I believe it is safe to say that in all of the bonds formed since the dawn of time – husband/wife; father/child; siblings; or mother/child, the one that has actually stood the test of time is the bond between mother and child.

A man can father a child, and then disappear; so long as the baby has a functional mother, the child has a decent shot at surviving to adulthood.

Should a mother leave a child, that child is much more likely to die. Either of starvation, back when breast milk was all the baby food there was, or of neglect, in the current day.

Historically, babies who lost their mothers died. Humankind is vastly more likely to be made up of people who can, and have, survived the loss of a father; and much less likely to be made up of those that have experienced the loss of a mother.

Is this why God is male in monotheistic religions?

If a culture is going to suggest a deity that fills the spiritual and psychological gap left by a dead or missing father, it doesn’t need another woman. The women are already right there, where you can see them and touch them and be cared for by them.

How comforting, then, to be taught that your father is always with you too, always watching over you, keeping you safe, providing everything you need. Even when he is invisible, a belief rather than a being.

It worked in Judiasm[1], Christianity[2] and Islam[3]. One of the most telling and important tenets of all three faiths was that men were to care for widows and orphans – essentially substituting organized human action and generosity for the protection of a living earthly father. This was no small thing: it was the beginning of civilized society.

Am I implying fathers are not important? No. I am saying exactly the opposite: that fathers are so important, entire cultures developed intellectual systems to allow communities to cope with the loss of them. We did not need to do this for women.

I believe this is why God is male. Because we need Him to be.

Happy Father’s Day!





[1] “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”—Psalm 68.5

[2][2] “Pure and undefiled religionbefore our God and Father is this: to care for orphansand widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

[3]  And They Feed, For The Love Of Allah, The Indigent, The Orphan, And The Captives, Saying: We Feed You For Allah’s Sake: No Reward Do We Seek From You Nor Thanks.

(Surah  76:  Ayah  8-9)