Glenn J. Nashen finds African cuisine in Plateau Mont-Royal

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Posted on MtlRestoRap

Always on the lookout for something different and experiential to try among Montreal’s thousands of restaurants, I recently happened upon a great find tucked in among the eclectic, unique spots in Montreal’s Mile End district of Plateau Mont-Royal. And of the many eateries I’ve experienced in our great city this was my first outing to an African restaurant (northwestern Africa to be more specific, and Mauritanian to be pinpoint accurate).

Atigh, is the creative genius behind La Khaima, a successful establishment that has been going strong for 15 years. Atigh arrived at that time from Mauritania, which shares its borders with four nations: Algeria, Mali, Western Sahara, and Senegal. He started cooking in university residence and enjoyed entertaining crowds of Montreal students since he missed such social occasions from his homeland. It wasn’t long before students were paying him to cook for them. That’s when he realized he was onto something that he hadn’t expected when he moved from Western Africa to Canada.

Atigh is the youngest child and as such he had the responsibility to cook for his nomadic family while the others tended to animals and collected food for their meals. His mother taught him all about preparing fruits and vegetables and how to cook up some amazing, tasty, traditional dishes.

The nomadic lifestyle meant that seven months each year the diet was vegetarian as the family traveled every few days to a new location, herding their animals in search of new fields and pastures. Out of necessity, culture and tradition, the local flavours and aroma of nomadic cuisine became first-hand to Atigh, who developed his expertise from a young age and transferred it to the new world.

As soon as you walk into La Khaima you enter a world of typical, brightly coloured fabrics, low benches and tables meant for groups and families.

We were greeted by Atigh’s staff – more like family – Tommy, Luis and Rodrigo. He has inculcated the Mauritanian spirit into his Quebecois server/manager, his Mexican waiters and chefs, and others from various points around the globe, like Hico, who was born in the Ivory Coast, moved to Benin and on to Montreal.

Bottled hibiscus juice branded in Atigh’s name lines the front window and was our first taste as we removed our shoes to sit at the table. These special flavoured drinks are common in the desert in Mauritania, with hibiscus leaves left to soak in water for twenty-four hours. Completely organic, there are four flavours to choose from: original, mint, ginger and unsweetened. The unique flavour was a good start to the La Khaima experience and fortunately can last even longer as bottles are sold in organic grocery stores across the city as well as in local depanneurs. What’s more, “It’s good for your health”, we were told by manager Tommy, containing iron and calcium, excellent properties for good circulation.

The menu is relatively simple. For a fixed price you are served appetizers, soup, a main course and dessert. “You’re going to eat as though you were in Mauritania,” said Tommy, setting out the well-spiced hummus along with a bowl of pita. “This is the best hummus I’ve ever tasted,” my daughter Nicole shouted out.

A few minutes later the lentil soup comes out in a soup tureen and Tommy ladles out a portion for each of us. It was very tasty, full of flavour, and there was enough for seconds. We talked with Tommy while we sipped our soup and learned more about the restaurant and the country.

The main course consists of a choice of protein served on a bed of couscous. There’s the vegetarian one loaded with carrots, beans and the vegetable choice of the day.

Atigh carefully selects what is in season at local markets, just as he chooses spices and other special ingredients back home. Other choices include the beef with date and cinnamon plate and there’s also chicken with lemon and olive. My family sampled the veggie while I tried the beef and chicken choices. All of us were excited about the presentation and smells that steamed up our tented area.

“Everything is made fresh and cooked slowly,” Atigh pointed out. While the dishes are typical of western and northern Africa, the spices are sourced personally from Morocco by Atigh who travels to the region several times a year, on his mission to ensure genuine nomadic flavours. “The lemon is from Yemen,” Atigh told us, used to marinade the chicken or lamb dishes.

The ever-versatile and always smiling Atigh is also a musician who plays the ardin, a traditional Mauritanian instrument. At other times he is in the kitchen cooking and frequently he personally serves up old style Ethiopian coffee in a traditional ceremony and smokes cigars with his regular customers.

Atigh is a storyteller and enjoyed sitting with my family and recounting tales of his childhood and native land. He speaks five languages and his family back home is still nomadic, surveying the stars, noting the shape of the grains of sand, and following their camels! In fact, his cousin served as president of Mauritania for 18 years.

Today, 3000 Mauritanian ex-pats call Montreal their home and many visit La Khaima regularly to stay connected. Travelling diplomats from the region also drop in for dinner and to support the local community.

La Khaima is a BYOB venue, and one of the few local establishments that remain open on Monday nights. African music is always filling the warm, festive and  friendly environment which is suited to couples, groups and families.

Atigh even started the Festivale Nomade to help spread the word about Mauritania. He could not be more proud of his heritage and he is constantly looking for ways to give back to his adopted home here in Montreal. “He is very charitable,” Tommy says. “He has a very big heart.” La Khaima meals are are all-you-can enjoy, including fresh mint tea and home-baked date cake drizzled with warm molasses syrup. The price is fixed at $25 per person, $12 for children. And you can bring your own wine. It is located at 142 Fairmount Street West, a few blocks east of Park Avenue in the Plateau (and just down the block from Fairmount Bagel). They are open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) from 5:00 PM-10:00 PM. For reservations call 514-948-9993. Find them on their websiteFacebook and Instagram.

A Day to Remember

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Three generations marking Remembrance Day 2019: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen

Each year, on Remembrance Day, our family takes time out to pay tribute to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in wars, conflicts, peacekeeping missions and here at home. We remember those who fell in action and who were injured. We think of those who continue to serve and we acknowledge the hardship for their families.

Closer to home, my family pays tribute to my father, George Nashen, for his service as a Sargent in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII.

This year we attended the Cote Saint-Luc ceremony held last Friday in City Hall. While the number of WWII veterans sadly diminishes each year we were fortunate to be with my dad, as one of only three veterans in the capacity crowd.

George Nashen surrounded by mayors, councillors, MNA, MP, clergy and emergency responders as school children look on

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein honoured the attending veterans, Alan Ruben, former City Councillor Isadore Goldberg and my father, George. The Mayor produced a video highlighting their contributions to Canada. Below you can watch the portion about my father.

 

There were three main pillars to this year’s events: the children, the wreath laying and the speeches.

Four elementary schools (JPPS, Hebrew Academy, Ecole de la Monde and Merton School) and two high schools (Bialik and John Grant) participated. The children recited poems, including In Flanders Field, and sang songs, such as The White Cliffs of Dover, in four languages. It was an impressive showing of the next generation and was reassuring that the fading memories of long ago sacrifices would still be remembered.

Wreaths were deposited by the politicians, emergency services, volunteer and community organizations, students and the staff of the city. One moving episode had three generations of the Reichson family including former CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, along with his father and daughter, laying a wreath in memory of his grandfather while holding his shining service medal from WWII and his photo.

The speeches were poignant and emotional. Mayor Brownstein spoke about educating the next generation and how the CSL Dramatic Society fulfilled an important mission in presenting the Broadway smash hit, Cabaret, earlier this year. The musical exposed the troubling times emerging in Germany as the country, and Europe descended into despair and chaos.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather gave a stirring speech about the veterans who returned to Canada and built our community. With his voice cracking with emotion, Housefather highlighted the veterans’ contributions and participation in civic life and noted that this spirit has endured and has made Cote Saint-Luc a volunteer-rich community with residents passionate about being involved.

Polioce Station 9 Commander Luis Olivera lays a wreath, accompanied by vCOP Susie Schwartz

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was solemn and retrospective and in his typical eloquence and charm marveled at the passing of the torch down through the generations.

The speeches were heartfelt and meaningful. I am grateful to our Mayor, MP and MNA for singling out my father as an example for the next generations.

MNA David Birnbaum, Cllr. Dida Berku, Fmr. Cllr Isadore Goldberg, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Mayor William Steinberg, MP Anthony Housefather and George Nashen

A minute of silence in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Canadian Armed Forces

George’s Story

 

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

George Nashen, 96, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

 

George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)

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More:

Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather’s speech

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

 

7 reasons Anthony Housefather could be a Junior Minister

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As Mount Royal Member of Parliament gets ready to be sworn in for his second term in elected office many constituents will be wondering if he will be a cabinet minister, a parliamentary secretary (also known as junior minister) or head up an important committee on The Hill. 

Those that know him will tell you that Anthony Housefather is in tip top shape to be the Minister of Anything. Sharp, bright and quick on his toes there is no doubt that Canada would be well served by having Anthony in cabinet. However, with strict limitations set by the Prime Minister on delicately balancing members of cabinet based upon geography, language and gender Anthony’s chances are rather slim. 

Therefore, here are my top seven reasons why Anthony Housefather ought to be appointed as a Junior Minister:

  1. As chair of the Justice Committee in the last session he proved his qualifications as a parliamentarian skilled in leadership and negotiation, diplomacy and legal matters. He dealt with committee members with a calm, steady hand, and always with a polite, respectful demeanour, regardless of political affiliation. He was equally skilled at responding to national media during some dicey situations. 
  2. He takes large complex issues, synthesizes them and makes them easy to understand.  
  3. He feels strongly about human rights. With a background rooted in social justice, inclusiveness and tolerance Anthony has made his mark in advocating for fairness for all Canadians regardless of faith, language or sexual orientation. He believes in the equality of citizens under the law. His leadership in advocating a government apology for the SS St. Louis and his work on reproductive rights was exemplary.
  4. Passionately Canadian. Anthony is a fierce patriot. Whether as a proud City Councillor or Mayor representing his constituency across the country, or competing in international sports overseas or acting as a senior executive and general counsel negotiating contracts for a multinational corporation around the globe Anthony has always worn his Maple Leaf with pride and purpose.
  5. Bilingualism. A lover of languages and intercultural relations Anthony is equally fluent in English and French with spurts of language skills in other languages. He understands the delicate matter of respecting language rights for minority groups across this country and for providing services in ones preferred official language.
  6. Uncompromising dedication to constituents and Canadians. Anthony sets the highest standards as a hard-working, ethically-minded, honest and transparent elected official. His passion to do what it takes to benefit those he represents is practically limitless.
  7. Personable and approachable. With a wide ranging, inclusive view of society Anthony is uniquely qualified to bring together people of different backgrounds, language and culture to find common purpose. He’s a people person who loves to engage one on one and is equally comfortable in front of a large audience. He meets with anyone needing assistance and does his utmost to solve problems.

Anthony Housefather is an extraordinary political representative who is uber-dedicated to his riding and his country and very deserving of consideration for a cabinet posting and certainly as a parliamentary secretary. 

Push back on turning back the clock

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My blog readers know that I have been advocating an end to the semi-annual ritual of moving our clocks back in the fall and forward each spring. I am a strong believer in leaving the clocks alone and remaining on Daylight Savings Time all year-long.

Last week, the B.C. government introduced a bill aimed at eventually making daylight time permanent across the province, ending the twice-yearly changes to and from standard time.

The European Union also backs ending the needless time switching.

I’ve  had it with falling back and springing forward.  I find it depressing to see that sun setting in the mid-afternoon and driving home from work in pitch black.  I can easily sacrifice the pleasure of a bright and sunny early morning wake up.

I’m hoping that the B.C. government’s bill will work its way across the province. This movement is already being debated in several states and will find its way to the US Congress.

This needs your help too by writing emails to media and to your elected officials at all levels.

If you’d like to read my previous posts on this subject search “daylight” in the search box on the right. And please be sure to enter your email address and Subscribe to my new blog posts.

Here’s an interesting story from National Geographic: Daylight Saving Time 2011: Why and When Does It End?.

Do you agree?  Post your comments here.

Suburban Newspaper, Jan. 4, 2012

CTV News: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1820100&jwsource=cl

More:

B.C. to introduce bill for eventual move to permanent daylight time

Clock changes: EU backs ending daylight saving time – BBC News

Source: Clock changes: EU backs ending daylight saving time – BBC News

CSL holds memorial tribute for Cllr. Ruth Kovac

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Last week the City of Cote Saint-Luc held a moving and emotional tribute to remember Councillor Ruth Kovac who passed away on October 1, 2019. The mayor, councillors, former council colleagues and members of the public spoke publicly along with Ruth’s family.

The first video, below, is a photo-video montage remembering the civic contributions of Councillor Kovac.

The second video, below, is the footage of the speeches as well as the photo-video montage all in one. You can watch the full event or you will find my tribute at 18:45 and the family’s remarks at 37:40.

I welcome your comments and memories of Ruth right here on my blog or on Facebook.

My speech begins at 18:45

What the Future May Hold

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“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future” -John F. Kennedy

Over the past two years, many residents of Cote Saint-Luc and beyond, have called and encouraged me to return to City Council. This is especially true over the last several days. I am greatly humbled by their strong support and words of encouragement.

It is indeed reassuring that there are lots of people with positive, supportive comments out there.  For the last two years I have continued to spend my time with the CSL volunteer Citizens on Patrol, to concentrate on my challenging responsibilities within our local health and social services network, and to thoroughly enjoy my free time with my wife and three children –  time that was in very short supply during my 24 years on council. 

I’ve also had time to reflect upon all that was accomplished during my six mandates on City Council and take stock of the positive contributions that my fellow council members, directors, staff and I partook in to move Cote Saint-Luc forward on so many fronts.

In the painful days prior to the untimely passing of my dear friend Councillor Ruth Kovac, I spent many hours reminiscing with her on what we were able to collectively achieve. Ruth and I, together with most of our colleagues, formed a strong bond and worked collaboratively at solving problems and achieving great things for our community. We did this harmoniously with a shared feeling of tremendous satisfaction in our important work.  My time in local politics ended earlier than I had intended. So did hers.

Ruth was so pragmatic and well organized that she actually asked me to step in to fill her shoes when she was gone. What an honour to be chosen in this way by such an extraordinary woman. We talked for hours about the work that still needed to be done, about her priorities and her vision which would outlast her and serve as her legacy. 

It came with a very heavy heart that I could not accept the immediate challenge of representing her constituents, at this time. Having made such enormous sacrifices with her own family over 26 years on council, she was uniquely qualified to understand my dilemma. My family must come first and this would not be the right time to return to the political arena. Our conversations continued, and we both knew that at the right time I would put my name forward to represent the public.

I know that Ruth and my family will be supporting me when that time comes. And I hope that each of you will too.

Housefather: From strength to strength in Mount Royal

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The Nashen Family congratulating Anthony Housefather on his big win: Nicole, Glenn, Nathalie and Judy, with support from Jeremy and Savta Pnina at home (past bedtime).

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather cleaned up bigtime with nearly a 3-1 lead over his opponent David Tordjman. From one corner of the riding to the other, support for Housefather grew and spread.

With almost all polls reporting, Housefather’s lead over his opponent grew to an incredible 13,000 votes. He heads back to Ottawa proud as can be. And he should be considered for a ministerial posting!

Congratulations to Anthony on an extraordinary campaign that highlighted his boundless efforts and numerous accomplishments on behalf of his constituents and all Canadians. You are an exemplary Member of Parliament and we are so lucky to have you as our representative.

Congratulations to all those elected and to all who ran, and to all the campaign teams and volunteers. This was an incredible exercise in democracy in the greatest country in the world.

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