December 23, 2009

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Transferring the issue of detainee transfers. Prime Minister Harper says the treatment of Afghan prisoners is Afghanistan's problem -- but tonight's guest disagrees.

Oh what fun it is to write of one horse soaked and saved. We'll introduce you to eighteen-year-old Ceri Phillips -- who rescued her horse from a well.

Ghosts of Christmas repast. I hope your ears are bigger than your stomach, because we're offering a buffet of food stories from the past year and beyond.

The pros of lexicons. Hoping to prevent its extinction, a British anthropologist creates a dictionary for a little-spoken Nepalese language.

O comb all ye faithful. We sold our hair to bring you this year's presentation of a holiday reading: O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi".

And...he booked a flight to fly a book. A rebroadcast of the story of Daniel Fleisch -- a writer who travelled seven hundred miles on Christmas Eve to correct a bad review.

As It Happens, the Wednesday edition. Radio that wants you know: if you think Christmas is humbug, you've got an author thing coming.

DETAINEE WRAP Duration: 00:08:07

Who knew what and when?

The two most fundamental questions concerning the treatment of detainees Canadian forces captured and turned over to Afghan authorities remain unanswered. As Parliament breaks for Christmas -- and perhaps for an extended period -- the chances of learning those answers become even more remote. For his part, Prime Minister Steven Harper appears to have moved on from the matter. In an interview he gave this week with the French-language network TVA, he said the issue of detainees was not Canada's problem.

Since 2002, the B-C Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International have been doggedly pursuing the truth about what happens to Afghan detainees once they leave Canadian custody. Paul Champ is a lawyer for both organizations, and we reached him in Ottawa.

OZONE Duration: 00:00:20


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HORSE SAVED Duration: 00:05:52

Dusty the horse is a good-natured seventeen-hundred pound Percheron. He's an easy-going fellow. His idea of a good time involves carrots, fresh grass and giving kids the occassional ride on his back. All in all, life is pretty peachy for Dusty. However, from time to time, like all of us, he makes a misstep and gets himself into a spot of trouble -- as he did a couple weeks ago. Luckily, Dusty is pals with eighteen-year-old Ceri Phillips.

We've reached Ceri at her home in Birtle, Manitoba.

ROAD IN BETWEEN Duration: 00:03:36


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SOD: ORAL HISTORY Duration: 00:02:18

While world leaders are contemplating the future of a planet with vanishing ice floes, vanishing species of flora and fauna, and a deficit of good sense to do anything about it, something else altogether is disappearing from the face of the earth: languages.

There are about six-thousand-five-hundred living languages, even as I speak. But the language I'm speaking -- which is English, to the best of my ability -- is one of only eleven that are spoken by more than half the Earth's population. And here's another astonishing statistic: a mere five per cent of the people on the planet speak ninety-five per cent of the world's languages.

According to UNESCO, about half of those languages will be dead by the end of this century. Anthropologists are trying to save them from the brink of extinction by recording and archiving the sounds of people speaking, chanting, reciting poetry?anything that can help us remember what these disappearing words sound like.

One of these academics is Dr. Mark Turin, an anthropologist from Cambridge University. One of the languages he's working to preserve is called Thangmi. It belongs to the Thangmi tribe, an indigenous community in Nepal. Dr. Turin has created the first-ever publication in Thangmi: a mini-dictionary, featuring words in Thangmi, Nepali and English.

Today's "Sound of the Day" is a sample of some of the audio Dr. Turin collected, featuring the Thangmi language. This is the senior shaman of the tribe sharing the myth of the origins of Thangmi, as he beats a plate to the rhythm of his chanting.

MERRY GOES ROUND Duration: 00:00:25


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REPEAT: PT. 1: BOOK RETURNED Duration: 00:08:08

And now, an encore presentation of a holiday story that makes Dickens' A Christmas Carol look like that movie Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

A year ago, on Christmas Eve, Dr. Daniel Fleisch of Springfield, Ohio was engaged in a Yuletide ritual familiar to all authors: he was perusing customer reviews of his book on Amazon-dot-com. Like the chestnut-roasting fire likely burning behind him, the reviews for his book A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations were uniformly warm and glowing. "The best overview of Maxwell's equations I have ever come across"; "I wish I had a shelf full of similarly pithy, fun-reading and revelatory books"; "I would have to say that it is almost perfect!" Not bad for a slim volume on differential equations related to electromagnetism.

But then, among the four- and five-star reviews, a shock: a one-star review, from a Canadian reader. And instantly, Dr. Fleisch set about bringing a strange Christmas miracle to Ottawa.

Carol spoke with Dr. Daniel Fleisch in February. He was in Springfield, Ohio.

CLOSING WEDNESDAY Duration: 00:00:36

That's Chapter One of As It Happens finished for tonight. But there are some surprising twists still to come, after the news. When we return:

If they'd just bought each other Olive Garden gift certificates, none of this would have happened. Barbara's reading of the story that keeps on giving, O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi".

Keep calm and curry on. Reprising some of the hottest food stories As It Happens has aired over the past few years.

Stay tuned. I'm CH.

And I'm CO.

RETURN BILLS Duration: 00:00:20

AB AETERNO Duration: 00:01:15




READING: GIFT OF THE MAGI Duration: 00:15:12

Della and Jim.

If those names bring to mind thoughts of "two foolish children", and their unselfish love, then you're familiar with the story "The Gift of the Magi". And if you're feeling particularly overwhelmed by how commercial and costly Christmas has become, this story is the perfect antidote.

Here now is Barbara reading O. Henry's classic short story "The Gift of the Magi".



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GRILLED CHEESE Duration: 00:04:52

It is the stuff of life, our nourishment, and the fuel we depend on. And food also makes great fodder for radio. Over the last year, and beyond, As It Happens has broadcast some of the greatest food stories ever told.

These are not those stories.

However, over the next half hour, we will take you on on a culinary tour of the airwaves. Stories of similar spicy sauces, and tales as different as chocolate and cheese. And we promise to finish with a real turkey.

So pour yourself a glass of Pinot, tuck in your napkin, and get ready to dig in.

Right. Ready?

It's said that simple foods are the best. And what, we ask, could be simpler than a grilled cheese sandwich? Well, our first story reveals that it's not a simple question. Danielle Farrar and Tim Walker were the organizers of last year's Grilled Cheese Invitational, a competition held in Los Angeles. And between them, in April of last year, they took Carol through the process of grilling the perfect sandwich...

SPACE CHEESE Duration: 00:03:42

If grilled cheese is the most grounded of meals, this next cheesy missive aims a lot higher. The stratosphere, to be precise. Dom Lane is a spokesman for the West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers, who, last July, launched a 300 gram piece of cheddar into space. We reached him in Bristol, England.

TIKKA MASALA Duration: 00:02:37

That was a little more of Danielle Farrar and Tim Walker taking Carol and Adam through the process of making a perfect grilled-cheese.

Now, we'd like to take you to a land of exotic spices and fragrant herbs, a land where English is spoken with as strong an accent as the curry it created: that special corner of the world where Tikka Masala was born.

Yes, we're taking you to... Scotland.

Glasgow, to be precise. This summer, Mohammed Sarwar, the British MP for Glasgow Central, petitioned the European Union to give his constituency Protected Designation of Origin status for Tikka Masala. Guest host Helen Mann spoke to him in London.

HOTTEST CURRY Duration: 00:02:45

Now, Glasgow isn't the only Scottish town trying to curry favour with the rest of the world; shortly after we spoke to Mr. Sarwar, we took a little trip over to the Firth of Forth, to Kismot Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant in Edinburgh. There, the Ali family claims to have created the world's hottest curry. Guest host Tom Harrington spoke to Akbar Ali at the restaurant.

LONG-DUNKING BISCUIT Duration: 00:02:55

Even now, more than a year later, I can still smell that grilled cheese sandwich. Mainly because this studio has never been steam-cleaned, and has no ventilation.

Back to our food stories: among tea drinkers, the subject of our next story has long been considered an insoluble problem. Or, rather, an overly soluble problem. Which is the problem.

Let me explain: when you dunk, say, a gingersnap into a cup of tea, a bizarre confluence of events happens, which results in the cookie falling apart at precisely the moment when it becomes perfectly soft. Resulting in a messy mass of sodden dough at the bottom of your teacup, instead of a mushy delight in your mouth.

But Felice Tocchini believes he's solved this -- by creating a cookie that doesn't disintegrate in warm liquids. We spoke to the pastry chef at his Worcester, U.K. bistro, Fusion Brasserie, in September.


That was another taste of an instructive interview on the subject of the perfect grilled cheese.

Now, when it comes to that strange, brown sauce with the orange "Lea and Perrins" label, most people worry about one thing: how to pronounce 'worcestershire' sauce. But for years, there's been an even bigger mystery: the ingredients that give the sauce the taste that puts the 'rare' in Welsh Rarebit.

But now, England's Worcester Museum says it's found a complete list of ingredients. We spoke to David Nash, the museum's collections officer, in November.

TURKEY CARVING Duration: 00:02:46

The smoke alarm did not go off. Apparently, it's decorative.

Anyway: for many, there is something more mysterious than the secrets of Worcestershire sauce...more vexatious than the disintegration of a hobnob in a cup of tea -- especially at this time of year.

It's time to talk turkey.

The art of preparing a turkey is understood by few. And our general artlessness results in meat with a texture somewhere between cardboard and terrycloth. Then, if you manage to get the bird out of the oven without it being a charred or desiccated mess, there's the issue of cutting it into edible, and presentable, pieces. Enter Robin Simpson.

Five years ago, the manager of London's posh "Simpson's-in-the-Strand" restaurant, started offering a course on carving. That's when former host Mary Lou Finlay spoke to him.

TURKEY COOKING Duration: 00:03:17


Well, that's all well and good. But Talkback got a lot of calls pointing out the obvious: there's not much point in elegantly carving up turkey breast meat that has the tenderness of plywood. So, the very next day, we called Mr. Easton back for a little advice on how to cook the thing.

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