Interview: Lenore Look


I’m sure that many of your share my love for Alvin Ho. He’s one of the most unique characters in children’s literature that I have ever read. Getting the opportunity to interview Alvin Ho author, Lenore Look, is an honor. I’m hoping that you enjoy the interview, and that you check out her beautiful picture book Brush of the Gods.

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My students and I study legends and myths as part of our fourth grade curriculum. I am excited to add The Brush of the Gods to our arsenal. Can you talk about how your Chinese heritage has informed her work on this book?

I grew up listening to my dad tell tall tales about growing up in China, and about Chinese historical figures and events that really sparked his imagination. He knew the cold, hard facts, but the way he told them to us always sounded like a first-hand account. For…

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Sex in a Pan (a chocolate and Cool Whip dessert)


It’s not what you think. Or maybe it is.

I can’t remember who gave me the recipe for this chocolate dessert, but it’s been in my binder full of recipe clippings for years. I made it for a girls’ potluck supper yesterday and it was a hit.


First layer:

  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 tsp. sugar

Second layer:

  • 1 pkg cream cheese (you can use a low fat version)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 large tub Cool Whip

Third layer:

  • 1 pkg. chocolate instant pudding
  • 1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups milk

Fourth layer:

  • 1/2 large tub Cool Whip

You need a 9×13 inch pan, lightly greased.

  • First layer: cut butter into flour, add nuts and sugar; spread into pan. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool.
  •  Second layer: Mix cream cheese, icing sugar and Cool Whip together with an electric beater; spread over first layer.
  • Third layer: Mix chocolate and vanilla pudding powder and milk with electric mixer; spread over second layer.
  • Fourth layer: Spread Cool Whip over top.

You can grate some chocolate over top to decorate.

Cultural Routes


Montreal’s CN Station

The St-Jean Baptiste long weekend is coming up and many people will be planning a short getaway to enjoy the three-day-weekend. With the spirit of travel in mind, I’m posting an article I wrote about a train ride I took to Toronto that was first published in Canadian Living magazine, November 1997.

* * *

As I waited to board the train from Montreal to Toronto, a Chinese man approached me and, speaking in broken English, asked if I were going to Union Station. Wary of strangers who ask about my travel plans, I hesitantly nodded yes. “Could you look after her?” he asked, gesturing toward a petite, well-dressed woman of about fifty. “She doesn’t speak any English.” Smiling shyly, she bowed.

“I don’t speak much Chinese,” I warned, realizing he’d chosen me because I was the only Oriental in line.

“It’s OK. Thank you,” he said, and left after a quick goodbye to the woman. We boarded the train and sat together. She slept. I read until the steward appeared pushing the lunch cart.

I’m bilingual: I speak both French and English, but my Chinese is very limited. Stumbling over my mother tongue, I asked if she wanted something to drink.

I understood her Cantonese reply, “Apple juice.” So far, so good. Then came the menus.

“Do they have rice?” she asked as I scanned the list.

“No rice,” was all I could manage. I ordered apple juice.

She pointed to a drawing of a pizza. “Bread?”

“Ye-e-ss.” What was the translation for tomato sauce? “It has tomatoes.” Picking up a pizza slice from the cart, I showed it to her. The thick sauce did not resemble tomatoes in the least. She frowned. I showed her the menu, hoping she would recognize something. Surely, “Chicken Sandwich” was universal. She pointed to another drawing. “Is that bread?”

“Un, no. It’s sweet. A ma-a-fin.” I regretted it the instant I said it. Saying muffin with a Chinese accent is as ludicrous as assuming a foreigner will understand English if it’s spoken slowly and loudly enough. The steward looked amused as he handed me a muffin for her inspection. “How about Pita Pockets?” he suggested.

“Oh, I couldn’t explain that in Chinese,” I groaned. Finally, she decided on pizza, insisting we share the large slice. Quiet settled between us as we ate. She cut the pizza into pieces and hesitantly tasted each one. After we finished, she pulled out a small bag containing toothpicks and offered me one. I accepted.

We attempted more conversation. I strained to understand as she talked about her visit to Canada. She giggled as I formed awkward phrases. We carried on this way and somehow it didn’t matter that I had forgotten so much Chinese. In the end, we understood each other perfectly.

The Ancestral Ceremony


Lion heads

On Sunday, June 9th, I went to Chinatown to watch The Ancestral Ceremony. It’s an annual event held by the Montreal Chinese Association to honor our ancestors who came to Canada from China to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. After the railway was built, some of these men settled down in Montreal, creating what we now know as Chinatown.

The hour long ceremony was held in Sun Yat Sen Park. It started with the Lion Dance to wake up the spirits of the ancestors. Dancers dressed in colorful, shimmering lion costumes danced to the beat of cymbals, a gong and a drum that was loud enough to…well,…wake up the dead. After the  ceremony was over, local talent comprising of Chinese musicians, dancers and singers of all ages entertained the crowd. I only took a few photos, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Offerings on the makeshift altar include a whole roasted pig. The urn is used to burn incense. Paper money is burned in a separate container.

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There is a feeding frenzy as the lions prepare to eat the red envelopes and lettuce dangling from the poles.

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A crowd gathers in Sun Yat Sen Park to watch the ceremony.

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Leaders of the Montreal Chinese Community stand before the altar as offerings are made to the ancestors.

I was invited to attend the Association’s closing banquet at Kam Fung Restaurant that evening. It was a delicious ten course meal that included fish ball soup, deep fried sea food rolls, beef with chinese vegetables, fried rice and noodles. To tempt your curiosity and taste buds, below are photos of some of the other dishes. In all, it was a good day.

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Tofu and baby bok choy

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Ginger lobster

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Steamed chicken, very tender and moist

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War Siu Guy, a delicious combination of chicken and shrimp. My favorite!


Steamed fish

How Karaoke Turned Me into a Blogger

Making the decision to write a blog is like singing karaoke. Once you open your mouth, there’s no going back.

I’ve been weighing whether or not to start a blog for months. What would I write about? How often do I have to write? Who’d even want to read it? So while I agonized over it, I did nothing.

Then, recently, I went out for a bridal stag party. The five of us, including the bride, were celebrating her last night out on the town as a single girl. The plan was supper, drinks, karaoke and a male strip club.

It sounded like a fun evening except for the karaoke part. I can’t hold a note unless it’s from my doctor. The extent of my singing career was the choir in elementary school. Since then, I lip sync the national anthem at sports games and enthusiastically whisper the words to “Happy Birthday” at parties.

So after a delicious supper, cocktails, Tiramisu and coffee, it was time to head to the karaoke club.  It was located in an office/shopping mall in the downtown area. I followed the bride down the dark, narrow stairwell to the basement level. A wall of tiny mirrored tiles reminiscent of the 1970s announced that we had arrived. Then we stepped into the reception area that was basically the inside of a disco ball.  After checking out the cost with the Asian hostess, we figured we’d only be an hour, and then leave for the strip club.

The room was furnished with a plump red L-shaped sofa, a huge monitor on one wall and a control panel that looked like a prop from the original Star Trek series. My friends eagerly lined up their choices on the control panel. Then, we solemnly promised each other that nothing would appear on Facebook.

My friends jumped right into it with a Chinese love song. Their voices rose fearlessly above the music blasting from the speakers. I told myself that it was okay to sit on the sidelines. I can’t speak, never mind sing in Chinese, but their enthusiasm was infectious. After watching them belt out a few songs, I decided to throw aside my inhibitions. If I can’t sing inside a soundproof room with my close friends, then where can I?

And, there’s only one way to sing karaoke: loud!

We told that guy to “Call Me, Maybe,” screamed “Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohh!” and danced Gangnam Style. We totally forgot about the strip club. We were having a blast.

There’s nothing like friends who’ll forgive you for murdering a song. While I still sing like a complaining cat, karaoke taught me not to hold back. Sitting on the sidelines means missing out on the fun. So I’m jumping into this blog with both feet and all fingers on the keyboard.

Lucky for you, I’m typing, not singing.