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Don’t Burn Dinner—Keep the conversation going without ruining a summer gathering

Image of green grass with plates, a grill and a red and white checkered blanket on it.

Summer is upon us. Patios, visits to camp or the cottage, weekends away, staycations or vacations, hanging out in a park or just in your own garden/backyard—no matter who you are, the start of summer usually causes everyone to stop, take a breath, smile and recharge. Summer is when you finally find ways to get together and relax with good friends and family. Often, these gatherings occur around a delicious meal and some cold, refreshing beverages. Sometimes, during these types of events, lively discussions take place about a variety of topics more heated than the food being served. The start of this summer coincides with the anniversary of the election of the Ford government, so here are some tips on how to avoid ruining your meal when gathering with friends and family during this wonderful season:

  • First and foremost, hosting a gathering requires some time for planning. In the same way you might research some recipes before lighting up the grill, the conversations you anticipate might require a little preparation. Remind yourself, for example, that Ontario’s public education system is world-class. It is not “off-track”. Be proud of the work you do and speak up. Be the “fact-monger” when friends and family offer up some jabs or digs as a result of Ford’s neoliberalism playlist.
  • After marinating the chicken for at least one hour, remove the chicken from the marinade, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season generously all over with salt and pepper; let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Prepare a grill for medium indirect heat: turn all the burners to medium-high heat; after about 15 minutes turn off one of the middle burners and turn the remaining burners down to medium.
  • While passing out the beverages, tell your guests that Ontario has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. In 2017 Ontario spent the least per capita amount on programs and services compared to any of the other provinces in Canada. In fact, the gap has widened since 2011. Despite record spending of $163.4 billion, $4.9 billion more than the Liberal’s final budget, Ford continues to cut services and programs. Attacks on public sector workers and Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens won’t improve our economy.
  • Place the chicken skin-side up on the indirect side of the grill with the legs facing the hotter side. Cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding the bone) reads 150 to 160 degrees F (almost cooked through), about 50 minutes.
  • Indirect heat requires trust and patience, but don’t wander off, watch out for flare-ups. With your help, OSSTF/FEESO will continue to pressure this government throughout the summer as we work through the collective bargaining process. Don’t forget to visit No Cuts to Education resource page, stay connected with their federation through the myOSSTF and follow OSSTF/FEESO’s social media feeds. This will ensure you are able to speak confidently during conversations with your guests and reduce the chances of getting burned by backhanded comments or inaccurate assertions. It also lets you gather allies for the post-meal cleanup. They can take a NoCuts button, visit HereforStudents.ca or contact their MPP in support of public education.
  • Move the chicken over to the direct-heat side of the grill. After two minutes, flip the chicken to char and crisp up the skin side, another 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the grill; let rest 20 minutes before carving.

Letting guests see you work the grill shows that you know how and when to apply the right amount of heat to a situation. Unless this government reverses its planned increase in class size averages and cuts to education, students will face larger classes and fewer program choices this fall. We can’t afford to reduce the heat on this government throughout the summer. Your personal stories, combined with OSSTF/FEESO messaging, are critical to a successful fightback strategy; they must continue.

  • Cook’s note: All grills are different and you know yours best. Cooking times may vary, so adjust as needed.

Political discussions with guests can require messaging that is as nuanced as the best recipes, so know your audience and select your ingredients and messaging accordingly. Stay safe this summer, be a master of the grill, and let your friends, family and neighbours know that we education workers care about our students, our world-class education system, and all public sector jobs. We will not be bullied by the Ford government and we will continue to fight back against cuts to services and programs in Ontario.

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