eat your dinner!

2 04 2008

Do you remember when your parents would tell you that you couldn’t leave the dinner table until you had finished your brussel sprouts-lima beans-or whatever else was leftover on your plate? And you would DAWDLE and wait until their backs were turned and try to hide the offending leftovers beneath your plate, or in your napkin, or under the table?

I remember those days, even though I am past them now. Brussel sprouts and lima beans have moved from the UGH category to the MMM MORE PLEASE category. But that doesn’t mean I always feel like finishing everything on my plate. I have a bad habit of making way too much soup in a batch. I’ll serve it for dinner, put as much as I can in the freezer, and bring the leftovers for lunch until it’s gone. Usually the last day of leftovers is the hardest to… excuse the pun… stomach. And on those days, I’ve been known to throw it out. Yep. Throw it out.

But lately, I’ve become acutely aware of the energy that goes into producing food. And energy has become a lot more valuable to me. That last bowl of soup didn’t ask to be last. And it is still a miracle of energy, just like the other bowls. Think of everything that went into producing that soup. If I look at just a small portion of the recipe, let’s say the onions. The seeds were purchased – which cost someone time and money; the seeds were planted – which cost someone time and effort; the area was watered and weeded and cared for – quite a bit of work, from what I understand. Then those onions were harvested – MORE work – driven to the farmer’s market (if the carbon footprint wasn’t obvious yet, you should be getting the hint around now); then I enter the picture with either a walk or a drive to the market – more time, money and carbon; lastly, I cook the onions to put in the soup – that takes energy too. And that’s just the onions.

Are you getting the picture? Well, I am. Suddenly I GET what wasting food really means. So eat your dinner! Or at least be aware of what went into its production – and save the leftovers until you’ll appreciate them.


local connection… coffee

11 03 2008

alright… I know coffee is NOT grown locally. I have several metres of snow in my backyard, so this should come as no surprise. But with my new treat mentality, rather than avoid the issue, I sip on coffee when I make a conscious decision to do so.

When I do indulge, I purchase coffee that has been roasted locally. Equator Coffee roasts in Almonte, Ontario – which is definitely within my 100 miles (in fact I think it’s within 1000 metres of my morning putter, but who’s counting :P).

I know that not everyone has the luxury of a local roaster, but even fewer of us have the luxury of coffee grown locally. And those of us who do have it grown locally, it can still pose a challenge finding it. When I lived in Ecuador, I was within a hop skip and a jump of coffee beans on the bush, but all I could find in the grocery store was Nescafe.

By choosing a local roaster, I reduce my cup’s food miles much more than if I were to purchase it at the busy coffee chain just next to my office. And by choosing to see coffee as a treat, I reduce my lifestyle’s imprint.

Oh and one more thing – if you can stand to listen to me for just a little bit longer on my soapbox – that paper or UGH styrofoam cup that holds the coffee… well, it’s just NOT necessary. Bring a mug with you – wherever you go – or resist the treat.

local connection… tofu

24 01 2008

I like supporting local businesses. Sure, they reduce my carbon footprint, but they also make me feel a part of something. Since I returned to the Ottawa area a few years ago, I’ve been buying tofu products from La Soyarie. Their burgers are *hands down* the best tofu burgers I’ve ever tasted, and they’re made less than 50 kilometers from my house.

But while locally-produced is good, locally-sourced is divine. I wanted to know where they got their soy beans from, so a few days ago I emailed them. Here is their reply:

Hi Gillian,

Thank you for taking your time to write to us. We are happy that you are enjoying our products. We buy both conventional and organic soybeans from a company called Hedrick Seeds in Ontario just about an hour drive from Ottawa. The following link is their homepage, for your information.

I hope it satisfies your inquiry.

It certainly did satisfy my reply. First of all, HURRAH for finding out that the product is even more local than I knew before. Second of all, I now feel a connection to the land where my food is coming from. I know that the next time I am south of Ottawa, I’ll look for the farms growing my soy beans. Somehow that makes me feel a part of something special.

winter green

8 01 2008
Last summer, I was almost manic at times, trying to store enough food to last us for a good portion of the winter. Now, in the January doldrums, I’m surprised to discover that our local food consumption hasn’t decreased as much as I thought it would. Part of this is due to research – as the months go by I have found new producers in our area. One such find includes two gentlemen who have rescued us from the produce aisle of our big-box grocery store in these winter months.

Last year – in our very first departure from big box food shopping – we joined what is known as a CSA. In the early spring, we paid a membership fee to a local farming couple. Then, as the harvests started to arrive in late spring, we received a weekly box of produce that they had grown. The produce tasted divine, and the concept changed the way we prepared food. Instead of “what do I want for dinner tonight,” the question became, “what do I have in my fridge to prepare dinner with tonight?” My fridge and I both felt more in tune with nature. And we both mourned when the harvest came to an end in late September.

So I had thought our local food would dry up during the winter months. But a season of trolling the local food sites led me to two local producers with a greenhouse and what must be one heck of a cold-storage facility – and who continue to deliver during the winter months. Their operation is not technically a CSA, in part because we don’t pay a membership fee, but that’s not my concern. My concern lies in reducing my footprint, and these two gentlemen allow me to do that. For this, I say thank you to Terry and Stuart.

heralding what’s to come

6 01 2008

Scotland’s national paper, The Sunday Herald, published an article today called “Food and How It’s Going to Change the World.” In it, the author Kenny Kemp talks about a perfect storm of events that will challenge Scotland’s food security in the years to come. It’s a timely article, considering that the price of oil has just made history by breaking 100$ U.S. a barrel (although the cynic in me says it won’t be long before the world becomes blasé about that figure). More than just timely, it offers a good introduction to the factors that are affecting food production and security.

food economies

3 01 2008

Our grandparents can remember seeing and tasting their first mango or avocado – delicacies that had travelled vast distances from the places they had been picked. My generation, however, thought nothing of tasting something exotic. We grew up thinking that food came from the grocery store.

Many food production experts say that food is one of the best – or worst – examples of how we have transitioned from a local to a global mindset. Our society’s relationship with food will continue to change. Food supply and security are political issues on the horizon. This morning I listened to a half-hour clip from The Current, a CBC radio show, talking about climate change and food production.

Typically, discourse on climate change has a good chance of sending me into a deep green funk for days. I try not to let that stop me – ignorance is not the kind of bliss I want – but it does make me wary about how and when to engage with this kind of information. I’m glad it didn’t stop me from listening to The Current. It reminded me how our choices, our politics, and our weather are inextricably connected – in more ways than the typical news piece ever probes.

Unfortunately, I can’t upload the Real Audio file, but you can check out Episode #6 here.