Mein Gout

Over the past  year, I’ve realized that the occasional pain in my right leg and foot that has been with me since my early 20’s is most likely to be gout. The symptoms fit, and are exacerbated when I eat the trigger foods.

It began as a tingling in the toes of my right foot, and soreness in my knee, with occasional shooting pain up the leg. Sometimes I’d have a bunion on my big toe, but I’d tended to blame it on 4″ heels, rather than on diet.  I’d mentioned the pains to my doctor, but she was unconcerned. That I missed the similarity to what had happened to my father’s feet is doubtless a testament to denial.

I began to suspect gout last year when working at a wine show. I’d bought very well-fitting “sensible shoes” in advance specifically to be comfortable throughout long days on my feet.  They were just a bit loose when purchased, but I was expecting to wear thicker tights with them at the show. On my first shift, the shoes were painfully tight by the end of the day, so I looked up possible causes, finding gout at the top of the list.

This has happened before with my shoes, and gout runs in the family, so it should have been a suspect sooner, but I’d always blamed it on not taking enough care when buying shoes. I’ve experienced tingling foot pain and occasional shooting pain in my right leg, but my former doctor had never thought much of it when I’ve raised the issue.

I’ve generally been pretty fit, and thought my diet, which is well-balanced, was good. A bit high in animal fats perhaps, but well in line with my mostly Mediterranean heritage.  It may be a mostly healthy diet, but not apparently, for me. Sadly, it seems that now, many of my favourite things are verböten.

While not specifically life-threatening, gout can impede general health a great deal, and as a form of arthritis can be extremely painful. Arthritis also runs in the family on the other side. I’ll go to the doctor to confirm, but meanwhile, it seems prudent to proceed as if it’s a fact.

It’s not so much a resolution as an imperative.

On the sad side: Less butter and heavy cream in sauces, lower fat milk, no chicken livers, no anchovies, which I have only just begun to enjoy, nor turkey, goose, scallops, salmon, beer, (which both has purines and makes them harder to break down) and alcohol in general is to be taken in extreme moderation. Sadly, beef and pork are preferable for the gout, than lamb, which I prefer. Meat in general, even the “good” ones, should be eaten in extreme moderation.

On the positive side: Lobster, crab, and shrimp are all okay, and so are chicken and duck. No tuna (which I love, but is endangered, so this takes some of the sting of that part out), no sugary pop, and not much sugar in general, which I already don’t care for, and I have no complaints about an excuse to avoid steak and kidney pie. Fortunately, while asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, and mushrooms are also high in purines, at least being veggies, they are thankfully less of a risk overall. Also fortunately, I have long been working towards a “Third Plate” approach, which lends itself to a low purine diet.

For this year (anticipating confirmation from my doctor), I’ll be doing my best to cook within the limitations of a low-purine and purine-clearing diet…while continuing to make mind-bendingly delicious foods that occasionally score high on the hedonism index …but I’ll try within that to use those ingredients that most closely fit my culinary needs, while also being least detrimental from the gout-y perspective.

This very complete chart, and the excellent website it comes from, is going to get some use and I’ll be googling other people’s recipes to try and to share as well as inventing my own.  Either way, the year has begun with a personal challenge. Not one of my choosing, but accepted nonetheless.

I see more beans and vegetables in my future…meat more as a garnish or enhancement than as a cut. More chili and cornbread, dal and rice, more spanakopita, and duck.

Last night’s dinner involved the use of small amounts of duck confit (perhaps 1 oz per serving), cooked with a reduction of light cream and mushrooms, served over penne. The confit had already been seasoned when cooked with thyme and garlic, so there was no need to add anything in that way. It was a simple and satisfying meal that had only a small and measured amount of decadence.

Some of the recipes may not look entirely gout friendly, the confit for example, but they’ll nevertheless reflect a new approach to moderation disguised as excess. In the case of the confit, the fats are used to cook/condition the meat and to preserve, but is not absorbed by the meat…which as above, I use only in small amounts to flavour dishes.

Given my propensity to denial, and their general suitability to the gout diet, Egyptian foods are likely to make an appearance.

Larry Fiege of Fiege’s Farm, talking about BC Big Leaf Maple Syrup

Photo and Interview by Gayle Hurmuses, with additional questions from Tilman Hainle.

Growing up in BC, I always wondered why only eastern maples could be tapped for syrup. I discovered this year that others had taken that on and begun tapping and boiling down the sap of the Big Leaf Maple which grows vigorously throughout the province.

The conditions make it difficult or impossible to produce Big Leaf Maple Syrup on a scale that makes it profitable, but a small group of local farmers make it for an equally small segment of dedicated fans.

Larry Fiege is one of those farmers and he recently introduced me to the fact of BC maple syrup’s unique and fascinating flavour…his syrup is lovely, with caramel notes, and a rich, full flavour…more aromatic than the many  excellent eastern maple syrups I’ve had.

It’s a capricious practice, the conditions aren’t always right, and the yields are unpredictable and often low…but the flavour is outstanding and unique…always lovely, but  as variable as west coast weather.

Other stories on Eatin’s Canada about Maple Syrup:

Sugarbush Sugarshack
Maple syrup – The essence of spring

Marilyn Venturi – Venturi-Schulze Wines & Balsamico di Cowichan Valley

Marilyn Venturi, of Venturi Schulze Vineyards in The Wine Islands, relating the story of the development of the vineyard, and their line of “Balsamico di Cowichan Valley” which they produce in both open and closed cask versions.

Both their exceptional wines and their balsamic vinegars are the very definition of organic, and “artisanally produced”.

The very precious open cask version of their balsamic produces only 12 litres per year, the closed cask version, which is also quite spectacular, is produced in somewhat larger numbers and sold in hand-painted bottles.

Tilman Hainle on the 1970’s renaissance in BC wines

Interview with winery consultant Tilman Hainle on the 1970’s renaissance in BC wines, the establishment of Hainle Estate Winery, being Canada’s first vintner of ice wines and organic wines, first winery lounge operator, and on becoming a consultant to wineries around the world.

This is the first of a two-part interview. Click here for Part Two: Tilman Hainle on consulting, the future of BC wine, and its still untapped potential  

The House of Sotol

Enrique Elias of Vinomex, speaking of Sotol, their innovative distilled spirit.

Made from the Daisyliron Wheeleri, an Agave relative, Sotol is a traditional spirit in the Chihuaha region of Mexico. The Vinomex version is the first of it’s kind, a premium quality spirit based on the old recipes and brought to life by a master oenologist who was previously with Moet & Chandon and Remy Martin.

The Plant Foods Council calls for changes to food regulations

An urgent request just came in from The Plant Foods Council.  There is a questionnaire that they are asking people to fill out today  because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is enforcing some regulations which are not favorable towards vegan products and producers of vegan products.

Full story here (LINK).

From their press release:  “The Plant Foods Council, a national trade association promoting and protecting the interests of plant food manufacturers in Canada, is calling for changes to food regulations that discriminate against vegan products similar to traditional animal products such as meats, milks, cheeses and butters.

 The Plant Foods Council is also seeking an end to the recent and disproportionate targeting of plant-based companies and manufacturers by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

link to SURVEY

You can help by completing the CFIA’s survey about modernization of food labeling while keeping in mind the following amendments that Plant Foods Council is asking for:

  • Recognize and regulate the term “vegan” as a descriptor of plant-based products.

  • Allow the use of terms like “cheese”, “milk”, and “butter” to describe plant-based products.

  • Remove the requirement that plant-based meats must have the same nutritional profile as animal meats.

BBQ Pork by GaddAboutEating

Recipe and photos by GaddAboutEating.

This BBQ pork is styled after the Chinese Char Siew style, but with some homegrown (BC) and international (Guyanese) stylings.

I think it’s worth noting that most, if not all of my recipes, are designed to be simple for beginner cooks to follow; practical for those with small kitchens or limited supplies; and fun for anyone to use and play with.  If you don’t have a particular ingredient:   SUBSTITUTE with something else similar or if it seems like it’s not crucial: omit it.

In this recipe, for instance, the maltose and hoisin sauce that would typically be included have been replaced by cane sugar and cassareep.   If you don’t have honey, use brown sugar. or maple syrup, or whatever you think is similar, available, and interesting.

And finally, before we get into the recipe, I’d like to talk a little bit more about cassareep.  DSC_0085[1]Cassareep is made from cassava. Cassava is a vegetable root grown in the heat of the tropics. It has many similarities to a potato and is enjoyed in many ways by people in many countries. Cassareep is a thick black liquid made from cassava root, often with additional spices, which is used as a base for many sauces and especially in Guyanese pepperpot. Besides use as a flavoring and browning agent, it also acts as a preservative. Its antiseptic characteristics have led to medical application as an ointment, most notably in the treatment of certain eye diseases.
To make cassareep, the juice is boiled until it is reduced by half in volume, to the consistency of molasses and flavored with spices—including cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper.  Traditionally, cassareep was boiled in a soft pot, the actual “pepper pot”, which would absorb the flavors and also impart them (even if dry) to foods such as rice and chicken cooked in it.  Most cassareep is exported from Guyana.









Niagara Integrated Film Festival – Film Feast Tour!

The Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) is a fantastic idea combining many of the things the Southern Ontario Region is noted for: Great Films, Food and Wine!

NIFF and TIFF Founder Bill Marshall

Founded by Bill Marshall, also a founder of the Festival of Festivals, now The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), NIFF takes place in the vineyards throughout the Niagara Region.

Packages include gala events with 5 course meals, “Filmalicious” with station style dinners, Film Feast, with drinks and bites offered at a mini winery tour, and the Spotlight Series, in traditional cinemas, doubtless sans wine, but with a longer program for the true film buffs…or those that took a tour earlier in the day.

As a former film student, foodie and Apollonian Dionysian, (I’m Greek, indulge me). I loved the idea of this festival immediately upon hearing about it, and was excited recently to attend a bloggers event where we were taken on one of the two Film Feast mini coach tours that are scheduled for the event.

The event was a blast, despite the fact that I was only marginally awake…eyes open, brain at half speed, thanks to having completed the Mother of All Moves, at 10pm the evening before.

We met at 9am at 250 Front St, in front of the CBC Mothership, and travelled in a mini-coach with its own interior light show and 80’s music…it was like being in an early rock video, except we didn’t begin to drink until a couple of hours later. Thankfully, I’d had the time to grab an egg salad sandwich and coffee at one of the vendors in the food court below. NB. If you are ever in the CBC building and need to get a quick and delicious sandwich and coffee with very little lineup, go to the convenience store/deli thing…they’re excellent.

After a quick stop to pick up more bloggers and a local news reporter in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we went on a tour of three wineries for a selection of wines, food pairings and movies.

PondviewBarnPondview Estates Winery, our first stop, was by far my favourite. The hosts were warm and charming, clearly beaming with pride over the estate, and justifiably so. They had planned to do the presentation indoors, but thanks to unexpected beautiful weather, we were hosted outdoors on the veranda overlooking the estate vineyards. It was a lovely setting and a wonderful way to begin the tour.

Our hostess Kimberly, told us the company history, instructed us on wine technique, and introduced each pairing with excellent showmanship, reminding us to wait for the right moment to appreciate the pairings, as her colleague gracefully filled our glasses. Lou Puglisi stood by beaming and spoke about growing the business and growing in it. 

Tasting Plate Pondview Estates Winery
Tasting Plate Pondview Estates Winery

The foods for pairing were simply cheese and charcuterie, but excellent (with the exception of an excessively fatty prosciutto, left unfinished), well chosen for their pairings, and presented with a sense of showmanship.

The wines were lovely, Harmony White served with Brie, Bella Terra Chardonnay with Gran Padano, and Cab Merlot or Harmony red with the unfortunate prosciutto, I chose the Cab Merlot, which I loved and as a dedicated imbiber of red wines was surprised at how much I enjoyed the white wines, particularly the Chardonnay, usually not a favourite of mine, but I would happily have this on my wine rack.

Then we were led to screenings in the barrel room, in a space created by walls of wine. It was a cool room, but we were offered warm and colourful blankets, which made it cosy and fun.

The films  were each gripping and memorable.  one about feuding fishermen and a selfless act of courage that transcended the conflict; the other about Inuit fishermen following the old ways and a mysterious violent event. The chill of the room suited both films perfectly, adding to the theme of cold and loss.

From Pondview, we went to Konzelmann Estates Winery, where we were led to a very gothic presentation room in the Barrel Cellar, and greeted by Simon, a genial and gracious host. They served a passable Pinot Noir that was low-priced, but full bodied, paired with a trio of canapes that ranged from appetizer, to main, to dessert. Chicken Ceasar Salad in a Frico Basket, Smoked Salmon Blini’s, and Mini Strawberry Muffin with Mascarpone.

The films were again well-chosen for the location, with the gothic ambiance of the room perfectly suitable to the themes of internal conflict and doubt. Both excellent films, The Time Keeper and Saving Face looked at the ideas of how we spend our time, and what truly is success?

Finally, we arrived at Pillitteri Estate Winery, where the presentation room was a spacious event room overlooking the vineyards, which was lovely when we were sipping wine and tasting the bites offered.

Sadly, there was little showmanship for this particular event and while the wines were introduced to us and the pairings explained, it was  a more perfunctory experience than the two prior (and the food was merely okay). I was aware of the reasons for the pairing, but not drawn into it.

For the record, the trick is not when the magician pulls the rabbit out of the hat, it’s when we’re shown the empty hat, and drawn together into the promise of the trick…and the razzle dazzle happens. Abracadabra! The rabbit is merely the result.

Unfortunately, the blinds were forgotten for the beginning of the screenings and from my vantage point the films were a wash of light. This was corrected midway, allowing the final excellent films Farewell, and Sleeping Giant, to be clearly seen.

Relatively speaking though, these were small issues, as the Pillateri wines, a Pino Gris, a Cab Merlot, and a Vidal Ice Wine were each fabulous, the Vidal being my favourite of the day, and still lingering on the memory of my tongue over a week later.

I recommend this particular tour and am sure that the other is an equally enjoyable experience, and good value for money as an afternoon jaunt.

The rest of the festival has some excellent offerings as well that are more than worth checking out.

Runs from June 18 – 21.

To book tickets:


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