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Shoshana Brohman

For those who run and attend food events in Toronto and follow our Instagram and twitter accounts, you have likely met our Toronto Editor, Shoshana Brohman.

Shana at the Coffee & Tea Show
Participating in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony today, while learning about the history and traditions of Ethiopian coffee was very enlightening. #coffeeteashow2019 #ethiopiancoffee #coffeeculture #relaxation #history #coffee

You may not know it, but she is a 30 year survivor of various cancers. Shoshana is currently facing some very particular challenges related to the treatment for the cancers having caused other health issues to arise.

Shoshana’s partner Jim, explains it all very clearly in  his letter below, dated December 13, 2019.

Shoshana and Jim at Ciderfest 2019. Twitter post.
Shoshana and Jim at Ciderfest 2019, one of Shana’s favourite annual shows.

Shana  gave her permission to post this update. It’s quite long but tells the fullest story we can.

A week ago Shana had a conference call with her oncologist, her general practitioner, the nurse manager in charge of coordinating the teams providing her with different kinds of care and treatments, and other assorted doctors. She went into the meeting feeling relatively well, like she was making demonstrable progress and she expected to get relatively good news. She got the opposite.

Before writing further, there are certain words and terms we’re trying to stray away from. It’s not like anyone’s avoiding the dark cloaked elephant standing in the corner but part of looking forward with optimism is focusing on the things you want to focus on and choking energy from those you don’t. The elephant’s there, its tusks are sharp as a sickle, and it could stomp and stampede anytime.

At the meeting, she was told they were retracting most of the medicines that keep her functioning because her heart, lungs, and kidneys are struggling so badly that the pressures these drugs put on them could cause failure. They are continuing the targeted cancer and two other life-sustaining treatments but everything else including anti-seizure, most pain-relief, anti-nausea, migraine relief, a host of vitamin supplements, etc…, are being suspended. The theory is they’re giving the organs a break for 90 days to rebuild themselves before assessing her overall strategy again.

This part is a bit complicated. Cancer can cause changes in how a body functions. Several years ago, for instance, Shana’s thyroid was completely removed. The thyroid regulates the body’s systems. Without it your body couldn’t process food into energy. She’s needed to use an artificial form of thyroxin which itself needs to be regulated quite closely. It is sort of a hub-drug regulating how her body processes and reacts to everything else. It is being reduced by about 25% which could cause a cascade of ill-effects.

For the last two years, Shana has been receiving blood and iron transfusions to compensate for her body being unable to produce its own red blood cells which transport iron, oxygen, and other nutrients to her vital organs. Years of cancer treatments and being starved of iron and oxygen have left her organs very badly damaged, most particularly her heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. She often has a difficult time moving from one side of her apartment to the other without feeling severe chest pains. In the past 90 days she has suffered numerous seizures, four TIAs (mini-strokes), severe arrhythmia and several cardiac events of varying severity.

Head injuries add confusions to complications. Shana has a history of traumatic head injuries stemming from three decades of severe seizures, drop attacks, and other losses of consciousness. I’ve seen her have hundreds of seizures in our time together. One day early in our relationship we were out shopping and she became a bag of wet cement while standing beside me in the checkout line. She was right beside me so I was able to catch her as she fell. Her head didn’t hit the floor or the checkout counter or some random piece of metal. Not that time anyway. It was the first time I saw a drop attack happen. She’s had dozens of those over the years. They come out of nowhere and she’s not always within arm’s reach. That’s why she’s not supposed to ride the TTC. Too many random pieces of metal to hit one’s head on. She’s currently got a small skull fracture from a seizure two weeks ago.
She has been instructed to always be within five to ten minutes of a hospital. Fortunately, that is fairly easy in west-end Toronto. Honestly, that’s one of the few semi-fortunate things.

Another fortunate thing is the level of support from the medical community. In west end Toronto, the doctors come to you. So do nurses and home care providers and a host of community organizations that exist because our parents and grandparents decided leaving people out in the cold is uncool.
The most fortunate thing is the level of support from our friends, colleagues, families, and our communities. Love is energy and energy is life. Shana gets energy from your love. She might not be able to reply right now but she’s reading, hearing, and seeing the messages of support. They mean the world to her.

Many of you didn’t know Pirate Shana, the good to go cannabaker who risked providing illicit pain relief to dozens of cancer patients when it was still a serious criminal offence to do so. There’s also Sexual Health Shana, the condom fairy of both Carlton University and Carlton Street, which are hundreds of kilometers apart. Today there is the Zen Tortoise, the slow moving memory bank of extraordinary experience, a keeper of terabytes of practical knowledge that people should know. Lots of people knew these and many other versions of Shana throughout the years. She’s been reminded of the people she’s known the last few days as folks reach out to her and the memories make her happy.

The best case scenario is Shana somehow toughs it out through the 90 day period and her heart, lungs, and kidneys heal themselves to such a degree the doctors feel comfortable reinstituting a newly formulated cocktail of symptom mitigation and pain relief medications built around a stable level of thyroid hormones. From that position she can go forward in her fight against the core-cause of almost all of this, the cancer that’s still in too many parts of her body. That’s where we’d get to if we were able to produce a first rate action montage or dance sequence. Unfortunately, this ain’t Bollywood it’s more like gritty Hollywood.

The worst case scenarios could play out in any number of fast or slow or easy or graphic and always terrible ways. Her heart is going to be put under a great deal of strain as nausea causes vomiting which is hard on the heart. Changes in her endocrine system can cause an even greater number of seizures. She can’t catch her breath and can only speak for minutes rather than the hours upon hours she’s accustomed to. (* Jim ducks as Shana throws an audio-book at his head. 😉 ) She is supposed to do nothing, zero, that might stress her heart. She was even warned about watching Leaf games. That’s not a joke.

That dark cloaked elephant in the room, the one with the sickle sharp tusks, is wide awake and it’s wild angry and we’re not sure how to calm it down beyond tranquilizing the life out of it and hoping for the best.

One of the doctors said this plan was the best of a limited number of really bad options. It very well could lead to the best possible outcome, manageable stability and a return to full cancer treatment. It very well could lead to the worst variations on the worst of all outcomes. It could fall in the middle but given we’re dealing with extremes nobody knows where the middle might be.

As of the time of this writing, the community has provided Shana and me an opportunity to spend a lot of precious time together over the holidays and into January. I am going to be able to decrease my work load and step away from the Internet for a while to concentrate my energies on making her experience easier and less physically traumatic. Your help will also let us expand her home support and dietary options. We are very aware that many other couples trying to support and survive don’t get chances like this. It’s going to take another 1300 words to even scratch the surface of our gratitude. Till then, the same six will have to suffice. Thank you. We love you too.

The fundraiser Support for Jim and Shana organized by webmasters Chris Hawkins and Kristine Schactinger is set to help them with the attendant expenses of this period. Things not covered by OHIP or other social programs, like special foods, transportation, medicines, and time off of work to care for Shana. This website makes no money, and pays nothing…we do it for love. If you have enjoyed anything we have done, if you have followed Shana’s content, please consider a small donation to this campaign.

Raccoons and meal prep

Raccoons are returning to the city after a long winter hibernation, bringing with them eager hands looking opportunities to render assistance in meal preparations.

As is well known, raccoons are able washers of food and with only a bit of coaxing can be trained to wash your dinner for you in exchange for a share of the bounty.

Occasionally, exceptionally adept animals can also be trained to wash the luncheon linens, but that is a task for experts.

Racoon handmaidens
Racoon handmaidens

RETRO REDEMPTION!

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it is this:
 
Using the photographs at this link as your starting point, create palatable recipes, then style the presentation to replicate the original image. We’ll post more inspiring images as we find those worthy of the honour and effort.
 
Photograph the results, then share. You will win the admiration of your peers, and the envy of your culinary frenemies.
Use the hashtag #RetroRedemption and please tag @eatinscanada in your post.

Shoshana Brohman

Shoshana Brohman
Shoshana Brohman

Our Toronto Editor, Shoshana Brohman is a George Brown trained  chef who graduated in 1999. She, has run her own catering company since college called Good To Go, and ran the Moon Bean the first coffee house in TO to roast its own beans.

Shoshana’s first restaurant gig at 16, was at The Left Bank on Queen St. W., in Toronto, but she has worked everywhere. Was involved in helping the Food truck movement but haven’t worked fully in the industry since 2012 when she worked for Loblaws in their food program as a consultant for Food programs for kids,

Shona has competed in and been published in the All You Need is Cheese, plus a bunch of the kind of dairy/meat/ wheat board sponsored stuff as they have the most frequent computations. She has won the Duncan’s Hines baking competitions several years in a row.

Peterborough Commercial Produce Reseller’s Market

@PTBO_SatMarket an ersatz (the polite term for fake) “farmer’s market” in Peterborough, On, recently featured in a @cbcmarketplace expose for falsely marketing commercial produce as locally farm grown. Rather than fix this, they’re threatening seven local farmers & artisanal producers with expulsion from the market, as of January 8, 2018. 

One would think that the market would be aghast at the duplicity of the reselling vendors, but in fact, this practice is not only supported, but considered desirable. The goal is to present the market as fully stocked with farm produce even when most local farms would have little or no product left.

The market owners are using a tautological argument to obscure the general understanding of what a traditional farmer’s market represents. “All vegetables are grown in farms” “All produce is farmed”. Effectively, that argument leads to the assertion that any supermarket is also a farmer’s market.

This is an appalling practice. Farmer’s markets are a vital link to more than merely food. Seeing the ebb and flow of produce, becoming accustomed to natural availability, puts us closer to an understanding of how the world creates our sustenance.

Obviously, the consumers are also being taken advantage of.

Worse still, the fake farmers sell their produce for the same price as that available from local farmers, with none of the overhead or risk…effectively stealing from the pockets of both vendors and consumers. Literally stealing the reputation and ineffable contribution of farmers and wearing it like a sheepskin on a wolf.

The market’s board of directors are having a special meeting on Jan. 8 to vote on whether to dismiss Circle Organic, Otonabee Apiary, Necessitea Elixir, Chef Marshall, Finest Gourmet Fudge,
Ashburnham Farm Gaelic Garlic, and McLean Berry Farm, all selling items either grown, or made by them, locally.

*Update* This CBC article, published on May 5, 2018, details advances in the Peterborough Resellers Market case: 

…With spring taking grip across Canada, farmers markets are returning to public spaces. But five agricultural producers have been kicked out of one of Ontario’s largest markets after speaking out about other vendors masquerading as growers of all the produce they sell.

Meanwhile, there is no indication that vendors who were exposed as misleading consumers faced any sanctions. They told CBC News that they will be returning to the market this season… (more)

To read more on this topic, click on this link for the Peterborough Examiner, which links to other articles by the paper on this issue.

Caramel banana ice cream

Ice cream in bowl
Caramel banana ice cream

Picked up a big bag of bananas for almost nothing back in June, so I decided to make this. It was pretty satisfying and is quite decadent tasting, despite the fact that the only non-nutritious ingredient is the sugar, of which there is not a lot per serving.

By the way, if you are tempted to reduce the amount of sugar, you’ll discover the ice-cream to be very difficult to serve. One of the things sugar does is restrict the freezing of the custard to a workable softness.

$5 case of sightly overripe bananas.

Made it a few more times after that, and then yesterday we picked up a full box of perfectly good, slightly frost-damaged bananas at The Old Farm Market on the Trans-Canada Highway, just inside of Duncan, BC., for only $5.

Mega dehydrator
Mega dehydrator

We’ll be drying the bulk of them in our new (to us) jumbo food dryer (formerly a warming cabinet for the Hudson’s Bay catering department), but I think a few other things are in order, this being one of them.

Making a double-batch so that we can take some later for NYE, and also have some at home tomorrow. I was reminded in looking up the recipe, that I’d shared it on the Facebook page, but had not added it here as yet.

Vinegar making

Apple cider vinegar with motherJuly16
Apple cider vinegar with mother, July16

I first thought about making vinegar back in the early 80s when reading Craig Claibornes column in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It was an article about how he began using up old dribs and drabs of wine to make vinegar.

He’d kept one culture of vinegar mother going for years, which he swore made a superior vinegar. Unfortunately, one sad day a house sitter, while doing some well meaning tidying up, had tamped the ground-glass lid down on the vinegar vessel so tightly that “he smothered Mother”.

Then, last year in Cowichan I heard the story of a neighbour who had made delicious apple cider vinegar, and spoke with another who infused vinegar with blackberries, and boiling it into a thin syrup, created a superior vinaigrette.

In late summer our front yard apple tree began dropping more fruit than we could keep up on trimming for freezing and drying, and the piles of cores and peels started to look like something I could work with. Even though the bulk of the fruit was cut away, there was still a good amount of juice and flavour in what was left, which was expressed when water and a bit of sugar were added.

Topped with a bit of wine yeast, this fermented into a fairly nice tasting cider. Since cider wasn’t what I was after, this was followed by a few spoonfuls of cloudy vinegar mother from a purchased bottle of organic cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment
Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment

Fascinated by this process, I also began a batch of plum wine/vinegar but didn’t pay enough attention to this ferment. The yeast was old, and the ferment went sideways, making a sizeable addition to the compost. This was followed by more successful batches of blackberry and pear, and in the end, I made 2 – 3 gallons of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 gallon of blackberry (blue ribbon at the Cowichan Exhibition), and one gallon of pear.

The results were outstanding. Each has a unique character and I’ve enjoyed them so much that the year was nearly done before I realized that I haven’t even considered using anything else for months. Naturally, I’m making more this year and in larger quantities.

Most instructions for vinegar suggest that you are done in 5 weeks. It is true that there is at this point a definite vinegar formation, but it’s really not finished. You will be better off making double your needs in the first year, so that you can wait a full year before using it in the future, as there seems to be a significant maturation of the vinegar flavour between 6 and 12 months, at least in my observation.

You will want to aerate the vinegar as it develops, in order to prevent it from developing an acetone finish and other unpleasant aromas. Ideally have an empty vessel into which you can pour the vinegar, and then transfer it back to the original.

Tomatoes with yeast
Tomatoes with yeast, Sept 17

After aging last year’s batch for about 4 months, I decanted most of the clear elements of the vinegars from the original aging vessels into smaller jars, setting the filtered sediment aside in a new vessel to sit.

Over time, this sediment settled at the bottom, eventually developing into the mother, floating at the top until disturbed, whereupon it would drift to rest at the bottom; and a beautiful amber and powerfully pungent vinegar, floating above the remaining settled sediment and mother.

As this occurred, I decanted the pure vinegar, and set the remainder aside to see what would happen with the remaining sediment, then set the mother aside, collecting it into a separate jar with enough vinegar to keep it active, until time to use it in the next batch, where it now is, fermenting.

Currently fermenting into cider in 4 gallon containers are 16 gallons of apples (which will be about 8-10 gallons of cider), and one with about 2 gallons of tomatoes, and on the second stage fermentation to vinegar, are eight gallons of apple cider, three of plum, three of rice vinegar, two of blackberry and a gallon jar of mixed plum/Oregon grape (a berry which is not a grape, but grows in clusters, and tastes similar to currant, but with hideously bitter seeds).

Tomato vinegar. Oct 21
Tomato vinegar. Oct 21

Looking for a good supply of large food grade buckets? Stop by your local supermarket and ask at the deli/bread counter if they have any buckets with lids, and you’ll likely find them happy to help.  This will also help keep some of our plastics from being discarded too soon.

The “recipe” for making vinegar is simple:

Fruit juice, sugar (optional depending on the sweetness of the fruit), yeast, time.

That’s essentially it.

Strictly speaking, the yeast and the vinegar culture can be obtained from the air, but that’s a trickier process, and at least with yeast, the flavours obtained from them can vary greatly from yeast to yeast. I use a good commercial wine yeast to begin.

Even though the recipe is simple, I’m providing it below with the “steps” showing how a rice vinegar I made this past summer aged over time.

Vinegar on shelf
Vinegar on shelf

It’s a bit different with rice vinegar, since you use a grain rather than fruit. Also in the making of rice vinegar, there are two methods for the first stage. In the simple method, the rice liquid is sweetened with the addition of sugar. The more complex method uses amylase, an enzyme, which converts the starches in the grain to sugar before the fermentation is begun.

I’ll do another batch in the next few months and will add that to this then, along with a comparison of results.

Here is a lovely video: Brewing Korea’s Hanega Vinegar for 35 Generations from great Big Story & Korean Air

It’s a very short, pretty story, about traditional rice vinegar making in Korea, where they leave the rice in throughout the fermentation…another thing I mean to try in the next batch.

Happy Birthday GaddAbouteating!

It’s been a while since she posted an article here, but GaddAboutEating has helped keep readers up-to-date with posts to the Eatin’s Canada Facebook page.

Here on the website, her articles, recipes, reviews, and photographs are very popular and appreciated by readers.

We’re very happy to have her contributions whenever she is able to make them and in whatever form they happen to take.

Thanks GaddAboutEating for being part of Eatin’s Canada!

Brine Curing Olives

Olives in bowl
Olives in bowl

I’ve been curing olives for a few years now.

It used to be easier when living in Toronto where it was merely a quick walk to the local fruit market to buy a bag of raw olives.  Now living in Cobble Hill,  it’s more complicated, as raw olives aren’t available locally.

Fortunately for me, I was headed to Vancouver on family business last week. I called Bosa Foods, the only place I’ve found reasonably close (a mere 4 hours away by ferry and car) where one can buy them, and was told that they had just received their annual shipment of green olives (black ones will come a bit later in the season, sometime next month).

I made sure to pick up two 10k bags, as last year the single bag I’d bought had been barely enough for our own annual use, and didn’t allow for any gifts (or product for my farm stand). To be sure of maximum freshness and quality, I began to prepare them the minute I got home.

Soaking Olives
Soaking Olives

The first stage of curing involves leaching the tannins out to reduce the natural bitterness of the olive fruit, the second is brining them, either in a wet or dry cure. These instructions are for wet cure, I’ll try dry cure when I get the dark olives next month and write about that process as they progress.

There are several pages online with instructions for how to wet cure olives, some of which suggest using lye, a caustic solution, to soften the olives prior to bringing. There are also instructions for using merely water, which struck me as wiser and which in practice, yields excellent olives.

I’ve seen instructions for whacking them with a mallet, which I tried once, and shan’t be attempting again. Not only did the mallet recoil and almost hit me in the forehead at least twice, but the olives when cured, were bruised. Meh.

Slicing Olives
Slicing Olives

The Greek method, slicing them on either side lengthwise, is perfect…but have the water bath ready to pop them into immediately, or you will have badly oxidized slashes on either side, as this happens very quickly…as I learned last year. That would have been a bigger problem if I’d had enough to give away, so I guess it was just as well that I made fewer then.

So, all that said, this is easy peasy. Get olives, fill a jug with water (I use a party drinks dispenser with spigot, so that it’s easier to empty each day, as the water needs to be refreshed daily). Slice olives into water bath. Change water daily, after one week add brine and leave to age for a month in a loosely covered jar or crock, stirring daily if possible. Put a weight (like a plate) on the top to keep them submerged, or they will go mouldy and infect the batch.

Olives in jars
Olives in jars

Use a 1:10 (10%) salt:water ratio. If you have kids and want to amuse them with science, test the density of the solution by floating an egg on top. If it floats, you have enough salt. If not, add more.

It will be another few days before I am ready to brine the current batch, for which I’ll use seawater which has been evaporating to about 1:6 and boil it down to the required density…mainly because I live at the beach and a local salt company uses the same spot to draw from, so why not? I’ll report back when these are done to brag about how great they taste. I’ll report back when they’re ready. Maybe with a recipe for tapenade.

Olive harvest in Sicily

Trees before harvest, needing to be pruned
Trees before harvest, needing to be pruned

Article by Jadro Subic, photos by Jadro Subic and David Gollob

When you talk about olives in Sicily, it is more about the three thousand years of ‘olive culture’ than it is about just olive cultivation.

Pruning the trees
Pruning the trees

Though not everybody agrees on which part of Sicily has the best olive oil, the most prestigious DOP (denominazione di origine protetta) is the area of Monti Iblei, the mounts stretching from Catania to Siracusa and Ragusa.

The most favorable altitude is around 700 meters above the sea, though some trust that the closeness to the sea improves the olives antioxidant properties. There are several varieties used both for oil production and brine or oil-curing.

I’ve always enjoyed my olive oil, even as a kid, but here in Sicily, no matter how much one knows about it, there’s much more to learn. Especially at this time of year, it becomes the favourite subject of local conversation.

Wherever you go, people offer advice to strangers in stores, restaurants, or at the market, not to mention friends and neighbours. Your accountant, your realtor, even your doctor will have something to add or to suggest.

Olives in netting on ground
Olives in netting on ground

Once we found ourselves owners of a lovely property with six first-class olive trees, they were all eager to explain to us (Canadians) the worth of our newly-acquired fortune, a few even offered to guide us through the process. We are of course very appreciative of all their support

For olive oil pressing, it all must be done within 36 hours. The day of the harvest the special light-net sheets are spread around the tree, for no olive should touch the ground directly. We filled six large breathable sacks and left them in the shade.

The following day, David took the olives to one of the community presses in the neighbouring town and watched the whole process play out with a bunch of other (mostly) men doing the same. He noticed a clear difference in attitude between the locals and everyone else. There was a retired science teacher from northern Italy who got a bit more respect from the locals, but otherwise…

Every batch is done separately, so you stand there and follow your own olives being weight (we had 167kg), put in a special container, cleaned from branches and leaves, washed, and so on.. More or less 2 hours to get your very own olive oil. To quote David:The perfume of olive oil in the mill was intoxicating… people here take this incredibly seriously and there was an atmosphere of excitement among the crowd, mostly 60+ with olive-bellies…

We brought a 30 litre barrel and filled 4 cans, 5 litres each. there’s a bit more at the bottom of the barrel, perhaps enough to fill a 1 litre bottle.

It had to be decanted since there should be no air inside the containers while it sits and sediment the residue. I just tasted a spoon of it on a piece of bread. Both the smell and the taste are incredibly rich.

Jadro olive oil bread
Jadro olive oil bread