Tag Archives: Food for Thought

Easy DIY organic fertilizer

Article and photographs by Jacqui Shannon.

Here in the United Kingdom as in Canada, along the rivers and in marsh lands, something nearly magical grows, Symphytum officinale. In may areas in the UK it is so prolific there are actual “harvesting days” where the nature reserves encourage gardeners to come and cut what they need.

First introduced to to North America in  1954, you may know it as Quaker’s Comfrey, Knitbone or even as a weed. Regardless of what you call it, it’s indispensable.  Any gardener who wants to fertilize their garden, especially fruiting plants or seeding crops, naturally and healthily should know about and utilize this amazing plant.

It’s a powerful ally of the organic gardener.

What makes this plant exceptional are the levels of nitrogen and potassium it releases upon decomposition.

Comfrey is what you call a “dynamic accumulator.” It has a large turnip shaped tap root that mines up nutrients and minerals from deep within the soil which it brings up into it’s leaves. Because it does this much deeper than most plant roots reach, the surrounding vegetation isn’t compromised and previously unreachable nutrients are made accessible . Harvesting and composting its leaves releases the nitrogen and potassium making them accessible to other plants and the rest of your garden. Quick growing, Comfrey can be harvested boosting the minerals available to your garden organically several times per year eliminating the need to purchase chemical based tomato or plant foods.

Harvesting is easy.  Just before the plant flowers is when you’ll get the most benefit, but around that time is also quite good. Sheer stems about 15cm above ground. Keep the leaves, flowers if you wish and discard the stem. Harvests can occur safely when the plant reaches approximately 60cm,  in spring until early autumn without risk to to the plant. In autumn it’s important to leave pant to grow and rejuvenate it’s stores for overwintering.

Once you have them it’s up to you how you use them. You can choose to make a tea, like the one in our nettle article which takes 4 to 5 weeks,  add them as a two inch mulch around fruiting plants and they will break down naturally or wilt them for two to three days and simply dig it in! Unlike other high nitrogen content sources Comfrey doesn’t rob nitrogen from the soil because it’s C:N ratio is lower than well rotted compost.

If you can’t find wild Comfrey, the cultivated sterile variety Bocking 14 is often available through seed suppliers. If you purchase your own, let it grow one full year before beginning to harvest to allow it a firmly establish. Never dig up and plant a non sterile, wild plant, it will take over your garden quickly. Bocking 14 will grow quite large and is best separated and shared with other gardeners after a few years growth.

 

 

Natural pest management

Article and photograph by Jacqui Shannon.

One of the biggest questions new organic gardeners ask is about pest management.  We all seem to understand the concepts of  open pollination and making fertilizers from plants but when it comes to keeping the pests away, many of us draw a blank. We work so hard to raise our plants that contemplating their decimation is frankly, terrifying. So what can we do?

I am a firm believer that healthy plants and healthy soil do much for our garden when it comes to pests. A strong, healthy plant can tolerate some pests without too much loss. Nonetheless, I also believe in giving the garden a helping hand.  One of the principles I learned at Organic Lea was to try and balance the predator / prey ratio. At first, to me at least, this was a bit of a shock. How many aphids should be in the garden? My natural response was “NONE!” But that, it turns out, is also unnatural.

The beans grown in glasshouse,  were awash with Black Aphid larvae the first week of April. It seemed a dire situation but no one else seemed concerned. When I asked the head gardener about this, he explained that the crop was nearing it’s last winter harvest and was going to be allowed to flower and go to seed. For now we’d simply run our index finger and thumbs up the most infested stocks to squish the aphid larvae, overrun bean tips were to be removed and put into the compost. Although affective for the larvae stage, this is laborious.  Later the same day, our class went out into the nettles to hunt and capture Ladybugs.

Because nettles are one of the first greens of spring, overwintered Ladybugs seek them out as a first source of food. Over two hours we caught twenty. Ladybugs, it turns out are the organic gardeners natural ally against the Aphid. We then released them into the Aphid infested bean plot. Two weeks later, I noticed many tiny cocoons along the wooden skirt boards to the bean plot, Ladybug larvae.

Pupa larvae, 7-spot ladybug
Since an adequate food supply was available in the glasshouse, the Ladybugs stay their whole life cycle. This provides the gardener with a natural defense against Aphid.

By introducing the Ladybugs to the Glasshouse, we are able to aid in the balance of predator / prey relationship. If we had killed all of the Aphid larvae the food source for the Ladybug wouldn’t have been available and they would not have stayed. By providing a suitable environment for the Ladybug, including food, suitable pupation and hibernation areas,  she will then in turn and aid us in the long term pest management. There are many such relationships the organic gardener can cultivate with predator insects, all of which will improve your crops survival.

An important part of organic gardening is being able to identify which insects are the “good guys” and which are the ones you want to try and limit. Most children and adults can identify a 7-Spot Ladybug, I find the link below quite useful for identifying the larvae of others.

http://www.ladybird-survey.org/downloads/ladybird_larvae.pdf

An adult 7-Spot ladybug, and a ladybug larvae helping to control the Black Aphid on a bean plant.
An adult 7-Spot ladybug, and a ladybug larvae helping to control the Black Aphid on a bean plant.

Fashion in gardening

Article and photograph by Jacqui Shannon.

Fashion trends are inescapable. Ever present in our clothing choices and in our culinary exploits,  perhaps it was naive of me, but I for one did not anticipate that the humble garden  was also subject.

Last fall I was part of a team that pruned a long standing allotment. Over the years, various stewards of the space had planted and grown many bushes, fruits and flowers  and we were there to trim the growth back into a manageable and healthy state. It was that afternoon that I was introduced to the Worcesterberry tree. Being February, the squat little bushy tree was remarkably undistinguished. Whist pruning I found its thorns, but aside from making my task slightly more tricky, I didn’t give it much notice. Afterwards, curious about a tree I’d never encountered before, I asked around. Eventually, a vague description of “like a gooseberry crossed with a blackberry” became the consensus. I decided to plant one of the clippings to see for myself.

A year on and after much research, it seems Worcesterberry is considered it’s own species. Once prized as a valuable “guardian of the plot” owning to it’s dense thorny growth, it has fallen out of favour with the advent of easier to harvest thorn-less varieties.  While I do understand the logic, I also feel it’s a shame. To date I have only found one woman who still grew Worcesterberry in her garden and she admitted they had been her mothers doing over 40 years previous.

This year my little Worcesterberry  pruning has flowered for the first time. It’s quite remarkable and beautiful. I do not want it to be lost and forgotten because people found it “difficult”.

Losing any species be it plant or animal isn’t a good thing. Our world’s species, even the thorny ones, need guardians. I challenge you, go out find a forgotten out of favour species and become it’s champion. There are lots out there.

Perhaps, when my lovely Worcesterberry is too big for my roof I will cruise out of London and plant it in the wild.

Worcesterberry in flower
The Worcesterberry was once a valuable member of the allotment. It’s naturally dense growth and spiky thorn acted as a deterrent shielding crops from predators, but it’s nearly forgotten now as gardeners seek out and favour new thorn-less breeds which are easier to harvest.

What’s wrong with Winterlicious and Summerlicious?

…and for that matter, LivingSocial, Groupon and the defunct DealFind and TeamBuy (both of which expired owing merchants money). As appealing as it is to save money, the best way to do so is simply to be frugal in your range of purchases, while respecting the cost of their production…not stepping it up, while paying less for everything.

Eventually, someone has to pay for it and this may be your retailer, or their staff…or other consumers, but why should they? One way or the other, it’s got to affect either quality or sustainability of the enterprise, and ultimately has a huge social cost from lost revenues and the related inability to service the needs of the business.

Any high end restaurant that participates in one of these plans is doing so because they feel that the short term gain of having cash flow is servicing their ongoing bottom-line.

Like PayDay Loans, these programs take something away that can never be replaced.

The truth is that the money has to come from somewhere. Either out of the enterprise…as sometimes does happen, which is part of what bothers me about these sorts of programs; or it is spread out in overall higher prices to compensate, which is a good chunk of the rest of it .

Overall higher prices is also something that many restaurants would find it difficult to do while retaining their regular client base.

One thing that often happens in these promotions (and on Valentine’s Day btw), is the adding of extra tables or chairs, diminishing the overall experience for the diners.

Here’s a great blog post from Denmark on the topic:

Why Relae and Manfreds are not participating in Copenhagen Food Week

We keep getting those phone calls. “We have a great deal for you!” a young and ecstatic “entrepreneurs” voice says ” we fill your restaurant and you make more money!” – and this young entrepeneurs voice just says no, no and no.

Why is it so hard to understand that as soon as some “entrepeneurs” are supposed to “help” you (pls notice the extensive use of “” so far in this post…it’s a sign that I am emotionally involved in the matter) it will cost someone money? Money that will not give your guest/customer any value or make your life easier since you have to dump the prices on your menu in the end making you maybe swap to conventional eggs rather than organic and maybe eventually even cut off some staff? Many of my colleagues are drawn to the idea of filling up the restaurant on slow weekdays and I’ll be honest with you, even despite our privileged history of success we sometimes struggle to fill up the restaurant on a snowy, grey and cold Wednesday in February. Of course the idea of making less of a revenue per guest but still making a higher total is tempting but everything comes with a price and giving discounts might prove to be a disaster. So how does adding another factor to your price (the “entrepeneur”) and dumping your price at the same time add up?

My fear is that the types of home pages as sweetdeal.dk, greed.dk and dealhunter.dk are multiplying as a cancer on our industry and will eventually revert the great progress that the Copenhagen food scene has undertaken in the last ten years. With the fine-dining scene rise to stardom and international fame the middle range restaurants has improved with it giving you more and more value for money when you spend between 500-1000 kr per person. The higher volumes of these types of restaurants demanding varied vegetables and high quality produce, are able to support young and progressive farmers wanting to focus on sustainability and just plain out good food. This system is fragile and as the number of restaurants grow, and competition alike, the focusing in discounting might shift the balance from the busiest restaurants being the best to the ones dumping the price the most to come out on the other side. And this is at the cost of good food because in my opinion, if we had to shift from Hindsholm pork and organic eggs to conventional s**t to be a successful restaurant I wouldn’t have the heart to call us successful, I would call it a disaster.

Now Diningweek.dk has had a few years of great growth and success selling as much as 50.000 tickets offering a 3-course menu for 200 kr at one of the “best restaurants in the city” (- here we go again) and I was horrified to see how Politiken, one of the leading Danish newspaper had filled most part of their lifestyle section with a huge ad from Dining Week, basically listing up all the restaurants participating. To call it the “best” is a bit out there but the biggest problem is how this organization and event is portrayed as a festival celebrating gastronomy. For 200 kr you get 3 courses (and a bottle of San Pellegrino) in week 7- notoriously a tough week for the industry- and all the restaurants are happy to fill up their restaurants- right? But how is this celebrating gastronomy? Beside that the few people going out in that week will probably be tempted to choose the cheap night out not considering the potential consequences? What never seems to be put out there is that Dining Week is arranged by Cofoco, a big restaurant chain counting numerous restaurants in the lower-middle range as Höst, Trois Cochons and many more. All these of course participating in the “festival” and I guess like all the other restaurants paying a 20 kr fee per booking to the Cofoco-headquarters for their participation. 20 kr doesn’t not sound like much for a guest in your restaurant but considering the 50.000 -and growing- sold tickets it might even turn out as a pretty good deal for these “entrepeneurs” as well. The big questions is if we will let our industry face the same trouble as retail, suffering customers waiting for the SALE signs to pop up all over the city before buying anything but a Christmas present. Or wether we want to react and understand that as soon as someone wants you to dump your price they are not out to help you, they just want to be an “entrepeneur”. We are not like retail- we make a craft with our hands. Nothing we do at Relæ is produced in China by cheap labour or outsourced to India. The veggies are browned locally, the fish is butchered in house and we make our own bread with flour made from Danish wheats and we cannot afford to go on a discounting frenzy because the only thing we would be able to cut the price on by now would be quality. We are not like retail and we need to admit that a reasonable pricing of our menus is the only way to go. Some customers will always go for the discounts and I don’t blame them. We just need to take responsibility for what we do and make sure that we always, always, offer a great value for money and this way smudging the “best” off on the Dining Week ad. Because if you truly make quality you shouldn’t want to see your self on this or any others “entrepeneurs” homepage, portfolio or list.

Book Review and Interview: Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, by Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakshott

Review by Alison Cole, used with the generous permission of Animal Voices Vancouver.

It’s time to wake up and dramatically evolve our consciousness when it comes to making choices about our food.

So goes the underlying message of Philip Lymbery’s new book “Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat”, which takes us on his journey of traveling the world to observe and investigate global industrial farming systems. Through his analysis, he provides the reader with fascinating and alarming discoveries that reveal the facts involved when it comes to the production of our meat on a mass scale. The bottom line is the “bottom line”, where the priority for such food industry is money, with little to no attention given to animal welfare, environmental impacts, and the overall health and well-being of humankind.

As the CEO of the animal welfare organization Compassion in World Farming, with a vested interest in our food supply, Lymbery’s investigative efforts run strong in his search for the truth in various facets of the cyclopean picture. For example, he travels to Peru where he observes the effects of the decimated fish supply as a result of overfishing. One of Peru’s leading businesses is exporting ground-up fish to China and Europe to be fed to farmed animals, and he observes the now uninhabited ‘guano’ islands that were once abundant with birds. He learns that all birdlife has been demolished as a result taking all their fish to be made into fishmeal. He calls the fishmeal industry an “environmental catastrophe” and one of the filthiest secrets of the factory farming industry.

In addition to such ecological disasters, Lymbery gives us a glimpse into the world of the corrupt slaughterhouse system, in which the veterinarians employed by these establishments are forced either to play by the organization’s dirty rules or not at all. He tells us of a personal account relayed to him in which a slaughterhouse vet was threatened at knifepoint for stopping the slaughter line because he saw an issue that threatened the safety of the meat. Such a drastic action as ceasing the production line means less productivity which means less money for all involved, and is a deed that is rarely executed despite any frequency of need for it.

Where is the enforcement, then, for keeping the meat safe and for the welfare of the animals in such an aggressive environment where kill quotas by the hour must be met, lest the workers be docked pay and otherwise punished? These kinds of conditions in the abattoirs are, unfortunately, all too common, with little hope for improvement as the current system runs.

With “cheap” meat also comes the grandiose use of antibiotics in our food system, which is just one more prong of many that make up the faults in this global industry. It’s a fact that half the world’s antibiotics are used to feed farmed animals, whereas closer to 80 percent of North America’s antibiotics are. And these drugs are routinely fed to even the “healthy” animals in the factory farming systems, as a preventative measure to illnesses in the animals that are often inevitable with the systems of mass confinement (aka factory farming).

As more antibiotics are fed to the animals that we humans then eat, we are approaching a crisis in which this medication will be coming less and less effective to use for human illnesses when we need them! The audacious cycle affects us all on this planet – a fact that must be understood and addressed by us, the consumers and inhabitants of this planet.

So how does this all end? Given the many angles of this story as told in this 426 page tome alone, the effects of the meat industry on this earth are multi-fold and complex when you peel back the various layers wrapped around the core of the money, the factory farming system, and the peoples’ avid hunger for animal flesh. But that really is the core, and when contemplated at its foundation, I believe that we can empower ourselves to change the system, and at least become consciously aware of this system that manifests so much destruction in our world.

“Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat” will open your eyes to the hidden processes of industrialized food production. It will have you question how “cheap” that meat really is the next time you think of buying a hamburger, an action that once seemed so simple and insipid. Consider what lies beyond the shiny packaging in the supermarket when you purchase your meat products. And take one step further in truly educating yourself about the looming “Farmageddon” and taking personal actions to help reverse the disaster.

You can start now! The first 48 pages of the book are available to read here online for free.

And here’s an audio interview that I did with Philip Lymbery on the Animal Voices Vancouver radio show on various topics covered in the book:

Maple Syrup, The Essence of Spring

Article and photography by JP Campbell

In West Quebec it’s not unusual to mark the true beginning of Spring as the day the sap begins to run. This year it was March 31st. Immediately the core crew at the sugarbush were called to action.

The path to the Sugarshack
The path to the Sugarshack

First the trees must be tapped. In preparation snowmobile trails are made through the ‘main routes’ across the bush. The tappers branch off from these to prepare the trees. The Maples selected are at least 8” in diameter. In our location, a crew of two crosses the hills on snowshoes. The first member has a drill with a 7/16ths bit and drills at least one hole 2 1/2” deep on the sunny side of the tree. The second follows behind. He or she will sterilize each tap then hammer it in the and attach the pail and cover. The cover gives the pail protection from fragile winter bark and, god

Dominion & Grimm for generations the most common name in the bush.
Dominion & Grimm for generations the most common name in the bush.

forbid, rain. With the easiest areas, tapped collection can begin and the tappers head to more distant or difficult terrain. Our crew chief Don, believes we’ve tapped 450 trees this season and is already talking about more next year!

The crew has so far avoided modern commercial collection. There are no plastic tubes here. Collecting by hand is great exercise, puts one in touch with the silence of the forest and adds additional pride in the final product. That being said this year’s snow conditions give one pause. The snow is like slush four feet deep. Hills are crossed and the sap is emptied into pails.  Even with snowshoes you are

Donald examines the filters at the collection tank
Donald examines the filters at the collection tank

going to go in up to a hip. I say hip because, without notice, it’s always one leg that goes down and even as you fall the only thought is not to lose a drop of the precious sap. The merits of commercial methods is obvious but I’ve joined a stubborn bunch.

In remote areas, the buckets are emptied into barrels for collection by snowmobile and trailer. Close to the sugarshack you’re on your own and must carry the buckets back. At the shack the sap is poured  through a double filter into a large barrel. From there it will be pumped up behind the shack into a covered holding tank. At this point gravity feeds it inside to the evaporator.

TheEvaporatorIf you haven’t picked up on it yet, this operation is pretty ‘old school’. The evaporator is, of course, wood fired and that demands care. Cut wood must be available. The furnace must be fed and fed properly. The boiling sap must be monitored. A good boil is required but, imagine your kitchen stove, you do not want dozens of gallons of sticky fluid boiling over. The experienced eye of the crew chief is never far away, which is a good thing. The crew chief will also grade the final product. Based on colour and then viscosity this is something that I have yet to take part in. The season is still young.

TheBoilThe final part of the process is the bottling. This will be familiar to anyone who’s canned or made wine. The keys here are proper sterilization and a good tight seal.

I am sure I have left out so much that I already take for granted. I am exhausted and will return to the bush, with luck, everyday until the end of the season. Forgive me.

At the same time I encourage everyone with access to maples to make their own syrup if only in your own kitchen. It can be a fun family project and I can also say one of the very best syrups I tasted last year was homemade.

Thanks to the crew: Donald, Ian, Roseanne and the dozens of others who help out.

The evaporator firebox.
The evaporator firebox.

Sugarbush Sugarshack

Story and photographs by JP Campbell, voiceover by Lew Williams.

Winter arrived early and stayed. Now it’s March and even in this deep freeze the longer days hint at the Spring to come.

Trees - Photo by JP Campbell
Trees – Photo by JP Campbell

I embrace Winter if only to maintain sanity. Life in a little old cottage on the Gatineau river can be a challenge. What lies just, just, around the corner, though, has become my favourite time of the year. The sun will be bright. Temperatures will hover above zero by noon and just dip down to freezing at night. It is sugarbush season.

Every Canadian knows Maple syrup. Commercial syrup operations are even popular tourist destinations. Eggs, pancakes, and sausages come slathered in golden sweetness. In my part of the world, West Quebec, sleigh rides and minstrels are often part of the scene. It’s a lovely little escape for my urban friends. My sugarbush season is different and the result of a challenge.

I had been given an unlabelled bottle of syrup by my friend Ian. It was dark, smooth, and the sweetness seemed simply part of the whole experience. I had to have more. Where could I get it?

“Well, if you want a supply you can come and help work in the bush” he smiled. He knew he had my attention as he sketched out a map on a napkin.

ShackinWoodsShoesThe next afternoon I was on my way. Hidden between the highway and river is a century old farm owned by Don. Around the farm are hundreds of hilly acres  covered with Acer saccharum the sugar maple. My host just smiled and nodded when I introduced myself as Ian’s friend and we slowly walked ten minutes up a skido-packed  trail from the farm yard to the top of a hill. Running around us and playing in the snow were several of the setters Don raises and trains. I was not going to see a typical commercial operation.

DogOnTable - Photo by JP Campbell
DogOnTable – Photo by JP Campbell

Nestled in a small clearing, picnic tables, snow shoes and pails surround the cabane à sucre. Don supervises the sugarbush as a co-op of family and friends with Ian as his lieutenant. It’s a pretty traditional setup. The surrounding trees are tapped. The sap is collected and brought back to the shack to be boiled down. In the furthest parts of the woods the pails of sap are ferried by skido and trailer. There are no gravity fed tubes running through the forest here. Don pointed to some snowshoes, handed me a pail and told me to  start collecting right on the nearby hill. With a wave and a promise to return he headed off.

TapholeThe trees had already been tapped. I noticed that the older trees with a substantial girth often had two taps and their buckets attached. I started to empty the buckets into my pail immediately. I was about to learn my first sugarbush lesson. If you’re collecting the liquid gold on a hillside start at the bottom and work your way up! Not only is it easier to carry the soon heavy pail it is also easier to manoeuvre with said pail on showshoes. It’s a mistake you don’t repeat.

I returned to the shack with minimal spillage sweating from my labour and from having worn too many layers of clothing. Don had returned with Ian and was waiting to add my pail to the holding tank. I promised to be back the next afternoon.

Sugarbush pails Photo by JP Campbell
Sap buckets – Photo by JP Campbell

It was the next day that had me hooked. There was no sign of life at the farm or in the bush with the exception of a setter who followed me along the trail. At the cabane there was evidence of a party around the barbeque pit. Snowshoes on I slowly began emptying buckets. The sun beamed down through the branches bright and warm. Jay was called and disappeared.

I suppose I must have been twenty trees along my way when I heard a sound. I stopped. Ping. Long pause. Ping. Sap was falling into the first bucket I had emptied. It was the only sound in the woods.

I returned everyday. I stacked wood and stoked the boiler. I met my co-workers and had post-collection wine with friends. On the weekends whole families showed up and the hills were filled with the sounds of laughing children. When the season ended there was a party in the barn where everyone ate and drank and the music was live and real.

I remind myself the season is just a few weeks away. The cold snap has to end. This year I will return to collect the sap and, perhaps, have the opportunity to learn more about the boiling down process.

Come on Spring!

DogOnGuard

Eatin’s Canada February

I read something recently on twitter on a new follower’s page:

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

To Achieve

That kind of describes Eatin’s Canada. I knew what I wanted to do, but there just wasn’t time. I looked ahead and couldn’t for the life of me imagine when there would be. So, I just did it anyway. That fact means the first few months are going to be a scramble, developing the editorial calendar and building the site.

Thankfully, several people have offered to participate in this project. Thanks to Glen Synogrand (recipes and photography), Wayne Kwok (coffee, reviews and essays) , Gaddabout Eating (restaurant reviews, recipes), Lindiwe Sithole (recipes, particularly form Zimbabwe), Ryan Wolman (recipes and essays about food), Alison Cole (vegan cookbook  and recipe reviews), Gurpreet Chana, and others to be announced soon. I am thrilled to have each of them participating and look forward to their contributions.

Eatin’s Canada has several goals, providing recipes obviously, but more than that, looking at how to cook so that one need not be dependent on products or fast food for everything in your life.

So, there are two sections with recipes, one, imaginatively entitled: Recipes for meals for one or two people, and one titled Putting Food By, for making food in large quantities, either for preserving, freezing, or cellaring, or for entertaining large groups. By the time the end of the year rolls around, we’ll have gone through a full cycle of preserved food recipes that provide a foundation for a wide range of other dishes.

This month our recipes section features Zimbabwean traditional foods from Lindiwe Sithole, pickles from GaddAbout Eating, and Indian Chilly Chicken from Gurpreet Chana.

There are Reviews, and a Review/Directory for food products, restaurants and tools, because while in my mind, one should be capable of making pretty much everything you need to live a comfortable life, you should have options. With few exceptions, reviewed products are from small to medium family owned companies or collectives. They are not all available in Canadian stores…yet.

The directory contains only those products that have been favourably reviewed. Product reviews are skewed to the positive side mainly because I personally prefer to review the products I like…not the least of which is because if I don’t like a product, I stop eating it and really have little to say on the topic. If it was sent for review, I look for a colleague whose taste I trust, to try it and if they like it, to comment on my behalf.

Restaurant reviews are more likely to have some negative content, as food is seldom so poor one leaves the restaurant with the plate untouched, and the spend is generally higher than with ingredients. People really need to be told if the experience is not going to match their investments of time and money.

Food for Thought is the editorial piece and will also eventually be a section with articles from multiple contributors looking at issues related to food. This month we have Alison Cole of Animal Voices with an article and radio interview about the human cost of the chocolate industry.

I grew up in the food industry. in gumboots on the floor of the family business, a fish plant. Food is personal for me. All of it, how to really cook in a way that is a joyful and social part of life, how we treat food, how it is produced, how we treat the animals and plants that we eat before we eat them, quality of life for farmers and their workers.

I want Eatin’s Canada to present some of the most forward thinking ideas about humane food production. Sometimes that will come out of a piece written for us, and sometimes its going to be content that we find and present here with an introduction.

Both written in house and curated here.   Food is central to our lives, we need it, and to get it, we have to kill. It is one of the things that we share with all other living beings on the planet. Everything that lives eats something that used to live. I believe that we should respect our food and the gift that it gave us.

I think preparing food beautifully, so that it tastes wonderful is part of honouring what we eat.   The same is true of how we produce food. We are part of a chain of life, with  extraordinary power to affect everything else in the chain.   Many places, but this month, let’s talk about the children of the chocolate industry and  returning humanity to the food industry.

Do It Slow

I’m not generally a patient guy. I go through everything fast. Music, socks, iphones, boyfriends and such. All disposable things to be consumed quick and discarded when done, onto the next.

I’m especially not patient when I cook. I cook when I’m hungry. So I turn up the flames all the way, mash a nice steak on the grill sear it fast, pace the backyard trying to make time pass and then straight to my mouth. My preferred utensil is a shovel when I eat. I’m not subtle, or graceful, or thoughtful.

Every meal’s a quickie. I don’t remember anything I made in my 20’s or early 30’s at all.

And now I’m in my late 30’s. I have a fiancé and a dog and a mortgage and a sore back sometimes. I’m my own boss (or I like to pretend I am) so my time is flexible.  I’m starting to see the value of slowing down a little. It’s not easy for someone like me to become patient, or thoughtful, or slow.

I thought slow food meant that it wasn’t “fast food”. It wasn’t something deep fried at a takeout joint. I thought home cooked was slow by default. I feel like an idiot learning to cook all over again sometimes.

A couple months ago I decided to learn to cook slow. I bought a great book (http://www.amazon.ca/Cooking-Slow-Recipes-Slowing-Down/dp/1452104697), and made my first pot roast. 8 hours in an oven. I hated it. I was literally in agony. Checking it every 15 minutes or so, just so I felt busy and involved and useful. It’s not cooking unless you’re doing shit right?

What I noticed around hour six was the smell. I’ve always complained that My place didn’t have the smell of butter, garlic, onions, or whatever aromatics make a great cook’s home smell so sexy. My food never smelled like that. Looked good. Tasted good. Smelled like nothing. If smell is half the way we experience food then my food was half good at best in retrospect.

My place smelled like garlic and caramelized veggies and I actually left a few times and came back so I could smell it all over again. At hour 8 when I forced myself to let the meat sit for 10 minutes like the book insisted I thought I’d lose my mind. I tried to keep busy but I just wanted to cut a little piece off to sample the infinite roast. But I composed myself and waited.

The roast was the best roast I ever had. Now I know technically it probably wasn’t. I’ve had great roast at my mom’s (obligatory respectful nod) or a restaurant and they were probably better. What I was eating was this weird new thing I did. Something that was painful. I was patient, and I paid attention, and I adjusted to the meat, I didn’t move it along a searing hot grill bending it to my will like I usually do.

I listened, and watched, and had a little respect for the thing I was making.  I stopped checking it every 15 minutes and let it do it’s thing without interfering more than I had to. I committed to something that was a little more than a quick pleasure. I took the time to pay attention and care about my dish, and I think that gave it a depth, and smell, and texture that I’ve never achieved before, even though I cook often and talk about it even more frequently.

We get older, and hopefully we see the value in slowing down and the invisibly obvious becomes something we can absorb. I feel a bit like I did when I met my <soon to be> husband. I’m often shocked that I’m able to appreciate something subtle and long and sometimes delicious, and sometimes calm and boring. Enjoying the fact that you’re sometimes just sitting around and enjoying a moment, creating something with depth.

Happy VDay.

 

 

Food & Love – Do it Slow

By Ryan Wolman

I’m not generally a patient guy. I go through everything fast. Music, socks, iphones, boyfriends and such. All disposable things to be consumed quick and discarded when done, onto the next.

I’m especially not patient when I cook. I cook when I’m hungry. So I turn up the flames all the way, mash a nice steak on the grill sear it fast, pace the backyard trying to make time pass and then straight to my mouth. My preferred utensil is a shovel when I eat. I’m not subtle, or graceful, or thoughtful.

Every meal’s a quickie. I don’t remember anything I made in my 20’s or early 30’s at all.

And now I’m in my late 30’s. I have a fiancé and a dog and a mortgage and a sore back sometimes. I’m my own boss (or I like to pretend I am) so my time is flexible.  I’m starting to see the value of slowing down a little. It’s not easy for someone like me to become patient, or thoughtful, or slow.

I thought slow food meant that it wasn’t “fast food”. It wasn’t something deep fried at a takeout joint. I thought home cooked was slow by default. I feel like an idiot learning to cook all over again sometimes.

A couple months ago I decided to learn to cook slow. I bought a great book (http://www.amazon.ca/Cooking-Slow-Recipes-Slowing-Down/dp/1452104697), and made my first pot roast. 8 hours in an oven. I hated it. I was literally in agony. Checking it every 15 minutes or so, just so I felt busy and involved and useful. It’s not cooking unless you’re doing shit right?

What I noticed around hour six was the smell. I’ve always complained that My place didn’t have the smell of butter, garlic, onions, or whatever aromatics make a great cook’s home smell so sexy. My food never smelled like that. Looked good. Tasted good. Smelled like nothing. If smell is half the way we experience food then my food was half good at best in retrospect.

My place smelled like garlic and caramelized veggies and I actually left a few times and came back so I could smell it all over again. At hour 8 when I forced myself to let the meat sit for 10 minutes like the book insisted I thought I’d lose my mind. I tried to keep busy but I just wanted to cut a little piece off to sample the infinite roast. But I composed myself and waited.

The roast was the best roast I ever had. Now I know technically it probably wasn’t. I’ve had great roast at my mom’s (obligatory respectful nod) or a restaurant and they were probably better. What I was eating was this weird new thing I did. Something that was painful. I was patient, and I paid attention, and I adjusted to the meat, I didn’t move it along a searing hot grill bending it to my will like I usually do.

I listened, and watched, and had a little respect for the thing I was making.  I stopped checking it every 15 minutes and let it do it’s thing without interfering more than I had to. I committed to something that was a little more than a quick pleasure. I took the time to pay attention and care about my dish, and I think that gave it a depth, and smell, and texture that I’ve never achieved before, even though I cook often and talk about it even more frequently.

We get older, and hopefully we see the value in slowing down and the invisibly obvious becomes something we can absorb. I feel a bit like I did when I met my <soon to be> husband. I’m often shocked that I’m able to appreciate something subtle and long and sometimes delicious, and sometimes calm and boring. Enjoying the fact that you’re sometimes just sitting around and enjoying a moment, creating something with depth.

Happy VDay.