Tag Archives: Meat

Food Labeling, Politics, and Vegetarian Meats in Canada

Article and interview by Alison Cole, photo illustration by Gayle Hurmuses, image from Fieldroast.

When it comes to the labelling of grain and vegetable based meats in Canada, our government has some antiquated regulations that don’t reflect upon modern food production as David Lee, owner/founder of Field Roast Grain Meat Company of Seattle, WA, found out in mid-September.

Canadians have been enjoying and have been able to purchase Field Roast’s savoury array of plant-based sausages, loaves, roasts and deli slices in our country since 2009, but that is set to stop very soon as grocery store shelves are currently on the verge of selling out their final supplies.

Last month, David was told by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that he would need to comply with Canadian food labeling standards for what they call “simulated meat products” in order to maintain distribution of all the products in Canada. According to the CFIA, any food item that takes on tFood Labeling Politics and Vegetarian Meats in Canadahe appearance and quality of a similar traditional animal flesh-based item must emulate the nutritional profile of the similar animal-based item. In other words, the nutritional profile of animal flesh is seen to be the standard in protein, fat and amino acid content as far as the Canadian government is concerned, and no other nutritional profiles that a plant-based meat would normally have are recognized as being valid or legal to sell on Canadian store shelves.

David takes issue with this regulation, and rather than comply with the CFIA as other vegan meat products have done to stay in Canada, he intends to try to work with the government to prove that the nutritional profile of his products is suitable and safe for Canadian consumers. In doing so, this may change the status quo of deeming animal protein to be the golden standard, and will pave the way for a modern update to Canada’s current food labeling laws for veggie meats, which can be seen here.

I had the chance to recently speak with David on the Animal Voices Vancouver radio show about this issue. In this interview, he speaks about his experiences with the CFIA’s recent declaration, his interpretation of the law, and his plans for proactive governmental changes in the future.

Becoming a Pitmaster

Article, recipe and main photo by Sean Galt, additional photography, Glen Synoground

On alternate Fridays I load myself up in the car and begin the anywhere from 2 o 3 ½ hour drive toLondon where my 10 year old daughter lives with her mother.

RibsOne Friday, about 4 years ago the weather was terrible – cold, snowing and windy. On days like that I have a backup plan, which is to stay in London in a hotel where my daughter and I spend the weekend going to movies, eating out, attending concerts or sporting events.

That Saturday, we had dinner out at a mom and pop restaurant downtown. The special that night was BBQ baby back ribs. I ordered those with a salad and a pint of their house draft. My daughter ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. I offered her a rib when the plate arrived. She looked at me with that quizzical expression a child gives you when they know you’re trying to give them medicine but you’re telling them it’s a gummy bear.

“I don’t think I’ll like those,” she said, taking a bite of her sandwich.

“Try one,” I said, “You won’t know till you taste it.”

“But just one. If I give it back, will that be ok?”

She took one bite and her eyes opened like she had tasted the food of the gods.

She ate the rack of ribs. I got the grilled cheese sandwich.

“Daddy, can you make those?” I honestly had no idea. Up to that point I was not a big fan of ribs, but for $9.99 with a salad, it was a good deal. I blame my mother. Her idea was to cut the racks into single pieces and boil them for at least 3 hours before covering them in spaghetti sauce and cooking them in the oven for another hour. I’m sure there was flavour there somewhere.

So when my daughter asked if I could do something, as a good dad, I took up the challenge, if only to see what I could do for my little girl and if i could cook more than burgers and chicken for her.

RibPasteGiven my past experiences with ribs, namely boiling and baking, it seemed to make sense to add flavour right to the meat and cook it into the flesh. Checking the grocery store, there was a variety of premade rib rubs and sauces, all seemed to have the same ingredients, and I thought about making my own rubs and marinades and testing what flavours complimented the meats well.

Some worked: curry/pineapple/apple was a hit; some didn’t: lemon/honey mustard. But it was fun every two weeks to drop two racks of ribs at dinner and ask, “Which is better, a or b?”

Usually we could tell by which rack was done first, but sometimes the runner up was deemed more creative and original. Then at the end of that summer, we went to the Oshawa Ribfest and we were introduced to a whole new beast: the smoked rib.

Flavors, layers, textures; I tried my best to decode everything I was tasting, only to ponder, “How on earth can I do this at home?”

I managed to catch the ear of a Pitmaster to compliment him on his product. When I asked him how I could do this, he said the four words I’ve since lived my life by when it comes to the BBQ:

Smoke.

Water.

Low.

Slow.

OnGrillI began pricing various BBQ’s and realized I didn’t have the money in the budget to purchase one of those gigantic smokers the Pitmaster used; nor did we have the space on the deck for one of those giant oil drum smokers. For a while we experimented with the gas grill, they were cooked. But gas vs wood is kind of like water vs wine. Sure, it’ll hydrate you, but the end result is just not the same.

Then one day my (then) partner said, “I think I found a smoker for you.” We headed over the next day. It was small, maybe room for 5 trimmed racks of ribs, or 3 whole chickens. It didn’t have an offset smoker box, so it meant only being able to utilize half the cooking space. But it would do the job. We plunked down the $150 and brought it You know that expression ‘you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette’? I had my own. ‘You gotta ruin some ribs to make a masterpiece.’

Rack after rack came off the grill dried out and flavorless. Shreds of pork peeled away like strips of jerkey. Everyone was polite. But I didn’t like them. Then one Saturday, I found the right combination of spices, water, smoke and temperature, and I discovered the secret ingredient.

Forget they’re there.

The problem was that I kept looking at them every few minutes, asking myself, “Is there enough smoke? Is there enough water? Are the coals burning in the right direction?” Every time I opened the lid, all that magic was being undone. Imagine biking up a hill, and you stop peddling every 20 seconds or so. remember how hard it was to get the bike going again. It was the same with the BBQ. The process had to start all over again.

So now I close the lid, go play with the kid, read a book, watch a movie, take the dog for a walk. Do anything but check on the food. It’s doing just fine on its own. That night at dinner, we had a hit.

Now that I had winner smoked ribs, it was time to fine tune the recipe. We’ve cooked dozens of ribs and countless other meals on this little smoker over the last three years. My daughter is more an active part of cooking now. We’ll go to the bulk store and she will pick out spices and mix them to see what the best flavour combinations will be.

Daddy/daughter time used to be in a movie theatre or restaurant. Now, it’s in our restaurant. And I think we’re ok with that.

The recipe is here.

InFoil

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.