Canadian Health Food Extravaganza
Article by Mimi Jones-Taylor, photos by Mimi and Gayle Hurmuses. Featured image is of Véronique Perez, the creator of Limonana.
Canadian Health Food Association East – September 14, 2014 This past Sunday, September 14, 2014, Gayle and I attended the CHFA.ca convention. Like all trade shows, there were the large producers who had the biggest booths and displays to show off their latest products. Most of these are brands you’ve probably heard of: SISU, Kentucky Popcorn, Kettle brand chips, Jamieson…but given that the whole movement is based on local producers, I wanted to concentrate my roundup on those smaller farmers and producers who you might not have heard of that are making quality food and health products while remembering what “having a conscience” really means, as opposed to just some gimmicky words on a label.
We tried a lot of coffee. We went early on a Sunday morning! Being a writer, a good quality cup of coffee is manna from heaven at those times when inspiration strikes the mind but the body starts to slump over. Or you’re trying to function in a non-writing environment.So when we got to ethical bean, the first coffee I tried was their Rocket Fuel. It is a dark roast, but it has more of a kick than your usual dark roast. Dark roasts by design have less caffeine than their lighter roast counterparts. But this one gets you up and at em and ready to go. Added bonus: their booth had your choice of maple sugar, organic cane sugar, or blue agave sweeteners. I had the blue agave. I am seriously considering using this in my daily coffees from now on.
The next coffee we tried was from local Roastery 23 degrees. They are extremely local – right across from Downsview Park in Toronto. If you are going to a concert up there, they have the best pick-me-up which is better for you than Red Bull ever would be – their Suckerpunch medium roast coffee. I had it with almond milk (switching it up from cream – when at an organic show…) and it did not detract from the lovely citrus and floral notes at the end. What I liked about this coffee is that the floral notes didn’t turn bitter, not even after I had finished my cup and moved on. Roastery 23 roasts their green beans right in Toronto, so there’s no flavour loss from shipping.
The third coffee that I tried was DOI Chaang Coffee. They are local to Vancouver, and not only are they fair-trade, but the Doi Chaang coffee farmers own 50% of the Vancouver company, and get 100% of the profits from all Canadian sales.
The mild roast coffee is excellent too! This one I had black, and got the full effect of the citrus notes.
DOI Chaang is available at Longo’s, Pusateris, and other fine supermarkets.
The snack industry is ridiculously massive. As you can probably guess, it’s also where you can find the worst items that pass for food in the universe. Snacks are ruining our physical makeup – diabetes, obesity, hypertension – but we can’t put down the crap. Organic food producers know this. And some of them want to help us to make better choices. Now we passed a lot of these combination snacks – throw everything into the kitchen sink, hope it sticks together and give it a crunch. It might taste okay, but if you include superfoods and buzzwords, people will buy it. Maybe. But people are creatures of habit. They know what they like and like what they know.
People know chips. They like chips. They understand chips. Chips, on the whole, should be pretty simple. Potatoes, oil, salt. That’s what the folks at Deep River think, too. They are a US company, however, what makes them stand out is that every flavour is sponsored by a charity, so the proceeds from each flavour go back to the charity sponsoring it through their “Give a chip!” program. Simple, smart, and they were great-tasting.
Simply 7 is another company doing chips, also from the US. Their chips are much like Pringles – the flour of the grain is moulded into a chip shape, coated with flavouring as necessary, baked, and then flash-fried. It sounds like a lot of processing, but they have Quinoa chips which have the highest protein content of any chip-based snack in Canada. They tasted like bad-for-you snacks as well, which is always an added bonus if you’re trying to get the younger people in your house to have better-for-them snacks. Kids won’t grab anything with the word “chia” on it, unless it’s a weird-shaped head with green stuff sprouting from it.
How do people live without cheese? I know there are a bunch of lactose-intolerant and raw food vegans out there who might have been offended by this question. It’s okay. I’m allergic to capsicum, and people continually ask me how can I live without roasted red peppers? (Quite fine, actually.) Cheese is the food that defines the “think local” movement. Most of us live within a 100 km, never mind 100 mile, radius of a dairy farm of some kind. A good cheese will be representative of its local terroir: the flavour of the grass that the animal eats, the contentedness of the animals, the nursery where the cheese is ripened…all of this comes out in the flavour.
Plus, with local product purchased on the farm’s property, a case can be made for the production of raw milk cheeses without fear of the pasteurization police. I tried Crosswind Farms’ Triple Crème Cretain cheese – they are the only producers in Canada making a Triple Crème raw milk goat cheese – and I melted on the spot. We get little bites of manna from heaven on this planet every once in a while. This was definitely one of them. They also do the regular goat feta cheese and spreadable goat cheese, but this…it’s worth the drive to Keene, near Peterborough.
I also tried Best Baa Farm sheep Eweda Cru – a raw sheep milk gouda-style cheese. It’s not for the faint of heart. It packs a punch the way a true Dutch Gouda would. The regular Eweda almost pales in comparison, but if you have friends who aren’t fans of that which makes cheese the reason to live, it’s still a lovely cheese. Best Baa Dairy, which is the location to buy the cheese, as well as sheep milk yogurt, quark, and actual sheep milk itself, is located in Fergus, near Guelph. Their cheese is also available at the Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens store.
Low-Glycemic Food Substitutes Here’s the thing – diabetics are continually told they have to keep eating small meals throughout the day so their blood sugar doesn’t spike and fall like a roller coaster. And sometimes, you can’t. It’s too much, especially if you’re a senior citizen. Or if you’re an athlete and you want to keep your blood sugar at a steady level, and maintain your glycemic index. What this means is you need to keep your body on an even keel – spiking your insulin levels in the morning with coffees full of sugar and muffins is not the best way to keep things even. But yes, I tried some of the substitutes and, for those of you who have been prescribed Boost or Ensure as a meal replacement because you’re not getting the proper nutrients,
Rumble Supershake makes an excellent alternative. If you are diabetic and you take the commercial brands, what you may not realise is that they are chock full of actual sugar. They have to give you energy somehow. But Rumble’s founder has cystic fibrosis and is diabetic. He wanted something that he could take that wouldn’t make his health suffer, and his insulin go completely out of whack, and also tasted good enough to drink instead of feeling like you had to choke it down.
For those of you who are athletes, or diabetics or gluten-free glycemic index-conscious consumers, you’ve probably been confronted with the power bar situation.All power bars taste like crap. But people force themselves into believing that they taste great because they have the word “chocolate” on them and/or are dipped in some type of waxy, “organic” chocolate coating to hide their horrifying flavour. Solo bars decided they wanted to change all that. The founders of SOLO GI Nutrition created the bar in association with the University of Alberta, trying to achieve the perfect balance with Glycemic Index regulation, nutrition, and taste. This was not an easy feat – it took them years to develop the perfect balance. It is the only energy bar to be certified by the Canadian Celiac Foundation and GI Labs.
What really impressed me was the taste. The Dark Chocolate Almond tasted like a chocolate bar and NOT like an energy bar. This makes them wonderful and edible alternatives to granola bars or chocolate bars for kids snacks, pregnant women, and especially diabetics and athletes looking to keep their glycemic indexes steady.
There are two other products that I want to mention. Drink mixes don’t have to be crap. They don’t have to taste like powder in a bottle. They can be made with real juice. In fact, that reduces their calorie count. BARE organic mixers are just such mixes. On display they only had the margarita mix, and it tasted like absolute pure, authentic margaritas. Not that day-glow stuff in a bottle you find at the grocery. All pure citrus juices. And with reduced calories because of the real juice, you can add alcohol guilt-free and enjoy!
Finally, for the people who are in a hurry and just want to have the semblance that they made a meal when they didn’t really lift a finger – premade dinners. Not just frozen dinners, but something that gives the dinner you made an extra touch, or if you just need a sauce for your meal. I tried Soul to Bowl’s Vegan Mac’n’Cheeseless Sauce made with carrot juice. Having just eaten half a Gouda, I didn’t expect much. But I was blown away. I could not tell that this was a dairy-free sauce. Founder Kailey Gilchrist managed to create a vegan sauce that is a little stuttery lumpy like an authentic béchamel, and that behaves like a béchamel, to be used over macaroni and baked, or poured over broccoli and served. They also have a Vegan Alfredo sauce. And for me, the sauce snob, to be blown away by the vegan substitute has me wondering what other joys of veganism I’ve missed. So that was my experience at the CHFA this year. Organic food doesn’t have to be snooty or intimidating. It’s just the best ingredients put into the best dishes and served. Our bodies know the difference between something with incredible taste and something that is just thrown at us because we need to put something down our necks to survive. There’s no reason why it can’t be both, and why we can’t sustain the Healthy Food initiatives…