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Chickens don't have fingers, do they?
As summer dawns this week and the kids are released from school, it makes me think of all that time I remember as a kid myself, loose in front of the family fridge…what, I wondered, do most kids eat through the summer in today's world?
I read an article recently in the New York Times that maligned the ubiquitous children's menus you see in most restaurants today, with the same old chicken fingers, fries and pizza listed whether you are at Earl's or a much more independent establishment. The part that struck a chord with me was that they condition children's palates to those industrial flavours that have few identifying characteristics, except that they taste the same everywhere you go. They also encourage the idea that kids eat different foods than adults, which of course for those of us who are adults was not how we remember it.
One of the great things about summer when I was a kid was that you did prepare some of your own food. That might have just meant making your own sandwich, but wow, what fun that could be! The creations we managed were sometimes meals that even Dagwood would have envied. (Other times they were not so fantastic, but how else were you to know that sardines and pickles was perhaps not the best combination, unless you tried it?) I developed my palate like an artist develops his palette of colours by sampling and adventuring into the world of flavours, and my parents helped me along by making the daily menus with limited choices that had to at least be tasted (house rules).
Don't get me wrong - fries or chicken fingers are not the root of all culinary evil. But couldn't we at the very least encourage the kids to taste a new sauce with those fingers instead of honey mustard? We tell them that they should not be lazy and just watch TV or play video games; they need to keep up with activities and hobbies if they are to enjoy life to its fullest. Should we then not be lazy either and ensure they keep up with developing their palates? I know that today is not the world of yesteryear with simple homemade meals as the norm, but shouldn't the availability of more kinds of food make it even more fun? If we can eat avocadoes or wild greens or lamb or basa fish, then why can't our children? And, if we are getting lazy, then maybe the kids can help us snap out of our rut!
So, what do you say we let the chickens keep their fingers and we encourage the children to try some new things over the summer? Consider it not as homework, but rather as something exciting adventure that may lead to new adventures…
SOME ADVENTUROUS AN EASY IDEAS
- Pita Chips - cut up pita pockets into wedge shapes (they can even be a bit less fresh!) Put them in a bowl and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle with your choice of herbs and/or spices (chili powder and sumac, thyme and oregano with sea salt, cumin and oregano…) Bake on a baking sheet for 3-5 minutes at 400F or until just golden brown. Serve with hommous or other dips. They can even substitute for fries!
- Quesadillas - take tortillas and a whole selection of fillings (sauté veggies first for added flavour, use leftover meat if you like!) - heat a skillet pan and place one tortilla in the bottom, then sprinkle fillings over top and after 30 seconds add second tortilla to create a "sandwich". Flip carefully to toast the other side and then slide out of pan. Serve cut in wedges with salsa, guacamole, sour cream… You can include cheese in the filling to help it stick together if you like but they can be made without cheese too. (You can also roll them once they are out of the pan, creating a burrito - this is easier to manage if there is no cheese).
- Dagwood Sandwiches - check out what is in the fridge for leftovers - start with a main ingredient that has substance (meat, cheese, fish, even a tomato can inspire you!). Add what you think would be interesting combining flavours and stop when the pile of ingredients between the two slices of bread is as wide as you can spread your mouth! Some of my favourites are below:
* Sandwich meat (anything leftover will do, or salami, corned beef, etc.) with thinly sliced onions, lettuce, Havarti cheese, mustard and mayo, and a pickle on the side
* Canned tuna mixed with mayo or yogurt and lemon zest and thyme, on toasted bread with arugula and tomatoes
* Pita pocket or tortilla stuffed with avocado, mushrooms, radish, alfalfa or other sprouts, maybe a bit of grated cheese or chopped egg, and a drizzle of your favourite salad vinaigrette
Remember, if you don't buy crappy ingredients your kids won't learn to eat them as much. If you fill your fridge and cupboards with fresh and chemical free foods/ingredients, your children will benefit and so will you. Take ketchup for example: some parents see this as poison for their kids, but really the only thing negative in it is the high sugar content. Many parents won't give ketchup to their children, but canned soup and/or ravioli is fine even if it has MSG in it. The number one thing for parents is to read the label and teach your kids to read them too. Buy only chemical free products and your kids may stop getting so many colds. Teach your kids that in order to eat well, you need to use fresh ingredients so that when they move out of the house, they will be set for a healthy life.
About the restaurant menu, it is up to the parents to ask for change. The restaurateur will have to adjust if no one wants to eat fast fried food as a kid's meal. Most decent restaurants would grill a chicken breast served with some kind of rice if you asked them, which makes a great menu choice for your children. For years now even MacDonald's has had to adjust with salads and other types of healthier options.
Create a rule at home where kids have to taste something new every week, whether it is a fruit, a spice or a whole new dish. Your kids need to discover food just like math, English and geography. Quiz your children at dinner time about the meal you just prepared. Ask them if they know what's in it and how it is made. Be a responsible parent and make their food education a priority.
Cool Dads like it Hot!
With Father's Day this weekend, it seemed the perfect thing to write an ode to the barbecue. Certainly in this part of the world anyway, Dads are generally the ones who own the grill in most houses. I know my Dad was the grillmaster when I was growing up, and Martin has taken things to another level entirely, having both his grill and his smoker BBQ rig. Perhaps there is a male affinity for that most primal of activities, cooking over an open fire?
I think Dads like barbecue because it is straight-forward and approachable. You can try all you like to dress up the barbecue experience, but somehow the down-home nature of it always sneaks in and I think that is much of its charm. If the non-barbecuer in the family wants to play with the accompaniments and jazz things up, then that seems to work the best; leave the grill maestro to work his own magic outside. (This is another part of the allure for Dads, I think - I remember a joke that said the only time Dad really got to be in charge was at the grill and on the dance floor!)
For those of you who are buying Father's Day presents, grilling provides a perfect area to delve into, as there are a plethora of gadgets and gizmos to enhance your capabilities and creativity. Many of them are not even expensive, which is nice for a change. Tongs, skewers, grill plates, smoking chips, even aprons and cookbooks are available in abundance. Or perhaps you just need to get Dad a patio chair so that he can watch his work in progress? (We did that one year; I think that was the summer my Dad taught me how to mow the grass… perhaps so he could use the chair even more?)
If your Dad is not a BBQ specialist, well then I hope at least if he gets a tie it is because he especially likes them. Dads should get spoiled just as much as Moms do on Mother's Day, don't you think?
If you have someone in your life like I have Martin, someone who has been bitten by the "BA-be-cue" BUG (as in that real down-home style of smoking that requires much more time spent around the BBQ itself) then well, I hope you too have a hobby. While they are philosophizing about woods and rubs and sauces and cuts of pork, you can be out gardening or reading or otherwise just waiting till they bring their delectable fare to the table. This year for Father's Day I got Martin a "pig tail" meat flipper gizmo that he can use while he is at the Smoke on the Water BBQ Competition down by the dolphin statue at the lake. I know he will be having fun with his teammates as he prepares his meat over those coals on the rig (his BBQ has license plates, it is so big!). Meanwhile, "back at the ranch", I will pull some radishes from the garden to make a potato salad and wait for him to return with the meat - satisfying that age-old tradition of having the man bring home the bacon.
This year there are 13 teams from USA, Alberta and BC competing for bragging rights and a bit of money price too - I will be one of those! Look for "The Commie Squealers"
There is something really down to earth / red neck ish about the competing circuit. The barbecue scene is filled with colorful open minded people who will share just about anything with anybody who ask. Obviously no recipes will be given out as some of those have been perfected over many years and are top secret. Please stop by on Saturday or Sunday this weekend and come see what smoking BIG is all about.
This is the a rub I plan on using to win big:
1 portion salt
1 portion sugar
½ portion chili powder
½ portion paprika
¼ portion garlic powder
¼ portion cinnamon
¼ ginger powder
What? did you really think I would actually give it to you! No way!
Improvise try things out and make sure to write it down when you do it so you can redo it exactly the same way once you find a winner!
This is the link for the competition; www.kelownabbq.ca
Cook Often, Be Happy and Live Long
Every day, we are constantly being pushed and pulled by influences in our lives… and all of those influences change how our lives go and how long they last. The quality of life you have is not only about where in the world you live, but how you live. If you "super-size" your meals too often, it will shorten your life. If you eat lots of fresh veggies and whole grains you will live longer. They tell us we need more exercise; don't go to the drive-through, get out of your car and walk in! Of course, the worst thing of all to shorten your life is stress. Studies show the only way you can undo the damage stress causes is to unwind. (I can just imagine those lab rats in the studies with their feet up, eating mini tubs of Hagen Daas!)
I have a confession to make: I work too much. My stress comes from work. The worst part is, working late means there is almost no time left to cook dinner and so Martin cooks (or, I eat leftovers or salad if he is not home). This week I am proud to say that although we ate a bit later, I have managed to cook not once but twice this week! I have not done some of the work I took home to do, but I accomplished something much bigger…. And I am rejuvenated and ready to take on the pile on my desk in the morning! I feel as though I have bumped into an old friend; I got back in the kitchen and it felt just like old times. I missed the "therapy" of de-stressing with my kitchen gadgets and recipe books, and I plan to take up my old hobby again with renewed vigour. (Do I sound too much like a born-again Foodie? It's not like I am becoming a vegan or anything…)
I have a huge pile of recipe clippings that a dear friend in Vancouver sent me, and that will be my starting point for this new project. I am even planning to have people over, so that I can expand my field of guinea pigs. (It's a win-win situation really - if the meals go well, I get praise from a bigger circle of friends; if I fail miserably, I can just move along to the next names on the list for the subsequent attempt.) After all, there is nothing like time around the dining room table to bring people down to earth and make them smile. Good food and good vibes are the best tonics for a long and happy life.
That age-old concept of balancing the priorities in one's life is one that never stops being important. If you want to see where you're at in your life span, check out a cool site that has some extensive research behind it: www.bluezones.com The Vitality Compass test may look like just a publicity stunt but it is based in statistics and algorithms. I can't really say "take it with a grain of salt" as salt is something that can shorten your life if you over-consume, but well, you know what I mean. Considering less stress and more exercise in your life is good, but nobody is saying you have to swear off the occasional tub of Hagen Daas.
I love to cook and I love to eat, but contrary to popular belief I don't have to cook all the meals.
I am glad to get invited or let someone else cook for me. I am a very good critic, as I don't always give my opinion about every meal. The down side is that being a chef and with Kristin a sommelier, people tend to never invite us for dinner.
My mom used to get stressed out when I was coming over for dinner until I told her that she cooked for me for 19 years and never doubted herself, so why should she start now. Stress is a killer and unfortunately we are all put through some stress on a daily basis, so trying to eat well and exercise regularly is a great way to delay the inevitable… we are all going to die one day, so why not try to die with a stomach full of good things. I don't eat rice cakes, tofu or drink Soya milk; I just eat butter, cream and chocolate in a normal amount and just doing that keeps my stress low. Recently I went to a restaurant in town which should remain nameless but it starts with R… they served me a Caesar salad that was so bland that it made me crave for a good one for the last few weeks. Well last night Kristin prepared a great Caesar salad the way it is meant to be - bold and full of tasty bits.
People ask me why I don't go out much. Well I am so often disappointed that I think, "Why should I go out when I can get it at home better and faster and I can get naked just a few minutes later: now that's a de-stresser… What can I say? I'm French.
Let's Hear it for Comfort Food!
As I write this, Martin is making one of his cherished grilled cheese sandwiches, using an old iron to ensure the bread gets good and crispy (not to worry, it is the cast iron variety, not the electric kind.) It made me think about comfort food and all its traditions. I am not sure if the actual sandwich offers Martin the comfort, or if it is the ritual of using the iron he really loves.
We all have our favourite things, and often they are entrenched in very specific conditions to keep them intact as favourites. New favourites often include such details, and that is what makes them endearing. You know, like the fact that Oreo cookies have to be eaten with a glass of milk, and you have to pull them apart (or maybe YOU don't, but I do!) It is comforting to know what is going to happen, how the food is going to taste; and the anticipation of that moment is what really makes you feel better.
What is your favourite comfort food? We would love to hear your stories… send us an e-mail! For me, the favourites are usually from my childhood, like a mug of hot chocolate and a scrambled egg sandwich on fresh French bread. The butter on the bread melts from the hot eggs, and with just a bit of ketchup (Martin likes mustard, which apparently is a Quebecois thing) it is sublime. The cocoa must be made with cocoa and honey too, for that gives a much richer taste than those syrups.
I guess the dreariness of winter is what makes us think most often of comfort foods. Something to chase away those winter blues, even as the temperatures warm up. Something that makes us all warm and fuzzy inside, forgetting about the cold or rainy or slushy weather and the lack of fresh fruit and flowers. Something you can have even if there are no friends or family around, that gives you the same feeling as when they are all around.
So, don't feel bad - open that container of Rocky Road ice cream, or try one of those grilled cheese sandwiches (don't use the electric iron, though!). Curl up with your comfort food and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling with no guilt. After all, everyone needs to be a little selfish once in a while.
Chicks and Bunnies and Tulips, oh my!
Well, here we are, already at Easter. I feel better knowing that the date this year is almost as early as Easter can be (March 22 being the earliest, the first day after the Spring Equinox - if it falls on a Sunday after the spring full moon.) It won't be this early again until 2160. We have been very fortunate with lovely spring weather, but the problem is, I am just not ready!
Easter is a celebration that rates of the same magnitude as Christmas - there is much to be done for it to be heralded in with the appropriate amount of fanfare and indulgence. Whether you are celebrating the end of Lent or planning an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, it is and should be a big deal. Those just don't materialize overnight!
Are you feeling like I am, that it seems you just put away the Christmas decorations and here you are trying to find a pastel-coloured tablecloth and napkin rings that match the tulips you bought? Does it irk you that you can't decide which sheets to put in the spare bedroom so that it looks bright and springy? Well, the one saving grace is the reward that awaits us at the end of all the agonizing decisions… chocolate!
I am not trying to make light of what many consider to be a serious occasion but I must say that I for one enjoy the frivolity of Easter. Bunnytails and fuzzy chicks make me smile, and chocolate makes me smile even more. Jelly beans are one of the four Easter goodie food groups and that is not a bad thing either. It is the one time of year when the theme overrides the issue of quality; you can have just as much fun eating "peeps" (those dayglo sugar-coated marshmallow chicks) as you can savouring artisanal chocolate bunnies made from estate cocoa beans and flavoured with some exotic spice. And, if you have to hunt for your Easter "loot", then that is one more reason to enjoy every morsel, in celebration of following directions or solving the riddle given. (One year when I was a kid we had a poem whose rhymes gave hints on where to find the eggs - it included a quote from MacBeth that was to lead us to the eggs hidden in the washing machine!)
So, I may not get everything all ready for spring by this weekend, but I certainly plan to sample a jelly bean or two, and I promise to savour a chocolate bunny on Sunday night (eating the ears last, of course.) Next week there will still be time to work on the garden plan and dig the hole for the new Mirabelle plum tree, and the ironing of those lighter weight blouses can wait till after the company has left. I will watch the dogs bounce in the new grass and I might even check in the washing machine to see if the Easter Bunny remembered a long-standing fan. I hope you have the chance to take the time for such frivolous celebrations of life this weekend - you deserve it too!
Bunnies, yummy! In a almond cream sauce with a touch of Dijon, I love it! Someone told me that we should catch all the bunnies on Enterprise Way and make a giant stew and feed all the street people with it! I like this idea a lot. Why is our city counsel talking about issues so trivial as bunnies? They should try to figure out why I get stuck in traffic every other day!
I say this with respect to the animal Kingdom, but animals like bunnies have been eaten for many years, way before they became pets. So let's try to go old school on this issue and have a great Easter meal. We have many countries with millions of people in this world without enough food, and we are actually debating to keep those bunnies for pets. Out of respect for all the people without enough food in the world I say let's eat them. Don't get me wrong, I like bunnies; they are cute and they do make great pets but we are talking about hundreds of wild bunnies.
Happy Easter from a chef…
Hassenpfeffer in a Creamy Almond Sauce
1 rabbit, skinned, cleaned, and cut into 8 pieces
1 stick of celery
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup of toasted almond
1 to 2 cups of 35% cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven.
Sprinkle four, salt and pepper over the rabbit pieces.
Brown rabbit pieces on all sides. Add additional oil as necessary; transfer to a tray when nice and brown, not burn.
In the same pot, cook the onion, celery, carrot and rosemary over medium heat until softened. Add wine and let it reduce a touch then add the broth and return the rabbit to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes with the cream, Dijon and almonds. Remove the rabbit and let the sauce reduced to desire texture, not too thick!
Return rabbit to pot and turn to coat with sauce. Heat through and serve.
Restaurant versus art gallery
When I go to an art show I see the same behavior from the people at the show as I see in a fine dinning restaurant. There are lots of oohs and ahs, and even some big smiles or sometimes even tears. Food can move your spirit just like a Renoir painting or a Da Vinci sculpture. (At my house, emotions can be stirred with an amazing chocolate dessert.) The owner of an art gallery who showcases art for a living has to keep in mind what the clients are interested to buy and not necessarily showcase only what is nice to look at according to the owner. The chef of a restaurant has to keep in mind what people want or the restaurant will not make it. I am sure that some artists don't care if a certain art work does not sell, but as a chef, your art needs to sell or you are out of a job. So a chef creates art with a very specific target audience in mind where many artists create without any thought of who is going to buy it…
Painter versus cook, struggling financially
Most famous painters become famous after their death and many famous chefs have had their creations become classics long after their death, too. For artists, there seems to be an unwritten law that you need to struggle financially for many years and sometimes all your life for success to truly find you. Most cooks struggle to make a decent living, sometimes for many years or other times learning quickly that "making it" is tough work. Here too, the similarities between culinary art and any other art can be striking. Think about musicians for a minute… many young musicians produce one hit and that's it. Some actors will have one or two good movies and disappear. And of course, many cooks and chefs can go up as fast as they can come down in popularity.
All cooks will be influenced by their surroundings when it comes to creating, just like any other artist. I have seen many young cooks make amazing creations either in taste or looks, but in general a cook needs to learn from a good chef to put the whole picture together. In the right hands, a cook can become an incredible artist and in the wrong hands a cook will never get a chance to develop to a full potential.
Not many arts actually touch as many senses as the art of food
Most arts, whether you are talking about music, theater, painting, sculpting or any other you can mention, will usually stimulate your eyes, ears and in many cases stir some emotions inside you. A great dish in a restaurant can affect these senses and others as well. When you enter culinary school, one of the first things you are told is that people eat with their eyes first, so you must make sure that the plate looks good. Where actors, musicians and writers must rely on emotions evoked from what you see and hear, culinary artists can also persuade you with what you taste and smell. The power of this complete and all-encompassing sensory experience can also evoke memories of other experiences, as eating is an intrinsic part of life itself.
In a professional kitchen, a great chef always tries to get your mind going with not only flavors, but also architecture and colors; and they hope that you will leave with a feeling of wanting more. Even amateurs however, can take a stab at being artists, for they too can evoke a response with a dish that has special significance or tradition.
Just like any other art form, culinary art can be expressed in various ways. In different cultures there are unique base traditions and styles that develop, and they evolve not only within those cultures but also from the blending of other cultures. This fusion creates whole new styles that then evolve as well. As painters have been influenced by political events, so are chefs influenced by lifestyle changes and events such as global warming. Science has also had effects on this art as it has on others; molecular gastronomy shows how the combination of chemistry and creativity can create foods like warm ice cream. This could be compared to the development of the air brush or the electronic keyboard.
As long as there is no law stating how much salt or pepper you can put in your food, there will be an element of creativity in cooking. And the people who make a career of cooking are by nature creative people who express themselves with their creations. Who are we not to call them artists when we enjoy their art on the Food Network and in numerous magazines and at tables around the world?
Chef Martin Laprise
Do I Have to Eat That?
One of the best things I remember as a kid during Spring Break was the availability of food. Without the regimen of a school schedule, you had the chance to grab snacks and make way-cool stuff for lunch that was not possible on a school day. This of course was especially true if the weather was less than cooperative; I am sure my Mom cringed when March produced rainy indoor days and the fridge seemed to spend more time open than closed!
One thing about eating as a kid - you do not have total control over what it is that you eat. Although having free rein at home gives you more opportunity to sneak extra cookies and double-dip into the peanut butter jar, it does not mean you get a pass on eating vegetables or other healthy (read yucky) food. Or at least it certainly worked that way when I was a kid.
Nowadays, healthy food can be harder to find. I am of the generation whose Moms still made more cookies than they bought. Frozen fish sticks and meat pies were common, but for the most part pre-prepared food meant it was frozen in a Tupperware container and thawed for that night. I do not mean to lead you down the garden path, however, as back then we didn't like some veggies or whole grains any better than many kids today. I think it is part of maintaining your membership to an international fraternity - the day you start liking weird foods like green peppers and beets and whole wheat bread means you are growing up. After all, Peter Pan and his followers never imagined eating stuff like that!
As a grown-up trying hard to maintain some kind of honourary membership, I am writing this week to plead for special allowance. If we adults can make that boring serious adult food seem more fun and kid-friendly, maybe you kids out there could promise to give it a try? (Who am I kidding? The only other people reading are other boring serious grown-ups! Well, maybe they will make an effort and the kids will be so surprised they will try the food before they realize it is healthy or serious.)
Hopefully there is time during Spring Break to share a meal with family and friends, and maybe it might be fun to try something new and healthy. There are lots of times when we fall into the routine of being too busy to eat well, so let's promise this spring to be a bit more green in our diets as well as in our environment. Kids will be more interested to try new foods if they are presented in new ways, and just like many other pursuits they may not master them the first time around. We teach our children not to give up in work and sports, so shouldn't we teach them the same thing with food? Don't just eat lazily, but rather make it an adventure that keeps you learning!
I have been working with kids in after school programs and one of the things I try to do is show them new foods. Here are some ideas that have been fun to try:
1. pick a new fruit and get the kids to taste it - star fruit, kiwi, mango, papaya, passionfruit… let them pick something when you go shopping!
2. have them try a hot pepper (jalapeno will do to start) - try it yourself first so you can time the heat and then you can tell them that it will dissipate after 20 or 30 seconds (I did this with my daughter and she got to try many spicy foods this way)
3. show them how to cook simple ingredients like pasta or rice - older kids can even have this as a job to help with at dinner
4. if you have a group, get them to work as an assembly line with dishes like wraps or rolls - great for spring rolls where you can see the insides once you roll it!
5. try a blind food tasting to see if they can describe how food tastes - what does it remind them of? (Kristin's brother said when he was a kid, he thought papayas tasted like the zoo!)
You can even show them fun ways to set the table, like different ways to fold napkins!
Get your kids involved in the kitchen and they will learn to respect the food and the cook. Years later when they come home from university for Spring Break, maybe they will cook for you.
Eat your veggies, Tommy!
For many years our parents cooked chicken, pork and beef so well-done that you could barely recognize which kind of meat it was by the time you ate it. Our parents were afraid of poisoning themselves with medium rare pork roast. Never in my whole life as a kid did my parents warn me about spinach, lettuce, or even carrot juice being dangerous for me…
In 2006 between Canada and the USA we were told about many high risk situations around food contamination. And I hazard to say that probably not much has been done to fix these annual problems. When it's not about the Avian Flu, it's about something else.
The London Free Press writes:
A. A. Driedger, Faculty of Medicine University of Western Ontario, writes that the recent food poisoning episodes concerning contaminated spinach, lettuce and carrot juice rightly concern us all. Such events have become so common place, we hardly notice the recurrent annual problem of contaminated ground beef during the barbecue season anymore. More's the pity, because there is a Canadian-made solution.
During the 1960s and 70s, food irradiation was found to be a safe and effective way of preventing bacterial growth in a variety of packaged food stuffs. However, irrational resistance prevented the deployment of the technology in our country and we seem to have forgotten that we don't have to become ill from bacterial contaminations. In other countries, food irradiation is beginning to be used effectively.
Perhaps we ought to re-examine our options and recognize that food poisoning is an avoidable option.
Governments, physicians and health officials should sit down and come up with a solution or at least a plan on how to fix our food chain. Years ago, how long did it take for them to educate the population about pasteurization of milk?
I am not a big fan of the irradiation of our food, but I am not for people dying either. Could we find some type of solution half way in the middle?
It is not normal to have people dying from eating lettuce. Perhaps too many fries or donuts could kill you, but not lettuce, it's wrong. What are we supposed to tell our children? NO! Tommy we are not eating spinach tonight because it's poisonous and you can get really sick and even die from that green food… eat your Corn Flakes and be happy.
I will continue to farm my little patch of garden this summer, at least in that case I know where my food has been before it hit my plate. Everyone should appreciate every fruit and veggie they eat, as it could be their last one:
I have long been a believer in the concept of Slow Food, that philosophy created in Italy to help preserve the traditions and culture that are such an intrinsic part of what we eat. It was done to combat the relentless march of the fast food industry in all its various forms, so that people would still remember where food came from - and I don't mean the grocery store. Good food is a valuable part of our survival on this planet, but we must treat it as a valuable commodity to preserve its integrity.
Martin's comments about the current news items are made tongue-in-cheek, but there is an underlying serious tone there, too. As a businessman he is always looking for good deals to offer his customers, but as a chef he takes great pride in what he cooks. I know that some of his favourite dishes involve goodies that come from our garden or the local markets. When food is produced "en masse" it loses some of its magic, as quantity and quality seldom go hand in hand.
The going trend in North America has been that more is always better; and especially if it is cheaper! Coffee and soft drinks are served in extra large sizes now and you can "super-size" just about any food item in most faster-service establishments. The consequence of doing this is that you get food that does not have a very distinguishable taste, but it is not much more expensive than a portion that used to be half that size. Public opinion has decided that is what constitutes value today.
If we want to institute change and prevent further food disasters, I honestly believe that we as individuals need to take a more active part in the food chain again. Get to know your local butcher and fish monger. Visit the farmer's market in the summer, and check out one of the wonderful independent produce shops in town. Tell them you want to have food that has been treated with integrity. Show them with your purchases that you care about what you eat. Even organic food can be produced by larger companies that may not follow the principles that organics once signified, so be sure that you are comfortable with what you buy.
Food is a subject for all of us - you don't have to be rich to vote with your pocketbook about what you will eat. The upside of these nasty news articles is that Tommy may be afraid of the big bad bags of imported spinach at the factory-sized grocery store, but he may also then be happier about eating the lettuce you planted or the carrot sticks he picked himself at the market. He won't just eat his veggies; he will get to know them!
If you would like to read more about the powers of spinach, click on this link:
Dog Days of Summer
They call this time of year "the dog days of summer" because the dog star, Sirius, rises and sets with the sun. The ancient cultures thought this bright star (the brightest in the sky, actually) added heat to that of the sun and that was why this time of year was the hottest. I think it is because you feel like you should act like a dog, just lounging around and enjoying the moment. I seem to remember my old pal Mo smiled more in the summer than any other time of year.
This weekend is our one family trip, with the car loaded to the gunnels and the kid and dog in the back. It should be a relaxing few days in the country, away from the day-to-day routine. The only trouble is, now is when the yard looks its best, and the garden is finally producing results from all my hard work! What am I doing going away now?!?
We are looking forward to the break, so don't get me wrong. Being away from home doesn't mean I don't still share my enjoyment. We have a goodie bag all packed up for our friends with fresh garden veggies and herbs. I love being able to share all the wonders of my garden with friends and family. Last night we invited for dinner the two young men who have worked the summer in the vineyard where we live. Our dog, Simon, has enjoyed their company immensely for they are always ready to throw a stick or a ball for him. (Remember what I said about enjoying the moment??) He was thrilled to have them around for a whole evening and I think the guys enjoyed a home-cooked meal after a summer in their camper. They told me they thought I was courageous to plant flowers around the house in such a hot place (I think that was a polite way of saying they thought I was a bit touched in the head…) But hey, they were impressed, so I took it as a compliment.
Maybe you will think I am crazy too, but early on a summer morning to stroll through the garden and take photos of the nodding sunflowers or nibble berries is a magical thing. (No wonder Mo loved poaching the carrots and raspberries so much - that's what made her smile!) I love the way the visiting bumble bees follow me from one blossom to another, and the marmots peep a morning salute as the sun rises over the mountains. I try to store that magic so that later in the day when Murphy camps out in my office applying his law to everything I do, I can at least still have a smile left over to make it through the day.
And when I come home late and think of what is for dinner, another stroll in the "south 40" brings me back to earth and helps me remember what is really important - taking time to smell the roses, and to pick the zucchinis before they get too big.
(For those of you who don't have the luxury of a garden at home, Chef has some great recommendations below for you…)
I just wanted to give a reminder to everyone about the good food shops in towns. The small shops need our support to keep giving us great products and stay in business. Walmart is good for toilet paper and marshmallows, but 75% of your food should come from these shops or other small local businesses like them…
Valoroso is my favorite place for Mediterranean food.
Hooked on Seafood and Cod Father are the best places to find fresh fish and seafood.
The Asian market has great Indian, Chinese and Japanese food ingredients to help you create some awesome meals.
L&D Meats is my butcher of choice, and I sometimes give some of my money to Costco who has some good quality cuts of meat too.
Okanagan Grocery's breads are high quality product at reasonable prices.
There is a new store in town for your kitchen gadgets: Gourmet Outfitters next to CRS Restaurant Supply.
Discover Wines and Central Park Liquor Merchants will hook you up with the perfect bottle to go with your meal.
Illichman's has some great sausages, especially the Hungarian Wieners.
The Farmer's Market in Kelowna is a super place to get fresh veggies through the summer.
You can't take it home because it is frozen in a special way, but Mini Melts have great ice cream to enjoy for a summer treat.
Most of these shops have been around for a long while. They provide Kelowna with good food ingredients that allow us to eat good wholesome meals. Without them we would be eating food from Save-on-Food or Extra food only. SO please go see them and tell them I sent you.
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