Food Geopolitics, NFB and Piikani

21 05 2011

Finally a long weekend. The last few weeks have been so busy with work and extracurricular activities I have been hard pressed to stay connected. Now the sun is out and it’s time to get some stuff around the yard done. We have big plans today, starting with taking down a gazebo, trimming a very out of control pine tree, clearing the flower beds, tilling the garden, planting seeds and putting together our new patio furniture. When it is done, the yard will be a new oasis. Speaking of oasis, last night I got home late, it was dark, but when I walked into the yard the smell from the newly blooming plum-tree filled the air. I love this time of year and I {heart} that tree.

This morning I was able to get to some articles and surfing done I have missed. Found this very good article on the geopolitics of food (besides giggling my way through rapture articles, argh). This article goes beyond the symptoms of food prices but the building global scarcity of food, food production and secure sources of food. Linking political, agricultural and ecological systems. It reminded me how important understanding where our food comes from, how it is produced and the context of what we choose to put in our mouths requires more than a nanosecond of attention.

“The world now needs to focus not only on agricultural policy, but on a structure that integrates it with energy, population, and water policies, each of which directly affects food security. But that is not happening. Instead, as land and water become scarcer, as the Earth’s temperature rises, and as world food security deteriorates, a dangerous geopolitics of food scarcity is emerging. Land grabbing, water grabbing, and buying grain directly from farmers in exporting countries are now integral parts of a global power struggle for food security.”

My extracurricular activities this past month have included a recording session for the National Film Board with grandma Anne. The Bread Project (see previous posts) has been proposed as a digital archive that could be shared online. My good friend Mariette is behind this. Anne was interviewed about her life experience, her family immigrating from Hungry, growing up in Canada, her baking, cooking and what she had learned about life. I listened from another room, sitting in grandpa’s chair learning, laughing and crying as she opened up about her life. I wish I had that opportunity with each of my grandparents. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a finished product with you all one day.

Anne, the Bread Project group and I also set out on a field trip to the Piikani Nation this past month, south of Calgary near Pitcher Creek. Visiting the Peigan Indian Reserve was a special honour, as it is not something that you can easily do as well as have a tour. Charlotte’s family, one of the group members, is from the Piikani Nation. This picture is of her childhood home, in which our government felt it appropriate for two adults and eleven children to live in growing up in the 50’s-70’s. The residential school some of her siblings attended was a kilometre way, in site of the house, but the children weren’t allowed to come home for the holidays. Her mother would hang red cloth on the fence at Christmas so the children could see Christmas at home from the school windows. How did we possibly think we were doing any good and how can we continue to judge when we are so culpable? We took the group to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump museum and park afterwards. A very important and moving day for all of us.

My time to recharge is not only about getting chores done and relaxing, but staying connected to what is happening in the world , in food and society. I appreciate the downtime to expand my horizons a little further as it is so easy to get caught up in our own narrow worlds.

Hope you enjoy the long weekend. What are your plans?

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Early Garden Tips

5 05 2011

Gardening season is coming and I have started to plan what changes I am going to make based on what I learned from last year. You can reminisce with me by clicking here. It is so tempting to get out there on the first nice day, but we know here in Calgary we will get frost or snow yet. What I have learned though, is that you can plant some seeds now! Lettuce, carrots, beets, kale, radishes, spinach and peas are hardy enough. Now, with harsh weather, you might lose little seedlings, but I think the risk is worth it.  If you plant lettuce now, you’ll probably get two harvests from it.

I was chatting with a gardener tonight, she is a long time student at the yoga studio and we chat about landscaping and gardening all year-long. She taught a gardening class this year at the Calgary Zoo.  I wasn’t able to take it in this year, but it sounds perfect. She reviews the planning process, staggered germination timing, soil prep and planting. She does this in real-time so that the gardeners’ homework is their own garden.

Jane told me the BEST tip today, besides convincing me to plant seeds early to extend my harvest time, she said to plant the radishes with the carrots together in the same row. The radishes come up fast, and naturally help to thin out the carrots. I love this. I didn’t thin my carrots well last year and this helps PLUS it saves me a row in my modest garden for planting another row of greens, staggered from the other rows so everything doesn’t come to harvest at the same time. Jane buys seeds with different germination times and charts everything. That sounds fun (for analytics like me).

We’ve been looking at converting our garden space into a green house. I love this idea and my grandma has me convinced. She had this huge green house when I was growing up. With hale and such in Calgary, you can really benefit from a green house, and for busy urban gardeners like myself, it makes for less fuss and longer growing seasons. If not this year, then next. We’ll let you know.

Are you getting ready to plant a garden? How about a community garden?

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Orange Groves of Portugal

6 04 2011

Well, we are back from our trip to Portugal, good to be home but uh, um, to a record breaking snow fall on Saturday. We were shocked back to reality as we peered out the airplane windows, but you should have seen the faces of those passengers visiting for the first time!

Portugal is wonderful. I already shared my favourite Portuguese treat, Pastel de Nata in my previous post, and yup, I kept on eating them, almost one a day with my tea. You can’t go to Portugal and not fall in love with the oranges. There are so many varieties, they grow them all year-long and apparently it was the Portuguese navigators and sailors that originally brought the orange to the Mediterranean. We had the amazing opportunity to visit a Portuguese family who has a small orange grove outside Faro, in the Algarve. A fellow yogi sweetly connected us to her family so we could experience her home country the way it is meant to be appreciated, by visiting local villages. The three of us count this as one of the highlights of the trip, if not the best part. Obrigado Liana.

We met Joe, Liana’s dad, at the “cafe across the street from the church on the main street of Santa Barbara de Nexe”. In his words, “you know where that is?”. Us, “Yeah sure, we gotta a map and we’ll meet you there”. Right. We found it, eventually, not withstanding a little back seat driver incident between Nat and Bro (Nat the back seat driver) 😉 We arrived to learn the church was the same church Joe was baptized in, it was in a quaint town and we had a cappuccino in the little cafe before following him to the homestead. I wish I could have captured the smell, there is nothing like it. The moment we arrived in the country side, all you could smell was orange blossoms. As we drove, we rolled the windows down to take in deep breaths of the sweet aroma.

We toured the house, met the dogs, the parrot, the chickens (which I want but can’t have, they get 10 eggs a day!), and then went for a stroll through the orchard, with grandma, Maria and Joe. Joe pointed out the winter oranges, tangerines, figs and apricots just starting to grow, two kinds of avocados and a little yellow fruit I forget the name of!

Unknown Fruit

Avocados

Baby Figs

Baby Apricots

Birds Nest

They were peeling tangerines, feeding us and filling shopping bags full of fruit as we walked. The farmer who tends the land pointed out a little bird nest, saying that the same birds lay only two eggs each time. Amazing. Sadly, since the EU was established, having personal orange groves, Joe has about 1000 trees, doesn’t produce the income it use to. A person needs many more than that to subsist on orange farming alone. We talked about the similarities in the wheat farming in Canada, orange production is controlled in a similar manner, all produce is cycled through a central channel.

Look at this pile of oranges we had – if you can believe we almost ate them all, we brought home the few that were left. We made juice from other oranges we would buy by the bag out of a grocery cart left on the street, leaving a 1 Euro coin in a can, love it.

Portugal has much to share,  its simplicity of life and its way of slowing one down. The freshness of the food, from the fruit, vegetables, breads, cheeses and fish. We enjoyed many meals of grilled seafood, caught that day by the restaurants owner or fisherman.

When you travel, do you attempt to get a better idea of the culture and way of life? What is your favourite travel food experience?

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Pastel de Nata

26 03 2011

Hi blog friends. I write this quick entry from Portugal. Land of the best oranges, vino verde (green wine as they call it but it is fresh white wine with a hint of effervescence), fresh cheeses, grilled seafood caught by local fishermen and Portugese hospitality.

I first came to Portugal with my mom in 2003. My folks have a timeshare in Albuferia in the Algarve along the beach. Tony and my brother and I find ourselves back in the Algarve for a sunny holiday. One week in and I have enjoyed the simple but oh so satisfying pastel de nata many times. They are little flan type pastries. Perfect with afternoon tea. Yum.

Here are some photos I’ve collected of my fave Portugese treat. One of them is of the little tarts hiding in a bag and me sneaking a nibble at the back of the bus on our tour to Gibraltar. More on that and other Portugese adventures another day. I hope all is well…

Eat well, be well, adeus
Nat





Bread Project: Csiga Noodles

21 02 2011

This past week was an extra special Bread Project because my grandma Anne was sharing her recipe for Hungarian csiga noodles. Anne makes bread, lots of it, I have never had anything but homemade bread at her house my entire life (all 29 years :)). She makes the most amazing white and whole wheat bread the old fashion way. Kneading, letting it rise, kneading it again. It has a crusty outside and is best toasted in her toaster oven. It takes too long to make the bread with the Bread Project but sharing flour related recipes with the other members is just as important. The other thing that grandma has always made from scratch is noodles, a few different kinds, matched for the dish they are reserved for.

Csiga noodles, or csigateszta, are one of the finest of them all. Csiga (pronounced chee-ga) are a basic egg noodle, but with a very unique shape, a ridged spiral. Csiga in Hungarian means ‘snail’ and the csiga noodle has been traditionally linked to fertility. I am guessing that is the snail analogy??? Small squares of finely rolled dough are rolled into spirals on a specially grooved csiga board that are made from wood or even bamboo. Hungarian women roll csiga together or on their own, to add to chicken soup. This chicken csiga noodle soup is especially made for weddings. When doing research on csiga I found a few church and Hungarian groups in North America that meet weekly to make csiga. My grandma is a csiga-making-machine, but it takes a lot to feed a family, never mind a wedding! Growing up this is one of the many jobs we had in the kitchen as kids, rolling csiga. I hadn’t done it in many years, but it only took me a few minutes to get the hang of it again. One of the csiga boards that grandma has is over 100 years old, compared to the newest addition in her collection, ones that Tony made for her.

Noodle making is a lost art. Like pasta, it is so easy to make, inexpensive and goes a long way. While making csiga we talked about this and how far a dollar can go when it comes to food. A couple of eggs, cups of flour, water and a few extra moments can make noodles to feed an entire family. We spend so much on a package of noodles, literally and the expense and industry that goes into that package of noodles. I know it is a time thing but if we think about how much time we don’t spend preparing the most important part of our day, sustenance, it makes you realize how our priorities have shifted over the years. It is inevitable that food prices, quality and access will become an issue  in years to come. Peak oil, climate change etc will have an impact. Projects like this are critical to passing on a connection to our food to generations to come. Sounds dooms day I know. In the least, thinking about food and the ‘slow food movement’ that is making its way to mainstream, has so much benefit, to ourselves, our communities and will be a critical part of our healthful existence and survivability.

2 eggs
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp water
pinch salt

  • In a bowl mix the eggs, water and salt with small parts of the flour until the dough is a soft but firm texture, not sticky. There might be flour left over. By using egg it keeps the dough together, if only water was used the noodles would fall apart in the water
  • Knead the dough for 15 min
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered
  • Pinch off a golf ball size piece of the dough, flatten out by hand into a thick disc, but no wider than what can fit into the noodle roller
  • Using the noodle roller, roll it thin, with each roll adjust the roller to be a bit thinner, until the dough is thin, but not translucent and flimsy. If it feels sticky, then wipe a small amount of flour on either side of the dough before rolling
  • Cut into 1.5 cm strips and then 1.5 cm squares
  • Using a csiga board, roll each square using the csiga stick, going from one corner of the square to the other, ensuring the end is pressed into the noodle well, or they will unravel in the water when boiling
  • Dry the csiga well, over night, by leaving them on a cloth. They will shrink when dry. Csiga will keep in a container for months
  • The same dough can be rolled through the roller to make longer thin or thicker soup noodles. As well, the same dough is rolled out thin and cut into a 1.5 cm diamonds and even smaller squares for different types of soups.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Sweet Love

14 02 2011

Happy Valentines Day everyone. Valentines Day is a funny day, if you look at the history of it, it is another Christian holiday that has been watered down and materialized over the years. Oh well. It is fun to share with your loved ones how much they mean to you….but we should make that effort daily eh?

I have had a overly indulgent Valentines season. It started with a trip to Vancouver to see some of my favourite gurlz, a first of it’s kind, bringing us from one coast to the other together for friend time. We had an amazing dinner at Raincity Grill in the West End, a well known eatery and a pioneer in farm-to-table menus. I could go on about the meal, if you are there and have the opportunity, go to this restaurant. The sweetest thing about the night is we caught an additional week of the annual Dine Out Vancouver and enjoyed so much of the amazing menu for a package price – and even got the Creme Brulee without ordering the menu to go with it, wink, wink. Now this was the BEST creme brulee any of us have ever had. It was a pumpkin brulee with a berry compote, vanilla creme and almond shortbread cookie. Enough said.

While in Vancouver I get my fill of cupcakes. I know I talk a lot about cupcakes, they are my favourite indulgence, passe or not :). These are not just any cupcakes though, these are the BEST cupcakes. Cupcakes is the original cupcakes of the west. Their cake and icing are perfect. I picked up two, yes two, ate one, the best red velvet I’ve had since Santa Monica (another story), went back and got a refill to bring them home (and a mini to eat). Tony and I indulged in them on Saturday night. Sweet.

And the icing on the cake, Valentines Day. I’m not sure how I missed it most of the day yesterday, but hiding in the fridge were sweet treats from Crave. Tony said he watched me open the left door on the fridge and never the right all day, they were right there under my nose! I opened the fridge this morning and staring at me was this sweet treat, cupcakes and this sweet cookie. I have been nibbling on the cookie all day…we’ll save the cupcakes for the weekend. Cupcakes keep very well in the freezer. I have frozen them in Vancouver and then flew home with them, keeps the icing in tact. Obsessed? Maybe. I know I say indulging in sweet treats is nice once in awhile, but I’ll be needing a sugar holiday for a long time from this indulgence!

I hope you had a lovely day!

Be well, Eat well,

Nat

 





Bread Project: Bannock

13 02 2011

This past Tuesday at The Bread Project we made Bannock, actually frybread, a bread associated with our First Nations people of Canada. What I didn’t know is that Bannock was originally made from oats and originates from Scotland. The Scots being the first to farm wheat in Canada. Charlotte shared her mom’s recipe for bannock and the techniques her mom passed on to her. Watching her, I imagined the technique and basic ingredients on the plains of Alberta. We learned that as the bison became less plentiful and the First Nation’s people were made to stay on reserves, instead of following the herds of animals in their traditional nomadic lifestyles, bannock became a staple. A survival food. Made from the rations provided to them by the government.

There is so much we don’t understand about our First Nations people. Many Canadians easily place judgement on them and never go beyond the surface to ask why so many of them struggle in our society. We have made many displacing decisions in regards to the First Nations people in Canada. The reserves,  residential schools and policies that undermine their success. Although with many hectares of land, wheat farming and ranching is not a leading economy for many of them. Government policies have made it difficult for them to establish farming practices, lack of access to equipment and technology in years past as well.

This Bread Project day was well timed, I had just finished reading the book Bad Medicine: A Judge’s Struggle in a First Nations Community. Judge John Reilly is a Calgary judge that saw first hand the results of our poor decisions over the previous centuries. He spoke out while a judge and continues to share his opinions and case work to shift our thinking about our native Canadians. I highly recommend this book. As a Canadian I think it is imperative that we understand our nations first settlers. I myself have been ignorant to their plight and through understanding have gained much respect. It will take generations to turn the tide and I’d like to be of the generation that begins this shift.

Making Bannock is so easy, it’s ridiculous. Give it a try. I can’t wait to make it this summer and toast it over an open fire like I did when I went to camp as a kid.

 

 

 

 

 

6 cups all purpose flour (makes about 8-12)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder
3¼ cups of water
1/3 lb melted lard or vegetable shortening for frying (Carrie, of Cree descent in our Bread group, said she makes frybread using olive oil instead, I like this healthier version)

  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a mixing bowl, mix well
  • Make a large shallow well in the middle of the flour
  • Add the water to the well
  • Mixing with your hands, gently fold the dough over, taking flour from the edges, incorporating it until the dough is not sticky. There might be flour around the edges left, leave this, you can add more water after you use the dough up and make more
  • Tear off small balls of dough, like the size of a large plum, and gently tuck or fold into rounds, place them down in the bowl, continue this with the rest of the dough so you are left with dough rounds in the bowl
  • Let the dough rounds sit a few minutes to rise while you heat a deep fry pan with lard or vegetable shortening over medium-high heat
  • Flatten out the dough rounds to about 10-12 cm wide and about 1-2 cm thick.
  • Place the flattened dough rounds into the hot oil, they will puff up a little, when the edges are browned, flip them over.
  • Serve with jam, as a side to soup or with breakfast

Eat Well, Be Well

Nat





The Bread Project

1 02 2011

I am so excited about my new friends and volunteer project I am involved with. A fellow Leadership Calgary alumnus and friend Mariette works at Calgary Family Services and started a new pilot project called Food for Thought: The Bread Project. The purpose of the project is to bring older adults from various cultures together to bake bread, examine food, culture and provide a community to each other. Many older adults can easily be isolated and I am learning the value that organizations like CFS bring to them. Mariette has a wonderful vision for this project, tackling other food skills like preserves and spreading the program to communities in the city and bridging the gap between generations. If The Bread Project is of interest to you or you have an older adult in your realm that would love to share their knowledge and a bread recipe, let me know, I’ll pass you along to Mariette.

We have spent some time talking about the mass production of bread, how it’s processed, what’s been lost and what more is at risk of being lost with their generation. An important aspect of this program is to examine the importance of food, culture and food security. In rants on this blog I have shared information on very serious risks to our food supply, production and population. There is a crisis in North America we see in the headlines – obesity. There is a much deeper story to this, mass production, genetically modified foods, over processing and kids that don’t know what a cooking pot is (see my Bottom Line post, you can listen to the podcasts that speak to this) are all increasing our disconnection from our food and survivability. One symptom of this is obesity, malnourishment of our aboriginal people, earlier pubescence and environmental sensitivities are some others. This past week the USDA approved the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, putting organic meat producers and farms at risk, it is slippery slope. We don’t know all of the health implications of GMO foods, there are no labelling laws in Canada or the US and moves like this have made seed health and species extinction a real risk. A story to pay attention to and speak out about.

Here are some articles on the recent USDA changes:

Food Democracy Now

Common Dreams

Cornucopia

Today at the Bread Project we talked about Dr. Vandana Shiva a well known sustainable food and seed researcher and activist. She is the chair of a program that supports various seed keepers and organic farmers in India. This was fitting since the bread we made today was roti. The history of wheat in India is lengthy and their consumption of wheat is the greatest in the world, something we all learned today! The roti is a flat, unleavened bread made in many parts of India, both north and south. I learned to make roti in Mysore, India in cooking classes I took. Vidya, in our bread group, was a natural teacher and I loved learning this bread technique again – because I hadn’t made them myself since learning the first time! She made it even more accessible, probably because we were using North American utensils and stove. She spread ghee and home made wild blueberry jam on them, folded them up and doled them out, they were SO good. I took dough home to make two fresh rotis for Tony and I for lunch. mmmmm

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





KFM: Saskatoon Berry Pie

29 12 2010

How was your Christmas? Your time off? Ate too much? Ate well at least? I did :). I always remind myself that our eating habits over a week of holidays is not as detrimental than the choices we make the rest of the year (right Donna Blande ;). If we do our best to choose wisely, not to over eat or over indulge during the holidays and continue our exercise, it all evens out. I think as a ‘health food junkie’ you are well aware of your own limits and what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad. Having the discipline to continue this awareness over a period of time when the outings and dinners are plentiful takes practice, practice we do all year. I love this time of year when we can recharge, take the pressure off and stay close to the comforts of home, family and friends…when the New Year comes we get back in the saddle. Can you believe it is 2011 in just a few days?

So speaking of comforts, I have to encourage those of you in Calgary to check out the Kingsland Farmers Market. I know I have mentioned it before, but it moved into it’s permanent indoor location in December, and good timing since last week was the final day of the Calgary Farmers Market at Curry Baracks, a long time favourite of market shopping folk. KFM is bright, full of great vendors and still growing. I thought I’d use this blog to share a KFM favourite now and then. We first tried Little Purple Apple Saskatoon berry pie in the spring and loved it (so did Avenue Magazine recently). The owner promised a pie full of berries, almost a kilo, little sugar and thin flaky crust. Well he is right. I have tried the other pies at the market and they are good, but we think Little Purple Apple is the best. We share it will family and friends for dinner parties and Christmas Eve was no exception. It is so nice to find a pie that is full of whole fruit and not sugary filler. It is a treat and somewhat healthful, Saskatoon berries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants.

Although closed now till January 6, take a visit to the new KFM and if you’re up for a treat (and no time to bake one yourself), try out Little Purple Apple Sasktaoon berry pies…and the rest of the KFM community market.

Eat well, be well,

p.s. thanks for your comments lately…

Nat





Seeds of Change: Part V

26 09 2010

Well, it’s the end of the garden season, sad. I, like many others feel like summer never arrived. We sought out hot weather and summer days in the Okanagan and Spokane. Soon it will be a trip to the house in Vegas to remind us of the warmth, ah 20 degrees in November…I digress.

Even with the weather we had, my first garden was a great success. I had my doubters (uh, um grandma, who has been raiding the garden all summer). Besides the tomotoes that are now on the counter in paper bags attempting to ripen and the two handful of beans I got, all and all, we harvested lots of food. Here’s the low down on how things did and lessons learned:

  • Carrots: should have thinned them out sooner, but they are the sweetest, yummiest and remind me of our garden growing up
  • Beets: gorgeous, so sweet and I am going to attempt my mom’s borscht one of these days, just need a day off!
  • Radishes: need to put them closer to the fence, they grew very quickly and need a cooler place, we didn’t get to enjoy many of them, they were really woody
  • Spinach: biggest surprise of them all, grows on stalks and the little leaves keep on coming, but they needed more hot days to really harvest a lot, the leaves stayed really small
  • Lettuce: amazing, been eating it since it was ready, cut it back, don’t pull, it grows back. I planted another row in August, but will do that earlier next year because it’s too late for it to come up
  • Swiss Chard: maniac grower, used it every day in my green smoothies
  • Kale: started this from plants, just six of them, incredible big green leaves, a green smoothie fave
  • Tomatoes: grandmas right, needs to be in the sunniest spot, those few minutes of sun a day from placement in the garden would make a big difference. We haven’t eaten a good one yet, still green, but this is common for gardeners this year 😦
  • Zucchini: we had a huge one and lots of smaller ones, however, some had rotted at the end and when I looked it up they say it is from a calcium deficiency. I also think the blossoms didn’t dry up and fall off, it was too wet and they were damp. I’ll remember to pull them off next year
  • Beans: again, these need more sun, placement change next year, but we had a couple of handfuls of sweet and tender green beans
  • Raspberries: against the fence wasn’t the best, but this is a short-term home. When our new fence goes in and the shed is moved, we have the perfect place for them
  • Sorrel: huge plants, did amazing along the fence with some shade, made soup a few times (and so did grandma)
  • Mint: mint is always insane, I gave some away and never used it myself, why do I grow it again?
  • Strawberries: a few pieces of fruit in July and then nothing, maybe next year
  • Rhubarb: I think I am onto my fourth or fifth cutting (and grandmas third), it produces like a champ

I think i’ll keep things relatively the same next year with a few placement changes. I might even experiment with a few others things. Well there you have it, a growing season well done, even with challenging temperatures. How did your garden grow?

Eat well, be well,

Nat