Urban Harvest

8 10 2012

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving. It was a gorgeous day, although I spent mine with a cold, boo. I skipped Sunday dinner and made Soska Soup instead, yum. T did most of the work to harvest the garden yesterday. Compared to last year and the year before, things are improving. I did a better job of thinning stuff and the lay out worked a bit better. A few things to move next year and we have to ‘rehabilitate’ the heavy clay soil, which I am learning will take worm casting tea, mulch and compost among other things. And I still couldn’t get the radishes I desire. I’ve jotted down the lessons learned and I’m already prepping next year. I am going to plant spinach and parsley in the next few weeks, just before the frost so these will come up first in the spring. A friend of mine gave me terrific ideas to incorporate some permaculture techniques which is exciting. Oh the anticipation.

I watched the documentary Surviving Progress the other day. Highly recommend it, it’s available on iTunes. If you’re into healthy eating you’re usually into a healthy planet. This film looks into the causal architectures or systemic and deeply rooted causes of how we arrived at our current destination, as Jane Goodall says, ‘destroying the only home we have, our planet’. Consider the deeply rooted and systemic issues debt based economies and a consumption mindset have made on our world? The idea that ‘progress’ has meant ‘more’ instead of ‘better’. There is a lot more to it than that, and I especially appreciated David Suzuki’s quote in the film, “conventional economics is a form of brain damage” and that calling life systems like water and top soil externalities is “just nuts“. Agreed.

While harvesting the garden I was thinking about how there is so much hype about ‘living off the land’ now a days. Easy for me to attempt half the year in my own back yard and the rest of the year from locally sourced foods from the nearby market. I do my best but I still buy bananas. What about folks who live in densely populated cities, what do they do? I think we can get a bit snobbish and elitist about this whole movement and Colin Beavan of the No Impact Project said something in Surviving Progress that seeded these thoughts: “This No Impact experiment we did, we live in New York City, which made it unusual because most people can think of environmental living as some sort of a back to the land thing. But of course, back to the land is not the right idea when it comes to saving our habitat. If all of us in New York were to go back to the land, we would very much destroy the land.” He’s got a point, a very good point. I am usually a bit wary of ‘make small changes’ messaging, but you know what, we do need to think of these things in a way that will result in long-term sustainment and starting with how and what we consume is a good start. Our civilizations failing economy and environment are big ships to turn around, but if more people lean to one side, we (meaning generations to come) might just do okay.

Hopefully some of you are enjoying the fruits of your own labour this weekend, or that of others who work hard to bring you locally sourced foods. If not, while considering what you are thankful for this holiday weekend, give some thought to how you might help steer our collective ship better.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat

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Being Sustainable

23 06 2012

What is sustainable anyhow? The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says:

: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques><sustainable agriculture> b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

I listened to an episode of Q on CBC yesterday that attempted to debate the need or not for sustainable agriculture and the locavore. Besides the fact that both authors were clearly lacking expertise in their said areas the debate speaks to the complexity of the ecological and food production systems. We are living in a time that doing good = creating change. What we don’t have is a deep understanding of the issues at hand and how to wrestle with them. Agriculture is inter-related with governance and policy, capitalism, trade and business as well as the justice and law system. Although attempting a sustainable life-style is a practice to continue – it’s not enough. If we stop at the romantic (as one author described it and I agree) ideal of eating local and being personally sustainable we miss understanding the bigger picture (the part he clearly misses).

It will take those in positions of influence and power to understand the relationship between systems like economics – politics – policy – eduction – business – agriculture – justice – ecology etc. to create adaptive levels of development and integration between them. Making personal choices about food isn’t enough, speaking out and demanding understanding and change is better. Change in food production in isolation of any of these systems results in GMO foods to keep up with production needs and a predictable collapse of mono-crops in the Western Hemisphere; and the continuation of millions of starving people in the Eastern Hemisphere because Western practices are infiltrating the same systems which can not sustain these practices. They are seeing the collapse already from not “harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged” as per Merriam-Webster’s definition above. The issues are not that simple of course, stress of climate change, lack of diversity, population strain, decades of civil unrest and more are certainly a part of it.

An article that points us closer to the problem and how the current fashion of buying local, learning to garden etc can be seen as some personal green washing: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/12-4. If you are passionate about living well and being responsible to the future of our planet and generations to come, give it 10 minutes of your time to read and give some considerations to the systems at play.

We should all be careful not to stop our thinking at our own actions, this is limiting. The solution is not easily in reach, but if we all operated in a narrow frame of ‘self-fulfilling’, ‘feel good’ action the systems at play will win, keeping us exactly where they want us to be.

How’s that for a Saturday morning rant? Time to go to my local market and tend the garden 😉

Eat well, Be well,

Nat




Lunch at Work: Three Bean Soup

5 02 2012

Okay, I looked at the calendar, it says it’s February but you’d never know it with the weather we are having. Soup for lunch is a staple for me in the ‘winter’ but this winter is a bit funky. Enjoy it while it’s here but be a little concerned about what it means in the bigger scheme of things. Anyone that doubts climate change should go outside for a walk on February 5, in a light jacket. I saw kids playing basketball at the park across the street yesterday.

We go to Costco about once a month to pick up our toiletries and such. More and more organic foods are arriving there which is super exciting. I noticed a few months ago a new addition to the TruRoots products, sprouted bean mix.Until recently Costco was only selling their quinoa but now has the bean mix and chia seeds. Nice. The bean mix is super good and quick. The beans have been sprouted and dried so you can have cooked beans in about 15 min. It has lentils, mung beans and adzuki beans in it. I made up this super simple soup and have eaten it a lot for lunch this ‘winter’. I skip the onion completely but if you want, add it in with the carrots and celery for a proper mirepoix. The veggie stock has onion in it anyhow.

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 2-3 large Carrots
  • 2-3 stalks Celery
  • 2-3 medium Parsnips
  • 2 cups TruRoots Bean Trio
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Small bunch of Parsley
  • Sprig or two of Thyme (remember you can keep parsley, thyme, rosemary etc in the freezer)
  • 5 Pepper Corns
  • 2 cubes of low sodium Veggie Stock
  • 9- 10 cups of filtered Water
  • 1 can of Diced Tomatoes, drained
  • 1 medium Zucchini
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Prepare the veggies by chopping them small. For soup I like to cut my carrots and parsnips into half-moon like shapes, celery the same, unless it is quite big, then I might cut it lengthwise first. Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the carrots and celery and cook on medium heat until they start to soften. Add the parsnips, beans, spices, stock and water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 min. Check the beans for softness. Add the tomatoes and zucchini, simmer covered again for another 10-15 minutes. If you think you need more liquid, add a bit more water or next time add less beans. This ends up being a thick and hearty soup which I like at lunch. Experiment, add other veggies of your choice.

My Sunday-post-primary-practice-yoga-ladies were talking today about the cost of food and the ‘healthlessness’ of our society these days. An important element to this is that we have lost our means of being resourceful people in regards to eating. I hear all the time that vegetables are expensive. I don’t say they aren’t but in relation to what? Being compared to processed foods like KD and ichiban, not a fair comparison. It’s what is more nourishing that matters. This soup costs less than $10 and it feeds me for five or more days (I added it up below). I’m full and have done good for my mind and body. The other options? Probably the same price at way less value. And if you’re buying lunch every day, totally different story. This post is for my Sunday ladies, love our time together. 🙂

Eat well, be well,

Nat

  • Bean Trio $15 (enough for about 6-8 pots of soup)
  • Bag of organic carrots $4
  • Organic celery stalks $3
  • 1 Organic zucchini $2
  • Bag of Organic parsnips $4
  • Organic Parsley, Thyme $4 (and freeze left overs for later)
  • Bay Leaf, pepper corns $4
  • Box of organic veggie stock $5
  • Can of organic tomatoes $2
  • Oil of some sort, salt and pepper – nil (I assume most people have something of the sort)
  • Water – nil
  • 1 hour of time
  • Total: $43 and you have ingredients to make more soup or other things. Don’t buy organic and maybe save a bit more, but not much these days. Shop local and within season.




A Quick Cup of Coffee

29 01 2012

Happy Sunday. The days are getting a wee bit longer, which is nice and the weather continues to be freakishly lovely. It feels like a March day in Calgary today. Up early with tea, read, off to practice, tea with the usual yoga crew and home for a quiet Sunday. It’s nice when you did all your errands on Fri/Sat and you are left with a bit less to do on a Sunday.

I don’t drink coffee but T does. I wish I liked it though. It smells so good sometimes, but doesn’t do it for me. I like my tea. Maybe it’s because coffee became a survival technique during university and now it has lost its allure. I do like it now and then (decaf) with dessert when out for dinner. But I think even the thought of it keeps me up so I don’t do that often.

Our combo expresso/coffee maker died an early death last fall. It was a good one too (we thought), a Krups. I have learned since, that it has been discontinued. Nice. T was without a proper coffee maker up until Christmas. He used the Bodem, which worked and he liked because he likes fresh ground coffee in the morning. He hates cleaning it out though…it’s about being efficient in the morning. So for Christmas I thought, i’ll buy him a new coffee maker, how practical of me. 😉 Well I found the bomb of quick coffee makers. I don’t mean to offend, but those little pod coffee makers that everyone is buying and were EVERYWHERE at Christmas are an environmental disaster. I work at a building with 40 some floors and each floor has an average of two of these machines pumping out a black garbage bag or more a day in little plastic containers. Yikes. Yeah, yeah, they’re recycled, but their still made from plastic…and they’re expensive!

I have the perfect item for you, fresh coffee, one cup at a time with the Hamilton Beach The Scoop. T grinds fresh coffee every morning, fills the scoop, adds water and presses start. How easy is that AND the unit is half the price or more than the expensive pod ones. So if you have been considering buying a new coffee maker and are being woo’d by those trendy pod types, give The Scoop a thought. (I swear we are not endorsed by Hamilton Beach, but when something this smart comes along, I gotta tell people. p.s I got ours at London Drugs and saw them at Canadian Tire too. Shameless, I know.)

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Feeling a bit Nostalgic

13 12 2011

The Winter Solstice is around the corner. The holiday season is among us. A New Year is coming. I am personally looking forward to the break. To family, friends and down time. I am sure you are too. Life continues to provide its ups and downs and as of late, I feel my heels dragging along. In times like this I find myself yearning for comforts and memories come to mind that warm.

As usual, I was driving home the other day and listening to CBC, to a story about kids writing letters to Santa. I guess today it’s quite high-tech and you can email him. Canada Post apparently has volunteers that help Santa with all the responses. Whether you agree with the idea of Santa or not, I smiled remembering the days when we’d get a call Christmas Eve from Santa (aka Grandpa K). We’d be celebrating Ukrainian Christmas Eve at Baba and Dido’s house, the phone would ring and Tim and I would get our few minutes with the big guy. I think I learned who the ‘real’ Santa was when I was in my teens <head shake, so silly>.

Do you put up a Christmas tree? I have antique tree that belonged to my great-grandfather. It is silver and I have memories of being in his little house and the tree sparkling at Christmas. I inherited the tree a few years ago and cherish it. Each year I buy a few new ornaments and have collected them throughout my travels. This year I bought three really pretty green and blue ornaments that are bunches of butterflies. Somehow they reminded me of my dear friend Jodie. This time of year has lost it’s meaning in mainstream. Focusing on family and friends, tree or not, is what this season is all about.

Sparkle and Shine

Another thing that I love this time of year, food related and healthy of course, are pomegranates. I love, love, love whole pomegranates. My dad use to cut them open for us and pick out the seeds into a bowl. Each of us with our own bowl of pomegranate seeds, sitting on the couch being super careful not to spill, eating them a few at a time. This fruit takes patience but it is so worth it. No juice from any bottle or pre-packed seeds even come close. Go out, buy some and enjoy the fruits of your labour (pun totally intended).

Best Christmas Snack

The shortest day of the year draws near, the Winter Solstice on Dec 21. This time of reflection is a gift and should be cared for. T and I were married on the longest day of the year, June 21, and we always take a moment to reflect on the last six months and the six months to come. How are you spending time to take care?

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Next Time You Buy Tomatoes

8 10 2011

I can’t type fast enough today. This is a quadruple rant post. A couple of weeks ago I read an article by Chris Hedges called Tomatoes of Wrath. If you love food and want to be more conscious of choices, read the article. I was going to post about my sweet tomatoes that I am still plucking from the vine, all cozy and covered up at night, but there are more important things out there today. There is a simple tomato recipe below though.

I know we can’t solve all the worlds problems in a post or article. I don’t write these things with any of those delusions, but it is important that we as citizens of the world understand more about where our food comes from and the impact our choices have on other people and nations. AND just because the tomato article is in the US doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact us. It does. When we (a collective humanity) permit regulations and laws to go unchecked we give permission to repeat the same offences. Not convinced? Love the rose-coloured glasses? That’s fine. I do recommend reading Chris Hedges’ book Empire of Illusion and Chris Parenti’s The Face of Imperialism. That’s just a start. Truthdig.com and Commondreams.org are also two sites important to add to your regular web time. Harsh reality or a more balanced approach to understanding the world? Inquire.

Then yesterday CBC, our beloved CBC, has Kevin O’Leary from Dragon’s Den interview Chris Hedges about Occupy Wall Street. It was deplorable, embarrassing and if you are as pissed as I am (and a gaggle of my friends are) write a letter to the CBC Ombudsmen as I did this morning asking for the removal of O’Leary from their ‘news programs’. He is NOT a journalist. ombudsman@cbc.ca

Link to Chris Hedges/Occupy Wall Street interview on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Business/1239849460/ID=2149202610

A respectful interview with Chris Hedges/Occupy Wall Street for a Russian news channel. Short but insightful: http://t.co/fCbiJSn2

Why Occupy Wall Street is important: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK1MOMKZ8BI&sns=em

So much going on this week, the twitterverse was a buzz of Steve Jobs passing. He offered creativity to the world we need. A favourite Jobs quote: “from creativity comes everything”. Last week a colleague at work shared this with me, thought is was a sweet homage (pun intended).

Three apples that changed the world: 1st one seduced Eve, 2nd one fell on Newton, 3rd given to the world, half bitten by one Steve Jobs.

Simple Tomato Salad 

Mix together 5 fresh garden Tomato’s, chopped, like for greek salad. 1/2 tbsp of chopped fresh Oregano . 1 tbsp of some good Olive Oil. A sprinkle of Course Sea Salt. This is a simple salad in Portugal. If you go there, buy their dried full leaf oregano to bring home, it is more delicate. I have never looked for seeds to grow on my own here, maybe next year. You can use your regular dried oregano as well.

If anything, go to your favourite farmers market today, buy some tomatoes, think about the folks that picked them for you, where they came from and how much better we can do as a human community.

Now to finish harvesting the garden and giving thanks.

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Salmonella, Cargill, Yikes

6 08 2011

Concerned about the massive ground turkey recall by Cargill? Not sure we need to worry about this specific recall in Canada, but we should worry about salmonella. I spent a little bit of time this morning educating myself on what was going on and what I could learn about salmonella. Happy Saturday to me :). I have my opinions. If you have been trying to keep up with the story, I have posted a few things below that you might want to check out:

  • Short video summarizing the issue and how to protect yourself from salmonella by Democracy Now. I appreciate their short look at some of the root causes. Recommend.
  • Maryn McKenna’s Superbug blog post on the fact that distributing salmonella is not illegal. Very interesting read.
  • Short article from the law office Marler Clark, posted to their blog, they represent people who have been infected withfoodborne illnesses. Lots of other posts on the history of these infections and other lawsuits they have been involved in. They have a very clear message for Cargill, ‘Start Testing and We Won’t Sue You’.
  • Huffington Post article on the complexity of food safety in the 21st century and how government cutbacks will impact it.
  • Food Safety News blog post on how the USDA’s salmonella policy is failing.
  • A fantastic PowerPoint of the history, epidemiology and molecular biology of salmonella (downloaded PowerPoint). History of Salmonella
  • Article from ‘Meathead’ on Huffington Post. He does have points about veggies and certainly schools people on how to make the food safe. He misses the point on why we are in this mess in the first place though.

I went to Cargill’s American web site to read the recall for myself. It is a voluntary, so nice of them, to pull their products from the shelf because of the ‘possible contamination’ dating back to Feb. They make sure to remind us that Salmonella is very common, found in all food and that in general, bacteria is found everywhere. They point out that proper handling is key. Ah shucks, we’re so lucky to have producers like this, reminding us how it is our fault if we get sick.

Don’t get me wrong, I know salmonella is very common, there are many strains but not all cause illness. We do see increased outbreaks due to the MASSIVE PRODUCTION of food. So much of it is from our handling of animals and feed and how we dispose of the mass waste in these production lines, passing it on to veggies and fruit (salmonella is NOT naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables). Safe handling of food is key, but it certainly convinces me to continue thinking about how we produce our food and what food to consume. As well, we can’t ignore how systems like government and agriculture/farming are inter-related. There is great concern that the trillion-dollar spending cuts in the US are going to further impact policy keepers like the USDA. This is a real concern, although, where are the ethics of the people producing the food? Profits win the game between doing right and making money, unfortunately. How about our insatiable appetite for animal products?

For me these news stories are about looking beyond the headlines and asking questions that start to reveal the cause of the issue. This inquiry creates more questions, but it helps to connect the issue to better answers than ‘wash your hands’ and ‘cook meat well’.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat