A Foodie Read: Animal Vegetable Miracle

25 07 2011

If you are at all interested in living in a sustainable way, love local food and want to be apart of the growing slow food movement, read this book: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. You don’t have to try to attain 100% of what she does in the book, but reading it will inspire you to think differently about the food you put on your families table (and in your mouth). Kingsolver is a well known novelist (The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible), I haven’t read anything else of hers but having read this book, I am sure her fiction is a wonderful experience to read. Animal Vegetable Miracle is a non-fiction account of her family’s experience to grow their own food and source everything locally for one year. The book has three authors, Barbara is the main one, and she actually has a graduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her husband Steven is an environmental studies professor and her daughter Camille is one a very inspirational young adult.

The book tracks the growing season, from planning to seeding to growing to harvest to planning again. She deals with vegetables, chickens (in which her younger daughter creates an egg enterprise… I so want chickens), meat and cheese. For those of us that do not eat meat, I have to say her explanation of animals is incredibly respectful. She is anti processed food, supports farm raised everything and gives you lots to think about when eating raspberries in the dead of winter;

“We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires.”

The book is full of recipes, meal plans and has a wonderful website where you can also get them from, click here.

We do okay in the arena of slow food, we’re not perfect, that’s for sure, but conscious of our choices and more so every day. I am very happy to pick fresh lettuce from the garden on my way into the house after work, but come winter, it is tough in Alberta. The farmers markets keep us going and it is amazing what they are growing in hot houses these days. I encourage you to pay closer attention to the seasonality of your food. Watermelon in the dead of winter, not so kind. The watermelon we had recently, very yummy and it didn’t travel that far to get to us (although, it certainly didn’t grow up on the prairies).

What are you reading this summer? Maybe this is the book for you.

Be well, Eat well,

Nat

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Lunch at Work v.5 – Rice Salad Bowl

6 06 2011

How has your week started off? Soggy if you’re in Calgary. I was going to blog again about the miracle lettuce yesterday. I took a picture of the little greens yesterday morning and was convinced they hadn’t grown since the first picture was taken almost two weeks ago. Well after a day in the sun low and behold I swear the miracle lettuce grew (and everything else around me). So, I’ll give it another soggy week and see what happens. I sowed some lettuce seeds right beside it though so I have a control group and something to compare. 🙂

Lots going on in the food world these days. An important debate we must pay attention to is the conservative governments work to end the Wheat Board in Canada. Listen to a podcast on CBC about it here. There are two very different sides to this story and although it didn’t make much press prior to the federal election, it sure is now. I continue to research this issue – it and the GMO challenges companies like Monsanto create makes for the business of food something to stay alert to. See my last post on the geopolitics of food.

Recently I heard a great story on CBC Calgary on how to truly buy community supported and wild sourced salmon. Karen Anderson, a CBC regular and city ‘food finder’, brings us Skipper Otto’s Wild BC Salmon in this podcast. I know I don’t talk meat on this blog often, but renewable, local sourced foods are important, especially if you eat meat (for articles about this read Mark Bittman in the NYTimes here). I will think about signing up with the Skipper. You can follow the fishing season on his blog.

Well, I couldn’t just give away a recipe without directing you to a few bigger issues, so there you have it and now here’s a recipe for work. I am a bit notorious when it comes to eating this. I hadn’t blogged about it because it seemed lame, but I am sharing it because it is healthy, lasts a week, packs well and in a pinch fills the belly and keeps you satisfied. I have said that I am a mono-dieter at times, this is a good example of a lunch I don’t think much about and when I am busy, comes in very handy, over and over again. Use your imagination on this one, the options are endless (hence why I eat it so regularly).

Rice Salad Bowl

  • 4 cups Cooked Brown Rice of your choice (or half quinoa or grain of your choice; try soaking the rice for a day, makes the cooking time way quicker)
  • 1 can Organic Beans of your choice (garbanzo, black, pinto, butter, kidney, etc, etc)
  • 1/2 cup Carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup Celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup Red or Green Bell Peppers, diced
  • Add any kind of veggies you like, fennel, broccoli, radishes, sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, mushrooms, cooked yams, zucchini, etc, etc.
  • Season with something simple like Olive Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Salt and Pepper or chop up Parsley, Basil, Cilantro, what ever you have. Add your favourite salad dressing, but keep it natural.
I mix the rice, veggies and spices/herbs together in a big bowl and refrigerate that. I scoop it into my lunch container each night and add the dressing. It packs well so no need to refrigerate. I sometimes saute or steam some of the veggies first and then mix things up. Recently I sautéed almond meal (from making almond butter) with some veggies and added it to the rice. Make it your own, whatever you like. If you keep the dressing simple you are adding a very clean, healthy and whole food meal to your day that fills you up and feels good.
Eat well, Be well
Nat




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





Lunch at Work v.4 – Coconut Lentil Soup

12 03 2011

Lunch at work got you down? I started a new contract a few weeks ago, and phew, it has been busy. I wasn’t off that long, but throw Christmas and January in there you really do fall into a sleepy state in the dark of winter. Getting back into the swing of things took a few weeks. I think the biggest challenge is that we have been in a cold snap here in Calgary. You know, I’m okay with it, I didn’t think it was that bad until March came. Then I was like, ‘ok, I’m done with this weather’. We have holidays coming up and the weather is sunny and above zero here today so things are looking up!

I have been packing soup almost every day to lunch, and my pick the last three weeks (yes, a bit of a habitual eater) has been lentil soup. It is nourishing, rich in fibre and protein and easy to consume on the go with the right thermos. Throw some cut veggies and whole grain crackers on the side, hunger is gone, energy sustained.

I have tried a few versions of Lentil Coconut Soup this past month, but my favourite is the one below. It honestly takes all of 30 minutes to make. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe from. Unless it is in a book I have, I google recipes until I find a few I like, save them all, try them and tweak the recipes to my liking. That’s the fun of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.

2 cups Red Lentils
3/4 inch Fresh Ginger (2 cm), peeled and chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
1 Garlic clove, chopped (or a touch of garlic powder, or omit altogether)
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1 2/3 cup Veggie Stock (1 -2 cubes of low sodium variety in hot water)
1 can (398 ml) Crushed or Diced Tomatoes, with liquid
1  can (398 ml) Coconut Milk
2 cups filtered Water

  • Rinse and drain lentils (I have been finding red kidney beans in my Indian ones I have, too funny)
  • Heat the coconut oil in a pot and sautĂ© ginger, onion and garlic until softened
  • Add turmeric, hot veggie stock, coconut milk, water, tomatoes and the lentils; bring to boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Take off the heat, puree the soup using a hand-held blender (or in a blender carefully, read the last post on this here)

Seems weird to blog about such trivial things as to what I ate at work. I hope that all my blog friends are paying close attention to what is happening in the Middle East. Our people, our human relatives are striving all over the world to voice their rights. Rights that we take for granted in our country and more importantly, don’t pay attention too. What is happening in Wisconsin is an extension of the struggle that goes on in Egypt, Tunisia etc. As well, today, we watch the unfolding disaster in Japan. The feats of our engineering have saved thousands of lives in comparison to what happened in Haiti last year, an earthquake of similar magnitude. High rises swayed instead of collapsing. Although, those same feats of engineering and science have us holding our breath as we monitor the breakdown of a nuclear power plant. If only we stopped fighting one another and embraced our human-ness. The trillions of dollars in debt we have from our previous poor decisions over the decades has put us in even greater risk as we figure out how to survive and support one another. Priorities.

Be well, Eat Well,

Nat





A Quiet Moment

31 10 2010

It’s been awhile since my last blog. Life throws you curve balls sometimes and you find yourself managing day to day. Funny how when you come up for air, that a blog can help you get back on your feet, think through some things and deal with what life throws you.

Recently a dear friend of mine passed away after a lengthy illness. To explain the true nature of her being and the impact she had on all those around her would take many blogs. A friend described her as a ‘valiant spirit’. She never complained, challenged the conventions of pain management, handled the most difficult of situations with the grace of a butterfly, and, like the buddhist prayer I read at her service this weekend, ‘always had a half-smile on her face’, even in her final days. She told you she loved you each time she saw, emailed or texted you, but this wasn’t new, she did this from the day she fell in love with you.

Tea is a ritual shared by so many. It has a rich history in trade and culture. It seems that you are either a tea drinker or a coffee drinker, I am a tea drinker. My friend was too. That was our thing, it was her thing, she had tea with everyone. She even started a tea gathering and support group at Wellspring in Calgary (if you don’t know about this organization please look into it and pass it along). At her service we served tea and cheesecake, her favourite, in celebration of such an inspirational life, a lovely tribute.

I was raised on english orange pekoe tea, milk and sugar. Today the morning ritual is similar, but it’s admittedly Tetley with homemade almond milk, no sugar. In the afternoon I love a cup of green tea, my favourite at the moment is Genmaicha, a green tea with toasted rice. I ceremoniously carry it with me and steep a cup where ever I go. My parents were just in Japan and brought home a fresh new package mmmm. I love Masala Chai, of course! It is hard to find or make a chai that tastes like India though. The milk they use, heated over a flame and the fresh spices. ‘Chai’ actually means tea, ‘masala’ means spiced, so properly it is masala chai. I know most people have figured this out by now, but just in case 🙂

Now that it is fall and winter is approaching, the evening tea is becoming more common. I love a chamomile blend, mint blend or ginger. Fresh ginger with lemon is great for digestion. Adding honey to your tea at night promotes a good nights rest, something I learned in recent years. Roobios is another favourite at night, it is an African ‘red bush’ tea, naturally decaffeinated and can be found in many blends.

There is something calming about sipping a cup of tea on your own or with friends. I know each time I sit to enjoy a cup of tea and a quiet moment, I will remember a very dear friend, one whose presence alone made you connect with what it means to be alive and human.

Be well,

Nat





Meat vs. Veggie

7 10 2010

My favourite meat eater, Anthony Bourdain (chef and author of famous writings, most recently Medium Raw) had a debate on eating meat with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals) on Q, a CBC radio show. I don’t try to convince people not to eat meat on this blog, but my blogs are mostly vegetarian and represent the choices that I make. I do feel strongly about sharing my rants about the production and distribution of food in our society and feel even more strongly that we need to educate our generations on how to shift our focus away from our ‘fast food’ mentality. I don’t just mean McD’s but the movement away from cooking and the family kitchen. We are all busy, me included, far too busy most days, but we do our best. It is something that will be important, and not without its challenges, to teach our kid(s) (when and if that day comes).

Back to the debate! I have to admit that Bourdain has some good points when he speaks to the tribal and common ground humanity has with each other when it comes to the meal, he goes so far as to say this is from the hunting and preparing of meat. He believes that the rejection of meat shuts us out from the curiosity, culture and community it brings together. He believes the worst offence is letting grandma down and rejecting turkey dinner. Jonathan reminds him that the meat Anthony has the benefit of eating represents 5% of the meat available to the public and comes from organic, cruelty free farms. He says that we are constantly at odds with human values we all share, like cruelty towards animals, the environmental destruction and the danger to humans. Jonathan says “I like the taste and smell of meat but I don’t like it infinitely”.

Infinitely, that’s the key point here. At what cost are we willing to continue the consumption of mass produced, poorly treated, medicated meat? Most people have lost the association with where their food comes from AND our food production industry is at risk of major collapse having little to no redundancy systems worked in. Bourdain reminds Jonathan how many families eat at fast food chains because they are cheap and quick (and frankly because their kids are brain washed). Jonathan agrees and offers that conventional vegetable dishes (not organic, he admits this is unrealistic) are cheaper and more nourishing than a cheap fast food meal will ever be. This is an argument that I feel very strongly about. Anyone who has travelled the world, where meat is not common, people live off the land and legumes just fine and healthy, on pennies a day. However, the larger issue with this is that we have lost the culture of cooking and eating together.

I think Bourdain is right when food is connected to a ‘deeply fundamental human experience’, not just a meat one though. The gathering and preparing of food, whatever it’s nature, has predated most culture. It is the first of our story telling, altruism, pro-social behaviour in caring and nurturing one another. In a conversation I had today about auto-pilot behaviours and the implications, the same goes for the preparation and enjoyment of food. The more eating is an auto-pilot experience the further we are from the source of our food and worse yet the solution to the problems we are facing.

You can listen to the podcast here: Should we eat meat?

Be well, Eat well,

Nat





Kids These Days

2 10 2010

Life’s been busy, you? I thought once September was over things would simmer, not so much. I haven’t had the time to skim thoroughly all the info sites I normally do. Thank goodness friends share stuff. I know we all get a lot of email but it is so nice when friends do share stuff they know you would be interested in. That way when times are busy, like they are now, you don’t miss out.

This was passed to me and I had to share it with you. This boy does a perfect job in just a few minutes to sum up so much of what the food industry is about these days. If this is the result of home schooling kids, then sign me up (oh right, need a kid first). He likes Joel Salatin as much as I do, enough said. Happy Saturday.

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/09/29-2

Be Well, Eat Well, Nat