Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's Primal Time

So I'm about two and a half weeks into my love affair with the Primal Blueprint. Technically, though, the first week was an 'easing in' phase which really went more like this:

Days 1 to 3: Ate very Primal, felt pretty good physically and very satiated in general
Day 4: Ran out of vegetables, basically subsisted on fatty meats. Felt very carnivorous
Day 5: Went to town, stocked up on everything Primal at Tara's Natural Foods, Old Farm Fine Foods and (eck) Food Basics, then opted to eat take-away from the Wok-In and enjoyed Pad Thai, which is not v. Primal at all, but delicious nonetheless
Days 6 - 8: Hosted Australian visitor, ate copious amounts of carbohydrates in the form of homemade pancakes, candy/chocolate, sweet potato fries, Beavertail etc. Redeemed myself by celebrating Robbie Burns day with the traditional Scottish delicacy, haggis, which is, well, you know....all parts of the sheep that the English refuse to eat. (On a totally unrelated note, if you need a good laugh go here - Visitor's Guide to Scotland, by Danny Bhoy.)

And then I decided to smarten up and this is how the second week's panned out:

Day 9: Vowed to go 'cold turkey' on Primal....
Day 10 -Day 18: Have been following Primal Eating Blueprint very closely

So far, eating Primal has been a surprisingly enjoyable gastronomic experience, and a relatively painless transition from my pre-Primal diet. Here are a few of notable highlights of my tryst with all things pre-grain era:

Discovery #1 - I like fat. I really, really like fat. Who knew? I certainly didn't. And you know why I was so unaware of my affection for gristle and bacon droppings? Because, like the vast majority of health-conscious people in this country, I'd been led to believe that anything with saturated fat was not good for me. It had reached the point where I wasn't even aware that my food choices were, without exception, of the low-fat variety. Except, of course, Omega 3 Fatty acids, the 'good' fats found namely in fish (and oh how I indulged in those fatty Atlantic salmon steaks whenever I was on PEI!). But, yes, until my Locav-or-ganic Challenge in Vermont, the thought of eating red meat, especially things like sausage and bacon, did not even register on my mind as an option. So I subsisted on white chicken meat, salmon loaf, tofu, veggie burgers and the occassional indulgence in pork tenderloin. Even in Vermont, I considered myself a glutton for eating delicious bacon (especially when I incorporated it into dessert - a dobule whammy of sinfulness!!)

Now, however, as I delve deeper into the literature regarding fats and sugars, proteins and carbohydrates, I find myself questioning much of that conventional nutritional wisdom that's been directing my food choices for the past several years.

So I'm eating fat without feeling guilty or gluttonous about it for, perhaps, the first time in my adult life. And you know what I've noticed? I'm way less interested in eating between meals, and I can go longer between meals without feeling hungry. Fat contributes to feelings of satiety. And I think that might be a good thing.

I should probably qualify this whole note about fat by saying that I am enjoying fat that comes from animals, specifically animals that have been raised naturally and organically and who have ended up on my menu as nitrite-free bacon and eggs, or sweet Italian sausages, or lamb meatballs, as well as nuts, avocados, olive oil and small amounts of artisan cheese.. I've not been eating any trans-fats (found in lots of baked and processed foods), nor am I eating animals that have been raised in industrial systems (another reason I didn't eat much red meat in the past), nor have I been using vegetable fats for cooking..speaking of which...

Discovery #2 - Going Primal is a culinary adventure! So you'd think eliminating grains from one's pantry, would make for much less opportunity to be a creative cook, given how many fewer ingredients you have to work with. Ah, but this is not so, quite the contrary in fact. I can no longer rely on my quinoa salad and oven-baked sweet potatoe fries to tickle my tastebuds anymore. Rather, I have found myself dabbling with recipes I've never tried before and adapting familiar ones to fit in with my new low-carb eating.

In the last week, while working ridiculous hours on my local food research, I've managed to prepare a few brand-new dishes, including lamb meatballs with a tahini sauce. Yes, I've made lamb meatballs Vermont, but these ones had roasted eggplant in them, and I'd never made tahini sauce before. It was a delicious meal!! I also worked out a recipe for homemade salmon cakes, which are gluten free, delicious and quite handy as leftovers for three or four days afterwards. Admittedly, I am using canned wild pacific salmon, so it's not local or organic, but I am bound and determined to eat lots of salmon. Last night I roasted a spaghetti squash and topped it with sausages from a local farm and a bit of spaghetti sauce, which meant the dish had some carbs, but nothing compared to the equivalent with a wheat pasta. Oh and on the weekend, because I needed cheering up and was running out of eggs, ergo could not continue with the 3-egg omelet every day, decided to make Almond Banana Pancakes - three simple ingredients, one divine breakfast (ingredients = 1TBSP butter, 2 mashed ripe bananas, and 1 egg...mixed together and then cooked in a pan with melted butter).

Discovery #3 - It's Easier to 'Go Local' when you're 'Going Primal' - Not only does the PBP encourage eating naturally raised/grown foods (e.g. grass-fed cow, organic vegetables, free-range eggs), but also emphasizes meats and eggs, which are much easier for me to source locally than wheat, oats or quinoa. Admittedly, getting local, organic vegetables and fruits is a bigger challenge here, but one that I'd be dealing with regardless of what kind of eating I was following. So I've been enthusiastically buying up all sorts of lovely meats at the farmer's market and have a quarter of a lamb landing in my freezer later this week. I hope there's still room left for the third of a cow that I've also got dibs! Oh, I'm getting giddy just thinking about it all - eating locally is sooo much more exciting than going to the grocery store and buying meat from who knows where.

There are other things that I've enjoyed about Primal, but I'll hold off until another post. For now, I'm just going to paste some photos of yummy dishes I've been enjoying as of late.

(Salmon Cakes with Big Salad, Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Free-range eggs and Nitrite Bacon, Lamb Meatballs with Tahini sauce)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Price of Food and the Cost of Food

'It costs too much' is, by far, the most common argument I hear with regards to why people are not inclined to purchase food that is sustainable - to their health, to their community and to the environment. I'm talking mostly about local and/or organic foods, as that is the little slice of the food world I currently find myself in, but the same claim is often laid upon conventional foods that are considered healthy - you know, the colourful, fresh ones that don't come in boxes with instructions on how to microwave contents in 2 minutes of less. So apparently, when it comes to food, as with many things it seems, cheaper is better. For a long time I just nodded my head when people used this line of defence - partly because I know people don't want to hear things that might challenge their thinking or choices, but mostly because, until recently, that was my validation for not buying local/organic. But the last year has one of great transformation in many areas of my life, including my diet and related food purchasing habits. Between growing my own food, working on a CSA farm, running a half marathon and taking the Locav-or-ganic Challenge while I was in Vermont, I realized I didn't want to be feeding my body cheap food anymore - it's simply not good for my body, nor for the environment, nor for that matter, for my palate, which has become quite fickle after enjoying local food for a few months (it's even shown a distaste for candy!!).

So, because I am a new convert to sustainable food and because I have to listen to people say 'it's too expensive' ALL the time, I am going to take this opportunity to defend the reputation of local and organic foods as 'costing too much' in comparison to industrially produced foods. First, however, I'm going to put forth the proposition that, perhaps, getting something 'cheap' or 'saving money' is not all it's cracked up to be. This quote, from an American president nonetheless, sums it up quite nicely I think.

'I do not prize the word
cheap. It is not a badge of honor. It is a symbol of despair. Cheap prices make for cheap goods; cheap goods make for cheap men; and cheap men make for a cheap country' - William McKinley

So here's the thing: there is a very distinct and important difference between the price of something and the cost of something. This is true of most consumer products available to us Westerners, from sneakers to digital cameras to fuel to clothes hangers - we pay a subsidized price at the local Wal-Mart, Future Shop or Shell station, for items that have been produced, assembled, extracted, etc. at a cost that we are never charged -these are called Hidden Costs, (or if you're an economist or accountant, you might refer to them as externalities). Whether that be a social cost, where child slavery and/or labour abuses run rampant in an effort to 'maximize efficiency', or an environmental cost, where toxic industrial wastes are dumped into rivers and non-renewable resources are depleted to such an extent that future generations will suffer, or any other of a myriad of injustices and inequalities that arise as an effect of a supposed 'free market' system. Well, I'm sorry to say, but there is nothing free about this type of economic system, except perhaps the short-term, almost-free prices that us end consumers pay at the cash register. Our 'cheap' is someone else's 'very expensive' toll to pay.

Ah, but to assume the downsides of this (not) free market are only experienced by far, far off nations, and therefore somehow not of consequence to us, would be very wrong. The costs are being borne by us all, as individuals, as communities, as societies. There are a few things, however, aside from our abdication of responsibility as citizens (this in and of itself warrants a blog post of its own), that make it rather easy for us to ignore the costs of our consumptive choices. I'm only going to cite one in this post, as I have a tendency to be long-winded and have been repeatedly chastised for the length of my posts by one particularly dedicated reader (*cough* TC *cough*).

So, in my opinion, the major problem with hidden costs: the 'Time until Incubation Problem' or the T.I.Pping point, if you will. What I'm referring to is the fact that many of our cheap purchases today will not immediately translate into costly tolls on the environment, societies, communities or individuals. One of the reasons we have such cheap food is because we've become exceptionally good at producing high yields of calorie-dense food on the same plot of land, year in and year out. This is a monumental achievement in 20th century agriculture, whereby technology and industrial practices were applied to the practice of farming with great success (if, by success, one measures only the output of food from a given acreage of land). So, through application of fertilizers and pesticides, increased use of mechanization and monoculture cropping, a cheap food system has emerged. One where most families can afford to buy their calories for the day, whether it be at McDonald's or the frozen section of the grocery store. Cheap food abounds. But herein lies the problem - a cost avoided today at the drive-through or check-out, through the establishment of a subsidized, fossil-fuel dependent food system, will be borne in the future.

For example, the costs of monoculturing, pesticide use and fertilizer application on the fertility of the planet's fertile soil will be borne by future farmers and eaters (that's YOU and/or your children), not to mention the rest of the ecosystem that makes up this planet. Then there's the costs to future generations of establishing a farming system dependent on a non-renewable resource - at some point, whole communities and nations of people are likely going to have to revert to a much less energy-intensive form of farming. Not only will they lack the knowledge to do this, they'll also discover that, without fuel to farm, it may be impossible to feed the current population with less energy-intensive farming methods and poor soil - so food insecurity is likely to rise significantly.

And even if one doesn't give an iota about the future societal and environmental costs of their cheap purchase today, there's a high likelihood, when it comes to eating this industrial food, that they themselves will pay a high price, in the form of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.
So wouldn't that be enough to convince people to change their lifestyle, including their diet, to reduce their chance of getting a disease? Wouldn't they rather pay a little bit more for food that is healthy, pesticide-free, free-range/pastured, fresh, and delicious, then end up having a chronic disease or a lower quality of life due to preventable health problems?

Apparently, to look at the increasing rates of obesity and diet-related disease over the past few decades, the answer is an emphatic 'NO'.

And, you know, I am certain there are many, many reasons that people aren't willing (or in some cases, unable) to make lifestyle changes and give good food a chance, but I think the main problem is that we view food in the lens of a 'price to pay'. When we go to the checkout at the grocery store and fork over money for our food, we see it as a loss. And since we see it as a cost that we have some ability to minimize, we tend to stock up on bargain items and go for the cheapest price. We tend to convince ourselves that we just CAN'T afford that local, organic food, somehow ignoring the fact that we somehow can afford to have two cars for a family of three, a flatscreen television with full cable access, a 10 day vacation to an all-inclusive resort in the South, or whatever it may be. And if we dared to consider the purchase of a car with that of food purchasing, most of us would argue that the car is an investment - that it's necessary in order to get to work and make an income or, in the case of a television and cable, that it's an investment in entertainment and relaxation that is needed at the end of a long workday. Do most people think of food this way - as an investment? I don't think so. But really, isn't food the ultimate long-term investment? I mean, really, on Maslow's hierarchy of needs for human survival it's kind of right up there with water and shelter right? So, wouldn't it be worth taking time to consider delicious, sustainably-produced food as an investment - one that gives an immediate return to you in quality of taste, and long-term returns to your health, not to mention the minimization of hidden environmental and social costs?

At the end of the day, many of us (and I suspect anyone reading this blog is a part of that 'us') have the disposable income available to make healthy, good food purchases that may APPEAR to cost more at the till, but that are, in fact, less expensive in the long run, then buying the cheap alternative food-like substances in the middle aisles and freezer section of the supermarket. It is a matter of coming to terms with the fact that 'price' and 'cost' are not synonomous, and that your food purchases are not a matter of what you can afford, but rather of what you've chosen to prioritize. I can only speak for myself in saying that this has been hard pill for me to swallow, acknowledging that my 'I'm a poor student' defense was really not a very good one, given that I drive a car, pay a cable bill and go to the movie theatre regularly. Well, now I eat delicious food and don't pay for cable, and it's been a fantastic trade-off.

I almost want to apologize for the preachy, ranty tone of this blog, but I'm going to resist. The choices each of us makes as a consumer have ramifications for all of us - today and into the future - so I think it's only fair that we be able to speak up and encourage more sustainable, healthy ways of living on this planet we all share. Time to stop nodding our heads.

*** It should be noted that while I imply in this blog post that I accept the argument that local/organic foods are, in fact, more expensive than their industrial counterparts (i.e. have a higher price tag), this is, in fact, not necessarily the case - it's not black and white, but many shades of grey - I just simplified it in this post for the sake of argument or excessive rambling.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to Eat? Maybe a Metre of Meat

It has come to my attention over the past few years that us North Americans have, at some point along the way, probably while our governments were building super highways and capitalists were plotting ways to turn the nourishment of Mother Earth into commodities and value-added 'products' and women were fighting for equal opportunities, lost one of the most fundamental and natural instincts shared by all living creatures (and plants if you want to stretch all the way to the sun). We have lost our 'instinctual knowledge' of what we should eat, how often we should eat and how much we should eat.

This should be a HUGE red flag for us as individuals and as a society.

Not instinctively knowing what to eat in a Westernized society that offers up a seemingly endless supply of options for the palate, leads to the obvious: we must choose what we will eat - every day, at every meal. And therein lies the problem. For, if we don't know what to eat, who are we to consult about making the right food choices?? Government Agencies? Doctors? Nutritionists? Dietitians? Grandmothers? Food companies? Farmers? The TV? Grocers? Athletes? Slim People? Biologists? Anthropologists? Journalists? Health Magazines? Suzanne Somers?

And so you see, the choices just continue. Now, in addition to making a decision about what to eat, you also have to decide who to consult about what to eat. This, for many, may seem to be an easy thing (ignoring the fact that we are all more susceptible to food marketing than we'd like to believe). Anyways, I suspect most people would trust the wisdom of nutritionists, doctors, the Canada Food Guide (or other government food pyramid) and maybe, just maybe, their grandmother. I, for one, have certainly sought out and followed the advice of two nutritionists in the past, at times when I was looking to lose some weight. I also accepted the Canada Food
Guide as a decent guideline of what to eat. I mean, really, they are the experts right?

****I'm going to pause here and note that I cannot guarantee the accuracy of what I am write from hereon in with respect to the particular details of a nutritional concept or what I've taken from the various sources of information I've been reading. Please forgive me if I say something that is not accurate - if I have misinterpreted something it serves only to reinforce how confusing this whole subject of nutrition is to the average eat such as myself**** (END OF PAUSE!)

But now, as I delve deeper and deeper into all things 'food' I find myself more confused than ever as to what I should and, perhaps more importantly, shouldn't be putting into my mouth. I suppose what has happened, in short, is that I've become much more skeptical of 'experts'...even the ones that seemingly have no hidden agenda, like Health Canada. It's not that I am skeptical of their intention to provide good nutrition advice, but rather I am skeptical of the basis upon which they've drawn their conclusions about what a diet should consist of. So you see, I'm not suggesting any mal intent whatsoever, but I am suggesting that, perhaps, we should not take it for granted that a reductionist scientific approach to nutrition is an appropriate one. Nor should we assume that just because we've had an agriculture for the past ten thousand years, that the genetic make-up of our bodies has caught up/evolved to properly digest things like grains, sugars and dairy, to speak nothing of the lab-produced 'food-like' products that are so commonplace in grocery stores now.

So anyways, yes, I've become a skeptic of my own well-entrenched beliefs about what to eat. Part of this growing skepticsm is because I've been actively searching for more information about 'what to eat' and have encountered some people along the way, including my holistic nutritionist and some thoughtful friends, who have turned some of these beliefs on their head. Part of it also stems from an observation that no matter what I eat, I still seem to struggle with my weight (unless I'm on PEI where, oddly, pounds just seem to melt off), and part of it comes from an observation that we're getting bigger and bigger as time marches on. But mostly, I suppose, my skepticism arises from the realization that the industrialized agricultural system that we have today, the one which is often heralded as being a triumph of science (e.g. the Green Revolution), is completely backwards - harmful to everything from the soil, to the waters, to the animals that are a part of this industrialized system, to the people - the eaters at the end of the line. And so I conclude that if a scientific approach to agriculture can lead us so astray, surely it is possible that we've been lead astray in our approach to nutrition?

So, ultimately, I find myself torn between two almost polar approaches to eating: vegetarianism and the Primal Diet . Should I listen to the wisdom of Frances Moore Lappe, who argues in favor of a vegetarian diet in the quintessential book 'Diet for a Small Planet'? or should I follow the wisdom proffered up by Weston A. Price and followers of the Primal Diet which, from what I can surmise, argues that we are genetically still built like hunter-gatherers and therefore cannot optimize digestion of grains and other products of agriculture?

Truth be told, I've not read Lappe's book thoroughly - I skimmed it at best. It's not that I'm not interested in the possibility of going vegetarian. In fact for the past couple of years I've really been less interested in eating meat - especially red meat. It's easier to prepare tofu for one person, it's often cheaper to be vegetarian and I don't have to be concerned with eating factory farmed meat. Plus, it's often cited as being more 'environmentally' friendly than an amonivore or carnivore diet (whether this is an accurate claim is another point that I'm confused about) But then this past fall, while I was following my Locav-or-ganic Challenge in Vermont, I found myself eating large amounts of meat - as that is what is grown/raised in the state - meat and a LOT of cheese! Vegetables as well, of course, but grains are hard to come by in Vermont, so I treated myself to lamb and artisan cheese.

Having been introduced to the Primal Blueprint (I've been calling it a diet, but it's really more an all encompassing lifestyle addressing things such as sleeping patterns, exercise, etc.) via various sources over the past few months, I've come to think it might just make sense. The Primal Blueprint and this dry but very information video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, have both partially convinced me that, in fact, it's not animal fats that we should be concerned about having in our diet, but rather the sugars and starches that wreak havoc with our insulin levels (and, in turn, our blood sugar), because when that happens our body goes into fat-storing mode. Sooo, basically, these kinds of carbs are going to end up being fat on the body. And as for eating meat, well it's a pretty well known fact that meat and fats increases satiety - so you don't eat as much and feel full for longer. They also don't affect your insulin levels.

Some people will, by this point, note that the Primal Blueprint sounds an awful lot like the Atkins diet and the Protein Power Plan. In some respects they'd be right, but for me the real attraction to the Primal Blueprint is that it doesn't just say 'eat meat, avoid grains' and you'll be fine. In fact, it says, eat lots of vegetables (not the starchy ones though), eat meat, eat fruit, eat berries and seeds. More importantly, it focuses on HOW the food you eat is produced. Just as cavemen didn't eat factory-farmed animals and fruits laden with pesticides, nor should us modern humans. So 'going primal' requires a shift to eating meats that have been pasture raised, free-range eggs, raw dairy (if you're going to eat dairy at all), and organically produced, fresh vegetables and fruits. All of this is clearly appealing to me, given that I've decided to continue my Locav-or-ganic challenge while I write my thesis here on the outskirts of Kingston, Ontario. It fits in nicely with what I'm attempting!

Is Primal another 'fad' diet? Some might argue so. And they may very well be right. I'm certainly not 100% sold on Primal. What I will note is that the mainstream nutritional advice is only about fifty or sixty years old (nutrition is a fairly new branch of science), so if you want to take a long-term view of human history, the Canada Food Guide is a fad diet too!! Not that I want to trample of the Canada Food Guide whatsoever- it is well-intentioned and may very well be the 'right' way to eat...all I'm saying is that we shouldn't assume that one way of eating is a fad and another, by default, is not a fad and therefore 'right' just because it's been around for a few years. I mean, really, wasn't there this whole idea the Earth was flat for quite a while..I bet when Galileo first threw out the idea it might be round, most people thought it preposterous..and labelled it the Italian equivalent of a 'fad' idea. So, maybe in general we'd do well to caution against carte blanche acceptance of anything. Granted, we don't all have the time to go about questioning every single thing we're told - that's where discretion and prioritization come in to play. I place priority on my health and am not completely sold on the mainstream nutrition advice (yet).

And so, over the next week or so, I shall ease myself into the Primal way of eating. I'm not saying I'm going to stick with it for life. I know some people will argue that it's just not a sustainable, sensible way of eating, given what is on offer out there in restaurants and grocery stores. And they may well be right, but I'm already an abstainer from bread and pasta, and it's hard to get local quinoa! So the real troublemakers in my diet are sugar (there's still chocolate in my pantry) and oatmeal, which I eat every morning and may well continue to eat, given that it's got a low GI and is gluten-free. Others will argue that the long-term effects of eating large quantities of meat on the heart, liver, colon, etc. are worth careful consideration and, again, I might agree (in fact, I've definitely argued this in the past with Atkins followers who weren't eating lettuce but were chowing down on sausages). But, in the end, I've decided to give it a test run. I figure, in the short-term, it really can't do that much harm and, well, what if the mainstream science is wrong and Primal is the way to go?

I finish this blog exactly where I began: confused about what I should eat. And that frustrates me to no end. Each of us should innately know what is right for our bodies, but it seems as if this abundance of food and choice, the food marketing and promises of 'convenience', the supplements, the celebrity diets, etc. have all lead us down a path of 'forgetting' - forgetting what to eat and forgetting how much to eat. And, above all, forgetting that there was a time when food was supposed to bring you health. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could remember that which we've forgotten?

*As to the name of this post, it's a tribute to the Amadeus Restaurant in Kingston, which serves up a metre of meat (sadly, I doubt it's local) as pictured below (I went last night with some meat eating friends). May the Meat be with you!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A New Year, A Clean Plate

This year I will turn 30. OK, I just had to put that out there. Apparently it's a big deal, the big Three-Oh-No-I'm-Not-Young -Anymore-And-I-Have-Wrinkles-And-People-Aren't-Impressed-By-My-Youthful-Ambition-And-I-Have-Gray-Hairs. Well, you get the idea. I mean, really, when's the last time you met someone who was excited or even mildly looking forward to their thirtieth birthday?

And yet, despite the societal pressures to acquiesce the idealistic adventuress of my twenties, to channel Bridget Jones and hope to heck that Colin Firth shows up to save my single-thirty-something-heart from a destitute road that leads to Cougartown, I simply can't find it in me to get worked up about this new decade that I'll be entering. Although, as a sidenote, if I were being choosy, I might take Hugh Grant over Colin. Oh who am I kidding - any man with an English or Irish accent would do. The fact is, with or without the charming Englishman, I'm actually quite fancying the idea of entering a new decade - on the calendar and in my own life. I have a feeling it's going to be a grand one.

Right, well it seems I sat down to blog with no particular subject in mind, just a jumble of thoughts tumbling around in my head. It's been that kind of a year so far -jumbled, dishevelled, discombobulated. In fact, come to think of it, the last eight months of my life have been pretty unpredictable and unroutine. I have not stayed in one place for more than five or six weeks since I left Kingston last May to visit Canada's West Coast. Since then I've been hopping around the continent, living out of a suitcase for the most part and taking in as many new experiences as possible. It's been a great ride, but coming on the end, as the month of December loomed ahead, with its promises of endless social gatherings and even fewer opportunities to get into a comfortable eating, exercising and sleeping routine, I found myself yearning for some place I could call 'home'. A place where I could slip into a comfortable routine, where I could be productive (after all, I am supposed to be thesis writing now) and also relax. And now, finally, I am in that place. Physically and mentally. I am housesitting until the end of April - a gorgeous house that backs right onto Lake Ontario. The view is stunning. I have the company of two cats and a CD player that has, to date, been churning out a lot of Bob Dylan.

So...that is where I am right now. Settled (relatively, given my track record), fearless in the face of the impending 3-0, possibly because it's still 8 months away ( I will come back to this post when August rolls around if the Dread starts to kick in), and gearing up to churn out a stellar thesis concerning local food systems. With respect to the thesis, from moment to moment I move from being excited about exploring the data and confident I can write something valuable and relevant, to being overwhelmed and certain that any day now the folks at QUeen's will realise I'm an impostor, that I'm not cut out to be a graduate student. Sigh. And I remain highly skilled at procrastinating - yesterday I spent 2.5 hours trying to get the sound on the TV to work (it's plugged into the PC) with no luck (umm...the sound cable is missing...) and today I managed to waste precious hours going into town and talking to every single person I ran into.

OK, now I have the urge to resort to bullet points. This is a clear indication that I am not in my best blogging mindset right now, so please bear with me:

Notable Food Events of Recent Past

  • I was fortunate enough to be invited to two Christmas dinners this year - one on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day. I suppose technically I didn't recieve an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner since it was at Mom & Jim's place, where I was free-boarding for the holidays. It was, as usual, a delicious affair with excellent company. I will never again be the youngest person at Christmas Eve dinner now though - little niece Adahra has taken over that title! Things seemed especially calm in the kitchen this year - a point I raised with Mom - she nodded her head and said 'that's because I planned in advance this year'. Which, sadly, meant she didn't need my turkey carving skills. So I sat in the livingroom and got grilled by Jane about my romantic life - some things never change! On Christmas Day I headed over to Sahra & Rowan's house in North Granville. They had invited all immediate family members over for dinner and I was there to assist with baby-holding and making the brussel sprouts edible. I faired well on both accounts I think, but the huge kudos have to go to my sister who managed to pull off a delicious ham dinner with all the trimmings without any hiccups while also being on 'boob-duty' with Adahra. Mighty impressive.
  • Somehow I found myself in Vermont on New Year's Eve - a slightly abridged version of my original plan, which was to spend NYE on PEI and then head Kingston with a quick stopover in Vermont. Due to winterstorm predictions, I hightailed it out of PEI earlier then expected, which resulted in a lengthier stayover in Vermont. YAY! I ended up at a NYE gathering with people who clearly enjoyed eating. A bag of oysters was retrieved and one guy took on shucking duuties (after dutifully taking his wife's advice to wear an apron since he had a new sweater on!). I ended up eating my first raw oyster ever. Odd, given that I'm from PEI, which is home to the famed Malpeque oyster, but really, that's not enough reason to partake in eating slippery, slimy raw food. Anyways, the oytser was 'OK' but I'd rather leave them to the people who appear to have a 'special' connection with the oyster-eating experience. While in Vermont I also had a chance to revisit Claire's, Hardwick's locally-focussed restaurant. It was, yet again, delicious and we all left stuffed and with take-away boxes. By Sunday evening, Burlington, Vermont had seen 32 inches of snow fall in the past 48 hours. It was a light, fluffy snow, perfect for walking to Joe & Maura's abode for some lovely company, conversation and, of course, food and wine. Again, I was taken by the hospitality of this lovely couple and ecstatic (not an exagerration) to find that Maura had prepared a tourtiere (meat pie) for dinner, not to mention a tasty clam chowder. It's a good thing I don't 'do' New Year's resolutions or I'd have already broken any food-related ones I might have made. Goals, on the other hand, are much more manageable. They give you room to breathe and eat, while still providing direction and a timeline (note that I am very aware of how blatant this segue is....)

Some of My Food-Related Goals (bah to Resolutions) For 2010

  • Be a Locav-or-ganic as often as possible.
  • Eat healthily and in reasonable proportions
  • Minimize intake of all refined sugars (e.g. HFCS, fructose, sucrose, etc.)
  • Learn how to can & preserve food
  • Get down and dirty - work on a farm or grow a garden.
  • Blog regularly on All Shanadian
  • Find ways to become actively involved in promotion/education/development of local food movement

Upcoming Food Posts*

  • Hardwick - I've yet to blog specifically about the places and people of Hardwick for reasons that I hope will become clearer once I finally do post a blog about this very special community.
  • The Politics of Food - Oh dear. I've been avoiding this topic like the plague. I don't want to acknowledge just how political the subject of food can be. There are a lot of angles from which one can consider the politics of food. It will be interesting to see where I go with it.
  • The Cost of Going Local - Must give credit to Tarek for this suggestion. We'll look at how much it costs to eat locally for one week, versus how much it costs to eat conventionally. Of course I won't be able to resist at looking at the hidden costs of eating conventionally....lalalal
  • How Did I Get Here? Seriously. I need to figure out how it is that I find myself interviewing farmers and getting giddy at the thought of drinking raw milk.... this definitely wasn't something I'd envisioned myself being passionate about and yet, here I am, totally enamoured with food and agriculture and the idea of 'local'
*pls don't hold me to these, some are in draft form but others are just thoughts in my head at the moment and may never come to fruition

And that is all I have in me tonight. Bon appetit!