Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is Life Really Like a Box of Chocolates?

"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get". At least that's what Forrest Gump said. I disagree. Most boxes of chocolate come with a paper insert that tells you what to expect from each and every chocolate. And even if a box of chocolates didn't come with such a guide you could just take a little nibble and if you didn't what was inside you could feed it to someone else or sneak it back into the box (if you were sharing). Practical considerations regarding boxes of chocolate aside, I also think he's being a bit dramatic with his use of the word 'never'. Surely there are some things you know you're going to get in life. For example, you are going to get older.

Time has been looming large in my life as of late. In less than six months I will enter a new decade and cease to be considered a 'Youth' by governments around the world, thus eclipsing opportunities such as workin abroad in New Zealand, where I might have honed my sheep herding skills and relegating me to a Bridget Jones existence (not that I'd mind ending up with Colin Firth, although I'd probably have chosen Hugh Grant to be honest). And in seven months time I will have hit the 2 year mark of my Masters program and, with any luck, have successfully defended my thesis. Right now, however, it feels like there's no end in sight. Every day I sit down and spend hours reading and writing, splicing these activities with minor panic attacks about how little time there is between now and June, when I aiming to have completed the major portion of my thesis. Sometimes I simultaneously want to stop time in its tracks and skip forward to early autumn. I realise this is an outrageous desire, both because it's impossible and because it flies in the face of the gift of life - the journey that each of us is taking every moment of every day. Still, there are days when I just want this thesis to be done and days when I don't want to look in the mirror and discover a new wrinkle. That's just the plain, honest truth. ON balance there are still more days when I look forward to diving into the writing because I'm still as passionate, if not more, about my thesis topic, local food, as I was a year ago. And, having spoken to many grad students, I reckon I may be in the minority in that respect. I am grateful that I pursued a topic that was of great interest to me, otherwise I cannot fathom how I'd have the motivation to trawl through the literature, transcribe 30 hours of interviews, or write a hundred page paper. And I know I can still learn how to herd sheep in New Zealand, all I need to do is change my strategy from 'get working holidaymaker visa' to 'find cute, single shepherd man who needs help on sheep farm in New Zealand'.

This is an odd post. I just took a look at my dashboard and realized I have at least four other blog posts that I've started at different times over the past couple of months but never finished. That seems to be a theme in my life right now - starting things, but not finishing them. On that note, after 5 weeks of dedication to the P90X exercise series, I took a hiatus from the workouts. I'm not really sure I can put my finger on why exactly, but I suppose it had something to do with a realization that I use exercise as a means of destressing and letting things tumble around in my head and as much as I loved Tony's workouts, I wasn't getting the space to think while hopping around the livingroom like I do when I'm out running or dancing in the living room, so I've reverted to my regular exercise routine and am mixing in some P90X when I feel like it. I also gave up on the Primal blueprint. I am more disappointed in myself for this 'non-finish', because I basically caved to sugar one day as a response to a rather emotional event that had occurred and then just kind of never got completely back on the Primal wago. That being said, I'm still eating Primally quite a lot, but my focus right now is really to develop a more neutral relationship with sugar ans I believe most of my other eating habits are very healthy. I'm aiming to eliminate refined sugar from my diet, that's my main goal right now. I am following a six step guide from the Weston Price Foundation website (sorry, too tired to link this now, maybe later), on cutting sugar out of my diet completely. I've already got the first 2 steps under my belt (eat 3 good meals a day, eliminate sugar drinks), so now am at step 3 - eliminate refined sugars, only consume natural sugars (maple syrup and honey).

I'm rambling because I'm tired and spent all day writing in academic speak and the last two hours watching Karate Kid II, which is not nearly as good as the original. I was going to cut and paste some of the half-written blog posts I've drafted but not published. I don't know if I'll ever get around to finishing any of them. Below is one post I probably would never return to, so here it is in its non-entirety:

And the Gold Plate Goes To...

I was thinking, if there were an Olympics for food, what sort of competitions would ensue and who would win? Would the athletes be human, (other) animal, vegetable or funghi? Would death by sauteeing or roasting be an inevitable part of every gold medal game? Would alcohol be allowed to participate?

Well, not that anyone's asking, but here's what I'd like to see at an All-Seasons Food Olympics:

Freestyle Aerials
Pizza dough aerials by the best 'tossers' in the business. Techinical scores for height, spins, flips and, of course, one-finger catches.
Favorite to win: Italy, obviously

If at first you don't succeed, fry, fry again. That's the advice that every competitor in this sport has surely heard at some point in their lives. Here they'll put their frying skills to the test, offering up delicacies to the palette such as fried toast (UK), fried chicken skins (US), fried eggs (Spain, obviously), and fried Canadian bacon (Canada).
Favorite to win: Scotland, with the highly unique and unforgettable Fried Mars Bar

And that's all she wrote.

Friday, February 12, 2010

56 Lbs of Meat & a Food Revolution

So I've been kind of busy as of late, now that I'm well into my second year of my masters program, I've kicked it up a few gears with regards to my work ethic. As a result, I've put a lot of other things on the back burner (pun intended!). Exhibit A: Posting to All Shanadian. Well, in any case, I thought I'd make an attempt at a short post, while I wait for my banana bread to finish baking. It's late, late Friday night and I'm hosting a Blunch here tomorrow - I figured I need a break from the isolation of living in the country and thesis related work. And, yes, I realise banana bread is not Primal. I also realise that attempting to host any sort of food gathering without carbohydrates would require more energy than I have to expend at the moment.

Speaking of Primal, however, it appears that I will be going full throttle on it over the next while as I have 1/4 of a lamb and a bit more than 1/3 of a grass-fed cow in my freezer that need to be eaten, preferably by May, when my freezer space disappears and I move back to shared townhouse, with shared fridge freezer. I managed to source both of these animals via the contacts I've made over the past year here in Kingston's local food scene. The lamb is fron Frank, who I met at a Local Farmer, Local Chef meet and greet in December. We arranged to meet at the Sleepless Goat - a vegetarian friendly co-operatively run cafe in downtown Kingston, and he arrived with two cloth grocery bags full of packaged lamb meat - shanks, legs, ground, stewing, etc. Then he sat down with me and we had a great 20 minute chat about everything food and farming related. And this is precisely why I am becoming even more passionate about local food everyday - it's becoming more and more evident that the real treasures of getting your food locally aren't just at the dinner table, where the food is fresh and far superior taste-wise, but also in the connections you make in your community with other people who care about food, the environment, social justice, etc.

And then today, my friend Crystal picked up a whole cow (after it had been butchered) from Kathy, who runs the CSA I worked on last summer, on Wolfe Island. Her neighbor had raised some grass-fed beef and Kathy took it upon herself to act as the middle woman between the farmer and Crystal & I. Unlike most middle-persons, however, I am 100% sure Kathy did not make any sort of profit for her marketing and delivery services. She met Crystal at the Kingston ferry terminal and this afternoon Crystal came over to my house for the drop off. It was quite the sight, her trunk full of packages of meat wrapped in red paper, the cuts written in black marker on the paper. I grabbed my food scale and body scale and we spent a good half hour out in the dwindling daylight hours trying to divide the beef up evenly - one quarter for Crystal's friend, the remainder split evenly between she & I. It kind of felt a bit like we were doing a drug deal! At one point a neighbour walked by with his dog ..the dog seemed very, very curious about what our packages might contain! Right, so now my freezer is chalk full of local meat, with a piddly amount of room left for my blueberries brought back from PEI, a tourtiere pie I bought at the farmer's market, and some local ground pork and sausages. I have to say, eating local in Kingston is, without a doubt, a much easier endeavour for a carnivorous person than a vegetarian. I reckon, despite my newfound love affair with meat, that I will have to host many dinner parties to get through all the meat I've taken on!

I don't have any television access out here. There's a TV and DVD player, but I disconnected the cable completely. For the most part, I don't have time to watch TV, but every once in awhile I just need to sit back and relax. I discovered the boxed set of Degrassi Junior High DVDs recently in the house and have been rather hooked on those. Over the past few days, however, I've discovered that the Food Network offers full episodes of some of its shows on the Internet. I decided I needed to watch Jamie Oliver's Food Ministry, even though I balk at the use of government terminology in the title. I'm glad I got over that, because the show is fantastic. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, Jamie's School Lunches was also pretty phenomenal. But, oh, what an inspiring person he is! He's only 5 years older than me. He's spent a good chunk of hte last seven years working with disadvantaged youth, giving them the opportunity to become chefs, with schoolchildren, educating them about food and revamping their school lunches, and then, with the Ministry of Food, he spent six months working to get an entire English town to start cooking and 'Pass it On' to their friends, neighbours, coworkers, etc. Earlier this week, Jamie Oliver gave his TED 2010 Wish Speech. Watch it, then do something to help his wish come true, because his wish is a wish we should all embrace.

And that, at 12.46 am is about all I can write at the moment - not especially amazing stuff, I'll try harder next time. It's been a long , long day. On an unrelated note I am out of baking powder - hopefully someone will come through with bringing some to me tomorrow or there'll be no pancakes for brunch and that'd be a shame.