Posts tagged ‘Slow food’

Who doesn’t like free food?

I’ve had these pics on my computer for a while now, but I’ve been trying to document my adventures in urban foraging.  Almost a month ago, I spent the afternoon finding wonderful free food, like elderflowers, wild garlic scapes, wild grape leaves, mullberries, wild cherries, and black raspberries.

IMG_0058

I couldn’t help but brag about this when I visited my friend Alex in Toronto, so we went on an urban foraging walk.  And so I present to you:

Things you don’t expect to find in a park in Toronto.

Namely, food. (more…)

August 3, 2009 at 12:44 am 3 comments

Clear Gold

Michigan is proposing build a pipeline to drain 322 million litres of water from Lake Huron. Ontario hasn’t agreed to it yet, because the proposal doesn’t contain assurance that the water “will stay in the Great Lakes basin and be used efficiently.” Since moving water from the Great Lakes sounds a lot like the plan for solving Lake Mead’s problems without addressing the issues of wasted water.

The people murmuring about Water Wars are starting to look less and less crazy as time goes on.

Sarnia solved the issue of water conservation. They raised water prices and imposed watering restrictions, and a miraculous thing happened. “The water is so bloody expensive, that’s why people are not using it,” according to Coun. Anne Marie Gillis. They cut their water down to 81,000 cubic metres/day from the 181,000 it’s licensed to sell. So, to celebrate, they are begging people to waste more water, because the loss of revenue is putting them in the red.

Water is more valuable a resource than coal, oil, or gold. Three days without it and you die. Period. And as we start to watch folks around the world try to deal with their water shortages, it’s probably a good idea to look at our relationship to it. The average American uses 4500 litres of water per day (and I can’t imagine the Canadian numbers are much different—but if you know your food consumption in kilograms, you can calculate your water footprint). It’s not so surprising when you realize that it takes 200 litres to make 1kg of plastic, or that it requires 2-4 barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil from the tar sands. And then, of course, there’s food.

(more…)

August 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

from the ARE YOU #$@% KIDDING ME department…

We all know that food safety issues are a problem.  Although the cardinal law of business is “don’t kill your customers,” businesses like Peanut Corp. of America and Earthbound Farms are negligent or evil enough to continually attempt just that.

“If we want to have bagged spinach and lettuce available 24/7, 12 months of the year, it comes with costs.” -Bill Marler (the lawyer who represented plaintiffs in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak)

In an article that could be out of a spoof magazine, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines how, rather than holding Big Ag and food processing companies accountable for food safety, giant food retailers are imposing new restrictions on farmers.  Okay, that’s fair enough, I guess… except when their regulations are based on pure paranoia, at the expense of science.

In perhaps an unconscious nod to the fact that it’s managing the perception of safety rather than safe practices, it’s called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”  Here are some of their great ideas:

  • An Amish farmer that uses a horse to plow his fields can’t sell his greens to retailers, who would much rather purchase bagged lettuce trucked from hundreds of miles away (check the “product of” signs on those packages)
  • neither can a farmer who has children under 5, because, of course, diapers are our biggest threat to food safety.
  • “I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop”  “On one field where a deer… didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.
  • ponds are poisoned and bulldozed, poison traps are placed on the edges of fields and between rows, and companion plantings on the edges of fields are razed for “bare-dirt buffers”.

in the name of sterility.  Because everyone knows that the ecosystem is out to harm us, and the best way to interact with a system that has sustained life since the beginning of time is to beat the living shit out of it.  Real live UC Davis scientists understand that  “vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water”, but the perception of safety is more important than actual safety.  News flash:  we’ve been growing food in the dirt for a very very long time.  Did you ever notice that food safety issues seem to be happening more now than they ever did?

“In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market,” Marler said.

Farming isn’t the problem.  Sustainable farming definately isn’t the problem.  Gigantic companies that can afford the occasional customer drop off here, in the name of saving some cash there, are.  (Which do YOU think is more dangerous: a container of poison, or a toad?) Instead of buying your food from companies that are trying to kill you, or that think that scorched-earth practices are a good idea, visit the farmer’s market.  The businesses there are small enough to know the value of a healthy customer.  Or better yet,  grow your own.  The dirt won’t hurt you, I promise.

(just remember to wash your food!)

July 14, 2009 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

Depression-Era food

The Ethicurian points to a New York Times review of a book called: “The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal”. The book is a “higgledy-piggledy” collection of Depression-era food writing, and a

vivid example of how much America, and its food, has changed in the last seven decades. But also how much it hasn’t: note the denunciation of “American standardization,” a charge that predated fast-food chains, the Interstate highway system, frozen dinners, the rise of artificial flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, widespread factory farming, genetically modified foodstuffs and all the other developments that have flattened the landscape of American eating, on the road and off. If there are surprises to be found in reading these dispatches from bygone dinner tables, the greatest may be the elegiac tone that suffuses some of the entries. It’s always twilight, it seems, when it comes to American food.

Sounds like an good time. (Read the review)

While we’re on the subject of depression-era food, have you seen Great Depression Cooking with Clara? Not only does she make simple, cheap meals, but she’s incredibly charming.

Her survival guide to help you through hard times:

1. family
2. have a garden
3. use and re-use
4. make your own meals
5. eat healthy (“we were all healthy during the depression”)

June 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

Hot Season Lettuce

R asked me the other day whether it was too late to plant lettuce. The short answer is yes, it will bolt in the heat. Bolted lettuce is terrible. The long answer is, you can get around that. Here’s some tricks:

1. Give it lots of water. Lettuce is mostly comprised of water, so water frequently to keep it in shape. By frequently I mean daily, at least.

2. Give it nitrogen. Lettuce likes fertilizer. You can apply a balanced composted manure, or for a bigger nitrogen kick, apply fish meal or blood meal. Interplanting lettuce with soybeans is good too, so you can enjoy edamame and nitrogen fixing from a plant that will be roughly the same height. Another surprising nitrogen source is hair. Finely chopping up the (un-dyed/permed) hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. On another note, your soil loves toenails, but the wonders of human soil additives are best saved for another post.

3. Eat your sprouts. Make sure you are thinning your lettuce crop as it grows, so that the plants have room to grow. Lettuce can’t bolt before it’s mature, so eat salad every day. With leaf lettuce, you can also harvest single leaves from the plant, so that it continues to produce new leaves without having a chance to reach its bolting stage. This reminds me of another tip:

4. Plant leaf lettuces, not head lettuces. Head lettuces are harder to grow, even in the appropriate season. Plus, there are more fun varieties. Check the seed packets for varieties that say they’re resistant to heat or bolting.

4. Shade it. Keep it out of full sun, because lettuce isn’t a fan of summer weather. If you’ve ever moved a plant into natural sunlight without adjusting it first, you’ve probably seen that plants can get a sunburn (whitening of the leaves). Lettuce is the Irishman of the veggie patch: it sunburns easily, and then it’s cranky. Either plant it in part shade, install a shade cloth, or plant tall things to shade it.

5. Use containers. A soil-less potting mix retains water better than earth, so container planting can be a good solution if you’re more neglectful. Just remember to plant it in clay, not plastic, so that the roots stay cool.

May 29, 2009 at 10:56 am 3 comments

Handmade Pasta

I don’t have a pasta press, and it’s much lower on my wish list than a pressure canner, but how wonderful it would be to make herb pasta with fresh herbs from the garden! Or spinach/sun dried tomatoes/peppers.

This article on Dave’s Garden makes it sound so easy, I will try to make a batch by hand this summer. The author said his hand crank pasta press only cost him $25, and hand made pasta is cheap to make, while giving you control of the ingredients (all you REALLY need is flour and water). Also, chocolate pasta?

May 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm 1 comment


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