Friday, August 6, 2010

Pity party.

hinge alert ahead: you've been forewarned.

See the woman.
See the woman with big hair.
See the woman with big hair sulking at her desk.
See the woman with big hair sulking at her desk and having a complete self-pity party because she can't remember what cinnamon tastes like.

BLOODY HELL this is hard.

It really hit me this week, and I don't mean in an epiphanic way, but rather in a manner more befitting the fairly crunchy experience of having a 2x4 smack into my cranium.

I'd mentioned in previous posts how much I've been missing tea, and it's gotten to the point where I find myself daydreaming about it. Is that pathetic? I find myself wandering through the spice aisles at stores, fondling cloves and star anise, and stroking vanilla beans in a manner that could almost be construed as inappropriate. Same goes for coffee, and I've never been much of a fan of that particular beverage.
Nathaniel caught me with my face half-buried in a can of coffee grounds, inhaling deeply in an attempt to fend of the gnawing cravings that are tearing through me, though I'll not go into further detail about that particular moment of depravity in an attempt to leave some small vestige of my dignity intact.

This is unbelievable.

Strangely enough, I'm not craving avocados as much as I thought I would... I am, however, craving lemons, chick peas, pepper, cinnamon (as mentioned), OLIVES, and pickled herring so strongly that it almost feels like I will wither and die without them.

(In regard to the herring, I'm more of a pescetarian than full fledged veggievore, and we Northern Euro folks have a bit of a penchant for pickled and smoked fish products. Be happy I'm not delving into the subtle wonders of Kalles Kaviar.)

We have 46 days and just a little over 8 hours left in this challenge, and I'm starting to wonder if I have the tenacity to get through it without having a complete breakdown. Should this really be such a trial? I mean, this is just a question of food preferences and personal likes/dislikes, right? We're eating AMAZING food, learning to forage, being super creative with our cooking, supporting local farmers, and certainly not going "without"... are we just so accustomed to the plethora of exotic ingredients that we've been fortunate enough to have that being without them actually makes us go through serious withdrawal?

All I know is that right now, right this very moment, far from being in a position where I am wholeheartedly lauding the merits and marvels of locavore life, I am going over menu options for September 21st. Samosas laden with cumin? Padh thai? Latvian sprats on toast? I haven't decided yet, but if I'm in the same state of mind then as I am now, I might just spend the day rolling around in the emptied contents of my spice cabinet, thanking whatever gods are out there for trade routes, and drinking a London Fog the size of my bathtub.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Zucchinis and peaches, oh my!

ell, well. It -has- been a while since we updated, hasn't it? Many apologies: we've both been a trifle swamped with work and whatnot, and haven't had much time to dedicate to blog writing. Nathaniel will be posting as soon as he's able to, and in the meantime I get to dominate the blogosphere with my flowery prose and pretty pictures. *grin*

It's been a little over a month since we've been on this locavore challenge, and while I was correct in assuming that things haven't gotten any easier per se, there have been some advances. For example, I no longer burst into tears when someone asks if I'd like a cup of tea... I just get a bit misty-eyed and quickly change the subject.

We've both also learned to be very creative in terms of our seasonings when cooking and baking. One thing I can certainly say is that there is a local company that has completely saved my sanity during this challenge: The Ewenity Dairy Cooperative. Located just outside Guelph, they create sheep milk products (including cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream), and not only are they some of the nicest people I have ever met, their products are gorgeous. Being vegetarians, it's been rather difficult to ensure that we're getting enough protein, so the ready availability of these amazing dairy treasures has been wonderful.

Also wonderful is the fact that this is the time of the season when most fruits and vegetables are at their peak of "goodness". Farmers' markets are starting to be inundated with peaches, pears, apples, currants and GROUND CHERRIES (personal favourites of mine,
can you tell?) as well as various squashes and root veggies. I'm focusing on two in particular for this blog entry: the zucchini, and the peach.

Most people cringe when they think about zucchinis (aka "courgettes"), generally because they haven't had very good experiences with them. To be honest, my own exposure to this delightful vegetable was limited to the zucchini bread we'd receive from a friend of the family every summer when her garden was overrun, and though it was delicious in its own right, it really didn't do much to make me want to eat more of it.
Fortunately, I have a predilection for French cuisine, and one dish from the Provence region uses zucchini in a spectacularly gorgeous way: paired with eggplant, tomatoes, and herbs, zucchini is one of the primary ingredients in ratatouille.
When I make ratatouille, I don't follow a particular recipe. I use what I have in the house (in varying quantities), and just sort of throw it all together. I don't measure anything, so the "recipe" I'm about to share is more of a rough guideline -- should you choose to make your own version, you could try to find a classic one online, but I'm a strong proponent for making up your own creations on the fly.

In today's version, we have:

1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow zucchini, chopped
1 large onion, diced
a few leaves of basil, shredded

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped

local herb mixture similar to Herbes de Provence
Niagara balsamic vinegar

canola oil
maple syrup
chipotle pepper puree (we brought back a can of chipotle peppers when we came back from California, and are using it very sparingly in various dishes. Will explain the use later).

Pour a fair bit of oil into a large pot and set it to medium heat. O
nce it warms, add the onions and toss until they begin to soften. Add the zucchini, eggplant, salt, and herbs, and toss around for about 5 min. Then add the tomatoes, and continue to cook on med-low heat until the tomatoes give up their juices. At this point, add a touch of balsamic vinegar, a tiny bit of maple syrup to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar, and if you're not on the 100 mile challenge, a fair bit of cracked pepper. Since I like spice, I used a little bit of the liquid that the chipotles created in their can to add a depth and richness of flavour to the dish, as well as a bit of a spicy "kick".

This is all left to simmer until the vegetables are so soft that your great grandmother could slurp them through her dentures. In the autumn, I serve the dish piping hot with a side of warm crusty bread and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, in summertime, this will be served cold.
I chill it in the fridge for 4-5 hours, serve with thinly sliced toast triangles, and a glass of Pinot Gris.

...and what of the peaches? you must be asking by now. WELL THEN.

The half-bushel of peaches I bought at the Dufferin Grove farmer's market has been put to very good use: Not only have I been eating them raw, but I baked a pie with them too!!

Baking on the 100 mile journey is a HUGE challenge, since we can't use most of the ingredients we're accustomed to having on hand. Sugar? Baking powder? Shortening
? Nope. Sooo... we make do with what we can, being creative on levels I'd have never imagined. With this recipe as well, these are just rough estimates as I rarely measure out anything.

2 1/4 cups flour (I used local spelt flour)
pinch of salt
maybe 1/3 cup butter?
ice water

Add a pinch of salt to the flour and add the butter bit by bit
until the flour comes together into pea-sized blobs as you mix it with a pair of forks. Then add ice water a small spoonful at a time until the dough all sticks together, then wrap it up in plastic and stick it in the fridge for an hour. Do NOT work the dough with your hands!! The only way you get that flaky pastry crust is if you let the butter stay cold in the dough throughout the process.

Take 2/3 of the dough and roll it out between 2 pieces of waxed or parchment paper, and lay this into a buttered pie pan. Smooth it down to form the lower crust, and bake for 10 min. Remove from the oven and set aside


7 or 8 peaches: pitted, and sliced thinly
2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/4 tsp of grated fresh ginger
corn starch

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Put the sliced peaches in a bowl and let sit so that their juices flow out and get all soupy. Add the grated ginger, and a couple of tablespoons of corn starch to thicken the mixture. Stir well, and let sit for 5 min or so.

Fill the pre-baked lower crust with the peach filling.
Take the remaining dough and roll it out as previously, only this time you'll cut it into thin strips to create the lattice top. Alternately, if you're a lazy bum like I am, you can just lay down one set of strips and then cover them with strips in the opposite direction for a faux-lattice effect. Ha!
Once the lattice top is on, press the edges down, toss it in the oven and bak
e for approx 40 min, or until the crust has gone a gorgeous golden brown.

This isn't a terribly sweet pie, so if you're not doing the 100 mile challenge, feel free to sweeten it up by adding a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, or pralines, or whatever other bits you think would be amazing in it. My dear friend LilyBelle would likely eat something like this with a massive dollop of vanilla ice cream, but for those of us who don't have a raging sweet tooth, the subtlety of peach, ginger, and maple is a rather lovely finish to a light summer meal.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

If you're going to San Francisco...

pologies for the delay in posting! We were in San Francisco for a week, and didn't have much of a change to squeeze a blog post in between visiting friends and exploring the city.

What of the 100 mile challenge, you ask? WELL. One aspect of the rule-book for the Challenge is that when you travel, you either take food from your local area with you, OR... you try to ensure that the food you're eating at your destination is as local as possible. Since we were in California, we had some of the freshest ingredients possible at our disposal, and we had the chance to enjoy some great food that we'd been missing terribly here in Toronto.

I had noticed how much my palate had changed in terms of being able to appreciate the nuances of flavour in the foods we cooked without them being slathered in spices, but to suddenly have exposure to items I'd normally taken for granted was mind boggling. I'd always loved avocados, but eating them again in SF was like an entirely new experience: there are intricate textures and flavours present in those gorgeous green fruits, and I had never taken the time to just sit down and appreciate every layer of them before.

LEMONS! I normally have half a dozen of them at the house at any given time, but after not having had them for a month, it was something truly special to have it freshly squeezed into a glass of water, or over an organic salad. I'd been using lemon balm or sorrel on occasion to get that lemony-sort-of-taste in food, but really? It just wasn't the same.

I loved so many things about San Francisco, but one of the aspects I appreciated the most was the abundance of fresh produce and really, really good vegetarian food.
We ate breakfast one day at a little Vegan restaurant called "Herbivore" on Valencia avenue:

I'd recommend this place to ANYONE who'll be visiting the Bay area, regardless of if you're a veggie-vore or not. The food was exquisite, the energy of the place was vibrant and welcoming, and the servers were sweet and friendly. Seriously, one of my favourite places I visited while we were there.

We were a bit spoiled in being able to diverge a little from local Canadian fare for a week, but we've returned just as eager and dedicated to this 100 Mile sojourn as before. Today I picked up some incredible blueberries, honey, tomatoes and potatoes from the Mel Lastman Square farmer's market, and will be heading back to the St. Lawrence Market this weekend for some additional ingredients.

Note: I'm afraid that I will personally have to make some amendments/allowances for my own part of the 100 mile journey: I've developed a wheat sensitivity, and since I can only eat so much barley, I'm re-introducing rice and quinoa into my meal planning. No, they're not local grains, but if allowances have to be made for health reasons, they are going to be organic and free-trade. Nathaniel will still be adhering to more stringent locavore guidelines, so the foreign 'contraband' will be limited to meals I make to take to work with me, etc.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Perfect perogies.

E must be insane.

Currently, it is 32 degrees Celsius in Toronto (42 with the humidex), and the city has issued an “extreme heat alert"
, warning folks to be careful not to overheat. Most people would react to such news by living on cheese sandwiches and cold fruit for a few days... but no. What did my dear Sir and I do this weekend? We made perogies. Nathaniel had never made them by hand before, and we were looking for something both interesting and scrumptious to prepare, so we braved the sweltering misery and put a couple of batches together!

Being part Ukrainian, I grew up making these little bundles of happiness: Every year around the holidays, my mother would prepare enough dough and various fillings to sink a galleon, and we'd spend several weeks stuffing and folding perogies to give to our relatives as gifts. We'd create every type im
aginable, from the traditional potato and cheese or sauerkraut to wild mushroom with buckwheat, or sweet fillings like blueberry or cherry.
N and I happened upon a vendor at the St. Lawrence Market who sells red fife wheat flour and handmade pasta, so we picked up some flour from him and meandered around to see what sort of ingredients inspired us for filling stuffs. After discovering a charming seller of mushrooms in one far-off corner of the market, I bought a hearty bag full of button mushrooms as well as a handful of morels (!), and decided to add some leeks and potatoes into the mix.

The trick when it comes to perogies is a light, elastic dough that isn't go
ing to sit in your stomach like a rock when you eat it. Most people just use a mixture of flour and water, but there's a far more awesome dough to be used than that! This recipe was taken from a cookbook entitled Traditional Ukrainian Cookery, published in 1980. Page 205 has the recipe “Rich Dough for Varenyky (Pyrohy)", which is what I am transcribing below:
1/2 cup cold mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons shortening (or butter. I use butter.)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour

Mix the first 3 ingredients thoroughly. Add the water and beat wel
l. Sift 1 3/4 cups of flour with the cream of tartar and salt, and stir into the first mixture - this will form a very soft dough. Add 1/5 cup of flour in 2tbsp portions until the dough no longer sticks to the hand. The dough should be very soft. If some of the flour is left over, use it for flouring the board. Knead lightly, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Roll quite thin, cut into the desired shape, and form varenyky using any favourite filling.

I have no idea what the exact proportions were for the filling I made, so I'm just going to give a rough estimate: I julienned the whites of 2 leeks very, very finely, and sauteed them in butter with a chopped yellow onion and 2 large cloves of garlic, minced. When everything had gone soft and translucent, I tossed in the finely chopped mushrooms, stirred them around, added minced celery and flat-leaf parsley, deglazed with a generous swig of dry Riesling wine, and left it to simmer for about 10 min, stirring occasionally. While that bubbled away happily, I boiled a few russet potatoes until they were cooked through, then peeled and mashed them. The mushroom-leek mixture was added to the potato mash, and everything was mixed together thoroughly and seasoned with salt.*

It would be far too difficult to try to explain the perogy-stuffing technique properly on here, so what I would suggest is that you go on youtube and look for a video on how to stuff them properly: being able to watch someone do so is far more informati
ve than trying to infer decent technique via text.

One thing I have to admit is that the red fife flour we used yielded a very different kind of perogy from what I have grown up with. I'm used to a very soft, silken dough made from all-purpose flour, and we ended up with something very hearty and grainy, with a nut-like flavour. They were still lovely, but I found them a bit more “mealy" than I generally prefer.

Once the perogies were well stuffed and set aside, we had to cook them! To do so, you bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil, and gently drop them in one by one, stirring with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together. NOTE: only use the
HANDLE of the spoon to stir with, else you risk smashing into the rather delicate dumplings and splitting them open. After boiling for a couple of minutes, they will rise to the surface, thus indicating mostly-done-ness. Let them bob around for a few minutes more, and then remove them with a slotted spoon. At this point, you can either serve them as is, with melted butter, sour cream, or plain yoghurt, or you can give them a quick fry in oil or butter to crisp them up. We chose the latter, just toasting them lightly to brown their outsides a little.

We plated our little creations alongside an incredible salad Nathaniel made with arugula, mixed sprouts, halved yellow cherries, soft goat cheese, and organic local peanuts, dressed with a wine-cider vinaigrette and garlic croutons.

If you're going to attempt to make perogies, I'd highly recommend taking advantage of the plentiful fruit of the season and fill them with something like mascarpone and blueberries, or a strawberry-peach mixture. We also took full advantage of “summer's bounty" as it were, and went on a bit of a foraging spree: there are several mulberry bushes around the neighbourhood, so as we were on our way home, we gathered several of them for dessert.

For every one we gathered, I think we ate two or three straight from the tree, but we did manage to take a couple of good handfuls back with us. *grin*

The wine pairing for the evening was a Peller Estate Riesling.

*Between the pleadings of several of our friends with concern to our health and our own rampant dehydration, we have re-introduced small amounts of salt into our cooking.
With the few ingredients that may fall outside our 100 miles, we are adhering to the tenets adopted by most others who are following the 100 mile challenge: “If it's not local, it's organic. If it's not organic, then it's fair trade".

Monday, June 28, 2010

One week down, eleven to go...

full week has passed, and I have a sneaking suspicion that although things are not necessarily going to get easier from here on in, at the very least I'm starting to figure this locavore thing out a bit more.

For one thing, I'm learning that I have to plan my meals well in advance so I'm not standing hungrily in front of my fridge and trying to figure out what to throw together that evening. For example, while the barley pseudo-risotto made with sheep's milk feta and topped with a poached egg was lovely, I did not need to have it for dinner three days in a row: I really can't bear the thought of eating that again anytime soon. I am, however, rediscovering how much I love kale -- be it pan fried with just a bit of garlic or added to a potato-onion soup, it's one ingredient I have to explore a bit more, especially since it's so abundant at the farmer's markets around town.

I have to admit that I'm having a bit of difficulty with breakfast-y things, though.
Since I don't usually have much time in the mornings to cook, I've been making do with fruit, yoghurt, a muesli of sorts consisting of a handful of sunflower seeds, dried fruit and nuts, or a hard boiled egg for a bit of a protein bomb. What I'd like to find is a source of Ontario oats so I can either have oatmeal in the morning, or pre-bake some waffles to keep in the freezer. The guy who sells us fresh pasta at the St. Lawrence Market also sells locally-made flour, so I think I'll mix that with some oats, local soy milk, blueberries, and either maple or birch syrup into a rather large batch of waffle mix and make enough that I can freeze several of them for those mornings when I don't get up early enough to cook.

Ideally, the setting for this challenge would be one wherein I had the ability to spend my days tending a large garden and cooking for hours, rather than sitting at my desk and typing all day. It's difficult enough to cook/eat well when one is working full time (and commuting an hour each way!), but trying to do so with added constrictions is certainly proving to be one of the more challenging aspects of this challenge. That, and the chocolate cravings.

I cannot begin to describe the chocolate cravings.
...these too shall pass, right? RIGHT? Good.

There is a collection of recipes slowly growing in my notes, and I'm looking forward to both trying them out and sharing them with all of you. We have a picnic tentatively scheduled for Canada day, so we'll try to come up with some interesting foods to share with you that are picnic-friendly and super-delicious. I'm thinking of perhaps some kind of potato salad with plenty of herbs... maybe some mini sandwiches with cucumbers, mixed sprouts and local cheddar? Hmm.
Sometime this summer I'm going to try a local version of my grandmother's Gazpacho recipe, and I'd like to attempt hand-made herbed gnocchi at some point as well.

It's nice to document our explorations, and we really appreciate your feedback!
Thank you for all of the encouraging emails and texts you've sent so far: we really do enjoy all of your input, and you're being incredibly encouraging. There had been a glitch in our blog that prevented people from commenting, but that's been fixed now and we'd love to hear from you: Have you tried the recipes? Checked out some of the local vendors we've mentioned? Been inspired to eschew local eating entirely and devote yourself to a lifetime of papadums and emu burgers? Let us know!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20 & the 33 League Challenge

adly, when going to stock up for another week of produce at the St. Lawrence Market, it seems the G20 summit, has deterred the usual vendors from setting up shop! I was hoping to load up on local, nuts, sprouts, eggs, flour, and such, but there were only 6-7 tables open. Looks like I'll have to wait until the Trinity Bellwoods Market to open to complete my order, and until then, the challenge, just got more challenging!

A Week's Reflection.

fter staying true to this Challenge for a week now, one thing I'm enjoying, is that it forces me to take the time to prepare my meals. I've been getting into the habit of cutting corners lately; eating out because I'm busy and it's more convenient to run across the street to nab a falafel instead of preparing a full dinner.

However, there aren't really any local options with the eateries along the strip, so I've got to be diligent with my food intake, making sure I've got enough fuel to last me through the day. A decent breakfast to get things going (no more coffees to get me into high gear), packed lunches and snacks too. Essentially, I'm eating the way I'd ideally like to because I don't have the option to be lax with my meals.

Overall, I've been impressed with the vitality and flavour of the foods I've been eating
(despite the lack of salt and other seasonings) Everything being consumed is fresh from the farm; strawberries and tomatoes that actually taste like something, delicious cheeses, etc!

I'm still working out the kinks with my food purchases, to make sure I have the right balance of carbs and proteins to sustain me. Once I get over my caffeine withdrawal (the constant headaches, cloudy headedness and general lethargy have been dogging me for the last week), things should be on the up-and-up! Here's to looking forward to an exciting Summer!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Simple mid-week dinner

or dinner on Wednesday evening, we put together something uncomplicated and easy:

- A mixture of russet and sweet potatoes sauteed with onions and garlic, tossed with an
Herbes de Provence mix of herbs
- Locally sourced/made sprouted grain bread, toasted and spread with a bit of
chèvre, and topped with grilled organic tomato slices and shredded basil from one of the plants grown on the kitchen windowsill
- Arugula salad with sunflower sprouts and a bit more of the
chèvre crumbled into it.

Even locally-sourced simple comfort food can be lovely, neh?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Contemplation of First Forays and Mindfulness

esterday's Summer Solstice marked the first day of our 100 mile challenge, and we celebrated it with a meal that our ancestors would have both approved of, and been delighted with.

Nathaniel prepared one of his toe-curlingly-amazing sauces to go with the fresh local pasta we bought
(I'll leave the description and recipe for him to describe), and we served that alongside sugar peas and a salad of mixed lettuces, celery, apples and dried blueberries, dressed with a drizzle of canola oil and apple cider vinegar.

My approach to this meal was one that I don't think I've ever taken before in the 25 years that I've been cooking: Complete presence and focus on every aspect of the culinary experience.
I'm trying to be significantly more mindful and aware of where the food I eat comes from, and as such, I am making a concerted effort to be very grounded and -pres
ent- as I prepare ingredients for meals, rather than allowing my mind to wander into a million directions at once, as it is wont to do.

Shelling the peas became a meditative task, with the rhythmic repetition of popping the pods open, running my thumb down the inner vein to loosen the globes within, spilling them into the bowl held on my lap, and setting the pods aside. Slicing into the tomatoes was another fascinating experience: over and over again, the knife "shushed" cleanly through the fruit's skin, then moved through the mealy flesh, releasing the scent of both the tomato itself and its seeds
(the latter being more tangy/acidic).

This awareness followed through with the rest of the meal preparation, and really made me contemplate how little attention I've paid to not only the sources and creation of my food, but also how easily distracted I've been while eating it. When I come home from work, I usually just throw together something simple like a salad or soup, and when I sit down to eat it my attention will be far more fixed on the book I'm currently immersed in than what I'm shoveling into my face. So long as the hunger pangs are quelled and the taste is half decent, my primary interest seems to flow elsewhere... bringing myself back to the present with this challenge is making me realise how much I've been missing out on.

I made a point of this kind of mindfulness with dinner last night, and the experience was downright epiphanic.
Have you ever really focused your attention entirely on what it is you're eating? It's a really fascinating exercise to tune all of your awareness into the nuances of texture and flavour that each dish contains. Additionally, in not overwhelming food with condiments and seasonings, one seems to gain an incredibly heightened awareness of the subtle flavours in every dish.

Each sweet pea was a little perfect burst of joy: I honestly can't think of any other food that tastes quite so
GREEN. They were lightly boiled and tossed with a scant spoonful of organic butter, and the taste of them was beyond gorgeous. I was raised eating mostly canned vegetables, and it's almost inconceivable to think that these tiny gems of summer sweetness are in any way related to the anaemic, mushy, canned morsels of travesty that were served to me throughout my childhood.

We paired the meal with an Inniskillin Dry Riesling from the LCBO:

I'm not sure whether it was just that my palate was a bit more sensitive last night, but it seemed as though every note in the wine was brighter, more tangible, with hints of peach and apple and a wonderful dry citrus finish.

When I've mentioned the challenge we're on to other people, many have balked at the idea because they've assumed that locavore food is somehow lacking in variety, flavour, or even edibility! One acquaintance asked if I'd be spending the next few months gnawing on tree bark and foraged weeds, not realising what a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and locally-sourced artisanal products can be found nearby.

This first 100 mile dinner goes to prove that meals sourced within this radius are neither bland, nor inelegant. As we move forward along this path, I'm hoping that we can take our own Toronto locavore cuisine to unexpected heights of beauty and creativity.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

erched on the precipice of the Summer Solstice, I give pause and ponder just what I've gotten myself into; a whole Summer spent consuming things sourced locally... 100 Miles or less from Toronto! As if life as a Vegetarian wasn't tough enough in “dirty little York", now the added constraints to my dietary intake are going to make it all the more severe.

After doing some rudimentary research, luckily, Toronto is rather close to the fertile belt of the Niagara region; ripe with fruits and vegetables and a cornucopia of other food-stuffs. We've got farmer's markets conveniently close-by, the Kensington Market just a block from my place and a few other resources that dole out organics, cheeses and artisan supplies!

Looks like wine won't be an issue either, and there are places near Toronto that grow soy, sprouts, beans and nuts as well! However, there are two items I hold dear for which finding a substitute might be more difficult, SALT and COFFEE! Does the near-future promise a Summer of bland foods and miserable mornings? I can only fathom.

With the Solstice looming, I bid my favourite beverage good-bye, relishing in an iced americano from Dark Horse. ( and subsequently a few other caffeinated beverages throughout the day ) These blog entries will serve as record of the adventures ahead and will feature:
  • journal musings from Lana and I
  • featured recipes
  • spotlights on local farmers and resources
  • foraging and wild food escapades
  • picture galleries and video entries
So as the sun sets and the caffeine makes it's final course through my body, I look towards the coming challenge with set resolve and plenty of optimism!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

So the journey begins.

few months ago, Nathaniel and I happened upon a show on the Food Network entitled “The 100 Mile Challenge", and we were immediately fascinated by the concept of only eating locally grown/produced food. Inspired by those who took part in this challenge, we decided to embark upon our own mission to spend the summer only eating and drinking that which could be grown, foraged for, or otherwise produced within 100 miles of Toronto.

We started doing more research and were shocked to realise just how much of the food we eat on a daily basis is imported: as an example, even though Ontario strawberries are more than abundant at this time of year, most major grocery chains only carry those shipped in from Mexico. It was quite shocking to actually take a moment and consider the ecological footprint necessary to cart all of this over to us for our apparent convenience, when we could be supporting local farmers and food artisans instead.

As Nathaniel so succinctly put it,
“Essentially we're sourcing as though we're living 100 years ago, and importing from across the ocean just wasn't feasible." When we give pause and think about it, it's only been since the industrial revolution that we've had the means to transport luxury food items from across the world into our homes, and ingredients that were once considered rare and exquisite are now taken for granted. Very few of our Victorian Era ancestors would have had access to the foods we eat on a regular basis, so it's interesting to take a step back and perhaps emulate the sort of diet they would have had. There is also a great deal to be said for appreciating high-quality foods that are created with care by small-scale producers, rather than churned out en masse by industrial farms.

I have no illusions that this challenge is going to be a simple one.

We're approaching food preparation and consumption from an entirely new angle, and in many ways we'll be on an incredibly steep learning curve. In terms of our cooking styles and preferences, both of us have been very dependent on ingredients and spices that are imported from far-off climes
( avocado, cumin, lemons, and pepper are just a few that come to mind ), but I've never been one to back away from something just because it might be difficult. We're going to chronicle our journey here, with all of its ups and downs ( hopefully more of the former than the latter! ) and with any luck, perhaps we'll be able to inspire some other folks along the way.