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.