Archive for the ‘Nonsense’ Category

Back, Back, The Bitch Is Back!

Hope you’re ready, because I know I am…

Until next time…

It’s Not You…

It’s me!

No, seriously though.

I’m sorry it’s been so long between updates, really I am!  Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Since I signed off in early July, a few small but significant things have happened.

1) I finally started to drive (and before I turned 30, too!)

2) I have gone back to school (albeit part time)

The ability to do one was precipitated by the other of course, but knowing that I would be going back to school in the fall, I wanted to take the time off this summer to enjoy myself a little, before my whole world as I knew it went sideways.

(more…)

See You (In September?)

Paradise

Hello, gentle readers of the internest!

As the primary contributor to Foodie and the Everyman, I wanted to inform you that I will be taking some much needed time off this summer to focus on gardening, reading and other things unrelated to either writing or food, and also just to generally try and sharpen my focus.

Occasional updates may still occur, but they likely won’t happen nearly as often as you’ve become accustomed to.  But trust me, when I have things to share, they will be good, I promise.

I might only be off for a few weeks, or I might hold out until the beginning of September.  Either way, just know that I will be coming back to check in on all of you soon.

(more…)

Do The Math – Remembering The Hungry Years

Having spent a fair number of my formative years living on the meagre amount of support doled out by the government to my father, I can heartily sympathize and relate to the plight of people struggling to live off the small allotment for food on social assistance.  While many argue that allowing people on social assistance more money only encourages them to stay on aide longer, I believe there is something to be said for allowing the dignity of having a healthful, satisfying meal without automatically assuming that money is being funneled to drink or drugs, etc.

The Stop, one of Toronto’s foremost community advocates is currently promoting their Do The Math challenge, in which 10 high profile Toronto residents attempt to live on the contents of their standard 3 day emergency food hamper for as long as they possibly can.  You can read about the participants’ efforts on this blog, and also in this article by The Star’s Corey Mintz.

As someone who has lived at or below the poverty line at times I feel quite strongly about it, thus I urge you to check it out; hopefully it will be a stepping stone to bring about the seeds of change.

Until next time…

Lost In Paradise

Purple Toes

Today I had intended to regale you with stories about all of the fun the Everyman and I have been having (and noshing) while in Aruba during the past week.

However, because the charter company that flew us down to Aruba went out of business while we’ve been away, we were put onto another, later flight and are travelling today instead of yesterday.  I can hardly complain about an extra, mix-up imposed day in paradise though, can I?

Thus, I will leave you with a photo taken from my lounger.

It’s nice here, isn’t it?

Until next time…

It’s Michael Pollan’s World, We Just Live In It

Generally speaking, I’m an avid supporter of Michael Pollan.  He’s charming in that I-look-just-like-scrawny-vegan-Moby kind of way.

Ironically though, it seems there has come a point when even I am all Pollan-ed out.

I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence Of Food… who hasn’t, nowadays?  And I’ve seen Food Inc, King Corn, Death On A Factory Farm and others of their ilk that deal with the myriad problems affecting our global food systems.  But when I was browsing at the bookstore this past Christmas, I saw the latest tome in the Pollan repertoire, the slim and succinctly titled Food Rules.  To be frank, after thumbing through the pages I couldn’t bring myself to buy it for exactly 3 reasons;

1) It really struck me as “Food – For Dummies,” or rather a distilled version of his previous 2 books

2) I’m not keen on ideas once you start labelling them as “rules” because my inner anarchist says no, not to mention it makes it sound like some kind of slapdash lose-10-pounds-quick diet plan

3) It would be preaching to the choir since I try to maintain a diet centred around real food already, anyway

(more…)

The Lexicon Of Food Snobbery

Ah, eating.

Aside from the simple act of breathing, there isn’t really any other consumptive requirement that equalizes society more (because we all have to do it or else we die).  So, it seems only logical to me that as a species we should be more than a little preoccupied with the W5H of our food.  If essentially (we’re talking extremely drilled down here) nourishment boils down to a matter of life or death (do I have food enough to eat or will I go hungry?) why wouldn’t you want to concern yourself with it to the nth degree?  If you were to ignore the question of food for long enough, it’s possible that your own survival would be at stake as your body began to starve.  Yet for some odd reason the people who do consider these things aren’t the norm, and instead are labelled foodies; an insipid little word which inspires disdain even amongst those who would fall into such a category.  As such, foodies have become culinary outliers, a fact easily proven by watching the eyes of non-foodies glaze over whenever someone who appreciates food discusses the intricacies of their favourite edible creation in their vicinity.

There’s an inordinate number of people in the world who would consider me to be something of a food snob based primarily on the fact that I am very selective about what foods I will allow into my body.  But I’m not a snob; far from it, actually.  It’s simple, really.  If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not coming in, that’s all there is to it. Why is it that having passion for any subject has become synonymous with snobbery? I’m not as big a hater of the word foodie as most people either (obviously), but I generally try not to frame myself through definitions of character or personality.  I grew up in a house, in a place, in a family that professionally and socially cooked and placed a high value on food and kitchen table camaraderie.  Subsequently, I was nurtured and engaged in food myself, and to this day not only do I love to cook but I relish eating, too (surprisingly, I don’t love to eat nearly as much as I love to cook, though).  To me that’s normal and not something I regard as smacking with even the slightest bit of pretension.  Rather, I think of food and cooking and eating as elemental, because it unites us with our forebears via its commonality.

While I may not eat some foods because I don’t think they taste good (the vast majority of processed foods would be a perfect example) I don’t believe that being discerning is sufficient grounds for being labelled snobbish.  My brand of food fascination is a blend of a quest for authenticity over watered down fare, tempered by occasional bouts of obsessive compulsive behaviour.  Case in point; I can be just as easily satiated by a $4.50 baby cow sandwich from Commisso Bros. as I have been with the $275 a head tasting menu at Eigensinn Farm – it really just depends on the situation.  The cost of food is irrelevant when you consider the rich tableau of atmosphere, companions and occasions that formidable memories are born of.  For instance, in Chicago I desperately wanted to visit Alinea, but it was something that time just wouldn’t allow.  It would have been a meal costing several hundreds of dollars I’m sure, but the cheap and dirty food from Fat Willy’s Rib Shack that formed our last taste before getting back on a plane was just as appreciated as Alinea would have been because it too was prepared with passion.  In that respect I’d say I’m closer to a culinary egalitarian, really.  Put simply, I enjoy good food.  Whether I cook it for myself, or I pay someone else to cook it for me, taste integrity is unanimously the mitigating factor in what I choose to eat.  Though realistically, as much as I’ve come to enjoy restaurant food, 99 times out of 100 I’d much rather cook something for myself because only I understand precisely how I want that something to taste.

In fact, I personally believe that people who choose not to cook are the true snobs, because paying someone else to do something you don’t want to do reeks of superiority.  At some point during the 1950′s, cooking went from being perceived as a nurturing part of a decent home life to being painted as an intolerable chore.  Cue the montage of ads about liberating women from the drudgery of their kitchens by replacing home cooked foods with frozen dinners and ready meals to make my point for me.  Or this quote from a recent article in The Toronto Star For me in recent years, cooking has been a bit like dentistry: I hear there are people who still do it themselves but it just makes me shake my head sadly.” (I know it comes from an article about the Slap Chop, but I find such a sentiment disheartening still). I’m not going to disagree with the fact that cooking and preparing food from scratch is hard work.  You’re reading the website of a girl who cooks her own food, bakes her own bread, cures her own meat, preserves her own jams and churns her own butter, so believe me when I say I do understand.  But look instead at what’s been lost.  Society has become so far removed from the taste of real food that manufacturers can layer on salt and fat and sweet and chemicals just to make their food seem palatable because most people are unfamiliar with how delicious unadulterated food can be.

Paying someone else to prepare your food (either via restaurant or the shelves of the supermarket) is rife with undertones of servitude.  With the obvious exception of celebrity chefs, cooking is still considered one of the humblest professions out there, staffed mostly by uneducated masses.  And before you start to disagree with me, consider for a moment what other profession requires you to work 80 or more hours per week on your feet for such meagre and thankless pay?  Or think on the fact that many of the unsung heroes in a kitchen are immigrants who are just thankful to be gainfully employed, even without the benefit of sick days, vacations, etc.  Cheffing is hard, brutal work that many attempt but few prevail at, and it certainly is not an industry for the weak.  Yet, why don’t we acknowledge their legitimacy when we’re basically putting ourselves into their hands by outsourcing our food to them more and more each day?  Again, it sounds like snobbery to me.  The clincher for me is that more often than not, the people who cook mid to high end food do not make enough money to even patronize the places they work at themselves.  How’s that for irony?

At a time when The Food Network feels it needs to add a whole other channel to accommodate a demand for additional programming, it would seem that what we eat should be a more important topic than ever.  Instead, it’s been shown that more people love to watch food television than actually cook anymore, with the backlash of artisanally-minded people like me still somewhat in its infancy.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Taking food into your own hands is not an indicator of snobbery, it’s an opportunity to exert a modicum of control over what you want to eat instead of letting Big Food (or anyone, really) decide that for you.

(more…)

Go For The Gold(en Arches, That Is)

The Golden Arches

During the last few weeks it seemed like you couldn’t swing a cat without being subjected to the Vancouver Olympics in some way, shape or form.

As someone who is generally not a huge fan of sports in any respect, I’m sure you can imagine how exasperating I found the 24/7 coverage, especially when you stop and consider how much time, effort and money goes into what amounts to a glorified international pissing contest.  However, the Everyman is a huge lover of sports, so there was a fair amount being viewed in our household during those 16 days.

One food-related topic that received quite a bit of press during and after the games was the validity of having McDonald’s as a prominent corporate sponsor.  Many have chimed in and been rather vocal about this, including those who wished that we’d showcased uniquely Canadian cuisine, instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.  GFR even had some random 12 year old write a (rather unedited) rant about the whole affair, the gist of which boiled down to shame on us.

Far be it from me to be a shit disturber, but with the exception of the whole First Nations/Burgergate saga I’d have to say I respectfully disagree and might even (sort of) be on the same side as McD’s(!) for once.

I know.  You’re all shocked and dismayed about how that could ever be possible.  Well, it goes a little something like this…

(more…)

Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children???

First off, I don’t have kids, nor do I ever want them.

In fact, if I’m to be brutally honest, I’d have to say that I generally despise the smarmy little buggers (with the exception of the kith and kin of a few friends or relatives of mine, that is).  For comfort’s sake I usually prefer to keep a fair amount of distance between me and the lot of them with their bad manners, foul mouthes, entitled attitudes, short attention spans and constant orbit of gadgets and technology (/rant).

That being said, there’s been a lot of talk about children in the media lately.  There’s plenty of discussion surrounding the obesity epidemic that’s facing their generation and how as a society we need to focus our energies to improve and shift their current fate.  Mrs. Obama has her Let’s Move initiative, Alice Waters has the Edible Schoolyard program,  and Jamie Oliver’s recent TED Prize wish was to teach every child about food.  Of course, that’s merely a sprinkling of the many projects attempting to tackle this multi-faceted problem, but these 3 just happen to be some of the most highly visible.

On the surface they all sound like rather noble causes, and certainly there is a degree of credibility behind the idea of educating children about food and exercise in order to stem the tides of an obesity related epidemic.

And anyone who has seen the promo clip of Oliver’s upcoming show (specifically the kids that don’t know the difference between potatoes and tomatoes at around 1:16 in the video) should be able to grasp the positive ramifications when kids get switched on about food.

However, the point where I often find myself flummoxed is when people start talking about banning, outlawing, taxing or restricting certain foods deemed to be “unhealthy” from school premises  in order to achieve that goal.

(more…)

Silencing My Inner Critic

I grew up in a restaurant family.

While other kids got to have play dates and scheduled outings with their moms and dads, I enjoyed an absentee relationship with mine; 2 of 3 being terminally addicted to their kitchens.  In the years that my parents were together I barely saw my mom because she’d leave for work while I was still at pre-school and not return until 2 or 3 in the morning.  After my parents separated, my mom and stepdad were too busy chasing their restaurant dreams to worry about things like family all that much, so I lived with my dad and only saw them a couple times a year.

Despite many wonderful things I learned and was inspired by during my time in their restaurants, the one thing that continues to irk me to this day is the overly critical nature that they’ve imbued in me.  It was never more evident in them than on the rare occasions when we would go out to eat as a family.  Rather than enjoying the brief time we had together, they would categorically pick apart whatever we were eating, regardless of whether it was a cheap trattoria or a fancy French bistro.  They’d then move on to analyzing whether they could make a particular dish better, and consequently discuss how to do so.

It drove me nuts.  Had I been older it probably would have driven me to drink, but at that young age all I could muster was a withering roll of the eyes.  I didn’t see them often, so all I wanted was to make the most of our time, but they never let up.  For years I vowed I would never be like them, determined to be happy with whatever was set before me, instead.

But, over the last few years I’ve found their somewhat unsavoury trait rearing its ugly head more and more in my demeanour.

Between working in their kitchens and stints at culinary school I’ve had plenty of time to develop an overly picky palate.  In a lot of ways it’s been for the best; I’ve gained a certain level of disdain for junk, fast and pre-packaged food-like substances in favour of slow (or what I like to call real) food.  On the flip side, it also makes friends and lovers (unnecessarily) nervous wrecks when feeding me, and coworkers assume I’m some sort of snob because I choose not to eat their hydrogenated oil filled crap or corn syrup laden goodies.  Even though I’m relatively quiet about my beliefs and standpoints on food (preferring to internalize rather than proselytize) most people assume I’m some sort of elitist crank or cow hugging moon maiden, anyhow.  That I don’t care what anyone thinks of me or my habits seems to stymie them all the more.

I often try to rationalize that I’ve only taken on the best parts of this annoying habit from my parents.  Instead of critiquing things for how bad they might be, I strive to only indulge in tastes of ridiculously good food because I think it satisfies your body, soul and cravings more.  Of course, that’s a mantra that’s easier said than done…

(more…)

Truly Outrageous

Yesterday afternoon I had the chance to watch episode 2 of Hugh’s Chicken Run, which is a BBC show that features Britain’s own Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (of River Cottage fame) exposing the realities of commercial chicken production.

I intended to write about this yesterday, when I could still feel the fire of indignation in my belly, but the more retarded of our 3 cats chewed through the power cord on my laptop charger, thus leaving me without access to the interwebs.  My ranting has likely grown a little more subdued than it would have been immediately following the show, but it still raised questions nonetheless.

In the second episode, Hugh takes a group of people he’s convinced to raise chickens on a tour of a poultry-rearing facility that he’s constructed as a small-scale model of the difference between conventional and free range birds.  He fills half of the giant shed with 1,600 chicks destined to have a relatively charmed existence, while the remaining 2,400 or so( of the 4,000 birds he starts with) are crammed into the same size shelter on the other side of the barn.

The free range birds obviously have a little more space because there are less of them on their side of the shed, but they also get perks like bales of hay to roost on, balls to play with, CDs to peck at and access to the great outdoors.  What might seem like small concessions make a world of difference to these birds, as is evidenced by the flock of perky, upwardly mobile chickens pecking and scratching around.

By contrast, the conventional birds were much more cramped in their space, and had no “toys” to play with at all.  After several weeks they could barely walk, having eaten so much (during the 23 hours a day they’re encouraged to eat) that the poor birds had grown faster than their legs could support.  The carpet of bird shit was so heavy that apparently the barn stank of ammonia and many chickens were getting “hot spots” on their legs and feet (which is a pleasant way of saying they were being burned by the chemical reactions of so much shit coming into contact with their extremities).  Having so many birds confined to such a tiny area also increases the chance of illness infesting a flock, so any time a sick or slow bird was found, it had to be removed.

On top of that, Fearnley Whittingstall discusses how he has to cull many chicks because they are smaller than the rest and won’t make “market weight” at the same time.  Because this unfortunately represents no profit, they must be dispatched.  Throughout the show you can see him becoming increasingly shaken with each cull, but on the conventional side, birds are only given 5 to 6 weeks to live and one cannot risk the safety of the flock with ideals.

(more…)

Christmas: In Cookies

As I get ready to go off into the great white yonder to spend Christmas at the Everyman’s family’s cottage, I’d like to leave everyone with my best wishes for a wonderful celebration, and some pictures of the holiday edibles that will be gracing our dessert table this year (courtesy of yours truly).

No matter what you may get up to tomorrow, I wish you all the best in doing it!

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

(more…)

Ho Ho Holidays

Well, festive readers of the internest…

It’s about that time of year when I seriously kick into high gear baking mode.

So, with that in mind, I’ll be signing off until the new year.

I wish you all a safe, silly and delicious holiday.

I’ll be seeing you on the other side.

Until next time…