The Spice of Life

Standard

Spices

 

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.” 
Frank Herbert, Dune

Granville Island has been called the “Stomach of Vancouver.”  When you walk through the doors, breathe deeply to inhale the aromas of fresh fruit, vegetables, coffee, bread and spices.  From the beginning, food and spices have formed a strong bond to create hearty soups, zesty meat dishes, and decadent sweets.

Spices have a mysterious glamour because we connect them to the markets and bazaars of faraway, exotic lands. Spices traveled the routes between historic civilizations in Asia, Northeast Africa and Europe.  Cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger and turmeric were known in the ancient Eastern World before they trickled into the Middle East and then finally to the West.  The names of these routes were as fascinating as the spices that came along their corridors via ocean voyages to India and Sri Lanka, and the overland caravan routes through Egypt and the Suez.

International trade has brought the best of the world into our grocery and specialty stores.  More significantly, the global marketplace has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and experience that is available everyone. Diversity and cultural distinctions are the gifts that spur innovation and creativity – not only with food but in every area of endeavour.

Let’s Talk About Food Wastage

Standard

Strawberry

How many tomatoes did you throw away last year?  That is considered food wastage.

When you dined at a restaurant, did you leave anything on the plate?  That is considered food wastage.

Did you leave any food on the counter overnight by accident and considered it unsafe to eat the next morning?  That is considered food wastage.

I confess that I have been guilty of all of the above and more.

Food waste (aka food loss) is defined as food that has been discarded, lost or uneaten.  There are two areas where wastage can occur on what is called the food supply chain.  In low-income developing nations the wastage takes place during production; in developed nations loss happens at the consumption point. In 2011, as a global community, we wasted 1.3 billion tons of food, which equals a stunning one-third of global food production.

Dr David Suzuki estimates that the average Canadian household, discards one in four items of produce.  In monetary terms, it is like dumping $600/family into the garbage can. Think of all that food that could have been consumed by others.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.  BBC News January 2013

The Chefs at Work

Standard

Kitchen Table

When I think that my life is crazy-busy, I watch the chefs on the food channels and realize my life is tranquil compared to the bedlam that occurs in a professional kitchen.   Professional chefs wear multiple “hats” and display interdisciplinary talents. They are artists, entrepreneurs, performers, communication experts, instructors and risk-takers.  Here is what they have to say…

William Todd English, based in Boston Massachusetts said, “I liked the energy of cooking, the action, the camaraderie. I often compare the kitchen to sports and compare the chef to a coach. There are a lot of similarities to it.”

On the other side of the continent in Yountville, California, Thomas Keller, founded of the award-winning French Laundry restaurant speaks to the moment he chose his life-work: “I wanted to learn everything I could about what it takes to be a great chef.  It was a turning point for me.”

Italian American chef and television personality, Giada De Laurentiis, was clear in her career choice.  To be successful, she said: “It helps to immerse yourself in what you potentially want to do.  Being involved, learning firsthand and observing the crafts and absorbing all you can, make it easier to define what you want.  It will also ultimately make you a better Chef. ”

The Barefoot Countess, Ina Garten, left a well-paying, prestigious position to follow her dream. “I worked for the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, on nuclear energy policy.  But I decided it would be much more fun to have a specialty food store, so I left Washington D.C. and moved to the Hamptons.  And how glad I am that I did!”

Kitchens, whether professional or in our homes, are the center of family life.  Vincent Andrew Schiavelli, the well-known stage, screen and television actor, once recalled: “My grandfather was a chef for a Baron in Sicily before he came to America. I grew up with him.  I used to do my homework at one end of the kitchen table while he cooked at the other end.”

I Love Food Bloggers

Standard

 
CelebrationFood bloggers! I admire, respect, and applaud their remarkable ability to offer the gift of food.  Food preparation takes time, ingenuity, creative flair, and the willingness to experiment.   Food bloggers pick the best of in-season produce, know the various types of flours, use the finest spices and select the best ingredients to generate robust flavours or subtle, delicate tastes.  Best of all, they share ideas, encourage and challenge each other; they celebrate success within community.   They are an inspiration!

Thank you!

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”

Epicurus

The Foodie Intellectual

Standard

Fruit

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 
Michael Pollan

A friend once told me that she watched the food channels to pick up ideas because “one day” she would have the time to cook and bake.  Over the years, the amount of time spent in the kitchen has dwindled.  We have introduced substitute products that promise the benefits of excellent taste, limited preparation and virtually no clean-up.  Our transition to fast food has been gradual and, arguably based on our desire to spend more quality time with our children, given that in most families both parents work.

Michael Pollan has been described as the “liberal foodie intellectual” by the New York Times.  He has argued that what most North Americans buy in supermarkets, fast food stores and restaurants is not real food. He advises: “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.”

My takeaway:   I need to put on my “research hat.”   I have placed two books by Michael Pollan – “In Defence of Food” and The Omnivore’s Dilemma” – on my reading list for 2013.  I would welcome any other suggestions.

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.” 

 Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Food – The Do’s & Don’ts

Standard

A Venice Market

“Life itself is the proper binge.”

Julia Child

According to the expects on New Year’s resolution etiquette, dieting and fitness were on the top of many people’s 2013 News Year’s resolution list.  It does not come as a surprise; it’s been on every New Year’s resolution list for as long as I can remember.  Pick up any magazine and you will find, somewhere in the pages, an article that will either tell you “what to” or “what not to” eat.   Should we have food rules?  The very thought leaves me unsettled.  For inspiration and a little advice, I turned to Julia Child, a chef who did not shrink from giving her opinion.  She said: “I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear of food: fear of eggs, say, or fear of butter.  Most doctors feel that you can have a little bit of everything.”

The statistics are quite clear, however; North America is facing an obesity crisis.  Julia’s response: “As we say in the American Institute of Wine and Food, small helpings, no seconds.  A little bit of everything. No snacking.  And have a good time!”

Bon appétit!