Archive | July, 2011

What we’ve been eating.

26 Jul

Continue reading

26 Jul

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

 

Summer Food

19 Jul

What I’ve been cooking lately;

Corn on the cob with roasted garlic butter, cream corn with real cream and prosciutto, chickpea salads, lentil salads, potato salads with green or yellow beans and mustard vinaigrette, grilled haloumi, pasta with basil/walnut pesto, grilled organic chicken with lemons, watermelon salad, chopped salads with day old bread, and this achingly delicious mixed berry cobbler, with fruit  picked and purchased at a farm stand just 10 minutes away.  I realized while eating dinner last night that the food that I cook and the food that I love to eat is simple in composition and ingredients.  And while my training as a chef was fine dining, it’s not what I cook or what I eat.

This berry cobbler is so basic in ingredients and method, yet the flavour so intense and the biscuit topping so tender that it makes me wonder if any dessert could be more perfect for a dinner in July with family or very special friends.  It is love and happiness on a plate.

Mixed berry Cobbler from Bon Appetit

Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

7 cups (1 3/4 to 2 lb.) mixed fresh berries, I used 2 lbs. mixed raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries because i couldn’t resist any of them at Turner’s, my local farm stand.

1 tbsp. Cassis if you have it, this is my addition to the recipe, so it’s optional, but it did kick up the berry flavour.

For filling, gently combine all ingredients in a large bowl and let macerate while preparing topping.  In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. and lightly butter a 2-qt. baking dish.

Biscuit topping:

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus more for dusting work surface and rolling pin

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling the tops of biscuits

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

5 tbsp. (2  1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/2 cup whole milk, plus more for brushing the top of the biscuits, I used a combination of 1% milk and whipping cream to make 1/2 cup, because that’s what I had in my fridge.

For topping, In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt, stir with a fork to blend.  Using either your finger tips (because they’re the coolest part of your hands) or a pastry blender, I use my fingers, work in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse oatmeal (the uncooked kind).  Add milk and with a fork or your hands, mix until the dough just comes together.  Sprinkle some reserved extra flour on your table and knead gently, four or five times until you have a beautiful soft ball.  Then, lightly flour your rolling pin (always flour a rolling pin when you use one) and gently roll your biscuit dough into a 9X6 (approx.) rectangle of dough.  Don’t roll it too thin, you want to make a fluffy biscuit topping, not a thin cracker type thing.

Pour berries and their precious juices into the greased casserole dish.  Cover with your biscuits, in whatever pattern suits you at the time.  Brush tops lightly with some reserved milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until liquid is bubbling and thick, and biscuits are golden.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, or yogurt, or on it’s on.  best served warm or at room temperature.

 

Precious jewels of summer.

 

Piggy loves raspberries!

 

Ready to go into the oven.

 

Ready to go into my belly.

 

 

 

It’s a wonderful life.

13 Jul

Summer so far;

I’ve been to the beach four times, two different lakes, four different beaches.

Have eaten six pints (and counting) fresh raspberries.

Danielle is home safe and well from her trip to Peru, plus she bought us awesome gifts including some amazing Peruvian salt.

My nephew Spencer is recovering after breaking his hip playing baseball.

Today is my birthday.  I’m having friends for dinner and this is what I’m cooking;

Potato salad with green onions and asparagus in a shallot tarragon vinaigrette

Tuscan chopped salad (cucumbers, red onion, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, day-old crusty bread, capers in a red wine vinaigrette)

Arugula salad with watermelon and Parmesan cheese with a lemon vinaigrette (thanks to the Barefoot Contessa)

Baked cheese grits casserole (this is for my inner Southern belle)

Grilled lemon chicken (for the meat people)

White chocolate lime tart with fresh berries

Vanilla bean panna cotta (because it’s my new favorite dessert of the month)

And finally, triple chocolate Nanaimo bars

It’s a beautiful day where I live.  I am both fortunate and grateful to have the life that I do. In place of a recipe, here’s a few pictures of summer so far.

Randy testing the water.

Johnny's Antiques Bayfiels On, a tastefully restored Georgian revival cottage. I could live here

Mackies on the beach, for hand cut fries and their own "secret sauce."

Mulberry tree on the shore of Lake Huron. The branches are heavy with ripe, sweet berries. If I only had a ladder.

Wednesday July 6, a wonderful day.

7 Jul

What an amazing day.  I spent the morning doing all sorts of annoying but necessary house cleaning jobs. ( the cleaning is not the amazing part, it comes later.)  You know, the ones you put off until there’s more time.  I’m off right now, so I guess I have more time…  As a reward for cleaning out the fridge, washing the garbage bins, cleaning the stove, and clearing out the pantry,  I promised myself some “fun” time.  For me, fun time means hitting the thrift stores.

Once the jobs were finished I felt a sense of accomplishment, almost a reward in itself, I went out anyway.   I shop the thrift stores with $10.oo.  It’s a cheapand harmless  way for me to have some fun. Yet,  DJR wonders “how many sets of dishes do we really need?”   I tell him that it’s an innocent diversion.  Plus I have ground rules: I will only buy what I will use or know of someone who would use it.  Currently we have many sets  of white dishes. However, I used all of them at a surprise birthday party for  for DJR.  Who has dishes for 40?  I do and they saved me a bundle in rental costs. Next, I only buy quality, a few years ago I bought a set for eight of white Wedgewood china for $7.88. And finally,  I stop (for the day) either when the money’s gone or if I score a major find, I don’t like to be greedy.  Today, was a colossal find day,  I bagged a tall blue green West German vase $3 bucks, and a cookbook that I have been looking for, Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking, also $3 bucks.  Total fun, for a total of $6 dollars.

The best part of the day though, was  on the way home. I stopped at my local farm stand and what greeted me upon my arrival?  Pints and pints of the first raspberries of the season, just picked an hour before.

Today was one of those where life was perfect.  The sky was a deep blue and the sun was hot.   I drove home with the windows down ( the air-conditioning quit on my four year old car, but life is perfect today so it doesn’t bother me) with my thrift store finds on the back seat and the glorious, plump raspberries beside me.

I came home to a hot kitchen, too hot to bake, so I made a vanilla bean panna cotta, so easy, it takes five minutes to prep, and after 2 or 3 hours in the fridge, I’ll be eating this cool, smooth vanilla spiked custard with the sweet berries on top.  So simple, but so perfect, just like today.

Panna Cotta ( I use 2 ounce mason jars to serve desserts in during the summer, so this recipe makes enough for eight of those)

1/3 cup milk, I used 1% because it was in my fridge

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract plus one vanilla bean scraped, or if you don’t have fresh vanilla beans (an extravagance of mine) use 2 tsp. of vanilla extract  (hey, I buy my jeans at the thrift stores but I buy my vanilla beans on line at The Vanilla Food Company, they’re awesome)

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and granulated sugar, whisk over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved and the cream just comes to a boil. But don’t let it boil over like I did on my uber-clean stove, oh well.

Meanwhile sprinkle packet of gelatin over the 1/3 cup of cold milk.

After the cream has come to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and the vanilla.  Whisk to mix, and pour into dessert glasses.  If you want to unmold your panna cotta, which is traditional, first lightly grease your dishes with a neutral flavoured oil.  Chill until set, 2 to 3 hours.  Keeps 2 to 3 days in the fridge and makes an excellent late night snack or a perfect breakfast dessert.  If you like breakfast dessert.

creamy smooth deliciousness

Hey Deb, you would have loved it today.