Category Archives: Food Politics

No Alligator Fritters in the Everglades??!!

For whatever reason, I manage to find myself being taken on adventures on a semi-frequent basis, by people who love life, eat well, and want me around. I’m not going to start questioning it anytime soon. This most recent rendition included the Florida Everglades. The last time I was in Florida was when I was about 8, with my family. We went on a day trip to the Everglades and took one of those crazy airboat tours to see alligators, migratory birds, fig vines hugging huge oak trees, and mangrove trees with their fingerlike roots reaching into the still, green, brackish waters below. When I was little, we got to do all of that AND eat alligator fritters. I thought it was one of the most succulent creatures I had ever eaten. So, for the past 20-odd years, I have dreamed about one day eating alligator again.

Unfortunately I don’t frequent Southwest Florida, don’t have a snowbird grandparent to go visit, and generally try to avoid supporting the US economy. And then, I found myself positioned in the company of one very generous ladyfriend who needed a getaway, knew someone with a house to stay at down south, and whisked me away to the sunny Gulf Coast. She was dead set on paddling a canoe in the Everglades. Being pretty game myself, I agreed that it would be an excellent day trip. We managed to avoid being taken hostage on highway 41, rented a canoe, drew our paddles along the sleepy surface of Turner River, and paddled through the narrow and winding passage of the mangroves. We chilled out in the canoe mere feet away from many alligators. We saw a mommy alligator with two of her babies, we even got so close that I tapped one with my paddle, unknowingly. Alligators are very good at camouflaging themselves in the swamp. We were followed back up the river by a red-shouldered hawk, examined a colourfully painted turtle sunning itself on a log, and collected snail shells floating on the surface. After our foray into the wilds of the mangrove in a tippy canoe, nose-to-nose with sea monsters, we decided it was time to go in search for any alligator delicacy we could sink our teeth into. We arrived in Everglades City. It was a depressed little town, the main attraction being airboat touring companies along the water, but we managed to find a cafe with a table on the porch outside, and cold beer. A leathery and ancient old lady with very few teeth came to our table to take our order, I asked for the alligator fritters as advertised on the menu. “No alligator here.” “Oh, really? I had my heart set on it,” I said. “We ain’t got any cause they can’t sell the leather. You know it’s illegal to make anything with the hides, so nobody has any meat. I ain’t lying to ya’ honey, you can try the other places, they won’t have any either.” Disappointment set it. And so it went, because alligator hunters can’t do anything with the hides, they don’t bother hunting them. No fritters for us. Once again food politics trumps lunchtime satisfaction. I guess I can understand why. I’ll just have to go hunt me an alligator all by myself. You might expect a photo of a nice new leather purse in the next post… Just kidding.

Large Black Pigs ~ Why heritage breeds matter.

We’ve seen the Is it local? episode on Portlandia, and laughed at its ridiculousness. And we’ve seen the heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market with all of their charismatic bumps and scabs as we balk at the price tag. On menus we have read Red Fife wheat, or Berkshire Pork in an item’s ostentatious description. But why should we care?

It’s important.

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Wolfville Farmer’s Market – One Brick at a Time

The Plans - Photo Credit, Bruce Dienes

Eighteen years have passed and it’s been a long and fruitful journey for the volunteers, directors and staff of the Wolfville Farmers Market. Starting with three vendors in a parking lot, this community hub has been transformed into a bustling intersection of business and pleasure. Live music plays prominently every Saturday morning like a piper, enticing neighbours and tourists alike to spend an hour or two taking in all of the flavours of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Well known for its sensational array of apples, berries, organic produce, and rich, red soils, the region is an integral piece of the Nova Scotia food map. It’s a true coming of age story for the little farmers market that can, and with a big fundraising campaign underway, the Wolfville Farmer’s Market is casting off its outgrown, outdoor shell and will be moving into its new home in September, 2011.

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Greenwich, Nova Scotia Rezoning and the Future of Farmland in the Annapolis Valley

Greenwich, Nova Scotia

Please visit

Good Food Revolution

to read my ideas on Greenwich, Nova Scotia’s farmland rezoning issues and the  Kings County Municipal Council decision to defer their decision.

*This weekend* Stinking Rose Festival – Baker Settlement, Nova Scotia

While many of you will be donning French Maid, or Spider Man costumes this weekend, Camelia Frieberg will be cooking up a storm on her farm in Baker Settlement, Nova Scotia. So before you get all hopped up on refined sugar, check out a wholesome family event this Saturday down on the South Shore. 85% of what’s being served for lunch is coming from the Watershed Farm garden, accompanied by live music and workshops on different garlic varieties, medicinal uses, and gardening techniques. Despite a weekend of ghosts and goblins making their way above ground, vampires will be motoring to Cape Breton for fear of all the gorgeous garlic just outside of Bridgewater.

Please join Camelia, her family and friends for a fabulous Pollination Project special event. Details in the image below:

Early Bird Gets the Berry

Highbush Blueberries

Labour Day. What better way to celebrate being unemployed than by getting out to harvest something to put up for the winter. In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley there’s a lot of talk of how prolific this summer has been for the crops. And despite the threat of Hurricane Earl, which thankfully did not cause the chaos anticipated, farmers are likely to be reaping the benefits. I am also reaping the benefits of their hard work and good weather at the U-Picks just outside of Wolfville. Bright and early, and within 15 minutes of my front door, I found myself at Blueberry Acres, surrounded by rows of highbush blueberries. I was the first picker there, and got myself set up with a box and a pail on a string, set out and within an hour I had harvested 17lbs of delicious, juicy, enormous berries.

Blueberry Fields Forever

Highbush blueberries grow about 5-6 feet tall. Unlike wild blueberries, there is no crouching necessary, no bending over or squatting down. This is the most civilized berry picking a girl could ask for. Just reach out in front and pick. The blue orbs are plentiful and easy to detect, yet just when you think you’ve cleaned off a bush, look down, below the branches at eye level, and you’ve found another mother-load. In amongst the serenity and meditative qualities of berry picking, are disturbing sounds, however. As a measure of pest prevention for birds mostly, gunfire shots, squawking calls of birds of prey, and a lovely sculpture of a bald eagle are ever-present in the fields.

Integrated Pest Management

I would caution anyone going there who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, if the sound of gunfire is rattling, because the recording is amplified across the property inconsistently and often, bearing no resemblance of pattern. I got used to it pretty quickly, though, but was adequately disturbed.

Along with the flavour of late summer bursting from my freezer, I am looking forward to the antioxidant powerhouses gracing smoothies and baked goods all year-long.

The lovely ladies at Blueberry Acres also informed me that there was a raspberry U-Pick just down the way. Making two lefts and a right, I came up to miles of hoop houses, or tunnels filled to the rafters with raspberries, red and gold, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. Victor, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, was charmed by my six words of Spanish that I could string together, and told me that he supervised 72 Mexican farm labourers in the tunnels. He lives in town, but the rest of them live in trailers at the back of the property. They’re paid by the hour, but he said that many Mexican ladies go to be paid piece work a the blueberry farm and make upwards of $200.00 a day. Pretty good, but far from home. Victor only spends three out of 12 months in Mexico. Tomorrow I am going to go pick at the blueberry fields again, this time as a commercial picker and will be paid to spend a beautiful day outdoors.

Raspberries

Article on Gremolata.com Covering the Conscious Food Festival

ChocoSol Direct Delivery

http://gremolata.com/Articles/1024-Conscious-Food.aspx

Transgenic Trangression

Sooke Harbour Salmon

So, fish. Let’s talk about their current situation. Wild fish good; genetically modified fish not so good. Pretty simple. Lately I have been receiving a smattering of emails, requests to sign petitions, and Facebook group membership suggestions all relating to the Wild Pacific Salmon, now being considered as BC’s symbol of strength, resilience, and culture. Seems reasonable as Pacific Salmon can be found on almost any menu, in any museum of BC history or culture, and was once found in every river. It also seems reasonable, because the wild population of these beautiful creatures are in a bit of a pickle and in need of some more serious recognition and protection. With the introduction of farmed salmon, and now transgenic species of the fish escaping from the confines of lice-infested, waste-riddled, open-net cage farms, the wild stock is in serious danger. More so than ever before. A friend of mine who has been in BC for most of his life, closely connected to the population of all things edible, has written to me that there are hardly any fish this year, noting also that he has been involved in the fight to save the species for decades. Yes, global warming, over-fishing, and contamination of our waterways all contribute to the threat, but in the past several years, genetic engineering is rearing its even uglier head, beyond the scope of the endless fields of corn, wheat, soy and cotton, brings this problem to a whole other level.

It is generally franken-salmon, a relative to Atlantic Salmon, being raised on the Pacific Coast in net-pens along the coast of BC. But as Les Blumenthal writes for the Washington Post, “by some estimates, 400,000 to 1 million Atlantic salmon have escaped into the wild from the 75 or so net-pen operations in British Columbia. A Purdue University study using a computer model — and widely criticized by the biotechnology industry — showed that if 60 transgenic fish bred in a population of 60,000 wild fish, the wild fish would be extinct in 40 generations.” I don’t know how you might feel about this, but from what I understand, anything that becomes extinct leaves a trail of consequences that is impossible to predict. Predators and prey both challenged by the void.

This introduction of a genetically manipulated acquroversy has lead me to ponder the situation closer to home.

Delicious Smoked Wild Salmon

I have been trying to figure out whether there is any difference between what’s happening in the rivers and ocean of the west coast, and our very own Great Lakes. I am a huge fan of Splake. It’s a cross between a lake trout and a brook trout, which I have written about ad nauseum. I love its flaky, orange flesh, it’s tiny little scales and clear bright eyes. I love the way it holds up on a grill and cooks evenly from the outside inwards on a hot pan. I adore the delicate flavour and not-too-overly-fatty mouth feel that seems to melt on the tongue, requiring little in the way of chewing or teeth. But what, prey tell, is the difference between that of our local fish scientists introducing such a mule to our waters to repopulate the lakes and the genetic engineering of salmon in BC? This intervention seems less than favourable when dissected and deboned. Perhaps the trout is in cahoots with the zebra mussel mafia and is quietly planning yet another unwelcome and prolific invasion. Perhaps the few native fish we have left in the lakes will be bullied and picked on by the new kids, who generally grow faster than their predecessors, and will give up the fight, only to be devastated by the conquerors. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of research on the subject, and I shy away from quoting Wikipedia most of the time, so I will leave the question open. But to me, the use of the terms “man-created hybrid” when associated with a species of any organism, is a red flag (http://members.shaw.ca/amuir/splake.html). Does anyone out there have any idea if my fear is valid?

There are ways for us to fight upstream with the government and protest bogus policy and sustainability-washing certifications, that eco-organizations are doling out like candy so that companies can sell more product to unsuspecting salmon eaters. Alexandra Morton, who has done extensive research on salmon stocks, private and public policies has sent out the letter following this post. If you feel particularly strongly about the remarkable power that massive acquaculture companies have over our environment, our governance, and our food system, please take the time to read and react to Alexandra’s call for help.

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This is not food.

Generally I eat unprocessed, unrefined, unpackaged, whole foods with lots of love grown right into them, see Exhibit A.

Exhibit A: My garden.

Cycling, however, has brought out a previously unknown alter-ego; one capable of enjoying the most highly processed, neon-coloured, flashily-packaged, and down-right disgusting things. I thought I should share with you some of those consumables that fall into the “fuel” category of “food”, eaten only by athletes looking for cheap thrills and a quick pick-me-up. After 20, 50, or 140 Kms, they taste spectacular! I experience surges of energy within minutes from these brightly coloured, oddly textured, and phenomenally sweet treats commonly found in convenience stores and bike shops across the land. Please folks, don’t try this at home, save it for the race, the rally, the marathon, or the long-haul. These wee snacks are danger all wrapped up in pretty little parcels… and the reason the world is coming to an end. Oh the conflict! Mmmmmaltodextrin.

un-food

Uh oh. I guess I’m a Foodiot.

I may be guilty as charged. But I refuse to apologize for my enthusiasm! Discovering food and all things related to it, and documenting my experiences is one thing that I truly love to do, so read it or don’t, but I’m going to keep writing!

http://www.thestar.com/living/food/article/823245–from-foodie-to-foodiot

It’s a few days later since this was originally posted…some thoughts…

AND… now that I have been thinking about this for a few days, I am livid that there is a backlash against people reclaiming knowledge, skills, and connection to food. One of the number one problems in the world right now is the disconnection that is being established between eaters and how food is produced. By learning how to pickle things, make ice cream from scratch, butcher a whole animal, or get excited about artisan cheeses for example, not to mention share that knowledge with others and get excited about it, for the sole purpose of learning, I can’t think of anything more human, more connected and wholesome. Sure it can get annoying to hear about the same products (ramps and sea asparagus…noted), the same producers who have made it into the spotlight, the same restaurants which take pride in discussing the provenance of the items on their menus, and all of the many ways to make organ meats appealing, but this is inherently good, folks. Good, not bad. Not exclusive. Not inaccessible. Not a passing fancy. People are empowering themselves to take control of their food one baby step at a time; with each tomato plant in each container on each balcony; with each visit to a farmers’ market; with every keystroke and Youtube video documenting the process. People are excited about what they’re learning, and feel good about it, so they share their enthusiasm, and good on ’em. I don’t read all of the food blogs out there, and I certainly don’t assume that everyone is reading mine, nor do I think they should care. But, if they do, and if I can brighten someone’s day with a story, teach something to someone that they can use to nourish their bodies, minds and spirits, or help them pass some time, then I am satisfied. I will not be told that I am a Foodiot, and I am happy to be called a Foodie if that is indeed what I am. C’est la vie. Full stop.