Posted by: Hannah | 09/15/2010

food for thought

“We spend a lot of time thinking about food, you know”.

This was hubby, last night at dinner.  He’s right – we DO spend a lot of time thinking about food.  And preparing food.  Yesterday the whole house smelled of vinegar and spices because I made a batch of chow-chow and a batch of garlic dills.  Tomorrow is more salsa, to use up the last of the ripe tomatoes.  And I’m toying with the idea of making zucchini marmalade – I found a recipe and it will use up the remaining giant-assed gourds we grew this year without even really trying.

This is just the latest in a six-month intensive process of thinking about our food.  Where it comes from, what we eat, how we eat.  We didn’t mean for it to happen – it started with us needing to lose about 60 pounds each (we’re halfway there!)  It’s interesting, how much our whole way of looking at food has changed in such a short time – and how one small decision rolls downhill, picking up others along the way.

***

In the spring, we planted a garden.  Our only intent was to have a little fun with it, maybe grow enough tomatoes to have sandwiches.  We’ve now got jars upon jars of preserves, herbs drying in the kitchen window, and zucchini bread in the freezer.  We had fresh onions all summer long.  Two weeks ago we made a run to the Annapolis Valley, only an hour away (so within the 100-mile limit, if anyone’s counting) and stocked up on apples, onions, squash, carrots.  Hubby has totally come around to the idea of buying these things in bulk and storing them “down cellar”.

***

The new Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market has opened, to much controversy.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but we did meet a vendor who has seen a 50% increase in his sales since the move to the new building.  He produces beef, pork, chicken and turkey.  He also supplies lamb that a neighbour raises.  We bought a couple of steaks from him one weekend as a treat and I’m here to tell you, that meat was damn near orgasmic.  Dense but tender, strongly flavoured, rich and delicious.  And not significantly more expensive than a similar cut at the big-box grocery store.

So we looked up the farm, and to make a long story short we are getting a big delivery this weekend.  Pork mostly – everyone in this house loves what Thing #1 calls “delicious yummy piggies” – but some chicken, some beef, and a Thanksgiving turkey.  The price per pound is comparable to the grocery store if you average it out.  But I’ve never had Galen Weston call me at home and ask me what kinds of cuts I would prefer when I’m buying meat.

***

And Galen Weston brings me to my next major shift – the grocery store I shop in.  For years, probably a decade, I’ve down 99% of my grocery shopping at the Real Atlantic Superstore (Loblaw’s).  We really only have two options for grocery stores out here on the east coast; Superstore and Sobey’s.  Superstore became a habit.  It was the closest, at our last house, and a nice new shiny clean store, so when we moved to this house we just kept up with Superstore.  And for a long time – but particularly the last year – I’ve been getting increasingly pissed at them.  Shelves are empty of things I need, for weeks at a time.  Private label brands are gradually being replaced outright by President’s Choice, in order to increase the profit margin (but while decreasing choice).  The “Grown Close to Home” campaign is outright bullshit, because apparently as long as the product is grown close to Galen Weston’s home, it counts.  The staff are surly and the carts are always broken.

We’re experimenting with Sobey’s for one month, to see how it goes.  So far, impressed.  They have actual local produce available.  The store layout makes sense.  Everything I go looking for, I find.  And even though the carts are not designed for big-box shopping, we find we don’t mind.  As we plan our meals better, and buy more things in bulk when we can, our weekly shops are not generating nearly as many items.  Our weekly bills are lower.  We’re generating less garbage.  I almost never do that horrible fridge-purge where untouched food rots at the back (hubby is helping hugely with this, by finally getting in the habit of taking leftovers for lunch instead of buying crap on his break).

***

We’re probably boring about the whole thing.  I know our friends have a tendency to let their eyes glaze over when we mention it.  And it’s a weird form of entertainment, I suppose.  But… it is possible.  It is.  Not all of it.  I know that we are blessed to have enough money that we can buy in bulk – something that is difficult for people on reduced incomes.  I wish it weren’t like that.  It shouldn’t be like that.  Everyone should have the opportunity to buy into their local food system, in some way.  I don’t know what the answer is.  I just know that our family is trying hard – and we’re doing it, one small change at a time.

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Responses

  1. i have recently shifted more to Sobey’s as well, and the local Co-op. there are still a few PC things i prefer, in terms of “exotica” that Sobey’s doesn’t carry in much variety. but i try to buy as little produce at Superstore as possible, b/c Sobey’s and particularly the Co-op are almost always far more local.

    we got our beef from Misty last year – Fuzz Butt. he’s delicious. we’re trying to buy any other meat we eat from the Co-op, as it’s almost all Atlantic-raised. and therefore less likely to have lived under factory farm conditions, on top of everything else.

    i heard about the new market. i was kind of appalled, but that’s because of attachment to memory of place more than anything. is Mary’s bread basket in the new spot? with cinnamon buns? i could love anywhere if it had her cinnamon buns.

  2. Yeah, I almost went off on a side rant about the new Farmer’s Market, because it is sort of appalling. (Michael actually worked on the project at his last job, so we’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing it for years.) Anyway, it’s very shiny. They don’t have nearly enough parking so it’s always a mess. They’ve had to hire commissionaires to direct traffic. It’s not completely finished yet either so shopping in it is a bit weird. The vendors I’ve asked who made the switch prefer it though.

    As for Mary’s Bread Basket, she’s still in the old location – because it’s still going too, albeit in a much reduced way. Some vendors flat-out refused to move. They were able to attract some new folks who couldn’t get in before, too. So for all intents and purposes we now have two separate farmers’ markets, walking distance apart – which can only be a good thing.


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