Category Archives: food

Urban Gardening

picture-5I recently interview Barry Furlonger of The Downtown Mission.

The interview will show up on Tuesday, on this site, after the shorter (by half) interview airs on Not In My Backyard on CJAM 91.5FM at noon.

I tried to stay away from questions of donation amounts and holiday hardship. I think it’s pretty well-known that charities get a lot of help during the holidays. People are in the giving mood, or at least they get into the giving mood after watching It’s a Wonderful Life or Secret Millionaire. The charities get a heap of help in one or two months, and then run a deficit for the remainder of the year. They struggle month after month, hoping people will run food drives and collect goods they are in need of for the other 10 months they provide food and shelter.

I asked Furlonger about the usefulness of a garden. An urban garden, downtown, on dead Windsor land (of which there’s a ton) could keep a steady supply of fresh vegetables to supply the kitchen to feed those in dire need. I have been reading/listening to Michael Pollan talk on google videos, ted.com, NPR’s Fresh Air, etc., etc. and he is all about food education. Teaching kids where food comes from, and having them keep a garden at school, understanding how valuable real food is. When they see how much work it is, they understand that it is not something to be thrown away or wasted.

I guess I was channeling this line of thought when talking to Furlonger. I brought it up because he said the Mission is unable to accommodate for more than 100 volunteers. This surprised me greatly, because I thought, “The more the merrier.” Not so. You can only fit so many people in the kitchen. You can only have some many jobs for them to do. I began thinking that a garden, located downtown, donated temporarily by a land owner or the city, could be operated, maintained, and serviced by volunteers. More than the 100 could get their hands dirty. In fact, it’s possible that the people being taken care of could be taught how a successful vegetable garden is run, yielding healthy food.

Furlonger seemed interested in this, but with his hands as full as they are, it is likely a project that someone else would have to take on in order to A) find the land, B) find a land owner/city willing to donate the space C) get the administration of the Downtown Mission informed and educated on how to take “possession” of the land and how to cultivate it properly. It would be a big project, and maybe something that Fed Up Windsor could make a great deal of impact with along with the other foodies in this city. There is no shortage of organic food experts and locavores in this city, and there is no dirth of HUGE garden-keepers who could share their ideas also…like Steve Green and Scotty Hughes…Mark Buckner…tons of others…

Anyone got any thoughts on what roadblocks one could encounter, and overcome?

Anyone know of any realistic ways this could take place?

I just think it is important for The Downtown Mission to have a project that HELPS them become more self-sufficient rather than “hoping” for steady, weekly support from people who are just trying to make ends meet during the year. Only good things could come from something like this. Heck! They could even sell the surplus to local restaurants or locavores (local food conscious eaters wanting to know where their food is grown).

I know that there is something like this on Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) near Howard Avenue, just east of Dayus Roofing and Windows, east of Angilari Lumber. There’s a huge clinic complex there…and two sets of railroad tracks. My father lives on Louis Avenue, between Ypres and Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) and Louis ends on the north side at this LARGE garden. The garden is closest to the (directly south of, and almost touching) the trackson the North side of Lens or Vimy. I believe it is run by a native co-op, but I’m not sure WHO runs it. Likely one of my readers does. Help us out.

Gets my brain ticking.

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Thoughtfullness

Jhoan and I have friends in Toronto. A particular pair of friends who we are steadily trying to find ourselves near as often as possible. They are talented, creative, funny as hell, humble, trustworthy, selfless, resourceful, and THOUGHTFUL! I hate putting words like this in one sentence like the one previous, because I find that they leech meaning away from one another when the reader simply skips from one attribute to the other. But, I don’t stack these compliments lightly.

Dan and Jenna have a list of accomplishments (as a “friend couple”) that are as close to a “how to” of friendship as anyone can be. The following is simply one of them.

A little while ago, Jhoan and I went to the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia. Driving from Windsor to…well, anywhere east or north is a lame, flat, deflating trip. There is nothing to keep the eye wandering. Nothing to excite or busy the ocular nerve. There are no service centres for the soul. The McDonalds and Tim Horton’s can only do so much. Very, precious little to be precise. And so when I took Dan and Jenna up on their invitation to tell them when we were passing through Toronto, I did. I called to see what was what. Were they in? Were they out? We were keen for a visit with our friends, and we really hoped they would answer the phone and draw us from Highway 401 like a swami coaxing a cobra from his boring basket.

They not only invited us over to see them for a few minutes, but Dan helped me drag our bikes (which we traveled with) from the back of the car, up 20-some steep Toronto stairs, which he then locked to the railing. When we unloaded our highway malaise, they were eagerly preparing a meal. They had friends (neighbours) coming over for dessert soon. But they asked us to stay for dinner (which could be made and eaten before the neighbours were due). It consisted of Dan’s “famous potatoes” that he had made only once before, and they chopped, fried, boiled, blanched, stirred, and mixed without letting us touch a thing. Asparagus, chicken a l’awesome, and the delectable mashed potatoes followed by an angel-food cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. They got to use several of their wedding shower gifts for this one meal.

It was a hot dinner, with friends who we almost never get to see. It was a detour from the drone of the pavement under the car, and it was the most understated piece of magic we never expected.

Our discourse is always goofy, and light, and fun. We heard a song that Dan wrote and recorded in Halifax for Jenna about a rock ‘n’ roll ham…yes…a piece of ham that plays music…that ran for nearly 11 minutes. Also during this visit, he gave me DVD copies of his brilliant and hysterically funny (Chritopher Guest-esque) video series called Jim Dupree: Enthusiast. I have been wanting copies FOREVER. Jhoan and Jenna discuss everything lady-like. I heard them discussing locavores and community-grown food, because of the dinner ingredients having come from local origins. Dan and I try to make words, containing the word speck, (like re-speck-t and in-speck-tion) until we can’t think of anymore, which is what leads the ladies to ignore us in the first place to continue on with real discussion.

Our friends remind us that we are constantly invited to visit, almost perpetually so, and that we should move to Toronto. We sullenly decline, as we love them, and we roll out with our bikes, strap them to the trunk, and disappear back west, to Windsor.

A week or less went by. We got a shipment in the mail, from Amazon. Upon opening it, very curiously, there was a book inside. A book we hadn’t ordered. The 100 Mile Diet by J.B. MACKINNON and ALISA SMITH. Jhoan and Jenna had been discussing this book during our visit and Jenna had ordered it and had it sent to our hose with a note to Jhoan, telling us it’s worth the read, as per her discussion. No expectation. No hint. Just a gift in a brown box that screamed, “we care about you”.

These are the types of things that make me shake my head in amazement. Their thoughtfullness permeates and gets into your clothes, into your brain, and reminds me of how people treat those that they truly care about. Jhoan is the other great example of this in my life…but for Dan and Jenna having only been our friends for a few years(?) it is incomperable.

What’s more is that this is one of so many moments that they have gone overboard for our comfort, enjoyment, inspiration, inclusion, and even career advancement hopes. We are lucky. We know it. They know it. We have told them several times. I hope you have friends like these.

The news. I like.

I am dumbfounded. I’ll tell you why in a paragraph or two.

Listen, I will not pretend to know what is going on in Canadian politics. It is one of the priorities on my list.

Why? You may ask that for good reason. Well, I just like to know when someone is lying to me. I like being able to call “bullshit” when someone in the political spectrum , or someone speaking for one of those boobs, says something completely outrageous. I don’t like hearing things, and gobbling them up like a nice little consumer. I like to know the details.

For starters, our robotic, yet intelligent, Prime Minister of horse-puckey has made a move that I am FINALLY impressed with. He stated today that under the current definitions and rules around saying food in Canada is “Made in Canada” there are problems… As of right now, if 51% of the work being done to prepare food, and make it consumer-ready is done in Canada, companies are legally allowed to say Made in Canada. Which is a stretch, to say the least…I think we’ll all agree.

“Hey gringo, these bananas were grown in Canada…well, that’s not entirely true. You see, we grew them in South America and then they were juggled and handled and banged around vociferously in some shit-hole cannery plant in Ontario, so technically, they’re Canadian…right?”

No. I want to know where my food is grown, prepared, and “managed”.

Stephen Harper has made a promise, of sorts, to adjust this rule, so the definition is less clandestine and malleable to make sense to only those who work in the industry. Food must be grown and prepared fully in Canada to have the label Made in Canada. If it isn’t, it must say where the other “components” (a fruit salad mix, I guess?) are from.

I just love how Harper said something along the lines of, “It’s what Canadians want, so we have to provide it,” as if this dude gives one ounce of care what “Canadians want”. I digress. I must tip my cap to the man who I know to be intelligent and otherwise incompetent. He made good with me on this story.

And in other “news” The Globe and Mail has FINALLY decided to write about The North Pacific Garbage Patch! Holy geez! Someone at Phog told me that I would be happy that it was finally being covered. While reading the piece, I was floored, yet not surprised (we have a Conservative government) to read this admission from Diane Lake, a spokeswoman with the Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. She “said that while the ministry is aware of the North Pacific Gyre, it is conducting no real research on the extent or effects of the plastic pollution.” Perfect. Nice work Diane. Nice to see you give a shit. You know, Canada has a border that kinda touches the Pacific Ocean. Hey wait! That’s one of the words in the North Pacific Garbage Patch! Come to think of it, we’re North too…but, we don’t really need to be studying this. You know, it’ll all go away, like climate change, and racism, and mental illness, and corporatocracy raping us from dusk till dawn…yeah, someone else is taking care of it, I’m sure.

Here’s a shortlist, from The Globe and Mail, of what Captain Moore has been finding: A trail of Taco Bell wrappers, Dolls and action figures, Umbrellas, Tarps, Bottles, Tofu containers(for those of you who think you’re saving the earth with tofu. Maybe we need to be writing letters to tofu companies asking them to consider new packaging?), Lego, Grocery bags, Foam coffee cups, Checkers, Furniture, Toothbrushes, Cigarette lighters, Syringes, Rubber ducks, Basketball shoes

See, this is exactly the kind of thing that should make backbones stiffen. It should make you, reading this, totally annoyed with the laissez faire attitude of people who are paid by us to work for us. These are the issues that will be affecting your family’s family’s family. But what can we do besides thinking globally and acting locally? I’m actually shocked that the fishing industry in the west hasn’t pulled a page from the Argentinian farmers’ handbook.

Get angry at this lack of interest in your job, your industry, and your culturally significant knowledge. Stop fishing until the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decides to look into stemming this abuse in the oceans, and possibly even going so far as to suggesting that maybe we are drowning in our own plastic…and that we should step back from it…sloooowly…with biiiiig steps.

I must also place this in here…as I was listening to Q on CBC with Jian Ghomeshi, I heard the guest talking about food, and mentioning our good friend Michael Pollan. It was “Montreal writer Taras Grescoe on the search for ethical seafood” talking about his new book, Bottomfeeder. I kind of want to read this now. The “Q on CBC” in the first sentence of this paragraph is a direct link to the podcast of this show. It was a GREAT interview, worth listening to…

I bit off more than I could chew. Now I want to get into the whole argument we had at Phog last night…about bananas, how we won’t be eating yellow ones in 5 years, and about the plague/waste of sandwich (Ziploc) bags.

Another time.