Tag Archives: food

Local food, local business, and how you can get mad.

picture-54It was a breath of fresh air to read Rino’s recent post about local support, and how frustrating it can be when it’s being used as a buzzword instead of a genuine way of doing business.

He also started a new blog for his business, Black Kettle Bistro, which he’s using as a soapbox for all things related to the business, and community in general. You should be checking it out anyway.

It’s tough a a business to do truly local business without some sort of infrastructure of locality being fostered by other business owners. Yes, there’s a paradox. Chicken or the egg.

Rino sounds like he’s more than willing to investigate where we can spend our money, as business owners, in the local economy, keeping our money here, avoiding the chains, rewarding our neighbours’ efforts to keep money within the community. We need more of this.

I encourage you to click on the link in the first sentence of this post to read Rino’s rant about local food, and the hypocrisy of myopic “buy local cars” sentiments by people who couldn’t find a local business in a phone book.

I know that the point is to be positive and move forward…but often, from the ground-level (the business-owner point of view) the awakening often begins from a spark of anger, feeling disrespected and forgotten. The concentration of that vitriol toward education of others, and varied business practice is the best we can do for now, without a strong, convenient local-business (food particularly) infrastructure.



picture-43Not many weeks ago, with the Big Walk, I became aware of a guy from Windsor named Shawn Micallef. You see, I knew he existed beforehand, because I saw him regularly at Phog with some of my current patrons/friends.

What I did not know was that he was heavily involved in some amazing projects, including pshycogeography, Spacing Magazine (Associate Editor), and Murmur. Murmur being the most outstandingly wonderful story-telling concept I heard about when I was 20 or 21.

But Spacing magazine was something being tossed at me (conceptually) by several people. Some knew Shawn was involved, and others had no idea who Shawn was, but they knew Spacing Magazine. I was being referred to this magazine, because surely if I was interested in taking a crazy-long walk, I was a fan of the things this magazine stood for. Here’s what their website says:

“Public space is at the heart of democracy. It’s where people interact, teach, learn, participate, and protest.

But environmental degradation, commercial self-interest, and infrastructure neglect have come to dominate our cities’ streets. Fortunately, imaginative and passionate city-dwellers worldwide — and in Toronto in particular — appreciate the endless possibilities that cities can offer. They are resisting the co-option of their communities through random acts of beauty and intellect.

Inspired by these actions, we launched Spacing in December 2003 to cover the numerous political, cultural, and social issues affecting our lives in the public realm. We want the magazine to be an integral, independent, and unique voice that brings to life the joys and obstacles surrounding Toronto’s public spaces.

This city is a special place — we’re excited by its people and its neighbourhoods, its sidewalks and its graffiti. Spacing is here to help our readers understand and take ownership of Toronto’s urban landscape.”

Fast forward a bit, to when Chris Holt tells me that he has a pile of these magazines at his house.

“I can bring ’em to you if you want ’em,” he said. So I was totally revved about finally seeing this magazine, and secondarily, putting it out for my customers to consume at Phog. Maybe we get a little leakage from the pages of this magazine about CARING about your city and DOING things rather than harping, bitching, and whining. We’ll see in due time.

So I began reading the mags, but damn-near every article is fascinating, and I know it will take a while to get through these babies. I did, however find an article less than 6 hours after writing the blog post about the Downtown Mission and the possibility of them having their own organic garden on municipal land. (By the way, I got a ton of comments on this post form people who are musicians etc., who I know for their music primarily, but who are doing this VERY thing in other parts of the county…teaching food education through hands-on participation, an THEN donating food to food banks! Getting the word out there is amazing. The results of outreach can really open your eyes.)

The article I found in Spacing read like a question and answer, with the first question and answer giving me all the convincing I needed to decide whether it’s possible for The Downtown Mission to do this kind of project. Interview by Matthew Hague.

Nick Saul is the Executive Director of The Stop Community Food Centre, an organization in the Davenport West neighbourhood whose range of services include a food bank, workshops, and community kitchens…

Spacing: What are the opportunities that exist within the city to produce more locally grown, nutritious food?

Saul: I am a big believer that we should take every green space we have and turn it into food production. I think we should be growing food in our backyards, in our front yards, on our balconies. The Stop has an 8000-square-foot garden at Earlscourt Park where we grow about 3000 pounds of organic produce that comes back into our many programs, and it’s an exciting example of what you can do with green space in the city. Parks aren’t simply there to walk in and smell the flowers; you can actually turn some of that land into food production, and support our communities with healthy food.

Well holy crap.

Need I print more?

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.

Winery Tour; By Bike

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Jhoan and I went to Kingsville, bikes in tow, my Mom in the front seat, and Jhoan’s sister and brother-in-law following nearby. We were heading out to a Windsor Eats event in the county, where several wineries are located. You see, this area in Ontario is on the same latitude as the major wine producers in California and Europe. I think the one major difference is the fact that we get winter temperatures, making the ice-wine an incredible success in this area.

The windsoreats.com crew are motivated to promote the locally run/produced/staffed/grown food in the region. This bike tour was their baby, and in all honesty, I was skeptical.

A quick rundown of the day’s events.

Beginning at Aleksander Winery, we had some white wine as the Mayor of Kingsville mingled with the crowd, taking pictures under the large willow tree located in the back of the property. Loads of bikes were leaning, layin, or standing, waiting to embark on the 25km bike ride which would bring us to two other wineries before returning for dinner.

Upon arrival, I recognized a local musician, and all-around great guy, Mark Muzzin. He, with his wife (Isabella?) do a heap of work at the winery on a regular basis, feeding tours and giving tours, while tending to winery matters also. He gave me a sneak peek of what we’d be eating when we returned. I was speechless. Locally fed/grown veal with pasta (all sauce made from tomatoes and spices in the area), original seed Peaches and Cream corn on the cob, and a melange mix of salad from local greens. Everything on the menu was from less than 10 kilometers of the winery! Awesome!

As we mingled, Chico the bike tour guide was racing around the parking area to test EVERY BIKE to make sure the tire pressures were up to snuff. He filled loads of tires, including mine. What a supremely great idea and gesture to make sure everyone had the easiest ride possible.

We hit the open road, riding the furthest leg of the ride to Pelee Island Winery. When we arrived, we shopped a little bit, ad then began our tasting/tour of the entire workings of the winery. We must’ve tasted at least 6 wines (1 ounce pours are the norm) while moving from production room to room learning about how they make wine, why wine has numbers associated with it, and what the labelling means when you buy VQA wine.

It was interesting, informative, comfortable, and enjoyable all around.

We moved from Pelee Island Winery, a SLIGHT bit tipsy, to the last stop on the trip before returning. Mastronardi Estate Winery had been blessed by the weather gods, because we were able to get a vineyard tour, seeing the grapes, learning about how they are capable of raising the temperature in the vineyards when a cold snap hits (fascinating and almost unbelievable). We tasted four wines, I believe, and they had a rosee that was maybe the best thing I tasted on the entire tour! Beautiful.

When we returned, tired, hungry, and proud of our investment/purchases, we sat down to the meal which was absolutely everything you would imagine it to be. We ate outdoors, under a large white tent, tasting MORE wine (two reds and two whites) and recounting the nearly perfect day of family, love, exercise, libation, healthful local eats, and new friends. Pina and Adriano of Windsor Eats were untouchable in the vein of hosting an event so well-intentioned with people and companies who were SO WELL PREPARED! It went without a hitch.

My mother kept up with the crowd of cyclists, some racing for some reason, and she was riding a one-speed cruiser bike! I can’t say I would have been as capable without gears. I was lucky enough to coast through the ride with Jhoan most of the time, although I tried to stay behind with my Mom on the last two legs of the ride to create a bit of a draft for her. I don’t think I helped one bit, but I wanted to try.

Now to the finish. Yes I had to leave a tad early to rush to work in Windsor (30 minutes away), but this immaculate event was not a one time thing. They have another in September! It’s located at some other wineries in the area (Viewpointe for sure).

The kicker…the entire thing…the meal, the ride, the tours, the tastings cost each participant only $20. TWENTY BUCKS?! That’s practically FREE for what we got! I cannot say enough about this brilliant event, as it may be the best local outing I’ve ever been on in the region. Period. It was that good.

All that said, there is some video that I shot while on the tour…and you are welcome to watch some. It was windy, so the sound cuts out a bit at times, but you can still learn from what I taped.

And on the tail end of this high, I am off to spend a weekend on Pelee Island! I’m going with Dan and Jenna, and Tristan and Hilary. I will laugh so hard this weekend, I may get sick on myself.

Enjoy the videos.

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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.

A Discussion on Food

Being at Phog all of the time, I am treated to conversations of people who know WAY more than I do. Often, these talks are lost on me. They occur in my periphery, and I am unable to recount any of the details.

On this night, some friends went to a Wild Game dinner night at Three: A Tasting Bar, a restaurant in Windsor, and ate some outrageous number of courses, and were mystified by how delectable it was.

Neil and Charles are both cooks. They know food. They talk food sometimes and people in the vicinity who are not cooks (which is almost no one) put up the invisible “not listening” curtain. But these guys speaking about food is like poetry in a language I don’t speak. I equate it to listening to mathematicians discussing physics or something. Wait, don’t physicists discuss physics? You get the idea.

This is a recording (they knew it was being recorded) of their talk about this meal, and others like it. It’s more like a podcast, but it’s totally worth a listen. Not being from Windsor, I would be emphatic about hearing a conversation between strangers in a strange city. It’s like a peek into the slow night at one of the more renowned music venues in Canada. Yes, you can hear my annoying laugh and intermittent banter throughout. Neil makes me laugh without trying. It might be his endearing lisp mixed with crumplingly sharp wit.

Neil and Charles discuss wild game and all things foody.

The first two minutes will be much louder than the remainder of the clip. This conversation took place at least a month ago…maybe two.

This link will not be working by June 12th, but if someone reads this after that time and wants to hear it, I will re-post it. It is being posted to an online location free for a month.