Food for Thought
A few weeks ago we had a holiday here in Nova Scotia and I was super excited to have an extra day off work (for the season that I work I only have one day off a week). I’ve done a lot of recipe development, cooking and food photography ahead of time so that I can still post recipes while I’m working.
However, on my extra day off I looked ahead on the calendar and saw I still didn’t have a recipe for Pi Day (March 14th – or 3.14) and the geek in me REALLY wanted to have a pie recipe for you guys. There is no geekery I enjoy more than food geekery.
I was tired, though, and just wanted to hang out with my little family. We were headed out for brunch at Laurier’s parents’ house. Finally, we decided that he would take the girls over there a bit early and give me a chance to do some cooking.
I had already worked on this recipe twice before and knew I wanted to go in a different direction. After some research I decided to make mini chocolate cream pies. Delicious. It wouldn’t even take very long.
As I got started, though, I ran into a few hiccups. Somehow (HOW!?!?) I had almost no sugar in the house. Guys, it’s hard to make chocolate cream pies with no sugar. The grocery store was closed because it was a holiday. I sighed and sat down to redo my calculations for the recipe. Okay. Moving on…
I decided to make a chocolate pudding on the stove, so that these little cutie pies could just chill in the fridge. But, because I was in a rush and running around trying to do everything too quickly, I overcooked the pudding and scorched the egg on the bottom of the pot. ARGH. At this point I was starting to get a bit discouraged.
I passed the pudding through a fine sieve and got rid of most of the egg. I figured I’d mention what happened as a note of caution in the recipe. I kept going (I’m nothing if not persistent).
Finally, we came to the chocolate. I went through my cupboard, where we normally have lots of baking chocolate, and found one box. It had been opened already.
I held my breath and peeked inside. I counted the ounces of chocolate left. I was short 2 ounces from what I figured I would need. I did some quick calculations. Maybe I could still make it work. I put the chocolate on a cutting board and started chopping it, then got out my camera to take a photo for my step-by-step process shots.
I didn’t have quite enough natural light to take a photo that wasn’t blurry (winter food photography is rough!), so with the camera in hand, I picked up the cutting board to move over near a window. As I walked away from the counter, my camera strap hooked on a drawer pull and the entire cutting board full of chopped up chocolate flew across the kitchen and landed on the floor.
Guys, this was my limit.
Aside from a moment of relief that my camera wasn’t also in pieces on the floor, this was the moment when I realized I was done. DONE. D-O-N-E. There would be no mini chocolate pies. There would be no Pi Day post.
It was just not going to happen because I was trying to squeeze too much into one little day off and trying to work around too many obstacles, and sometimes, friends, in life, you just have to say NO.
Modern life is full of demands on our time, and obligations pulling us in a hundred different directions. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to turn down plans or cut things off our to-do lists, or just accept that we can’t do it all.
Even if it’s just to yourself. Actually, ESPECIALLY if it’s just to yourself (in my case anyway).
So I did exactly what I should have done in the first place, I cleaned up and went to brunch with my family, and spent the rest of the day hanging with Laurier and the girls.
Do I have a pie recipe for you today? No.
Do I have advice for you today? Yes.
Give yourself a break. Cut yourself some slack. If life is crazy and you’re a food geek like me, stop at a bakery and buy yourself a little pie and go home to enjoy it.
Because sometimes you just have to say no.
If you’re still looking for a pie recipe, check these out:
Looking for the best gifts for a foodie? Or the best gifts for a cook or baker you love? Whether it’s the holiday season, a birthday or just because, these gifts are sure to delight! Check out our top gift ideas and scratch something off your to-do list today!
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Are you guys all shopped out yet?! Somehow I doubt it. I find that despite all the good intentions we all have of getting our shopping done early, it always straggles into December.
How many of you have a super foodie/cook/baker on your list?
What to buy those people?!?!
WELL! I happen to love this subject. Whether your budget is big or small, I have some suggestions for you!!
Stocking Stuffers or Secret Santa Gifts
(Best Gifts for Foodies, Cooks and Bakers)
Looking for stocking stuffers for family or a Secret Santa gift for a friend or coworker? We’ve got you covered. Check out these awesome little treasures!
Instant Read Thermometer – If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that the #1 thing I can’t stop harping about is my instant meat thermometer. I LOVE IT. We actually own two and if the batteries die in one of them I start to get nervous. 🙂 This is such a great little stocking stuffer for the cook in your life and you can pick it up for around $10!
Vegetable/Sandwich/Cookie Cutters – Am I the only person who likes to cut food into cute little shapes? I don’t always think to do it, but when I see other people do it I’m like !!!!!!! I seriously love how cute vegetables, sandwiches, cookies, and other food can be when they’re cut into little hearts, flowers, etc. These little cutters are inexpensive and versatile.
Crocheted Coffee Cozy – This little fox cup cozy is SO cute! I’m in love. And the artist who makes them is from Toronto! Yay for supporting Canadian artisans! There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter’s day than a hot cup of coffee… EXCEPT a hot cup of coffee cozied up in this little fox holder!
Garlic Mincer – This one is a little pricier, but I think it would make an AMAZING stocking stuffer. Lee Valley is well known for producing great quality items and this little garlic mincer is no exception. I’ve had mine for about 10 years and it is still going strong, even with tons of use. I’ve tried others and they really don’t compare. Spring for this one.
Zester/Microplane – Okay, so a zester might not be the sexiest stocking stuffer around, but I honestly find it one of the most useful small tools in my kitchen. We use ours daily, for lemon and lime zest, Parmesan cheese, when our regular grater is dirty (haha). It’s inexpensive and would make a great stocking stuffer, or if you want to make it into a larger gift for the food lover in your life, why not combine it with a little block of real Parmesan cheese?!
(Best Gifts for Foodies, Cooks and Bakers)
These gifts are mid-range. I think they’d make awesome gifts for a sibling or friend. Not so small that they feel like a stocking stuffer, but not so big that they break the bank!
Decorative Rolling Pin – I have a bit of a thing for these rolling pins. I don’t own one (yet). I own a regular rolling pin, of course, but these are just SO gorgeous and would make the most beautiful cookies! I only bake once in a while but I think this would make such a lovely gift for the baker in your life! They sell a lot of different designs too, and they’re all super nice!
Baking Themed Necklace – These necklaces are so cute! I bought one years ago for a friend when she graduated from baking school, and you can get them for with different charms for bakers, cooks, different birthstones and letters. I think they’re a super cute gift.
Budget Bytes – The Cookbook – While I know Delicious on a Dime is your first stop for affordable recipes 🙂 , I think this cookbook would make an awesome gift, especially for anyone who’s trying to save money on groceries! Lots of great, fresh recipes that are affordable and delicious.
Personalized Cutting Board – If you know me personally, you probably already know that I’m a total sucker for anything with a tree on it. I just love trees. And flowers, plants, leaves. You know, all those naturey things. This cutting board is gorgeous and fairly affordable. There are lots of different images available and you can have it personalized! If you couldn’t bear to cut on it (a distinct possibility), the recipient could always use it as a beautiful cheese tray or serving board. What a lovely gift!
Art! – I love these watercolour prints of herbs, and even if watercoloured herbs aren’t your thing, there is tons of gorgeous art on Etsy that you can browse around for – whether you’re looking for something food/kitchen themed or not.
The Big Gifts
(Best Gifts for Foodies, Cooks and Bakers)
These items are definitely a splurge – but sometimes that’s what you’re looking for! Whether it’s a big gift for your sweetheart or parent, or a group gift that a bunch of people are going in on, check out these dream kitchen gifts.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer – A Kitchen Aid stand mixer is one of those things that people love to wish for – and with good reason! It’s not (just) because they look good – I have one and it makes my life so much easier. I can mix up a few loaves of bread in minutes, whip cream in seconds, and it makes baking feel effortless. I especially like that I can put something in it (as long as it’s not super temperamental) and walk away, either to get my next ingredient, or start the next step in the recipe. If you have someone on your list who loves to cook and bake, definitely look into it!
Cuisinart Food Processor – Cuisinart makes one of the best food processors around. I invested in this one because I have a small local hummus business, and it has been an absolute workhorse for YEARS now. I’m sure I’ve already used it WAY more than the average person would in a lifetime, and you know what? It’s still going strong. I absolutely love it. I love all the things it lets me make effortlessly, like pesto, pizza dough, whipped dips, hummus and shredded salads like coleslaw. I love that I can make a huge batch of turkey pies or lasagna and chop ALL the veggies in my food processor instead of by hand. It’s a huge time saver and opens a lot of doors for the home cook. Can you tell I’m in love?
The Instant Pot – Did you have a feeling this new kitchen tool would make an appearance here? I really love that this one tool can do the work of 7 of my kitchen gadgets (once I bought this I got rid of my yogurt maker and regular slow cooker… I didn’t own a rice cooker, but if I did it would be gone too). This small appliance really does do it all! Pressure cooking is a whole new world for me, but I feel super safe doing it with the Instant Pot and I’m loving the learning process (and the delicious results). Luckily there are a TON of resources online to help me learn how to use this and try different recipes. This is an AMAZING gift for the super busy family that’s struggling to get a homemade supper on the table every night!
Food Saver – This small appliance helps us stock our freezer with delicious freezer meals, preserve vegetables from the garden and freeze leftovers to eat another time. It extends the freezer life of food a TON by vacuum sealing it so that there’s no freezer burn.
Heart-Shaped Waffle Maker – Many years ago my siblings and I bought this heart-shaped waffle maker for my mom, and I think it’s just the cutest! I think she does too! So much better than boring old rectangular waffles! I think I’d be even more motivated to make delicious waffles from scratch if they were going to be this cute!
Are you a foodie? Or a cook or baker? What’s on your wish list this year? Let us know in the comment section below!
The most important ingredient in your kitchen isn’t anything expensive or hard to get your hands on. It’s super simple and absolutely essential to great cooking. If you’re not using salt in your cooking you’re selling yourself short. Learn to use salt in your cooking and become a better cook today.
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Recently I told you guys all about my love for my favourite food, cheese. But cheese isn’t even close to my favourite cooking ingredient (although it can be pretty great).
My favourite ingredient, by miles and miles, is salt.
Ideally, kosher salt or sea salt, but in a pinch (hehe) even the humble table salt will do.
Salt, my friends, is a miracle worker. A game changer. A paradigm shifter.
It will take your cooking from meh to “Yeah!” If you don’t believe me, try it out.
Why You Should Use Salt In Your Cooking
People tell me all the time that they don’t use salt in their cooking. That they let people salt their own food at the table. And I’m here to tell you something important: Unless you have a health condition that requires you to watch your sodium intake, if you want to be a great cook, you need to be using salt.
Salt has been WAY over demonized. If you’re eating a diet that’s relatively low in processed foods, chances are you have room in your diet to add a little flavour-enhancing salt to your cooking.
I married a man who didn’t believe in salt shakers. To this day, when I go to eat at my parents-in-law’s house, they get out the salt shaker especially for me. But Laurier had his own little salt epiphany a couple of years ago.
I have a small business making artisinal hummus that I sell at our local Farmer’s Market. One day I was making a batch of Laurier’s favourite flavour and I forgot the salt. I taste test every batch (I own about 60 teaspoons for this purpose) and as soon as I tasted it I knew the salt was missing. The taste was flat and lifeless. It was totally bleh.
I got out a fresh spoon and took Laurier a sample to try.
“Guess what ingredient I forgot to add?” I asked him.
He guessed a few ingredients but finally guessed salt, probably because I was standing there grinning at him like a mad Cheshire Cat.
“Yes!” I told him. “Now wait here and I’ll bring you a taste with the salt.”
I brought him a taste once I had added the salt and even he, of little faith, could tell that it was infinitely better.
Salt enhances flavours. It brightens taste and makes ingredients pop. It allows your food to shine as its truest self. It is, without a doubt my desert island ingredient. Cooking is never the same without it.
How To Use Salt in Your Cooking
Even if you think you don’t use salt in your cooking, there’s a pretty good chance you use some type of sodium. Ever use soya sauce in a recipe? What about onion soup mix or a can of soup? Ketchup? Fish sauce?
If so, you’re using a hefty dose of sodium.
So enough with the salt bashing over there.
If you’re a dedicated salt non-user, I offer you a challenge:
Make something and use salt. If it’s in the recipe, use the salt it calls for. If you’re doing something more straightforward, like cooking vegetables (using ANY method), add a little salt before you eat them. Better yet, add a little butter, salt and pepper. If you don’t find it tastes better, either you did something wrong, or I don’t believe you 🙂 Get over here and let me cook you some vegetables the way they are meant to be cooked.
The way I like to use salt in cooking is to season a little bit at a time as I go. If I’m making a pot of spaghetti sauce I’ll start by sauteing the onions and garlic in some olive oil and I’ll add a little salt to them. When I add hamburger and break it up, as it starts to fry, I’ll add some salt. Later, when I add veggies and tomatoes and whatever else, guess what else goes in the pot? Salt.
Those of you who don’t use salt are probably gasping in horror right now and imagining the saltiest pot of spaghetti sauce you’ve ever eaten. Nope. Just delicious, flavourful, well-rounded spaghetti sauce. Taste as you go and make sure that every stage tastes its best. Not salty, just perfectly yummy.
Ideally, you don’t want to cook your entire dish and just salt it at the end, because the salt doesn’t get to cook into every level and become incorporated into the taste. I suspect you would find the end result much saltier. If you’re someone who uses salt at the table, why not try using a little throughout the cooking process instead?
Types of Salt to Use In Your Cooking
My absolute favourite type of salt to use is kosher salt. It has great flavour, is super cheap and is available at most large grocery stores (and maybe even some smaller ones). I keep it in a sugar dish so I can grab a large pinch (with clean hands) and season whatever I’m cooking. After cooking with it for a while you’ll start to know, by feel, how much you should be using. Also, I LOVE roasting vegetables with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and crunching the melty kosher salt in my teeth as I eat, like in this recipe for Simple Oven Roasted Asparagus. You can do this with almost any vegetable, as long as you adjust the cooking time. Most delicious veggies ever.
I usually use table salt when I’m making or when it’s called for in a recipe I’m following. You’ll read a lot of bad things about table salt from chefs, who say it has a chemically taste or is too fine and hard to use in a predictable way. However, I really think that for anyone new to using salt, and most regular people (myself included, of course), table salt is just fine. Plus it has the added advantage of probably being in every kitchen or pantry in North America already. So you can just skedaddle in there and start experimenting with cooking with salt right away 🙂
Sea salt varies a lot, but it usually has a great flavour. It can be fine or coarse and can often be an excellent substitute for either kosher salt or table salt. If the grind is really large you may have to chop it or crush it a little more so you don’t get any really big pieces.
That’s about all I have to say about salt for today! Catch me on another day and I might have more to add! There have been entire books written about salt.
If you’re a dedicated salt-user in your cooking I’d love to hear from you. If not, I really hope you’ll take me up on my challenge to try cooking one or two things using salt. Let me know if you notice a difference! 🙂
Why “Food Writing” isn’t a niche in bookstores, I’ll never know! Books about food are one of my favourite kinds of books to read! If you’re a foodie and you love to read, you’re sure to find something delightful in this list .
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I love to read. Big time. And I looooooove food. So, naturally, I love to read books about food.
I read all kinds of books about food, from textbooks, to cookbooks (cover to cover), memoirs to novels, histories to mysteries. You name it, I probably like to read it.
In light of the fact that it’s FINALLY summer where I live, I thought I’d round up a nice little list of fantastic summer reads for all my fellow foodies out there.
These books are the fun ones from my list. There’s nothing heavy or textbooky here. Just inspiring, delightful, funny and engaging reads, perfect for a lounge in a hammock or a breezy afternoon nap. I’ve read most of these multiple times, and they only get better each time.
Note: I had to stop myself at 10 books, but I can’t help but note that many of these are travel literature as well as food literature. So they might appeal to anyone who, like me, loves to travel AND eat! 🙂
Enjoy, my friends.
10 Fabulous Reads for Foodies Who Love Food Writing
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver- I’ve mentioned this book before on the blog. I’ve both read it and listened to the audiobook. I found it inspirational both ways. Kingsolver’s soft southern drawl floats through your consciousness in the audiobook, explaining how her family spent a year eating only what they could grow themselves or source within a hundred miles of their home. The written format really lets you take the time to process what she’s talking about. A fascinating read. Includes recipes.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes – Don’t tell me you’ve seen the movie. They’re not the same. The book is a lovely, meandering visit to the Italian countryside, narrated by a woman who has fallen, completely, for Italy, and has the narrative skills to pay tribute to such a beautiful, complex country, people and food. Includes recipes.
Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl – Reichl was the restaurant critic for the New York Times for a decade, and in this memoir she recounts the lengths she went to in order not to be recognized at restaurants, as well as the amazing food she ate in New York’s best restaurants.
Chocolat, by Joanne Harris – This novel is a beautiful example of a genre I love – magical realism, which introduces magical elements into an otherwise plausible story. In Chocolat, a woman and her young daughter turn up in a small French village, where she opens a chocolaterie. The chocolaterie divides the pious town, but the woman manages to win over most people with her beautiful confections and gentle but mysterious manner.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof – a beautifully written Canadian memoir about a couple who quit their jobs, buy a sailboat and sail the Caribbean for a year. They visit 16 countries, eat amazing local food, shop in island markets and live a beautiful, sun drenched sailing life. Includes recipes.
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, by Bill Buford – a funny and fascinating recounting of Buford’s days in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s New York restaurant, Babbo, as well as his apprenticeship in Italy.
Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food, by Colman Andrews – this is a super fascinating read about Adria Ferran – the father of molecular gastronomy. (If you’re not sure what that is, picture spheres that look almost like caviar, but when you put it in your mouth, bursts with the flavour of whatever it’s made of – like olives or tea. Cooking meets science.) This is a fascinating biography of this Spanish chef and his restaurant, El Bulli, which was considered by many to be the best restaurant in the world.
A Moveable Feast, Lonely Planet Travel Literature – this is a great collection of stories from travel/food writers around the world, with special attention to the ways that food brings people together.
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle – this is such a classic, and with good reason. I just can’t leave it off the list. A beautiful description of life in southern France – the land, the culture, the people, and yes, the amazing food.
Bon Bon Voyage, by Nancy Fairbanks – I love a little light reading sometimes, and this was the first culinary mystery I ever discovered. Now I’ve read tons of them. I like this series by Fairbanks because the books are often set in different places (hello travelbug). The main character can be a bit… peculiar, but I’m assuming that’s intentional. I really love any type of food writing, and the ‘mystery’ part of most culinary mysteries drives the story along in a pleasant, lighthearted way. Includes recipes.
In researching this list, I found that some of these books are out of print now. I probably bought most of mine second hand, which is always a great option. But another fantastic option is to borrow them for FREE from your local library! I’ve done that with lots of these, and was even able to request them from other libraries through inter-library loans. And don’t forget the fun and convenience of downloadable e-books!
Have you read any fabulous food writing? Leave me suggestions in the comment section! Just compiling this list made me want to read more!
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I love to cook, I love to feed people, and I love to eat. Over the years, I’ve accumulated lots of kitchen gadgets. I use some of them on a daily basis and some of them only occasionally. But in my mind, there’s one that stands out, that does what no other tool can, and that I can’t be without.
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For years when I was younger I lived on a super tight budget. I bought groceries and cooked healthy meals, but I didn’t splurge too much on kitchen gadgets. I didn’t own a food processor (I remember trying to make chimmichurri – a pureed parsley sauce – with a knife… didn’t work out so well.) I didn’t own a stand mixer or a citrus juicer or an immersion blender (did those even exist back then?).
Over time, I bought, or received as gifts, many different kitchen tools that made it easier and more convenient for me to do what I love… and also what I do to feed myself and my family every day. Some are big things, some little.
But by far the most valuable is something I bought on a whim.
It’s an instant read thermometer.
When I bought it, I had no real expectations for this thermometer. It just seemed like a handy thing for a well-stocked kitchen to have. But it didn’t take long before I realized that I COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT. 🙂
Before, I would cook, say, chicken, in the oven. After a reasonable length of time, I would start “checking” it. I could cut open the thickest piece and try to tell if it was still pink inside. Did that meat look cooked? Were the juices clear or pink? I definitely didn’t want to give myself or anyone else food poisoning so after cutting a bunch of slits into all my pieces of chicken, I would cook it a little longer, just in case.
If I was cooking pork it was even harder. Lots of pork stays a little pink in colour no matter how long you cook it. Again, I would cut slits in it and try to tell if it looked cooked on the inside.
Even beef wasn’t safe from my knife. Once in a while I bought steak. At the time I liked my steak cooked ‘medium’. But I couldn’t be sure how well the steak was cooked without cutting into it.
You see where this is going.
I ended up, almost inevitably, with dry, overcooked, tasteless meat. By cutting into your meat you let all the delicious, flavourful juices out. Then I would overcook things even more, just to make absolutely sure they were “safe”. I did this while cooking turkeys, chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks, fish. You name it, I cooked it to within an inch of its life.
This was my life BIRT (Before Instant Read Thermometer).
Life After Instant Read Thermometer (AIRT)
I bought that nifty little thermometer, took it home and put it in a drawer. Next time I cooked some meat (a pork tenderloin), I thought – “Ooh! I should try my new thermometer!”
I got it out, stuck it into the thickest part of the meat, and just a second or two later there was a number starting up at me. A number that told me, in black and white, if the meat was safe to eat yet.
The simplicity of it was staggering.
When it reached the right temperature, I took it out, let it rest for a few minutes, and that night we dined on the most amazing pork tenderloin we had ever eaten. It was so moist and juicy we couldn’t stop talking about it.
And just like that, I was a convert.
In fact, I take our instant read thermometer completely for granted now. Nary a dry piece of meat to be found around this house anymore! We regularly enjoy moist pork, steak cooked perfectly to order, and even that most rare of meats to find moist – chicken breast.
Incidentally, I also find the thermometer handy to test things like water temperature, bread done-ness and other things. But these are kind of an aside.
Our first instant read thermometer bit the dust when I dropped it in a sink full of water (don’t do that). Most recently we own this one, and so far we’ve been happy with it. I’ll definitely be updating this post if anything changes. But I don’t think it will. Knowing now how much this tiny tool changed the way we cook (and eat!), I would buy it over and over AND OVER again. I’m only sad I didn’t buy it sooner.
See the recommended cooking temperatures for pretty much anything you would want to test.
Do you own an instant read thermometer? Do you find it useful?
When budget is your bottom line, it’s hard to decide where to spend your grocery dollars. While we sometimes make bulk purchases elsewhere, buying local is important to us. We always make it a point to shop at our local co-op, farmer’s markets and seafood market.
Our community is home to a co-op, a little grocery store filled with food and familiar faces. We see our neighbours and extended family there and the cashiers often remember our membership number. It’s a bit like Cheers.
We go to our co-op often. Our two year old knows the names of all the people who work there. It’s our favourite little family outing (we live a sheltered life). Really though, we live in a rural area, where there isn’t always much to do and honestly, we’re just obsessed with food.
Throughout this blog you will undoubtedly see me recommending bulk food purchases I’ve made at Costco, Bulk Barn, or very occasionally Walmart or some other big box store. While we’ve made the decision to buy certain items in bulk at Costco, we have balanced that out by buying 90% of our other food at our local co-op, as well as from local farm stands and seafood markets. Most of our produce (especially during non-gardening seasons), basics like milk and eggs, pantry staples like pasta and canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and the occasional tub of ice cream all come home in co-op bags or from the markets.
We watch for sales and buy when prices are low. While we could drive half an hour to a big store that has a larger variety and inevitably some better prices, we opt not to make special trips there. If we are near one of those big stores for another reason, we might stop in. A few times a year we hit up Costco when we’re already in the city. But by and large, we keep our money in our community and hope that the co-op, seafood market and and farm stands will always be here too.
You might not live in a village with a co-op or a town with a farmer’s market. But if you do, I encourage you to consider spending at least some of your grocery money there. In some cases (like a local market), the produce you bring home will be the freshest you can find. But anytime you buy something locally, you keep at least some of your money in your own community and support people you probably know personally. It might not be the very cheapest option you have, but hey, cheaper isn’t always better! 🙂
Rising food prices, pesticides on produce, antibiotics in meat, less time for food prep… why is it becoming so hard for us simply to eat?
I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Daydreaming, planning, researching. But also, sadly, worrying. I feel like every time I read the news or pick up a magazine I’m faced with a new reason for food-related anxiety.
First: the rising cost of food and less and less time in which to spend cooking healthy food. And those are the easy issues. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer challenges of deciding what to feed myself and my family in the modern world.
What is local? What’s in season? Which produce is on the Dirty Dozen guide of produce most contaminated by pesticides? Was our meat raised humanely? Does it contain antibiotics? Growth hormones? Nitrites? There is mercury in tuna, arsenic in rice. All corn, it seems, is genetically modified now. So much salmon is raised in farms.
What about food additives? Dyes, preservatives, sugar, transfats (luckily no longer a worry where I live), chemicals to maintain texture, chemicals to simulate flavour. Chemicals in plastic packaging and tin can liners.
Worry over listeria, salmonella and other food-borne bacteria – even in seemingly harmless foods like frozen berries or sesame seeds.
The world is a different place than it used to be, and sometimes that’s hard.
I’m not telling you these things to stress you out. Maybe you don’t care about these issues, and if you don’t, that’s just fine. But I can’t be the only person with a dizzying stream of concerns racing around my mind. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering… What in the world are we to do?
I honestly wish I knew. I wish I had some answer – some magical solution. I’ve certainly spent enough time trying to figure one out. If anyone out there has ideas, please, PLEASE let me know.
It’s frustrating that there is no concrete solution to this problem. I’m sure I’ll keep searching.
But in the meantime I’ve come up with a few food-related goals for the upcoming year. I hope to:
Take control of our food production, when possible. This means gardening (even container gardening), making our own bread products and baked goods when we can, finding local sources of meat that is raised in a way we like, or hunted in the wild. Finding food providers we can actually talk to and discuss these issues with is the next best thing to making it ourselves.
Avoid the bad stuff, for the most part. There are ways to cook rice that supposedly reduce arsenic exposure. The occasional bit of tuna apparently won’t hurt anyone. If I make Christmas cookies with my kids and we make icing made with food colouring and use sprinkles made with god-knows-what, I want to believe that it’s not such a big deal, since they don’t eat those things every day. If I break down and buy a bag of Doritos at the grocery store and my husband and I eat the entire bag while lounging on the couch at night, that won’t kill me. Right? In general though, I hope we’ll reach for whole and homemade foods the majority of the time.
Try to go easy on myself. Do my best, but don’t expect perfection. The world is a challenging place in which to feed a family these days. There will be good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. But if these are the kinds of things you worry about, I think the most important thing is that you’re trying. I figure that as long as you’re trying, in any way, you’re better off than if you give up and don’t try at all. So instead of beating myself up for every little decision that’s not perfect, I want to remember that I’m human, my kids and husband are human, and we’ll all do the best we can.
But seriously, if you have some magical solution, I’m all ears.