I love to eat, as a matter-of-fact, I put a great deal of time and effort into making almost every meal a memorable (and hopefully enjoyable) experience. Cooking programs on television were probably my first introduction into what would transform a rather routine activity, into a much anticipated ritual. Living in Montreal has always allowed one to easily plan, shop and execute meals of almost any ethnic origin and bring one into somewhat foreign parts of our beautiful city to find sought after ingredients and first-hand advice and tips on how to produce authentic results.
It was inevitable, that many, many years ago (well before the current trend towards all things organic and ethical) I would begin to question the origins of the ingredients I was buying. In the 60’s, eating locally was not a trend but a fact and it was far more commonplace for the population to take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits by bottling, canning and freezing. Winter accompaniments to a meal consisted of vegetables and fruits that could be stored for long periods such as potatoes, turnips, apples etc. Homemade soup with fresh tomatoes and leeks appeared on the table only in the late summer when those vegetables were available.
Ahhh, how times have changed. Everything and anything we could possibly want is at our fingertips or at least a quick drive to the local grocery store. Meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy are readily available and in super-sized containers and cuts (at your favourite big-box store) to boot! A food-lovers dream - but at what price? Animals raised in questionable and inhumane conditions, many of them force feed and confined. Use of feed laced with antibiotics and hormones. Same thing for the fish and seafood – huge bags and varieties at our fingertips. After the initial thrill has worn off, one starts to read the origins and back the bag goes to the freezer shelf. Farmed salmon….let’s not even go there and shrimp…you don’t want to know. The sky is the limit in availability of fruits and vegetables but what is keeping them in their pristine form on their long journey from the earth (if we’re lucky) to our mouths?
So we are now a generation who is painfully aware of how this infinite choice became available and the world has jumped on the bandwagon. But who can afford $20.00 for a puny organically raised chicken or triple the price for a bag of apples. And who to believe, it is so easy to pop an eco or green label on anything. (Be aware of labelling.)
So what to do? Knowledge and education are foremost if we want to make informed decisions. Go to this site if you want to be a little better aware of where and how your meat and poultry are raised. ‘The Meatrix’ (a spoof on the Matrix) is a clever and unique presentation on our modern meat processing facilities. You already know, OK, still go there because there is a handy link where you can type in your postal code , miles you want to travel and get a nice listing of stores and local farmers where you can buy ethically raised meat.
Fruits and vegetables, again do your best but nobody is perfect. Buy organic and local when you can and if you can’t, buy a good fruit and vegetable wash and give everything a thorough cleaning or soak (especially for more dense produce such as grapes or broccoli). Watch the origins of your produce, some countries do not enforce the same pesticide standards as others. Some fruits and vegetables retain more of the sprays in their skin than others so keep that in mind. Get educated, it’s good for your mind, body and soul…..try 'The Omnivore’s Dilemma' by Michael Pollan or 'Bottom Feeder' by Taras Grescoe . Don’t preach, educate others. Learn how to bottle, preserve, freeze and even cook (so you can reduce waste from ready-made products). Don’t be fanatical be practical and share your sources with as many people as possible including us! Do you have a favourite farm or store where you buy your meat or produce? Let us know right here. Got a favourite vegetarian recipe, let’s hear about it. Take the time and a little extra effort …..baby steps lead to giant strides.
And finally, as Julia said so well, “Bon Appetit!“.