I love summer. It really is the best time of year. The heat, the humidity, the sun, the fresh vegetables – heaven! The only downside I can think of is that it is usually (hopefully!) too nice to want to spend much time in the kitchen. I want to be at the pool, in the garden or playing bocce with friends. When I do step into the kitchen I want to create meals that are fast, seasonal and adaptable. Like potato salad. Now I’m not talking the mayonnaise loaded salad of our youth but a fresh, zingy, loaded with vegetables one that is a full on meal in a bowl.
If April showers do in fact bring May flowers then Vancouver should have an amazing May. But May is here and while there are lots of flowers the continued rain (and snow in certain parts of the country – shudder) is making me think that perhaps May needs a little reminder what its job is, to be warm enough that we can all get outdoors after a long, cooped up winter and raise our pasty faces to the sun.
Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday. Whatever you want to call it, I call it Pancake day and it’s here!
Traditionally, pancake day is the last day before the beginning of Lent. During Lent, it is customary to give up things we love (think drinking pop or alcohol, tv, or eating chocolate) so historically families would try to use up things like meat, butter, and flour, and thus the tradition of Pancake Day began. As a kid for Shrove Tuesday my family usually went to a Pancake dinner at the church, which was always an awesome excuse to see friends in the middle of the week. These days, as someone always looking for an excuse to have friends around the table, Pancake Tuesday dinners seemed like a great tradition to start in my house.
When I get home from school I need to eat something. It’s been a few hours since lunch and I’m hungry. But deciding what to eat is the challenge. Too much and I will still be full come dinner hour, too little and I’ll still be hungry wondering why I even bothered. My snack choices usually include something like hummus and cut vegetables, maybe a couple dolmathes and some almonds, or sometimes just a hardboiled egg. But, I can’t lie, what I really want is crackers and cheese. I’m not saying I have it, but that’s what I am usually craving.
Potlucks. Do you love them or hate them? My feelings are mixed. In some ways they make things easier – you don’t have to cook as much, there is less clean up and there are more options for picky eaters. But, it is also possible to end up with a table full of desserts or five macaroni salads. So what’s a girl to do? How do you decide what to bring?
Eating local. What does that mean? The 100 mile diet, only food from your own garden, city, province or country? To everyone it means a different thing. And if you ask me (I know you didn’t) I would say it doesn’t matter. My personal belief is that if you have even bothered to think the phrase you are probably doing more for the planet, your environment and your health than a lot of people.
Now most of you know I can get a bit on my high horse about avoiding prepackaged food and chemicals. But trust me, even I fall of the wagon sometimes (no comments from the peanut gallery please). So when I saw an email from Growing Chefs BC talking about a fundraising drive called the Growing Chefs Eat Local Challenge I thought, perfect. What a great way to remind myself and (hopefully) inspire others to “eat local”.
For those of you who don’t know Growing Chefs, it is a wonderful organization that goes into classrooms and teaches them about urban food gardening. This past spring I was lucky enough to get to volunteer in one of their grade three/four growing classrooms. Kids learned how to grow peas, lettuces, radishes and beans. They got to learn about composting, knife skills and recipe reading. Throughout the program we had snacks and meals we made from the food we had grown.
Now I have a garden and live in Vancouver so it is pretty easy for me to eat locally. My downfalls are things like lemons, salt, pepper, olive oil, fancy vinegars, cheese and booze. So for one week I am committing to eating local. For me this means I will be eating food produced locally, sustainably and ethically. Fruits, vegetables, fish and meat will all come from my garden and various local BC producers. I do have two confessions … first that on day one of the challenge I’m at a wedding, I can’t predict that meal and number two, I will be using salt, olive oil, vinegar, lemons and drinking coffee. They aren’t local. I know… but a girl has to have her vices.
I admit I had a bit of a question of conscience, wondering if it was weird to have my first blog post in ages a request for support and donations. But, after a bit of conversation with others I realized no. Eating healthy food close to the source and teaching young people about growing and eating real food is important to me. I’m making the assumption that if you read my blog it is probably important to you too. If you would like to make a small donation you can go here. If you can’t spare a penny or two I totally understand (especially if it’s because you spent them at your local farmers market!), but even $5 helps. Donation or not, I challenge you to see if for a week you and your families can be inspired to eat, if not totally local, a little closer to the source.
I think I can, without jinxing myself, say spring has officially arrived in Vancouver. The morning air is still a bit cool, and there will still be monsoon rains to come, but the sun has a warmth to it that we have been missing for a long, long while. Trees and flowers are blooming, the birds are devouring the seed from the feeder daily and neighbours are stopping to say hello as I dig in the dirt. Yes. Hooray for spring.
Well the rains have landed in Vancouver, and I’ve even heard that it has snowed in other parts of the country *shudder*. So at the suggestion of a friend I thought I’d post about something that preserves the sunshine all year round. Preserved lemons.
Ah, weekends. How those days do beckon. To me there are three kinds of weekend people. The practical ones who actually relax, the determined-to-get-away (and have fun!)-even-if-it-means-I’ll-be-exhausted-at-the-end-of-it ones and the bury the head in the sand types who spend their days at their desks happy that the phone isn’t ringing as much and they can finally get some work done. Now practical people recognize that you need at least three days for a proper weekend. A day to wind down and get some things accomplished, a day to relax and a day to wind back up and get ready for the week ahead. But how many of us actually find the balance and do this? This past Victoria Day weekend I tried. I gardened, and then I took a nap. I went to a wedding, but then went to bookclub with my girls. I tried a new recipe and cooked dinner for family, but then stayed in my pj’s until noon. Not a bad balance all in all.
What I also did over the long weekend was download about a bazillion photographs and sort through some of my menu and cooking notes. As I was doing that I realized it had been awhile since I did a Cook(those)books recap. So if you need a bit of inspiration here are a couple of the recipes that have been new to my kitchen in the last while.
It is so green and spring like here. The garden is growing, the neighbourhood outdoor pool is beckoning and the farmers markets have officially opened for business. It however is definitely not summer. That does not make me a happy girl. The one thing that does make me happy is that the cooler weather means there is still some time to enjoy spring vegetables. After a week of travelling and eating delectably delicious (but exceptionally rich) food I have been craving the light, fresh taste of spring. I’ve had lettuce from the garden, simple chopped kale salads and radishes pulled fresh from the dirt. And peas. Lots of peas. I’ve had them curried, in salads, in the pod and as a quick and versatile pea pesto.