Cookbooks & Drinking Tea

Vancouver

Everyone seems to be in some stage of de-cluttering, down-sizing, and reorganizing these days.  I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions for many reasons, not only because those imposing promises made to myself on January 1st seem to lose vigour around January 15th.  I find that the first two weeks of January are best used to recall the glow of the holiday season while resting with a cup of tea and a good book.

February is an entirely different matter.   Spring is around the corner.  The hint of colour is rising from the dark earth and a fine mist of rain has come to the West Coast of British Columbia.  Now is the time to focus on the task at hand.  Yes, I am in the de-accumulation phase of my life-cycle. Every year, I take on a specific project, more of a “bite-size” approach.  I have spent years accumulating; so a few years to do the opposite seems only fair.  Besides, I enjoy the decision-making process of sorting through my inanimate things that, as we all know, hold precious memories.   My current assignment: to tackle my bookshelves filled with cookbooks.

Cookbooks have an enormous storage capacity for every kind of recollection, from birthdays, weddings, anniversaries to farewells and funerals. They travel with us through the course of our lives, accumulating exponentially with the evolution of food preparation.

I have made myself a pot of tea, a blend of rosemary, lavender, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper; and have settled down in my favourite chair with my cookbooks gathered together, some on the floor and others on the coffee table.  It will take some time to go through them all, for I expect to recall many “cooking” adventures.

As Ruth Reichl once wrote: “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” 

 

“People in my neighbourhood are so disconnected from the fresh food supply that kids don’t know an eggplant from a sweet potato. We have to show them how to get grounded in the truest sense of the word.”

Ron Finley

 Eggplant

The United Nations has designated the year 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).

My grandparents, on both sides, were farmers.  From a young age, my parents were experts in milking cows, separating milk from cream, and churning butter.    Chores included feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs for breakfast and afternoon baking.  The family vegetable garden, a vital source of food, was tended with meticulous attention to detail.  Times were not easy; it was, after all the 1930’s, the decade of the Great Depression.  Everyone helped to keep food on the table.

Fast forward several decades, family farming is still essential for offering a way out of poverty and hunger.   There are 500 million family farms world-wide. They come in a variety of forms – peasants, indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisherfolk, and pastoralists.  Bottom line, family farming is the primary structure of agriculture in both developed and developing countries.

My grandparents were farmers, but very few of their offspring became farmers.  We have lost touch with the land and have placed reliance on our efficient food distribution services.   There is a growing awareness that we need to find our way back….

“An estimated 26 percent of the world’s children are stunted, 2 billion people suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies and 1.4 billion people are overweight, of whom 500 million are obese.”

2013 The State of Food and Agriculture

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS Rome, 2013

 

 

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The Year of Family Farming

World Diabetes Day

Veggies

“Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease.”

Elaine Stritch

The World Health Organization is on a mission to raise global awareness of diabetes. Today has been designated World Diabetes Day.  The WHO statistics are sobering:

  • 347 million people worldwide have diabetes.
  • 80% of people with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries.
  • Diabetes is projected to become the 7th leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030

With both sides of my family high risk for Type 2 diabetes, I consider food choices judiciously.  I love looking at recipes for decadent chocolate cake, or sharing an order of Nachos, or sipping a hot chocolate with heaps of whipping cream. But that is not an option for me. (I did splurge once or twice for cream tea)  Instead, I choose alternatives and relish in the reward of having my doctor say that my blood sugar in within normal parameters.

A kitchen is vital to  healthy living – it is where the choices are most profound and life-altering. There are so many amazing foods that can prevent dangerous spikes in blood sugar: beans, oatmeal, fish, and non-fat yoghurt, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and peppers.  Taking the kitchen is about taking hold of the future.

“Millions of Americans today are taking dietary supplements, practicing yoga and integrating other natural therapies into their lives. These are all preventive measures that will keep them out of the doctor’s office and drive down the costs of treating serious problems like heart disease and diabetes.”

Andrew Weil

What happens after World Food Day?

“Considering that food is a requisite of human survival and well-being and a fundamental human right…”

Resolution 1/79 World Food Day

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

 Vegetables

October 16, 2013 was World Food Day – a day that has been set aside since it came into existence November 1979 at the 20th General Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.   It was to mark the founding of the FAO in 1945.

I confess that I paid little attention until this year when I read about the 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge, which invited people across British Columbia to live for one week on the food purchased with $26 dollars.  This corresponds to the amount that a single able-bodied person on welfare has to spend on provisions in our province. Many across B.C. took on the challenge and found it difficult, if not impossible to achieve a nutritious diet that was filling and satisfying. While this challenge served to spotlight welfare rates, it was also a pointed reminder that many in this world suffer from hunger.

We live in a time of rising food prices; all of us are focusing our attention on the weekly grocery bill and looking for creative ways to feed our families, especially when we have demanding schedules.  Sometimes we chose the convenience of prepared foods provided by our local grocer or deli. We walk a delicate balance.

You may wonder if I took up the $26/week challenge.  Actually, I took up a longer term challenge – to rethink everything that I have ever thought about food and how it relates to my daily interactions from my early morning coffee to my late night snack.   It is a journey worth the effort.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” 
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Cream Tea & Other Things

“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” 
Sydney Smith, A memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith

 Pettigrew

Those who follow LadyBudd, know that this past summer I took few weeks to go on an adventure with my family.  It was our “Industrial Revolution” tour that took us into Wales and England.  The culinary highlight of the trip was embracing the gentile tradition of cream tea, also known as Devonshire tea, Devon cream tea or Cornish cream tea.  It is tea consumed with scones, thick clotted cream and a generous amount of jam.

What better place to go than the Pettigrew Tea Rooms, located at West Lodge, Castle Street, at the entrance to the green expanse of Bute Park and Arboretum adjacent to Cardiff Castle.  It was a perfect afternoon, complete with sunshine and a mild breeze that carried the aroma of freshly baked cakes and pastries.  There we were, amidst the chatter and laughter, the clatter of silver teaspoons against china, partaking in a ritual that some believe dates back to the 11th century and the Benedictine Abbey in Tavistock, Devon.

Food and drink is all about tradition, ritual, belief, convention and folklore.  We require these essential elements to sustain our bodies so that we can turn our attention to other things.   There are many “other things” we need to accomplish within our lifetimes, from building our careers to establishing a family unit.  We need to eat and drink, preferably on a regular basis to fuel our activities, and get us from point A to point B, whatever form that takes.  It is no wonder that the food cycle attracts our attention.

It is time to return to Taking the Kitchen!

Just in case you are  in the neighbourhood, Pettigrew Tea Rooms is offering A Christmas High Tea, complete with Traditional Mulled Wine! Pettigrew Tea Rooms Christmas 2013

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” 

 Fran Lebowitz

Polenta

“1 billion people in the world are chronically hungry. 1 billion people are overweight.”
Mark Bittman (Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes)

The more I consider our connections with food, culture and health, I realize that my choices, however small, do make a difference.  Today, I celebrated the shared moments with my family and friends that involved “breaking of bread.”  It is the noblest of undertakings.

Mark Bittman – Here’s a thought!

My Commitment – Recycle Recycle Recycle!

It’s official!  I’m on the committee for the collection of organic matter.  This was not my intent when I agreed to attend the first meeting of the trial program that would be implemented in our strata community.  Coming in a few minutes late and sitting in the front row was not the best strategy for maintaining a low profile.  And contributing enthusiastically in the discussion was another signal that I would be an excellent committee candidate.  Before long, I heard myself agreeing to participate in a committee of three to launch the initiative.

I recycle, but I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of recycling is limited to reading the signage on the recycling container.  My two committee buddies, however, are a wealth of information.  Our first official committee meeting was held Thursday, June 29th.  Once we had the details lined up, they (the experts) gave me (the novice) a guided and informative tour of the recycling area.  Garbage has never been so exciting.

I am in charge of the communication.  Our trial is made up of passionate recyclers who love our world and want to make a difference.  As we go forward, I will be documenting our progress via this blog.

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“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” 
― David Brower

5-Star Hotel & Oatmeal

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference held at a 5-star hotel, downtown Vancouver.  It was an early morning start so breakfast was provided buffet style.  You can imagine the enticing display of cinnamon buns, croissants, fruits and yogurt.  But the main draw was the oatmeal – looking amazingly expensive in its silver bowel with an ornate lid.  By the time I arrived, people were already going back for seconds.  How could oatmeal, known for its frugal nature, taste so good?  It was the elegance of having raisins, sliced almonds, brown sugar and cream to go along with this home-style food.

The oatmeal was a reminder to me of those winter mornings when I lived in northern Manitoba many years ago.  Breakfast had to be hot, filling and energizing.  After all, we walked to school in -45 degree temperatures.  Whether Fahrenheit or Celsius, the cold was bitter and relentless.  Vancouver’s mild winters have made me soft.  I shiver when the temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius (without the minus in front of the number).

Regardless of the temperature difference, breakfasts of hot oatmeal fits in both locations.  Using our faithful crock-pot, it doesn’t take long to come up with a 5-star breakfast.  My recipe is simple:  1 cup of oatmeal, 3 – 4 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  You add the sophistication with raisins, cranberries, walnuts or almonds.  The cost is pennies – the warmth priceless.

Steal-cut Oats & Craisons – A Dynamic Duo

“You have to eat oatmeal or you’ll dry up.  Anybody knows that.”

Kay Thompson (November 9, 1908 – July 2, 1998)

If we share…

Do you believe that a conversation can make a difference?

“I think we have enough food for everyone, if we share,” I overheard a young woman say to her friends as she passed by the table where my husband & I sat in the sunshine reading the latest newspaper over coffee. What caught my attention was the words “enough” and “everyone,” especially since we were surrounded by coffee shops, grocery stores and bakeries. Why not take advantage of the abundance of food available in the vicinity?  If they were worried that they didn’t have enough to eat, they could always buy more food to make sure. But they moved on, satisfied to commingle their resources.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about the strategic direction of Taking the Kitchen. There are remarkable food blogs that provide an astounding variety of recipes that inspire and delight. But when I think of Taking the Kitchen, I go back to the young woman. “I think we have enough food for everyone, if we share.” Going forward, Taking the Kitchen will be about community (share), diversity (everyone) and frugality (enough).

A conversation can make a difference.

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Shopping in a Venice Market

I’m a Vegetarian – Sometimes!

I was 35,000 feet above the solid earth on the sky road to London, September 2010.  This was the time and place where I decided to become a vegetarian.  My kitchen was thousands of miles away, across an ocean and continent.  Decisions come to us in different ways:  gradually, with a thunderbolt of energy, or after much serious consideration.  Choosing to be a vegetarian came to me quietly, without fanfare. I needed a change.  In the 21st century, vegetarian is an accepted normality, rather than a novelty.  My family and friends challenged my thinking even though they  fully supported my decision.  Some of them were already vegetarians.  I particularly enjoyed Sarah’s (my sister) response.”

“Health consciousness … environmental sensitivity … humane responsiveness…There are a lot of reasons why people choose to be vegetarian or vegan … I’m not so sure, however, that  life/eating style changes of this nature to any of the above noted reasons is the only valid response that one can make.  Unlike my sister, I’m a “meat-eater” and a proud one at that.  While I am not suggesting that Rebecca doesn’t have a excellent reason for making the food choices that she has, I am an advocate for balance … a balance that includes protein choices found in beef, pork, poultry and fish (as well as other exotic sources … I *love* moose meat!). However … perhaps Rebecca can persuade me to her thinking?  Or can I convert her back to the mainstream?  Shall we see?”  

Fast forward 2 years…I’m not quite a vegetarian…but I am not quite mainstream. I call it flexibility… with emphasis on vegetarian.

Mark Bittman in his cookbook, The Food Matters Cook Book, calls this flexibility “sane eating.”

“You can structure the day strictly to eat “vegan before six,” as I do:  Avoid all animal and processed foods (except for maybe some milk on your cereal or sugar in your coffee) until dinnertime; then eat whatever you’d like. Or you might substantially reduce the amount of meat, fish, poultry, and dairy you eat at every meal – down to an ounce or two per sitting.” (page 8, The Food Matters Cookbook)

I think a lot of people are becoming more vegetarian in their eating patterns. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for humanity. Have I convinced you, Sarah?

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A Vegetarian’s Perspective