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


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


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

Mark Bittman – Here’s a thought!


“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.

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

What Happened When the Fridge Went on Vacation

A couple of months ago, our fridge expired!  One minute it was running smoothly, the next only ominous sounds emanated from the interior foreshadowing calls to the repairman or an appliance retailer.  Then there was all the food, the clean-up and the $$$ for a new refrigerator. I couldn’t believe how much junk we kept in the fridge.  The extra jar of jam, the pickles way in the back, the special Thai sauce long expired but only 25% used.  I pride my frugal nature, but I was appalled by the careless abandonment of my golden rule of kitchen etiquette:  Buy only what you’ll eat, not what you keep to dump on a heap.

It seems that I’m not the only one breaking this rule.  A brief authored by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Water Management Institute confirms that we have a global waste crisis.  We have enough food to go around, but distribution and wasteful habits are creating unnecessary pockets of hunger and causing havoc in our ecosystems.   In the United States as much as 30% of food is discarded, which translates into about 215 kilograms of food/year for an average household.  The annual cost: $48 billion overall and $600/household. Food that ends up in landfills is a primary source of greenhouse gases.

David Suzuki provides Canadian data.  Single-family households in Toronto waste 275 kilograms annually. The good news:  Toronto’s composting program captures approximately 75% of the waste.  The bad news: Toronto taxpayers pay the cost of $10 million/year for food waste disposal.

There is hope!! Most food waste can be eliminated with planning and the willingness to change.

Taking the Kitchen is more than following a recipe and setting a table.  It is about the economic and environmental necessity to apply food management skills in every kitchen.

“The continued poverty of the majority of the planet’s inhabitants and excessive consumption by the minority are the two major causes of environmental degradation.”  UN Environment Program

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Curaçao Market – Abundance

The Never Ending Search for Fast Food!

Whenever I think of fun and fellowship, the first thing that comes to mind is food.  It is a trilogy:  food, fun and fellowship.  The kitchen was the centre of our home when I was a child.  Food preparation was an all day project, from making fresh bread, to baking blueberry pies ( we actually picked the blueberries), to creating a fragrant soup stock that simmered on the back burner.  Today, we live busy lives outside the home.  Our kitchens are smaller and the amount of hours spent on making meals has slowly decreased over the years.  With diverse assortment of grocery stores and neighbourhood deli/caterers in our neighbourhood, it is so easy to pick up healthy, delicious meals on our way home from work.

We have come to like our new world where we have the possibility of immediate results (even with food) because the upshot is that we have more hours in the day to pursue other interests. We may deplore fast food, but we desire its speed and efficiency.

My grandmother, a farmer’s wife, cooked for a threshing crew at harvest time.  (Threshing is a process of beating out grain from the straw or husk of grain.) In the 1930’s and 1940’s a crew could be up to 20 people. Meal preparation took an enormous amount of organization and effort.  Up at first light, my grandmother worked the wood cook stove, pealed the potatoes, carrots. She saw to it that the milk was freshly separated, and the butter hand churned.

My grandmother embraced innovation.  The freezer was available to more families in the 1930s based on two factors:  1) falling prices 2) the introduction of refrigerants that were harmless and non-flammable.  My grandmother was freezing waffles years before they became a staple in the refrigerated section of our grocery stores.  It seems that even 60 years ago, people were looking for fast food!

Waffle Mix