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Happy Earth Day Weekend!

Just as one spoils the stomach by overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read. If one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost – Arthur Schopenhauer

My gift to you this Earth Day? How to make consumerism ecologically friendly.

I know I’m not alone in my lament over today’s throwaway society1.  Especially in the city, it’s so hard not to fall into this trap, you are constantly surrounded by stimulus and encouragement to take the quick and easy over the long and hard.  But when we buy into this we leave little room for true enjoyment because we are constantly trying to squeeze in more and more.  For example: our commutes to work.  I love my walks to work, but as with any great love it takes work.  Sometimes I have to remind myself why they’re worth the extra 20 minutes out of my day and what exactly I love about them so much.  So why do I love them?  I love them for a couple different reasons:

Easy Exercise:  I never fret about whether I can fit exercise into my schedule because by walking to work I fit my schedule into exercise.

Nature:  I’m so lucky to live in one of the greenest cities.  There are so many lovely gardens trees and grasses to look at.  I’m lucky that my current walk to work allows me to travel through a heritage neighbourhood, Sandy Hill, with gorgeous architecture and over the Ottawa River.

Community Engagement:   That’s right you heard me, community engagement.  As I travel through my community, I say “good morning” to my neighbours and smile to other passerby’s.  I make people’s days just by flashing them a smile.  Even the grumpiest person on a cold spring morning can’t help but change their mood when they see a happy person.  Happiness is contagious you know!

Me Time:  My walk is my time.  I get to be in the moment.  I am collecting my thoughts and preparing for the next part of my day.  I enjoy taking in my surroundings and the beauty it offers.  The way I see it this is my transition time, my separation from at home Candace and at work Candace.  My phone can wait till I get from point A to point B and my ITunes can stay on my computer.  I have nothing against phones or music but I like to take my walks as my time to be present and I find they take away from that.

That said, even I have trouble sometimes truly enjoying my walks.  I have always been a master procrastinator, fast walker, and expert organizer which is a major impediment to allowing the time to enjoy my walks.  I think that makes it all the more important for me to make an effort to enjoy them.  Like I said, it’s my transition period.  The space in between different parts on my life and the perfect opportunity to slow down, relax and reconnect while I prepare to transition into a different part of my life.  I hate realizing I’m rushing when I’m walking but even I can’t avoid it sometimes. I guess variety is the spice of life and rushing one day makes me appreciate the time I have the next.

But enough of that, back to my Earth Day gift: Eco-friendly consumerism.

Today my walk took me to the Byward Market.  My trip to Loblaws earlier this week encouraged me to venture out see what I could find at other retailers in my neighbourhood (Well that and my next Roots and Shoots CSA isn’t until Thursday and I would rather not live on carrots, onions and wine until then).  I knew I would at the very least find local eggs and meat at Aubrey’s but I also thought I remembered seeing a Canadian cheese section at my favorite cheese shop that I wanted to check out.

It was 22 degrees yesterday, the perfect spring day, ripe for planting and growing; today, it snowed.  I stepped outside and it was all I could do to keep myself from running back upstairs to hide under my duvet for the rest of the day.  I’m stubborn though and once I set my mind to something I’m committed and there’s no turning back so off I went.

I swear my local geography is going to immaculate by the end of this year.  I probably spent half an hour in the Byward Market International Cheese store first determining which cheeses were within my radius and the rest deciding which cheeses would agree with my palate.  Cooking and eating really is an art2.  You can’t just throw everything together.  It takes very careful consideration of the chemistry of all your ingredients to make sure you have chosen items that will complement each other.  Not to mention you need to take into account their half-life better known as their expiry date, which all real food has (another convenience of fake processed food, it doesn’t go “bad”).  Finally I decide on two organic cheeses from Quebec: Le Gré des Champs and Le D’Iberville.   Both are made from raw milk from a farm in Richelieu, Quebec.  Gré des Champs is an aged cheese that is slightly nutty with hints of caramel and roasted butter.  It’s an award winning cheese from the aptly named Au Gré des Champs fine cheese makers.  They recommend enjoying this cheese with red wine (my favorite) and say it can keep for several months is stored properly (even cheese has best practices for storing3!).  The second cheese, Le D’Iberville, looks more like a brie.  It’s a soft herbaceous cheese with hints of mushroom.  It’s better suited for enjoying with a Riesling or blond beer and will last up to a month if stored correctly.

Beside the Byward Market International Cheese store is The Byward Fruit Market, a favorite of mine since I discovered it last year.  However, it boasts organic produce which can sometimes be hard to come by locally in the off season so I was skeptical as to how much local I might find.  I decided it was worth a try though, especially since I remembered they were big on mushrooms which is an easy local find.  I was delighted to come across local potatoes (organic too, what a bonus!) as well as beets, black radish, and several other root vegetables.  There was also a multitude of sprouts that can from a local farm just across the Quebec border and even local tofu!  Needless to say I left happy with a couple of Yukon gold’s, beets, pea shoots, and my splurge of the day: a delectable mixed greens salad courtesy of Les Jardiniers du chef.

Local and Organic Bounty

Local and Organic Bounty

Aubrey’s was my last stop.  I had chosen the perfect day too as it was their new lease/ownership celebration.  Lots of treats and samples, I didn’t even need dinner after stopping there!  I perused their samples and selections, discovered most of their meat comes from Navan, are pasture raised and all natural4 (a loosely defined term) but not organic, which I can understand because as with any certification it is sometimes difficult and costly to attain (just look at issues with “sustainable fish”5).  I left there with some minced bison for my freezer and some lamb loin chops that I will feature in my next recipe.  My impulse buy at the cash? Bison jerky.  It’s delicious.  They started making jerky about a year ago and ever since then I’m a sucker for it every time I go.

With my consumerist shopping self satisfied, I walked home with a feast of food, all from within my 200 km radius for under $40.  I just had to look for it.  This reminded me again of our society of convenience and how accustomed to it I am: I would rather spend the time to bike to Westboro and pick up my online order of organic produce from Roots and Shoots then be “inconvenienced” and have to spend the time to go search for local organic food (even if that search took me only 8 blocks away).  Both have their benefits and conveniences it just depends which one you prefer I suppose.  I am content to have a mix, a diversity if you will, of the two.  I love the ease of knowing that everything Roots and Shoots supplies me with is organic and local but more and more the consumer and academic in me is enjoying the thrill of the hunt and geography lesson that comes along with perusing the shelves of my local stores.  The first farmers markets start up next week, let the real adventure begin!

  1.  “The Story of Stuff”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8
  2.  “Cooking is an Art”  http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/eagle/congress/johnson.html
  3.  “How to Wrap and Store Cheese”  http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/instructions-a-guide-on-how-to-wrap-and-store-cheese.html
  4. “Natural and Organic Foods”  http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/06p0094/06p-0094-cp00001-05-Tab-04-Food-Marketing-Institute-vol1.pdf
  5. “Is Sustainable Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?”  http://www.npr.org/2013/02/11/171376509/is-sustainable-labeled-seafood-really-sustainable

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