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Meaning

Ironically enough, as I was at a loss for words to place to into sentences for my previous blog post, I have been surrounded by words ever since.

It has been almost a month since I started this journey; it feels like it’s been a month since last week. Over the past seven days I have been especially acute to words, their definitions and most importantly, their meanings.

Two of my dear friends came to visit me in Ottawa Saturday evening and how better to celebrate the arrival of friends than to eat and drink? Great! I love to cook and I have plenty of local spirits. The only thing missing from this equation? The addition of time, my time was subtracted. I was busy becoming a WordPress Master at Word Camp on Saturday. Not to worry, there are plenty of local restaurants I’ve been wanting to try and what better excuse than company to check them out. So off to the Byward market we went to see just how local the Ottawa restaurant scene could be.

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It was not until around 9 pm that we settled upon the Black Tomato as our establishment of choice. Now, the Black Tomato does not advertise itself as “local” so I must say I was impressed that their main dishes boasted meat from O’Brien Farms a local area farm. Their spirits and vino on the other hand not so local, with most coming from across the pond they were well out of my 200km reach. However, I knew of a restaurant that had satisfied my local palate a few weeks earlier with Norman Hardy Pinot Noir and I could wait to quench my thirst till after dinner.

The Albion Rooms is a new restaurant in Ottawa that prides itself on: Pulling inspiration from the culture that surrounds us and the history that defines us. In perusing their menu of charcuterie, cheese and wine I found a few of my county favorites (Norman Hardy wine and Black River cheese) and word of mouth told me they might be a hit for local spirits too. So off we went. This was my first encounter with the word local and its loose definition, for upon further investigation I discovered that the Albion Rooms defined local as produced in Canada. So was my definition of local too strict or there’s too loose?

Interestingly enough, on Monday there was an article highlighting exactly what the definition of local is in Ontario1. According to this article, local can mean it comes from within 50km or that it comes from within the province depending on who you ask. Based on this evidence it could be deduced that both myself and the Albion Rooms were incorrect in our definitions of local only adding to the confusion of what “local” really means. Without clearly defined constraints on the definition, the meaning of local changes based on the audience to which it’s applied. This is a very important observation. The same is true for the term natural as I have touched on in earlier posts. This further emphasizes the importance of understanding the definitions and meanings behind jargon and buzzwords and how tight or loose the constraints of those definitions are in order to make informed food choices2.

The Scientist and organic activist in me was satisfied this week when I stumbled upon (and by stumbled I mean eagerly refreshed my browser homepage) Nature’s highlights. This week Nature is highlighting research on GM crops. In particular, they conducted a case study taking a deeper look at transgenic crops and used scientific data to determine the true, the false and the still unknown of GM crops3.  It is so refreshing to see an evidence-based peer reviewed article on such an important topic. Especially one that has been know to have so many unfounded claims pushed forward by both parties to their own discredit.

But, evidence or no evidence, it must be noted that there are exceptions to every rule, which brings me to my final experiment of the week: planting my window sill herb garden. That’s right, I finally got tired of looking at my empty window sill baskets. It was as though they were taunting me, I had all the ingredients needed to provide me with delicious herbs, I just had to combine them. The interesting variable here is that the information that was enabling me to complete this task was the same information that was holding me back: the instructions.

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Perhaps I just had too much information, too many words, too many instructions, all for one little seed. It seemed as though everything had an opinion on how to plant the seeds: The potting soil came with instructions, the seed packets came with instructions, my gardening magazine had instructions, and my herb planting handout also had instructions. How many instructions could I possibly need? It’s not rocket science, right?

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As a competent baker I pride myself on my ability to produce delectable baked good sans recipe or instructions. I use my love of math and chemistry combined with logic to deduce the proper ratio of ingredients I need to combine to produce the chemical reactions that result in the desired product. However, I have to remind myself this is not something I learned over night. It was countless hours of trial and error (mostly thanks to procrastination when under a deadline to submit a report for school) that brought me this comfort and ease in the kitchen. A combination of theory and practice.

I suppose it was this contention that I had to come to terms with before I could plant my seeds. The idea that I could have all the instructions in the world and that would not guarantee my success in turning these tiny seeds into new growth on the first try. I had to understand that the theory of herb planting would only get me so far and I needed to combine my theory with practice if I expected to improve. I think that this is a very important conclusion. That theory and practice are of equal importance for different reasons and that their combined effect is far greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Now, I leave you with the product of 15 minutes of writing from a sound poetry workshop I attended this evening with Nathanael, a local artist:

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Impossible? I’m possible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Through the looking glass I saw myself therefor I’m possible.

I saw the looking glass through which I walked, does that make me impossible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Quantum superposition.

The probability I’m possible, but also the possibility I’m impossible.

Is it possible then that: I’m impossibly possible?

Or am I possibly I’m impossible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

1. Ontario’s Wynne in a ‘local’ food fight with Ottawa. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2013/04/25/wdr-definition-local-food-act-ontario.html

2. What Does Organic Mean Anyway? Food Buzzwords Demystified. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQom1inHnkQ&feature=youtu.be

3. Case Studies: A hard look at GM crops. http://www.nature.com/news/case-studies-a-hard-look-at-gm-crops-1.12907

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