Leave a comment

The Universal Uniqueness of the Market

In the the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of staying in three different countries. In each country the market has served as a starting point for catching up with friends new and old.

I think there’s nothing more special and important than sharing a meal. Food as something we put into our bodies is a very personal experience. To share in this experience with other people is bonding. Think of how you catch up with old friends or even meet new ones, I bet often it’s over food.

The market is the perfect starting point for creating a meal. I love observing and engaging in the etiquette of the market. The people and the products are all unique but the atmosphere and connection is universal.

In February I was in Vancouver where a friend introduced me to the Granville market. A permanent island market just off set from the centre of Vancouver. It was bustling with activity and energy. Filled with fresh seafood, cheeses and a wide array of produce. We enjoyed local oysters and fresh seafood on the wharf, and we both left with a unique piece of pottery made by a potter from Salt Spring Island.

By March I was in New Zealand attending one of the famous Saturday Nelson markets. March is fall in the southern hemisphere and that means harvest season. The smell of fresh produce and home baked goods filled the air. This market I had the pleasure of experiencing with a new friend, a fellow traveller. We bonded over our love of good food as we perused the market collecting ingredients for a meal we would prepare and share later on in our hostel kitchen.

Last but not least, April has allowed me to catch up with friends in Australia. I was treated to a visit to the Victoria Market which supplied us with everything we needed for a Botanical Garden picnic. The Victoria Market was especially delightful due to its size and the variety of goodies available. There were permanent installments of bakers, butchers, and cheese producers among others inside. While farmers, artisans and vendors set up shop in the transient outside area. Now this was a market you could really lose yourself in for a day.

Each market was unique in its own right but all had the same universal result of bringing friends together and serving as a base from which our stories could unfold.

So why not enjoy a market with friends this weekend? I know I will.

Happy perusing!

 

Leave a comment

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice: the shortest day and longest night of the year.

The solstice has long held significance in the annual cycle of many cultures. Astronomically signifying a reversal of the suns ebbing presence in the sky and traditionally signifying the start of a long winter ahead. There are many mythologies and traditions linked to the winter solstice. In temperate climates the winter solstice was the last feast celebration before “the famine months” when starvation was common. People came together in celebration sharing food and stories of the year past. The tradition of communities gathering is universal across all the different cultural manifestations of the winter solstice. In light of all these social celebrations I have been mulling  over the social synapse of our human community.

Humans are social beings. Our brains and our individual identity develop while resting on social connectivity. From birth our brains are built not only by genetic preprogramming but also by lived experiences guided by our caretakers. Our ability to bond with them and create a loving secure attachment strengthens the networks of our social brain creating one that is strong and resilient. If we instead have a neglectful and insecure attachment, the networks of our social brain are not strengthened. As a result the the brain is vulnerable to stress and dysregulation. These early experiences have a disproportionately strong role in molding the the networks of our brains. Even though we have individual genetics, how we develop is strongly influenced by our community and their interaction with us through the social synapse.

The social synapse is the medium that links us together into families, communities and societies. It’s the space between us that we fill with gestures, words and touches such as smiles, hellos and hugs. These sensorial cues are received by us and interpreted by our brains. The interpretation of these cues tell us whether someone is friend or foe, happy or sad. We revise our emotions and actions based on these cues so it’s important that we are able to accurately read them. You don’t need to understand the science behind these complex mechanisms in order to appreciate them but if you are interested in learning more look up limbic resonance, regulation and revision.

This winter solstice I ground myself in the thought that we exist simultaneously as individuals and as part of a community. We are all an integral part of our community and our actions, no matter how individual we think they are, affect and are affected by those around us.

Leave a comment

Neomenia

New Moon (n): The moment when the Moon and the Sun have the same ecliptical longitude.

I have been neglectful of posting in this space but assure you I have been hard at work in my garden and at the vineyard. In an endeavor to make up for this absence I have decided to make this post one of photos.

20150716_152325

Chardonnay grapes in the vineyard

20150626_133542

My Garden in June

20150714_165153

My Garden in July

20150713_141109 20150713_201039

Leave a comment

Starting a Vineyard in Prince Edward County in 13.5 Easy Steps

Check out Tim’s guide to starting a vineyard and sign up to follow Broken Stone’s Blog and the story of their vineyard dream.

1) Have a dream and the commitment to make it happen

2) Either have a big budget or a long time frame in mind.  It will cost $20,000 per acre just to set up the vineyard, $6,000 per acre each year to maintain (assuming you do most of the work), and it won’t produce any grapes for four years.

3) Find a good site.  Check the weather maps.  Acquire or lease some land.  Make sure it’s well drained.  Grapes like to have their feet dry.  Some would say that a moderate South-East slope is best.

4) Decide on which varieties of grapes to plant.  One of the biggest decisions affecting cost, effort and chances of success is, Hybrid or Vinifera?  Hybrids are easier to grow for a number of reasons, including better suitability to our climate and disease resistance, so if you are keen on organic farming or biodynamics, hybrids…

View original post 775 more words

3 Comments

New Moon New Shoots

Every morning I wake up and tend to my microbial and plant life. My sourdough starters get a feeding of flour and my plant life gets water. This was a particularly exciting morning however because I planted seeds last week for this years vegetable garden and the kale has sprouted! It looks like little green martins peeking up out of the soil for now but in another week I know that it will be scrumptious baby kale.

20150420_073530[1]20150420_073335[1]

20150414_174837[1]20150414_175531[1]

Outside my vegetable garden is also starting to show signs of life. My rhubarb is poking it’s bulbous head out of the soil, my french tarragon is breaking its first buds and my lemon balm, sage, thyme, lavender, chives and oregano are all following suit. We are still about a month or so away from being safe from frost damage however so until then I will have to wait in anticipation to plant the rest of my gargen.

20150414_180933[1] 20150414_180914[1]  20150414_180923[1]20150414_180901[1]

Lucky for me vineyard work has started so I can easily distract myself in the vines. The first job we have to accomplish is pruning away all the dead vines stocks that are above ground. Once that is finished we will unhill the vines we buried in the fall and tie up the stocks. We need a few spots in the vineyard to dry out a little more before we can send the tractor down to unhill. But with a few more days of nice sun like we had this past weekend we will be in great shape.

In the winery there is also work to be done. When I stopped by yesterday I was just in time to help Tim with the end of four rackings he had been doing that morning. We are bottling in a week in a half so it is crunch time with the white wine to make sure it is bottle ready. In other words we must make sure it is dry, shelf stable and clear.

The wine must be dry so that there is no chance for microbial activity after bottling. If there is any residual sugar the wine is at risk to undergo another fermentation which would make it fizzy or bacteria could become active and create a haze in the bottle.

We also want the wine to be cold stabilized. You might ask what I mean by this. Have you ever drank a wine and noticed at the end of the bottle there were little crystals? That’s tartrate. What happens is that tartaric acid (one of the acids present in wine) precipitates out of solution and forms a solid crystal. Wineries can induce this crystallization before bottling by lowering the temperature of the wine. Once the excess tartrate has precipitated out of the wine it settles to the bottom and the wine can be racked.

Lastly the wine can be clarified using a fining agent to get rid of any haze and provide a clear polished looking product. Fining involves the use of an enzyme or ionic substance to bind with particles suspended in wine causing them to precipitate out of solution. This can be done using a variety of substances. We used egg whites on our Pinot noir which uses an adsorbent enzymatic bond to clarify the wine. As well yesterday we added bentonite to our Vidal as a final clarifying measure. Bentonite is a very fine clay that works by forming an ionic bond with proteins and bacteria to remove them from the wine.

It’s a lot of work but the beauty of a clean crisp clear glass of wine makes it worth every step. Salute!

20150414_190328[1]

Leave a comment

Eostre, Equinox and Earth

With the passing of Easter and the vernal equinox we can now officially welcome spring!

What was a white still frame just weeks ago has now given way to the trickle of water and the soft brown of earth. The ducks and song birds are slowly returning with their cacophony of sound. The plants although they appear dormant are also awakening. Carbohydrates are being mobilized from their roots and trunks and conducted upward through tubes called phloem to provide nutrients to buds. This is most popularly seen through the tapping of sugar maple trees to make maple syrup.

 

My garden however is still blanketed by a foot of snow and I have not started to sow any seeds. Here in Prince Edward County we are considered zone 5b while Ottawa is 5a which means that when looking for plants you should look for plants that are hardy in a zone 5 or less (zones rage from 0-8 with 0 being the harshest and 8 the mildest). We also have to sow a lot of our seeds indoors first if we want to plant a vegetable garden from seed. For example tomatoes, peppers, and eqqplant all require a longer growing season then our climate allows and should be started indoors if you are using seed. However if you feel your thumb just isn’t green enough or you don’t have the time you are in luck there are many great alternatives.

You can visit a nursery and purchase many vegetables in a ready to plant state. I recommend trying to find a nursery that uses seeds that are locally saved to get the best results. Plants grown from locally saved seeds are meant to grow in your climate and they are less reliant on pesticides and fungicides as a result. That means less toxins for you to ingest when you harvest your first crop.
You can also visit your local farmers market for ready to plant vegetables. This is one of my favorites for city dwellers. It’s a fun Saturday morning that sets you up perfectly for planting that afternoon or the next day. As well you can ask the growers any questions you might have about the plants and how to take care of them. i.e. how were they grown? Were they treated with any herbicides or pesticides? How much water/sun/general maintenance does it require?

If gardening isn’t your thing and you can’t always make it to the Saturday market why not sign up for a CSA basket? I’ve talked about CSA’s before, the acronym stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture and it is a weekly vegetable delivery program. It’s a great way to get fresh vegetables during the growing season as well as support your local economy. How it works is you purchase a vegetable share upfront at the beginning of the year usually February – April (this helps the farmer to plan their planting based on demand) and then you receive a weekly delivery of vegetables from June – October depending on the farm.
When going the CSA route a few questions to ask yourself are:
How big is the share? (Some shares are quite large and you may find the volume overwhelming for yourself. In these cases you might want to share the CSA with a friend or roommate)
What kind of produce will I be receiving? (Don’t like kohlrabi or other Asian greens then a CSA that has mainly those types of vegetables will not be for you)
When is the delivery/How close is the delivery? (Is the delivery of the CSA at a time and place that is convenient for you?)

Here are a few of my favorite farms with CSA’s in Ottawa

Roots and Shoots – Run by Robin and Jess a young dynamic farming duo. I survived the first few months of my Locavore challenge thanks to their greenhouse veggies.
Waratah Downs – John Weatherhead is a veteran farmer. I was fortunate enough to volunteer on his farm for some of the 2012 harvest and it was a very enriching experience. He is beyond knowledgeable about agriculture and grows some really great veggies.
Herbivor Farm – Lisa and Justin are in their 3rd year now farming about as close as you can get to Downtown Ottawa in Blackburn Hamlet (10 minutes from downtown). As friends of mine I was lucky enough to be one of their first CSA customers and I was beyond impressed with the selection of heirloom vegetables I received!

Which ever root you decide to go whether it’s planting your own garden, shopping at the farmers market or signing up for a CSA you are sure not to be disappointed with the reward you receive of delicious local produce – Happy eating!

2 Comments

Zeitgeist

zeit·geist /ˈtsītˌɡīst,ˈzītˌɡīst/ noun – the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

As the full moon ascends into the sky we are welcomed into a new year. The new year often symbolizes a time of renewal and for many a fresh start, a beginning from which to set a new path.

Reading back through my posts of the past year, 2014 was a year of whimsy. I grounded myself and opened my eyes to the magic of the simple pleasures all around. My garden flourished (and is still providing me with fresh herbs!) and I was able to experience grape growing and wine making from start to finish at Broken Stone Winery.

It’s hard to believe that it was the start of this blog that led me to Tim and Micheline at Broken Stone Winery and allowed me the experience of a life time – the chance to be a part of the production of a product from start to finish. Tim has become a real mentor to me. His ability to take his dreams and make them a reality is remarkable. On the surface he makes it all look easy, but if you look past this humble exterior you will see the grit, hard work and perseverance that he puts in in order to achieve greatness.

Owning a winery and a vineyard is no easy task. Tending to grapes is farming. The vines need to be maintained and tended to with weeding, pest-management and pruning in order to be ready for winemaking at the end of the season. It is tough manual labour to keep up on vineyard work and requires constant work. It is not unusual to work a 12 hour day if not more – especially during harvest – and there is often lots of trouble shooting and problem solving at the hands of equipment malfunctions and inclement weather in order to ensure the grapes become wine. But once the grapes are processed into wine and and the vines are tied down and tucked under the soil there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that is amazing and makes all the hard work of the year worthwhile.

This past year Tim has not only taught me about grape growing and wine making but he has shown me that with perseverance and hard work dreams do become reality and that’s inspiring.

Leave a comment

Full Beaver Moon

For those of you under clear skies this past evening you would have witnessed the Full Beaver Moon. This name comes from the Algonquin tribes and is still used in the Farmers Almanac. It is referred to as the Beaver Moon because this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of winter furs. All I saw last night however was the cold grey of late fall rain clouds with a hint of snow this morning.

This makes me think one thing – Potatoes and their starchy, fulfilling goodness. They’re so versatile, whether baked on their own or mixed with other ingredients the possibilities are endless. I love them baked, mashed, scalloped, in gratin or in soup.

But where did this humble root vegetable come from? (No it’s not from Ireland) It’s South American originating in Peru and brought over to Europe through Spain and their conquest of South America in the 16th century. Potatoes had three advantages over other crops in Europe: its low spoilage rate, its bulk (easily satisfying hunger), and its cheapness. These three traits made it popular in the 19th century and even credited it with underpinning the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

Irish expansion of potato cultivation was largely due to its cheap cost and high yield – an acre of potatoes and the milk of one cow was enough to feed a whole Irish family a monotonous but nutritionally adequate diet. The lumper potato that was commonly grown was high yielding but poorly resistant to blight. Thus, the Irish Potato Famine that occurred from 1845-49 was a result of heavy dependence on this genetically weak potato that succumbed to blight.

In Canada potatoes as cash crops are grown in all provinces, PEI being the most major producer. We are also home one of the top potato research institutes in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Canadian Potato Research Center was established in 1912 and although it’s focus has shifted throughout the years it has been responsible for developing disease resistant varieties of potatoes in the past.

So what’s the secret to the best potato dishes? Picking the right potato. Now I don’t mean the shape or colour of the potato, I mean choosing the potato with the proper starch content. The higher the starch content of the potato, the fluffier the potato is when cooked. Think airy and creamy mashed potatoes or fluffy baked russet potatoes. These potatoes can hold a lot of water and tend to fall apart when cooked. Medium starch potatoes are sort of an all purpose potato, they’re a little denser and will hold their shape better. Yukon gold potatoes would be a good example of a medium starch potato. Low starch potatoes, often referred to as waxy potatoes are the perfect potato to hold their shape in salad dishes. Examples of low starch potatoes are french fingerlings and purple Peruvian varietals.

My favorite potato dish is röschti, a Swiss dish my Grandpa introduced me to. It was breakfast EVERY morning he would tell us of his childhood on a farm in the canton of Bern (which is where the dish originated). It is a very simple dish consisting of grated potato, either cooked or raw, fried in butter and shaped into a patty. You can make it with pretty much any potato but I would suggest one with a medium starch content such as a yukon gold or red potato. So simple and so delicious, the most important prerequisites to my favorite kitchen staples. Now you must excuse me while I go prepare some röschti for myself.

Bon Appétit!

Leave a comment

New Moon New Perspective

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There was a new moon this evening. A new moon they say is a signal of completion and also initiation, both can be very powerful events. It is a time to look inside ourselves to take stock of our unconscious emotions and determine what it is we feel and want out of life. Not what we think we want or have been told to want but rather what we truly desire.

This is not something that is easily done but it is necessary exercise. It’s good practice of meta-cognition which is most simply described as “knowing about knowing” or self-regulation. When we can look within ourselves and see how stuck emotional and behavioral patterns keep us from what we truly want in life, we can consciously choose to dispose of those old patterns. In doing this we provide space for the new patterns we would like to adopt to help us achieve our goals.

Now I’m not saying this is something that is easy but if you choose to change just one thing at a time and make a concerted effort to establish that change you will be happy with how successful you can be. Whether it is to have an apple every day or smile more often each time you succeed in accomplishing your goal it will be that much easier the next time. The best advice I can give to ensure success is to be kind to yourself and forgive yourself if you are having trouble establishing a new habit and use it as motivation to keep moving in the direction to want.

So why not take this new moon to provide closure to habits that are no longer serving a good purpose for you and initiate a new habit that helps to increase your happiness.

Sante

Leave a comment

Swiss Cheese Moon

The moon is slowly disappearing each passing evening. It’s surface textured like the of a round ball of Swiss cheese in the sky. I imagine the big dipper to be a fondue pot awaiting the cheese to make some delicious fondue for the gods. Perhaps that’s where the moon goes every month is into the pot…

But enough of that, this new moon I would like to talk about cheese. What is it and how does it come to be?

Looking at the history of cheese it has been around since before recorded history and it’s origin is assumed to lie in the practice of transporting milk in bladders made of ruminants’ stomachs(mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a special stomach prior to digestion otherwise known as cows). It’s hard to say where it originated exactly, the process itself was likely discovered accidentally since animal stomachs and inflated organs were traditionally used to carry food. The usefulness of rennet in turning milk into curd and whey was discovered this way since they would’ve been living in these organs – Rennet is a complex of enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminants. These enzymes are a catalyst that separate milk into solid curds for cheese making and liquid whey.

In the 1860s mass-produced rennet happened as a result of scientists producing pure microbial cultures. Instead of relying on bacteria from the environment or from recycling an earlier batch’s whey. Which meant more standardized cheese could be produced (I’m drawing many parallels with wine making here in my brain).

Some interesting facts to note: Before fridges cheese was stored in ceramic dishes to prolong their life and the first industrial cheese factory opened in Switzerland in 1815 so no wonder I like cheese so much, it’s in my heritage!

There is much more to the history of cheese but that’s enough theory I prefer practice.

Here’s a link to my favorite YouTube chef on how to make cream cheese

And this is my favorite Swiss mountain cheese.