Archive for ‘Living Local’

15.11.2011

Delectable Dinners

by marilynk

Last month, I was invited by my lovely friend Sarah to join a group of ladies to attend (and eventually host) a sort of rotating dinner party. The evenings are called Delectable Dinners and the first two evenings have been full of interesting women, great conversation, many photos of cats, and delicious food. The concept is quite low-key and very flexible to different people’s hosting preferences: the hostess gets to decide if she’d like to cook the full dinner, have a pot-luck, or even go out to a restaurant if that’s more her style.

So far, both Dinners have been pot-lucks and I’ve been really impressed with the interesting dishes these ladies bring. I brought a g-free apple pie to the first dinner (it turned out even tastier than the first one) and my contribution to Sunday’s dinner was Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Yoghurt. I stayed true to the recipe this time, but I used purple cauliflower from Riverbend Gardens. It was beautiful raw and the purple actually intensified when it was cooked. I quite liked the dish and I’ll definitely make it again, but I was really blown away by the rest of the menu: a guacamole with extra veggies, roasted beet hummus, stuffed mushroom caps, broccoli salad, a quinoa/tomato/parmesan bake, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloing (seriously!), and for dessert? Homemade cinnamon rolls and pavlova. Yeah, we eat like that.

I really love seeing (and tasting!) the creativity of the dishes, but the best part of these evenings is the conversation with a really interesting group of women. Most are people I didn’t know before Sarah’s first dinner and I am really happy to be getting to know such great people.

08.11.2011

The Barter System

by marilynk

I wish the whole world could run on the barter system. No, this isn’t going to be a 99% rant, but there is something so very appealing about trading one’s skills or the product of one’s skills for things that you need. Apparently this woman is living it: she hasn’t used money in 15 years! I don’t think that’s a possibility for me, but I think there are little ways that we can introduce bartering into our lives that would help all of us with our bottom line.

As you guys know, I’m a little under-employed at the moment. It’s good for my health, but not so great for my budget. I still want to be able to eat local food and support local producers, but the market is definitely more expensive than the grocery store (and also tastier). Volunteering with EOGG has helped with the budget since I’m able to get a lot of my produce there, but I still need bread and while I’ve made a loaf or two in my life…my bread just isn’t as good as Owen’s.

27.09.2011

Harvest Dinner with EOGG

by marilynk

Saturday was EOGG’s AGM and Harvest Dinner. I unfortunately missed the AGM because I got started too late on my baking. But the dinner was one of my favourites from this year. It had everything you want in a good dinner party: interesting, friendly people; good conversation; excellent food; and a beautiful setting.

Getting the water on for corn!

Appetizers, pickles, and sides.

Desserts!

23.09.2011

Thoughts on Food

by marilynk

I think a lot about food. I like food, how it tastes, how it smells, how it looks on a plate. And I love cooking. I cook or bake for people because it is an expression of how I feel about them. I like it when people enjoy something I’ve made for them. I think about what kind of food a person will appreciate: their favourite flavours, the season, decorations that will make them laugh, anything that will make what I’ve made for them memorable and special.

I thought about food before I got sick. I was already trying to shift my food buying to more local sources and I’ve been trying to get back into synch with what is seasonal – not only in Edmonton, but the produce that I need to buy from farther away. Partly seasonality makes a difference to the cost of food – everything is cheaper when purchased in season. Partly it’s about supporting local farms – purchasing from local growers keeps more of my food dollars in my own community and circulating through the local economy. Mostly it’s about taste. Food just tastes so much better when it’s picked in it’s prime (have you ever eaten a freshly-ripe peach? I think that is the best example of what a difference seasonality makes to flavour!).

Since I got sick, I’ve been thinking even more about food. The only dietary triggers I’ve noticed are processed and packaged items, so since June I’ve made probably 80-85% of my meals from scratch and when I’ve eaten out, it’s mostly been at local restaurants that make food from scratch. Eating mostly from scratch takes more thought. I need to have an idea what I’m going to make, I need to make sure I have time to make it, and (I struggle with this one) I need to remember to take things out of the freezer in time to use them.

Needing to control what I eat and my moves to eat a more seasonal diet have led me to a new volunteer opportunity too. In August I joined the Edmonton Organic Grower’s Guild, a group that has about 3 acres at the University of Alberta farm – right in the middle of the city! Everyone I’ve met there has been lovely and although I haven’t volunteered many hours yet, I’ve really enjoyed getting into the garden. I like that I’m contributing to growing the food that I’m consuming. And nothing beats gardening for learning what foods are in season when! Tomorrow is the group’s annual harvest dinner and I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the volunteers and sampling dishes made with the ingredients we’ve all grown. If you’re interested in gardening, I really encourage you to come out to EOGG. It is a really great option, especially for people who live in apartments or aren’t able to garden on their own property.

Edmonton doesn’t have a climate that makes a 100 mile diet possible, but it is possible to choose foods that are in season and choose local over imported when that choice is available. I’ll have some recipes in the next couple days that really illustrate what I’m talking about.

09.08.2011

Folk Fest

by marilynk

There was a break in posts for my absolute favourite weekend of the year: Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Four days in the sun (and a little rain Saturday night), 6 workshop stages, 1 main stage, 60+ performers, and thousands of music fans blanketing Gallagher Park.

There are a lot of reasons that I love Folk Fest, but it never ceases to amaze me how magical it feels every single year. Some frustrations with the tarp lottery and people sitting in the walking paths aside, people just seem nicer at Folk Fest. And nothing beats wandering around, hearing beautiful music, and seeing happy people everywhere.

Some of my friends were disappointed by this year’s lineup and decided not to get tickets, but to be honest I never worry too much about the lineup. I always discover people that I’ve never heard before who absolutely blow me away and there are always older acts that I’ve heard enough that I can sing along to. This year my discoveries were Imelda May, for fun, catchy rockabilly tunes; Sean Rowe, for his beautiful baritone and soulful sound; Des Temps Antan, for their toe-tapping Quebecois traditional songs and incredible stage presence; and The Deep Dark Woods, for their mellow, dreamy vibe.

I had some disappointments too – mostly in the form of missing artists like Wanda Jackson, The Once, The Secret Sisters, and the man everyone was just raving about, Matt Anderson. But I was also disappointed by the main stage performance of Noah and the Whale – a group I’d really been looking forward to. Des Temps Antan did a “tweener” before Noah and the Whale closed out Friday night (meaning they played while the crew rearranged the stage for the headliners) and the Quebeckers had most of the crowd up and dancing even though they were only playing from a corner of the stage – the music was vibrant, it captured the audience and kept everyone’s energy up. So much fun. In comparison, Noah and the Whale seemed to be playing more for each other than for the crowd and the performance just left me feeling…meh. As I tweeted that night, the songs were ok, but I was seriously underwhelmed.

And I had two “Folk Fest Moments” those moments at the festival where all the elements come together: the weather, the artists, the vibe of the crowd. Everything comes together perfectly and the result is utter magic. For me, this happens most often at workshop stages and one of mine was on Sunday afternoon at Stage 1 when Andrew Bird, a multi-instrumentalist from Chicago, played with Etran Finatawa, a group from Niger. The styles were completely different, but the artists were comfortable with each other and although they took turns leading the songs, everyone played on each song and the blend of styles was so much more than either group could produce individually (I just can’t do it justice with words – sorry!). Those are always good moments at the festival.

My other Moment was during k.d. lang‘s headlining set on Sunday Night. She has such great stage presence and she knows how to work a crowd. Hearing her sing her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was absolutely mind blowing. I can’t really say more than that.

So thank you to the organizers, all the artists, and all of the fans that made this weekend so special for me. Can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Pictures will come as soon as I can get them off my dad’s camera.

26.07.2011

Weekend Fun & Building Community

by marilynk

I had a really good weekend health-wise and spent as much of it as possible with friends. First was my weekly visit to the City Market, with visits to my bread guy, a few vegetable stalls, and my BC fruit guy (apricots are in season right now, guys…so delicious!). My weekly trip to the market is part entertainment, part shopping, and part ritual. I love seeing everyone, catching up with the vendors that I know, meeting dogs and kids, and seeing all the beautiful piles of food. Saturday mornings between May and October are some of my favourite times.

Another reason the market is important to me is that I’m supporting local businesses and local farmers. It would be virtually impossible to eat a solely local diet in Edmonton, but part of my “More with Less” philosophy is reducing the impact my eating has on the environment and supporting the local economy over huge multi-national corporations. By connecting with these vendors, we are each contributing to our local community and making that community stronger.

That afternoon and evening I was the sober “Course Official” for a friendly game of Pub Golf. It was a hilariously good time and I’m really looking forward to round two! We played 9 holes at bars along Whyte Avenue and while it may not have done much to build the wider community, it was a great way to build our friend-based community.

Sunday was Critical Lass day! My friends Deb and Angel over at Loop Frame Love have been organizing these lovely lady (and sometimes dapper gentlemen!) rides since June 2010 and they have become an excellent addition to my summer activities. Deb did a great post about Sunday’s ride with lots of photos, so head over there to check it out. I’m going to talk more about something that really struck me as we were cycling back downtown from Alberta Avenue.

We approached downtown via 96 Street, then rode along 106 Avenue to 107 Street. This route took us right past the area where the new hockey arena is proposed. I have some serious reservations about the project – mainly about how it will be funded and what effect it will have on the livability of our downtown. My friend Zoe did a wonderful post about the north side of downtown being “the servant’s quarters” and it was definitely top of mind as we approached downtown from the north. What really struck me on Sunday was just how huge the arena complex will be and how critically important the design will be in either connecting the neighbourhoods to the rest of downtown or completely severing them from the rest of downtown.

As this development proposal moves forward (I’m not naive enough to think it will stop at this point), I think I will be most vocal about the design. I will be taking every opportunity available to me to try and ensure the design has a 360 degree perspective. If the design doesn’t include the neighbourhoods to the north, it will only serve as a divider to the community rather than any sort of catalyst for community building.

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