Sunday, March 28, 2010

You Had Me At Tangerine

Okay - so yesterday marked an historic trip to the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market - historic because I think Starbucks' shares are about to go down. We discovered a new bean.

Now for years, we were very picky about the ethical side of our coffee. Coffee is the one of the largest export commodities in the world (and when I say "one of the largest", I am pretty sure it is still in the top 3!) That's a significant impact! So we wanted to do our part. We ordered fair trade beans online from Level Ground Trading. It was a wonderful experience - we would order the beans online and then I would get an email saying that my beans had been placed in the cue for roasting. They then shipped them within 24 hours of roasting. That was my favorite package to get in the mail. However, for whatever reason, we stopped getting the coffee from them. I saw the same brand in the grocery store so it became easier to just pick up a bag there. Then we started buying Starbucks beans because we really liked the coffee. And then we discovered the big bulk bags of it at Costco. Well, that was a pretty economical option for self-proclaimed coffee snobs like us.

Then yesterday, the whole family went to the market (which was such a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning). We stopped at the Catfish Coffee booth, which I had been meaning to check out but hadn't bothered because we didn't need coffee yet. Well, we had a wonderful discussion about farmers and small batch roasting and ethnic seasonal flavors. He told me about the Bali Blue, which he only had a few bags left of - that would be it for several months. He said that the beans grew in between rows of tangerine trees. He told us about the farmers and how many acres they had. He said some other stuff but I said to him, "It's okay. We're sold. You had me at tangerine!"

So then as if that wasn't wonderful enough, this morning when I went on their website to grab the link to post here, I discovered that they are attached to my new favorite book store - Mandolin Books! I discovered this little used book store gem at our last book club meeting and fell in love with it. I came home and told hubby all about it - said "You have to come see this place!"

As we left the Farmers' Market, Bali Blue in hand, hubby said to me "That guy has no idea how much coffee he just sold." We brewed a pot last night to enjoy with the most scrumptious carrot cake ever and the look of euphoria on our faces was unmistakable.

They say there will be no eating or drinking in heaven. Well if God changes His mind on that, I've got a phone number for him...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chugga Chugga Chew Chew

So I am working on a new habit. As simple as it sounds, it is proving to be more difficult than I thought. The habit is chewing. My food, that is.

Since deciding to adopt this new way of eating, I am amazed at how many times I find I am half-way through my meal and haven't consciously been chewing, but rather I've been chugging. I have found, however, that when I take the time to count my chews (I aim for 30 with every bite), I am full sooner and way more satisfied. I like to eat and this chewing habit slows me down enough so that I get to eat for longer periods of time, often consuming less food!

But here's the neat thing: chewing is actually good for you! Not only does it help you feel fuller sooner, it helps immensely in digestion. Did you know that digestion starts in your mouth and not your stomach?? Our saliva gives off enzymes that immediately start breaking down our food into energy - the good kind of glucose is released.

Plus when we chew properly, we get more nutrition out of our food. Big chunks of food are harder to digest and can end up in the intestine that way, with all their goodness still trapped inside. Wouldn't that suck?! Not to mention the gas and bloating.

It is hard to do, I am discovering. It is even harder when I am eating with other people as we all tend to talk. I am learning to talk only between bitefuls (yes, I know we all learned not to talk with our mouths full but let's all admit that we are guilty). There is also the tendency to swallow before my 30 chews so that I can say something.

Who would have thought something so basic would be so difficult? But like everything else, it is about developing a new habit. Try it out - even just for one meal - and see if you can do it and if you feel any different!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Soapbox is Getting Bigger

Over the past several months, my thinking has been radically challenged by some of the books I've been reading (I guess that's what a good book is supposed to do....).

I started off by reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan right around Christmas time. I had seen an interview with him and was quite intrigued by what I saw. One of the main points he makes is that so much of what we put in our bodies is not food at all, but rather a food-like substitute. The majority of the grocery store is filled with items that were made in a lab instead of grown in the ground. Nutritionism has become some weird science, wherein we read a nutrition label before we buy something so we know what's in it. You know what's in an organic apple? An apple! No label needed. Science finds the latest nutritional breakthrough and then injects it into everything - case in point, Omega 3. One of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids is from nuts but we frown upon nuts because they are high in fat....Instead, we inject it into a low-fat yogurt-like substance. How about the new Froot Loops - now with fibre! Seriously!

He also talks about our associations with food and how a culture so obsessed with being healthy is one of the most obese on the planet...hmm. In France (if I remember correctly), the study showed that their association with "chocolate cake" was "celebration." In America, it was "guilt."

The other book that I just finished reading is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Now, let me make a couple things clear. Never did I think I would read a book by Alicia Silverstone and actually learn something (I associated her with "Clueless"). Also, my favorite food in the whole wide world is cheese. Bacon comes in a close second. Comfort food to me is Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, stuffing, gravy....bring it on. So the idea that I might read something so thought provoking as to make me consider not only becoming vegetarian but actually going as far as vegan took me completely by surprise. And it was the sections I read about dairy that were the most disturbing - maybe because I already knew about meat production and have been doing my part to make better choices (if you are local, check out Sherwood Meats).

The other thing I want to look into more as I continue on this journey is what the Canadian standards are as I know that both of these books are written with the US factory farming in mind. I have heard that Canadian standards are supposed to be better but I need to find out for sure. I will be sure to post the results I find.

Until then, I have discovered a new way of shopping (and I don't imagine I will ever go back to the grocery store model the way I used to). Independent farmers and the wonderful Old Strathcona Farmers' Market - wow, Costco's got nothing on these guys when it comes to free samples! I was so happy to discover Sunworks Farms. Not only is their meat certified organic but it is also certified humane, something that I am realizing is more important for our health than we give it credit for.

Does it cost more? Yes. But we have become so accustomed to buying mass quantities of food for very cheap. The problem is that the nutritional value is not the same and there is a price behind the scenes that we are not seeing. Plus, although we might save our dollars at the cash register, we end up paying with our health. The western diet is linked to so many of our major health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Cultures that don't eat like we do have much lower rates of these diseases. It is about choosing quality over quantity and learning a new way of eating and living.

Am I there yet? Not even close. But I am moving along a different path. It is very easy to stay in the dark and not learn about where our food comes from but I challenge you to do some research. I know I will continue to do so and will endeavor to make the best choices I can for myself and my family.

Monday, March 1, 2010

More than just symantecs

So it is Day 1 of the No-Spend Challenge and I just got back from the grocery store. What a minefield that was!

I went with my list in hand, as I do every week, and stuck to my list. But as I was getting things, such as cereal and snacks for lunches, I realized that I am not totally sure what constitutes a "need". Yes, we need food to eat for breakfast but are strawberry flavored hay-bales really a "need"? Or is it quantity. Yogurt was on sale so I got 3 tubs - that was definitely more than we need...

I realized that this has the potential to drive me crazy and send me into my over-analytical self. I have decided not to let it. Here is what I am going to try to accomplish through this challenge:

*Sticking to my grocery list - if it's not on the list, I don't need it this week.
*Instead of meeting a friend at Starbucks, have them over for a latte instead (guess I'll finally have to learn to use our Barista).
*Making pizza from scratch instead of ordering in.
*Picking a movie off the shelf instead of going to the movie store to rent another one.
*No matter how cute those summer sandals are, it is still March in Alberta and I won't be wearing them anytime soon. They can wait.

I am sure this will be a learning experience (already has been!). Feel free to weigh in on the cereal debate and any other thoughts you might have.
I'll keep you posted as the journey progresses.