Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food for Thought - Eating Well during the Canadian Winter

Today I want to talk about food. This should be an easy topic as everyone needs it and everyone has a relationship with food! As I discussed in a previous blog, Yoga, the word, is derived from the Sanskrit root, 'yuj', which means 'to yoke', 'to control'... 'To unite'. I prefer to understand my Yoga as Relationship. This relationship is on the mat and its off the mat, it fuses with daily life as naturally as taking a breath does, and it begins to take charge ('control') the way you view things, people, practices, and yourself. Many individuals who begin a Yoga practice, on the mat, as mere 'exercise' (the physical practice of Yoga is called Asana), have gradually found life changing (or taking charge). Eventually, Yoga becomes a lifestyle (choice?) or rather, a way of life and it is integrated into all that we do. It's pure magic this way! Often I meet new students on the mat who have come to Yoga to gain in physical terms; flexibility, strength, fitness. I believe these to be very good reasons for beginners to find time and structure for a Yoga practice... the rest will just fall into place, just happen and before you know it, the transformative nature of Yoga will have you quitting that day job that you 'just weren't that into', ditching negative habits, routines and relationships, and forming new more positive practices! Which brings me back to my topic today... FOOD!

Sometimes it just isn't as simple as what you put into your mouth; Food is capital 'E' Emotional, Food is political too... The traditional Yogic menu is vegetarian, in support of living without causing pain or suffering to any other sentient beings (i.e. eating animals would be considered contrary to Ahimsa practices). I would also expect that, a true Yogic menu would also be organically-processed and produced, packaged, and circulated (i.e. one would avoid buying produce that had traveled long distances on transport trucks as this does harm to our earth, ourselves and all sentient beings that inhabit the earth). Is your head spinning yet? Like I said, I consider Yoga to be Relationship... and NO relationship is perfect. You do what you can, when you can, the best you can, to give back to your community, self, and Universe. That's all we can ask of ourselves.

If you have not guessed it yet, and you are a follower, this blog finds its form in delivering practical, accessible choices and advice that use Yoga as a means to an end of bettering ones self and one's world. On this note, I'd like to share some of my family's techniques when it comes to growing and buying good wholefood organics food that don't put us out of house and home financially.

 Grow a backyard/porch/deck veggie garden

You may think to yourself, what is a wee little garden going to do for me, really??? How can a couple heads of lettuce and a tomato plant help me keep money in my pocket and food on my table? How can growing plants make me a better person? The act of growing your own food, on a philosophical level, can have a profound effect on how you view food and self. Your relationship with food will forever be changed by growing it yourself. Grow it from seed (I get my organic seeds here and you will develop a unconditional love affair with your food. Once this happens, eating becomes a meditation. In fact, another practical and easy way to bring meditation into your daily life practice is a food/eating meditation
By gardening, you will begin to understand that your ability to nurture (dare I say, love?) and grow food, from the garden straight to your table and body; avoiding the middle man; a transport truck and a genetic engineer! You will foster a deeper relationship with nature. You will fall in love with the seasons and of course, you will revel in the pure bliss of the harvest! I heart my garden! Having even a small garden greatly decreases your carbon footprint, and it is an opportunity for new knowledge! You can share what you learn with others! Ways you can get the most out of your garden are preserving and canning, as well as pickling, saucing, and freezing food for our cold and rather bland (eating wise) Canadian Winter.You will save money! My family saves an average of 60 dollars a week by having a small 12 ft by 12 ft veggie garden!

Have you hugged a Farmer today?

When in doubt and when it is at all possible, buy locally grown foods from a Farmer or a Farmer's co-op or market. Below I will list some of my fave co-ops, markets and Farmers to help you :) My all-time favorite co-op is called

Ewenity is a dairy co-op situated in Fergus, Ontario. It is a co-operative of Ontario farmers who milk their sheep. Milk is then crafted into delicious yogurt, cheeses and ice cream at the Best Baa Dairy in Fergus, Ontario. Although I do consume cow's milk there is an ever-expanding amount of research that claims that cow's milk has it's own set of problems. If you are someone who is trying to minimize their cow's milk in-take, may I encourage you to use sheep's milk as an alternative. It is WAY tastier than Goat's milk and these farmers know where it's at when it comes to cheese, yogurt (my fave is the real maple syrup yogurt that Ewenity makes... if you live in the city, you can find them ever Saturday at the St. Lawrence market in Toronto). I ate it all through my pregnancy as my base for a healthy breakfast! It rocks! Also, I know these farmers (though it's been awhile since I hugged them) and it is always good to know your farmer's perspectives on working with the earth and animals... great people produce great food. period.

If you are a passionate cow's milk connoisseur than Organic Meadow's comes highly recommended by yours truly. Also out of Guelph, Ontario, you are doing your part in reducing carbon emissions by buying locally (a relatively short transport time from Guelph to your table), and its good sh*t! I LOVE THIS COMPANY'S WEB SITE! Please check it out. It's focus in on keeping the costumer informed and aware of the processes and method's used to produce the food, and it is community oriented. It's a good read, have a look-see! The milk is wholesome and delicious and the yogurt is great too. I also like their cheddar cheese.

Meat. Though it is not considered part of the Yogic 'menu', it is something that some of us believe is a part of a well-rounded diet. I, myself, was a devoted vegetarian for 14 years and after a long struggle with anemia, having tried b-6, b-12 injections and other supplements, have returned to eating (limited) amounts of meat. I will re-attempt a return to my vegetarian roots in the future, but as a woman who was invested in conceiving a child and one who may go for 'round-two' in the ring of child-bearing (and I use the metaphor of a boxing ring with intention... but that another blog. LOL) I have found that limited amounts of meat have brought me optimum health during my child-bearing years. This is my own personal opinion and I am sure some would disagree. Comment and links on how to find optimum health living with anemia as an exclusive veggie-eater would be well-received!

A little more on meat...

Reduce negative impact on the planet by practicing meatless 'Mondays' (and Weds and Fridays!). Though I am a meat consumer now, I do believe that our society in the West eats FAR too much meat for our own good. Not only does eating meat daily effect your health in a negative manner and reduce your life expectancy, it also contributes to the negative impact that humanity is having on the planet, especially, if you are buying meats produced by big agri-companies and not local farmed meats. My family buys strictly organic meats for a number of reasons... We are passionate about avoiding hormones and anti-bi's in our meats. Mainstream research is now showing that these additives are having real effects on the developing body (in particular, our children). I don't want to turn this blog into a (negative) discussion that instills fear in the hearts of those of you still eating big agri-produced meats, so I will simply encourage you to read up on these studies further, if they interest you. and continue by listing some of my fave local meat farms and co-op's.

Beretta Farms and Co-Op.

These guys are my favorite, by far. Again, I love this web site that is informative and honest. I love that these folks address processing and packaging techniques. With the recent focus on BPA in packaging, it gets one thinking about meat that sits in styrofoam trays and wrapped in saran wrap for weeks on end in the grocery stores... These guys are up-front about the way they pack and process the meat, stating, "we do all our own cutting and wrapping, smoking, sausage maki'ng, which allows us to provide a healthy organic product that is custom-processed for each unique customer's needs.". You pay quite a bit more for Beretta if you buy it in the super market, but you can both buy it from the source, the Farm, which is a convenient jaunt north, by car it is only about 20 minutes, located in King City, Ontario, or, and this is the best, you can order ON-LINE from their web site (another reason I love this web site). It's cheaper this way. These guys also do catering, perfect for weddings and such things! If you do want to get it in the store; it is in Longo's for sure.

I also like Rowe farms and now you can get their eggs at some of the big super markets, Loblaws, for example. Woot woo! Rowe farms has several stores in the GTA and one in Guelph.

Things I do to save $$$ while feeding my family the best food I can find

 Avoid convenience foods. What are convenience foods? Well, eating-out would be the ultimate convenience... so, as an alternative to the restaurant experience, (which is notably a nice experience that we have all indulged in, myself included) try cooking with your family at home. Buy some awesome cookbooks and get all-hands on deck! Then set the table with candles and all the frills and serve the food on your nicest plates, use the fine china, pull out all the stops. The art of cooking was featured in the movie "Julie and Julia" directed by Nora Ephron in 2009
If you have not seen this wholesome 'comfort food' in film form yet, I encourage you to do so... it really brings to light the love one can foster in their lives through the simple act of cooking and the creative element involved in a lifestyle that involves cooking one's own food! 

Another way you can avoid convenience eating and foods is to 'draw a square' around the perimeter of your local grocery store. The big mega-stores are daunting to say the least, so simply avoid the throbbing nexus of the store (the only exception to this rule would be in Loblaws, which now has a fully-stocked organics section in the interior of the store, usually near the pharmacy... hmmmm, intentional placement? You tell me?). 

You may notice that I am talking a lot about shopping in the big grocery stores. Like I stated before, this blog is about accessibility and so I want to make sure I am addressing the 'status qou' in my community. Therefore, I've included big box grocery stores in my discussion. I maintain that buying you food from the Farmer, either directly, or from markets is, hands-down, the BEST way to buy your food, but in most people's lives, which are riddled with solving the problem of 'not enough time, too many tasks', well, sometimes running into the closest mega-store for your family's dinner is just easier. Sometimes its the getting home and getting sometime with your loved ones that trumps finding a local Farmers market in the Winter, in Canada. I get it. 

 4-season Farmers Markets! GO THERE!

More on the 4 season Farmer markets though... THEY DO EXIST! Here are some I frequent and find to have a good selection of wholefoods. The Brickworks in East Toronto is battling it out in my mind for the throne as far as my fave year-around markets. It's competitor? Well, the good ol' St Lawrence Market, but of course. 

What do I like about Brickworks? Well, you can DO YOGA and shop for yummy food at the SAME TIME! Wicked, right? 

My last few tips are some savvy suggestions on saving while buying organics in the mega-store/grocery stores...

Circulate several different stores in your area, close to home. Sometimes you can find better produce at a different store than you usually go to, on any given day/week depending on the stores suppliers. It is worth it to 'switch it up' and get around a bit. Also, different stores will have sales on organics at different times. You can work the room. Otherwise, you may find yourself eating a very limited diet of sweet potatoes, other root veggies, and the occasional organic (frozen) strawberry. P.S: Frozen fruit is alright, actually, often times the frozen fruits have not been irradiated as they are frozen immediately after being picked. More on irradiation here

Do not buy bulk. If you can, buy smaller amounts at one time... Why? You can then buy from the %50 off organics, which are genrally just fine, as long as you eat them up in a couple days. We live in a paranoid society where expiry dates are set wayyyyy in advance. Want to get great organic food for a reduced price? Wait until the store gets worried about the approaching 'expiry date' and buy, buy, buy!

I really could go on and on about food. If you want to educate yourself further on the politics of food I recommend this excellent read.

and I also liked

I think I have to wrap this one, as I am off to cook lunch ;) but more on great cook books and other resources to come in future blogs. 

Happy eating ;)

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