Locavore food share programs

Photo credit: Culinarium / Ontario Artisan Share

I know. Hannah and I haven’t posted in a while. Our apologies on the recent radio silence. We had a number of serious personal events happen that have kept us away from Foodiologie. It may take a bit more time before we’re back on our regular posting schedule, but not to worry, we’ll be back soon. But enough about that, what of this locavore business?

Eating fresh and eating local is one of the things that means a lot to us. What it often translates into is how and where we shop, and what we put in our grocery basket: trips to farmers’ markets, finding small grocers that carry local produce, or just selecting locally grown foods from some of the larger grocery chains. A lot of times though, eating fresh and local also means eating at a higher cost and greater inconvenience. But all this is about to change, because Pietro, aka my husband-to-be, and I are joining a food share program through Culinarium in Toronto.

Food share programs are nothing new, but suprisingly, not too many people know about them, and even fewer participate. In reality, community food sharing is a significant part of human history. Only it’s far less prevalent in our big bustling cities, and complicated food production cycles nowadays – most of us are completely disconnected from the source(s) of our food. But we don’t have to be. Food share programs put our food and the farmers that produce it back into our frame of reference.

What’s great about the Culinarium food share programs are that you can choose the program that best suits you: produce-only, meat options, or even an artisan option where you can also get locally-made cheeses and pantry items like maple syrups, mustards, and oils in both meat and vegetarian options. The other benefit is that it’s affordable. The only difference is that you’re paying for your food upfront and securing your personal portion of food with the farmers you’re getting your food from. The farmer has secure orders before the harvest, and you get a gorgeous assortment of seasonal, local food products on a weekly basis when the time comes.

I can’t wait for my first basket.

For other food share programs across Canada, Food Share has a listing here. If you’re not from Canada, look for one in your area. Chances are, you’ll find one. They’re more common than you may think. Good luck!

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The basics: Soup stocks

I consider my mother the goddess of all things soup – especially Chinese soups. When I moved out many years ago, this was one of the things I missed the most: her delicious, nutritious homemade soups.

One of the things she has taught me over the years is that every good soup starts out with a good soup base. And by “good”, we mean fresh, homemade, and healthy. It may take a little more time, but in the end, it’s worth it. Your soups will taste better, and your body will thank you for it too. So you don’t need to buy those artificially preserved broths – you can make your own!

As an aside, of course sometimes the reality is that when you have no time, you just have no time. If you’re in a crunch and need a quick soup stock solution, we always recommend the Campbell’s broths in the carton over any of the canned varieties. Most of the canned soups, including Campbell’s, have MSG in them, whereas the cartons are MSG-free.

Ultimately, all soup stocks are the same. They are made by adding ingredients like meat, bone, and/or vegetables to water and simmering them to extract the flavour and nutrients from them. Continue reading

Stayin’ Alive

What not to do with lobsters. (Photo credit: Vivian Chan)

The other night, we decided to go big and brought home two live lobsters and fresh manila clams. Since we’re a household of die-hard seafood lovers, what could possibly be better than picking up fresh, live seafood for dinner? Our challenge, of course, was to keep it all alive until it was time to cook.

Intuition told us that lobsters and clams are ocean dwellers, so naturally, the best tactic would be to immerse them in water for safe-keeping, right? Wrong. Regardless of whether the water is fresh or salted, it’s a bad idea to fully immerse shellfish in water for storage. Within probably 15-20 minutes, the two previously very energetic lobsters were still.

Luckily, the clams could still be saved, and we had discovered the lobsters’ premature deaths quickly enough that our dinner could also still be salvaged. (We immediately brought about an inch of gently salted water to boil and steamed the two lobsters in covered pots right away.)

Continue reading