Tuesday, July 29, 2008

culinary wisdom from a two-year-old

This evening, as I was suffering from a cold, a chicken overdose and a distinct lack of imagination as to what to do with the piece of sockeye Rowan talked me into at the grocery store, I decided to consult with her about the side dishes. I sort of listed what we had - potatoes, soba noodles, beet greans, beans - and she said "Beet greens and soba noodles are a good idea with sockeye salmon." And so it was, and so they were. I invented this dish many years ago, I'm glad the child approves. (Scroll down to the January 20th entry.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

just call it like it is

Dear Restaurants,

Please stop listing your fruit salad as "seasonal" when it obviously isn't. Victoria in July produces some lovely seasonal fruits: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, even some early blackberries and transparent apples. This would constitute a seasonal fruit salad, and I would certainly pay more than $2.25 for it.

Bananas, grapes, melons and pineapple do not constitute a "seasonal" fruit salad anywhere. Bananas, to the best of my knowledge, are not even seasonal. The others may well be, but not here, and not generally with each other.

There is nothing wrong with just calling it just a "fruit salad". Fruit salads are nice. They are a refreshing part of a complete breakfast. But a regular old fruit salad with stuff from Ecuador, Hawaii, California and possibly Florida is NOT BLOODY SEASONAL.

yours truly,
the only person on the planet with a bee up her bum about this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

green googlies!!!

I got creative with some of the vast quantities of veg infesting the fridge at the moment and made the following luridly green pasta sauce:

1/4 small onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup fava beans, blanched & peeled
2/3 cup heavy cream
large handful of arugula, blanched
1/2 cup or so grated parmesan
1 clove garlic

Saute onion in olive oil. Just before it starts to brown, add wine. Add fava beans and cook until soft. Add cream before wine is cooked off. Add arugula, parmesan, and garlic. Throw the whole lot in the blender & blend until smooth. Toss with cooked hot pasta, preferably fun stuff like spiraled long fusili. Call it something entertaining like "Green Googlies" and watch the child (and the husband, it should be noted) suck it back like there's no tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

where not to eat

Boxo. Don't go there. It sucks. A supposedly mild-medium hot prawn coconut curry showed up as a mess of rice noodles, most of which were broken and ratty looking, with some bean sprouts, 2 improperly prepared snap peas and 4 prawns. It was too hot for me to eat, and I'm not really a spice wimp, there was no discernable coconut flavour, and it was completely dry with no apparent sauce. Probably one of the worst restaurant meals I've ever been served. I picked the prawns out and left.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I must be doing something right...

This post is more or less a brag about my kid. Be forewarned.

I just had a lovely lunch downtown with Rowan at Konpira, where the chef makes his own udon noodles. We ordered the wakame udon (udon noodles in broth with seaweed and a piece of tamago) and I ordered Rowan a side of her fish balls (ikura - marinated salmon roe).

So my little bunny demolished her ikura in less than a minute, and then ate pretty much ALL the seaweed out of the udon dish, played with some udon noodles and ate maybe 2 of them, and then sucked back a bunch of broth before declaring herself done. A child who prefers salmon roe and seaweed to noodles (and these were darned good noodles) - wow. She didn't like the tamago though.

Anyway, I would highly recommend Konpira. It's on Broughton St. near Douglas, pretty much beside The Wine Barrel. Fantastic udon in lovely broth. The tamago was nice too.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

thank you, Tabasco

When we bought into our cowshare, the farmers had another cow that they planned to breed and milk next year. Her name was Tabasco, and she was a Jersey/Angus cross.

I saw "was" because it became apparent that Tabasco's temperament was not well-suited to dairying. She had always been a little high-spirited, but as she grew older she became aggressive, and finally started getting into the vegetable sections of the farm, which was just not cool at all. Her aggression made it unlikely she would ever allow herself to be milked, and you just can't let a cow with dairy genes be bred if she won't be milked. Dairy cows produce far, far more milk than their calves can use, and if they won't be milked, they become very sick and suffer a lot of pain.

So, Tabasco was humanely and respectfully slaughtered by the farmers, and sent off to a butcher.

I couldn't be more grateful that this happened when it did. Because I have a 2 1/2 year old child who is fully, conversationally verbal, and right smack in the middle of her "why" phase, trying to sort out the world. So when Tabasco wasn't at the farm any more, she of course started asking questions. And I was able to tell her the unvarnished truth, and she is young enough to accept it, but old enough to understand some of the implications. The conversation went something like this.

Rowan: Why isn't Tabasco at the farm anymore?
me: Tabasco was starting to be mean to people, and she wouldn't have made a good dairy cow, so [the farmers] slaughtered her and she was cut up into steaks and things.
Rowan: Why wasn't she good at dairy cow?
me: She wouldn't have let people milk her, and that would have made her sick and hurt. There are only two possibilities for cows, they can be dairy cows or they can be beef cows, and Tabasco had to be a beef cow.
Rowan: That was very nice of Tabasco, to give us her steaks.
me: Well sweetie, Tabasco didn't have a choice in the matter, but you're right that we should be very thankful.

And I am thankful, SO thankful, that we are able to get our place in the world as omnivores introduced into Rowan's little brain while she is young enough to accept things without judgement. We ate Tabasco (or bits of her, anyway), she was delicious, and we are thankful.

I know a lot of people have a hard time explaining where meat comes from to children. In some senses, I think if you can't justify it to your kids, you shouldn't be eating it or asking them to. As much as I think that a modest amount of good-quality, pasture-raised meat is one of the healthiest things you can give a kid, there are always considerations other than health for what you eat.

But having to explain meat to a child can also help assuage any over-educated first-world guilt we as adults feel. The reality of the situation is that cattle and other animals are given life by farmers, and under the circumstances that produce healthful meat, they have good and happy lives, free from predation, stress and hunger. Their deaths - again, under ideal circumstances - are free from fear and stress, quick, and painless. Death is part of life no matter how you look at that; we are the only species to place such an intense and overriding morality around the consumption of death to fuel our own lives.

I think the attempt to avoid and hide from this is the reason factory farms have been so successful - people are quick to avoid complicity and happy to have the realities of being an omnivore hidden from them. But I prefer to feel the faint twinge of guilt that a beautiful animal that I knew, whose nose I had stroked, died to produce the brisket I ate last night. And it was a spectacular brisket, as the steaks we ate on Canada Day were spectacular steaks. It makes me more conscious of the implications of my food, and I DO want Rowan to question her food, and foster a sense in her that food should not be anonymous, and that yes, we SHOULD be grateful for cows that give us their steaks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

so much for the balcony garden

My intensively planted balcony garden fell prey to a squirrel last week. Everything is gone. The little bugger made off with every single one of my plants, edible or not. The culprit is a psychotic squirrel living under the balcony who currently has or will have babies. She is a known people/dog attacker, and generally an unpleasant beast. Steve has a mandate now to get rid of her in any way possible, humane or not (but due to the cats, no poison.)

Anyway, gone are all my tomatoes except the decrepit ones on Marina's balcony that got shredded by the windstorm, a couple peppers, an eggplant, several varieties of squash, cucumber and melon, four nice little lavender plants, some beans, some corn, some dill, and several nice dahlias. I hate squirrels.

But in good news, it's pea season. I love fresh peas. Dave's were ready last week and mine are coming in now (the squirrel hasn't touched the main garden plot). Mmmmmm peas. We've also really enjoyed the broad beans (fava beans) this year. My chard is fantastic, the carrots are approaching edibility, and everything else in the garden looks great. Even my dill - which has been an abject failure every other year - is doing fantastic this year and has already contributed to a very nice potato salad.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Funny or disturbing?

Here is a link to a BBC article regarding the taxable status of Pringles, which is apparently more of a biscuit really, not a potato crisp. I like the part where the company describes its features as "not found in nature". Is this something to admit to?