Doing the right thing

When I was a kid, I thought I had a good idea about what it meant to do the right thing. When you are a child the world is black and white, full of absolutes. Then as we grow older, there are shades of grey. At least that is how it has happened for me.

I have so many things that I would like to pay attention to, it becomes hard to prioritize. Take grocery shopping for example. Should the food be:

  • organic
  • fresh, (not frozen or canned)
  • local
  • within my budget

If I focus on all 4 of these criteria, grocery shopping would be an impossible task. Life is about compromise. So I have to decide which of these 2 are going to be my main target. Usually fresh and budget win out and if I can add either of the other 2 it is a bonus.

When I discover a tool that lends me a helping hand I get pretty excited. Someone, or even groups of people have done all the legwork to make my life easier. Here are a few that come to mind:

Eat for Healthy Oceans

The David Suzuki Foundation has created this page and included videos, recipes and information about sustainability.

From the book Beneath Cold Seas: the Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, © 2011, text and photography by David Hall.

From the book Beneath Cold Seas: the Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, © 2011, text and photography by David Hall.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The author and her family take you on a year of living sustainably. The book is full of inspiration, techniques and guidance. Take as little or as much as you like. This poster shows you what is fresh, during which month of the year.


Eat Local – British Columbia, Canada

Edible Communities

These wonderful magazines are an inspiration of content, beautiful photography and rich resources. Seek them out if they are available for your city.

Canadian Organic Growers

Vancouver Farmer’s Markets

For me

When the cart comes down the aisle on international flight, offering duty-free shopping, I have become programmed to say, “no thanks”. In fact, only one other time in my life, have I ever bought anything from in flight duty-free and that was a gift for someone else. But yesterday, it was for me.

I’m not sure what possessed me to do this. I don’t normally look at what the catalogues have on offer. I assume to know what will be in there. Mostly booze and perfume. Which, for the most was the case.

However, one item caught my attention, then a free gift was mentioned if $150 or more was spent, and the final present was jewelry I have been wanting for a long time. I filled out the form, my card was swiped and the three treasures were mine.


The 7 Virtues – was the first pick. I had never smelt it before. So pretty crazy to buy. I had always been a Chanel no.5 girl, back when I wore perfume. My purchases were on trips to Hong Kong, as it was too expensive otherwise. But I have not worn perfume at all, in a very long time. Something about, “the organic vetiver of Haiti, grown by Haitian farmers whose country was devastated by the earthquakes in 2010.” And it was only $48 bucks, half of the designer fragrances. I opened it today and I love the scent, truly is perfect for me. It is kind of nice to catch little whiffs of it, now and then as I go about my day.

The Russian Trio Set by Buckley London – is the jewelry I have had my eye on for a very long time. I’ve always liked the idea of the interlocking rings in different colors of gold. The other pieces in the set are an added bonus.

The gift with purchase from Bella Perlina – is very pretty and will make for an extremely special present for my daughters 10th birthday coming up in just under a month. It is probably too nice, but will look very nice with her formal dress.

My English fry-up

In honor of my trip today, where I am passing through Heathrow so quickly I won’t have time for the traditional fry-up, I made my version.

Usually, I try to make things as close as possible to the original. I find the recipe to taste better that way. But I have 2 other voices in my head now. The instructor of my Whole Foods Workshop, who is kindly moving us away from so many animal products, and Barbara Kingsolver, whose sing-song, sweet voice is urging me to think local, in-season as well.

Local Vancouver fry-up

  • BC mushrooms, fried in Avalon Dairy butter with parsley from my garden
  • Washington State onion, slowly caramelized in butter
  • Local butcher shop, in-house made apple sage pork sausage
  • Local free run chicken eggs
  • Local greenhouse heirloom baby tomatoes
  • Toast made from Choices in-house, organic, whole wheat bread

The problems here that need to be resolved, at some point are:

  1. The local butcher is not using grass finished animals, they are most surely finished on feed lots. I have found a source for the “good stuff”, several local farmers are finishing pork and beef on grass. We have to choose one and place the order for July delivery. Then we have to work with the cuts we get in a 1/4 of a cow, for example. (100 to 150 lbs dressed weight).
  2. The egg package says the chickens have access to outside pasture. That can mean a door that is never opened. Again, local farmers are abundant for no more than the $5 a carton we pay in the grocery store, without ever seeing the farm ourselves.
  3. The tomatoes are completely out of season, I know. But they taste great and our local greenhouses are heated by BC Hydro. However, I’m not sure if these greenhouses are organic.
  4. It would be better to make my own bread from flour that is local. Or to be sure that Choices is doing the same. I need to do a bit more research about flour in the lower mainland.

Many baby steps in a better direction, but so many more to go. What I am discovering is a whole new world out there. Great tasting, local, organic choices all around me, I’ve never taken the time to look for. The most I have done is support Mary’s Garden, but she is not open yet. (I drove by yesterday).

It will be a good year for processing the fresh choices we have all summer. Winter need not be the depressing food shopping that it is for me now. I’ll have cupboards and freezers full of good stuff.

Too much

Tuesday night I saw a movie called “Forks Over Knives”. I am not one to blindly accept what I see on TV, but if the facts being presented in this movie are true, (I will research more to determine my thoughts on that), then my family and I need to examine our intake of animal protein and processed foods.

My husband likes to point out that humans are omnivores. We are meant to eat both plants and animals, but the actual definition of the word is more than that.

Omnivores (from Latin: omni, meaning “all, everything”; vorare, “to devour”) are species that eat both plants and animal material as their primary food source. They often are opportunistic, general feeders not specifically adapted to eating and digesting either meat or plant material primarily. Many depend on a suitable mix of animal and plant food for long-term good health and reproduction.

Opportunistic is a word I like here. To me that means variety. We are not meant to eat either plants or animals primarily. Now let’s look at the definition of whole foods:

Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and non-homogenized dairy products. Originally all human food was whole food.

If you ask our collective common sense, and seek the wisdom of our ancestors, the answer will surely be that the current Western diet has way too much processed food and way too many animal products. So, if you want to link our current health problems to this highly processed, high animal protein diet, I can’t imagine too many people would disagree.

But we are really talking about too much. Do we need to eliminate animal products completely, if their consumption provides a sense of joy and happiness? Or should we limit the total quantity?

Should we eliminate all processed food? (I personally think yes), but that is not realistic either. It is not possible for the most wonderful tasting French croissant to be made without a great deal of high fat content butter and refined flour. Occasionally, a warm bakery treat is pure joy.

So why do we collectively find it so difficult to limit ourselves? In the movie, Dr. Douglas Lisle’s research and conclusions were presented:

The Motivational Triad: the pursuit of pleasure; the avoidance of pain; and the conservation of energy. Unfortunately, in present day America’s convenience-centric, excess-oriented culture where fast food, recreational drugs, and sedentary shopping have become the norm, these basic instincts that once successfully insured the survival and reproduction of man many millennia ago, no longer serve us well.  In fact, it’s our unknowing enslavement to this internal, biological force embedded in the collective memory of our species that is undermining our health and happiness today.

The movie explains this hard-wired concept further by showing pictures of a human stomach and the receptors that tell our brain “I am full”.

  1. With a large, (volume) meal of plant-based whole food that is say 900 calories, the stomach is full and all the receptors communicate that to the brain.
  2. But if you change the meal to be more than half of the calories to be animal protein, (a typical meal) the stomach will not be full and the signal will be a feeling of dissatisfaction.
  3. If you consumed 900 calories of pure fat, the stomach would be so empty it would feel like you only drank a glass of water. (We all know how drinking a glass of water does very little to make us feel full, despite what our mothers told us.)

The solution then, is amazingly simple. Go back to the Canada Food Guide if you need a reminder. For women aged 19 to 50 it recommends servings per day:

  • Vegetables & Fruit – 7 to 8
  • Grain – 6 to 7
  • Milk and alternatives – 2
  • Meat and alternatives – 2, (a serving of meat is considered 2.5 ounces or 125 ml)
  • 30 – 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated oils and fats

If you eat one restaurant meal per day, you would be eating far more than your allowable meat and fat content for the whole day, in one sitting. It is safe to say that most of us are eating too much of the stuff we should be limiting and not nearly enough of the good stuff.

It helps every now and then to say these things out loud.

Ultimate brew

In my travels, when I find the time of day to be – first thing in the morning, I enjoy a cup of coffee. When I take that first sip, I compare it to my standard brew at home. And it never really stacks up.

We don’t do anything super special at home. Wait a minute, as I write this, we do practice a few special rituals.

We have a conical burr grinder which is evidently the best of home grinders. We had to move up to this model because all the other kinds burned out after a few months of use. The process of squeezing and crushing the beans releases the coffee’s oils, which are then more easily extracted during the infusion process with hot water, making the coffee taste richer and smoother.

I buy “shade-grown” coffee. Here is why:

A canopy of assorted types of shade trees is created to cultivate shade-grown coffee. The traditional shade-grown coffee farm resembles a forest because it consists of several layers of trees, such as fruit and hardwood trees, epiphytes, and other assorted bushes and plants. As a result, up to 40 species of trees can be found on these farms, and contribute to the maintenance of soil quality and habitats for numerous species of animals and plants. One of the main arguments in support of shade-grown coffee is that it houses many species of birds. More specifically, shade-grown trees house two-thirds of the bird species found in natural forests in the same geographic areas.
Sun-grown coffee requires numerous chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides to be added to promote growth. This also contributes to toxic water runoff and lack of habitat for many species. In contrast to the previous information regarding birds, sun-grown coffee provides shelter for less than one-tenth of bird species. –Wikipedia

Finding this type of coffee is not as easy as you would think. The following coffee brand references are Canadian companies that buy beans responsibly, transport to Canada and roast.

And that brings me to the ultimate brew.

Kicking Horse Coffee is located in Invermere, B.C. I had the pleasure of stopping in there last week for a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in a Japanese Hario Syphon. It is a rather complicated procedure and takes time to “learn” the art of using the device. But, as my Dad said, “it would be great for a dinner party”.

The coffee was sublime. It was the first cup that was, not only better than what we make at home, but the best cup I have ever tasted.

The new frontier

When I learned about Will Allen in the movie “Fresh“, it was one of those moments where you ask yourself, am I finding this kind of stuff because I am more aware, or is it all new? In this case, as in many others, these efforts and ideas are relatively new. Yet they are part of a new frontier of sorts. What attracts me are the ideas around, not only  changing the old rules, but changing the game entirely.


MISSION • To promote urban gardening, particularly in low-income neighborhoods where people might not otherwise have access to fresh and healthy food. “I want to be part of the revolution that changes how we grow, distribute and eat food so that the process is healthier for people and the planet,” Allen says. He started Growing Power—a greenhouse complex that cultivates organic food and teaches people how to produce their own—in Milwaukee in 1993. He also operates farms in Chicago and rural Merton, Wisconsin, and has teamed with Michelle Obama’s program to fight childhood obesity.

Essentially what Will Allen has done is create a way to produce a large amount of food in a very small space, (2 acres), employ people who need work in a very fulfilling and rewarding way, and extend himself to teach as many people as possible how to do the same.

For me, Will Allen is one of my heroes. And I am teaching my kids that these kind of people should be treated with the respect and admiration that is normally reserved for rock stars.

Fresh: the movie

Every now and then a movie, or a book or a news report comes along and just rocks you. I have watched this movie twice and I keep it active on my iPad, just in case. It is one of those pieces of work that seems to have been made just for me.

Instead of a movie with complete shock value of how bad the world is, there are examples of everyday people making the world better. Really inspiring stuff.

The director of the film, Ana Joanes has a list of 10 easy ways that you can live a more sustainable lifestyle!

  1. Buy local products when possible, otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products. Ask your grocer or favorite restaurant what local food they carry and try to influence their purchasing decisions. You will support your local economy and small farmers, reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides, improve the taste and quality of your food, and protect the environment from fertilizer and pesticide run-offs.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and get weekly deliveries of the season’s harvest, and by buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to stocking local foods.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food. When at a restaurant, ask (nicely!) your waiter where the meat and fish comes from. Eventually, as more and more customers ask the same question, they’ll get the message!
  4. Avoid GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)! When buying processed food (anything packaged) buy organic to avoid GMO. (Since almost all the soy, corn, and canola in the US is genetically modified, over 70% of all processed food contain GMOs from by-products of these grains.)
  5. COOK, CAN, DRY & FREEZE! Our culture has forgotten some of the most basic joys of cooking. Not only is cooking at home better for you and more economical, but it’s an invaluable skill to pass on to your children.
  6. Drink plenty of water, but avoid bottled water when you can. Water bottles pollute the environment and bottled water is often mere tap water. Plastic is harmful to your health and to the environment. Buy a reusable water bottle and invest in a good water filter.
  7. Grow a garden, visit a farm, volunteer in your community garden, teach a child how to garden. GET DIRTY! Have fun!
  8. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization dedicated to promoting a sustainable food system. Stay informed by joining the mailing list of the advocacy groups you trust.
  9. Get involved in your community! Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board, effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings, learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice and let your congress person know what you think.
  10. SHARE your passion! Talk to your friends and family about why our food choice matters.
Fresh: The Movie – check out the trailer.