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Happy-Gourmand

Did you eat your crusts?

When I was a kid, if I pushed my food around and didn’t eat it, my parents used to tell me that there were children starving in Africa and I should be grateful and eat up.

Everyone in my generation got the same speech. Although most of us did think, at some point, “why can’t you just send my sandwich crusts to Africa, then?” we were taught to appreciate the food on our plates.

Today, the value of food has changed and sometimes we lose sight of how precious it can be.

Fast food provides us with low-cost meals, and the advent of “super-size” portions at low prices gave a new meaning to all-you-can-eat. (If you spend very little on a food or drink item, then you can care less about throwing away some of it.)

We are also used to all kinds of additional packaging for many foods, and even if we recycle it, we are still adding to the pile of waste. The work of processing or transforming all that we throw-out is growing, not decreasing.

We are aware of the problem, but we are not solving it fast enough to get ahead.

Now, I see articles all the time about food waste, and how we in the developed world manage to waste just as much food as most Third World countries.

They have waste because of lack of refrigeration and the difficulty of transporting perishable food over long distances.

We waste food because we forget it’s in the fridge or because it doesn’t look perfect enough. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like evolution to me.

As we enter the time of year when we are at our most decadent, I thought it prudent to put out a reminder to eat smart.

I’m not saying we should send our crusts to Africa, but we can be conscious of what we don’t consume. I’d like to offer a few suggestions on how to make the most of the food we have.

  • BUY SMART – it’s easy to get enticed at Costco or Walmart with the bulk prices on family or club-size packages. Do you really need that much? Are you truly saving money or just buying more? Large bags of fruits or veggies don’t keep you healthy if they end up in the compost or the garbage.
  • USE WHAT YOU HAVE – make a list of what’s in the fridge, and plan to use it (especially leftovers) There is no need to buy another vegetable for dinner if you have one languishing in the crisper. If you have more leftovers than you can use right away, consider freezing them.
  • TRANSFORM RIPE FOOD – have some fruits or vegetables that are looking a bit limp or overripe? Make some soup or stew, chutney or compote – this breathes new life into the ingredients, so you can eat them a few days later.
  • WATCH YOUR PORTIONS – do you know the old saying, “my eyes were bigger than my stomach?” We shouldn’t stuff ourselves to clear a plate, rather we need to make sure we choose reasonable portions. Super-sizing is not always a good idea, and throwing out extra food or drink just because we can, that is the worst kind of indulgence.
  • USE A COMPOST INSTEAD OF GARBAGE – putting organic scraps into a compost bin allows the nutrients to return to the soil, and saves space in your garbage bin. (Worm farms do the same thing.)

The holiday season is about sharing. Perhaps if we think of sharing our food – all of it – that could be the best way to “pay it forward” and showcase our holiday spirit? We need to put more value on food waste to make avoiding it a priority.

I propose using the holiday vibes of generosity and good cheer as a kick-start.

Let’s get the whole family involved in treating food with more respect, in a positive way. Instead of scaring the kids with images of starving children elsewhere, how about patting them on the back when they grab leftovers as a snack or rescue a lost veggie from the back of the crisper?

I like to remind myself that I can always come back to the grocery store tomorrow or the next day, so do I really need a package of three cucumbers or a bag of apples?

Making an effort to waste less is not going to save any starving children. It does get us headed the right way down the road to living in a more sustainable fashion, though.

Perhaps that could help bring new ideas to other parts of the world. And it would save us money as well. If you can believe the statistics, an average of 20 per cent of food purchased is wasted.

If you spend $100 on groceries in a week, that means $20 goes in the garbage as food wasted. That’s a Christmas present (or donation) we just tossed away.

Food for thought, no?



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Good food brings happiness

Winter is here. All of a sudden, we left the picturesque beauty of fall with its rainbow of colours and we were sucked into a grey vortex of snow and darkness.

The melting snow and ensuing muckiness is even worse, spoiling any chance of a new, scenic beauty. We need something to cheer us. Can food do that?

I don’t want to encourage everyone to binge on tubs of Haagen-Das in an effort to improve their mood. I know that for those who are affected by winter depression, there is light therapy to counteract the lack of sunlight, and possible supplements or other therapies to help offset the change in balance some people feel.

If we are just feeling the blues, though, can food help us get out of our funk? Is there a healthy way to stay ahead of the blahs?

There are studies being done on all kinds of foods all the time, not to mention the natural and chemical supplements you can ingest. In an entirely anecdotal and entertaining way, here is a smattering of those possible “remedies” you can try if you like.

If nothing else, the background information might make for interesting dinner conversation, and that could help you forget about the weather and the season.

TEN FLAVOURS OF HAPPINESS

  • Spinach – Popeye knew what he was doing; the folic acid in spinach reduces fatigue. When we are less tired we tend to be happier, don’t we?
  • Quinoa – It is said quinoa has every amino acid your body needs, hence the term superfood. Qs must be good; quinoa has quercitin – a flavonoid that is an anti-depressant.
  • Oysters – this zinc-rich seafood has been proven to ward off anxiety, and it has long been on the list of aphrodisiac foods. (Perhaps for the best effect, these should be eaten at the end of the day.)
  • Dark chocolate – (like we need another reason to consume this stuff) Anti-oxidants in dark chocolate help our general well-being. It also reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. Don’t worry, eat chocolate.
  • Salmon (Are you vegetarian? Substitute walnuts). Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps improve our mood and fight depression. It will also make your hair shiny, in case you needed more convincing. Walnuts have alpha-linolenic acid, another Omega-3.
  • Turmeric – Not really a food, this spice is regarded as almost a cure-all. One of its key components, curcumin, is said to reduce inflammation and improve your mood. Its bright colour can liven up any dish.
  • Green tea – Studies have shown that people who consume five cups of green tea per day show less mental stress. (This could be just because they had time to stop and drink so much tea.) Coffee helps people feel better too – research shows regular coffee drinkers are 15 per net less likely to be depressed, as caffeine boosts dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that make you feel happier.
  • Apples (and oranges) – It’s true; an apple a day really will keep the doctor away. Fruits and vegetables in general tend to calm us. Their natural sugars give us energy and increase our levels of happiness. Eat a rainbow of bright fruits and veggies and you will be happy.
  • Mushrooms – The high content of vitamin D in mushrooms helps decrease our chance of depression. It is said vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Only Mother Nature could provide such sunny richness from something that grows in the dark.
  • Bananas – Not only do they give you energy from their potassium and vitamin B, they have tryptophan, which helps regulate our moods. And, they are a lovely sunny colour. As a bonus, have some probiotic yogurt with your banana in the morning and you’ll seal the deal. Healthy gut bacteria from the live culture in the yogurt makes for a happy body and a happy brain, according to numerous studies.

You probably feel a bit overwhelmed after having read all that information, and that could make you stressed, which is the opposite of happy. But if you just think of enjoying the food, and how that will make you happier, then you’ll start to feel better.

Pick foods from the list above and you’ll feel especially better. As your body benefits from the food’s nutrients, you might even feel proud, having made an effort to improve your state of mind. I don’t know about you, but with all those good vibes cursing through my veins I can’t help but feel happier. I can almost forget about the grey skies.

If the food doesn’t get you all the way to happy, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from Buddha. Invite a few friends over – or take food to a potluck – and soak in the company along with the meal.

 “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

The life of winter might not be shortened by a lit candle, but at least the shared happiness from good food and company can keep us warm.



Keep home fires burning

This time of year is one of reflection for many; as Mother Nature turns herself inward, making the plants go dormant and the days go shorter, so we look inward and reminisce.

Did you know that the days around Halloween are known worldwide for their connection to the passage of life? For many cultures and religions, Allhallowtide (from Oct. 30 through Nov.2) is a time when people honour those who have passed and connect with them in some way.

Here in Canada, we also have Remembrance Day only a short time after, in respect for those who have given their lives in battles honouring our culture and principles. One is hard pressed to miss these opportunities to think about life and its passing.

Soldiers away from home know how precious the every-day, mundane tidbits of life are to our livelihood. The rest of us should take note and think of their example. The phrase “keep the home fires burning” refers to those who were at home, not to those away at war.

The power of knowing that families back home were keeping things normal and ready for their return was a great strength for the troops in the field. The same is true for loved ones of someone who is ill – positive energy goes a long way in warming the heart and soul. Why couldn’t we encourage that as a year-round pastime?

When I was little, my Gramps had a saying that he liked and one year I wrote it out for him and framed it as a gift. When he passed away years ago, I got the frame back and saw it with fresh eyes as an adult. It’s called The Clock of Life.

I have put it in a prominent spot as a reminder to myself that every moment counts.

The Clock of Life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Live, love, toil with a will
But place no faith in Tomorrow
For the clock may then be still.

In researching this article, I found out that the poem was written by Robert H. Smith. The version my grandfather knew was an adapted one that became famous just before the Second World War. (Keep reading – this is a wonderful example of truth being even better than fiction.)

A shortened version of Mr. Smith’s poem was on a scrap of paper in the pocket of Edward J. O’Hare’s coat when they found him gunned down on Nov. 8, 1939. O’Hare was famous as the lawyer who helped federal prosecutors put Al Capone in jail for tax evasion, but he had a full life, too.

O’Hare made a fortune representing the fellow who invented the mechanical rabbit for greyhound racing and he knew Charles Lindbergh, even hitching a plane ride with him once.

He was involved with Capone for years, but then turned on him by approaching the IRS, and he was instrumental in producing many parts of the case against Capone. He was gunned down one week before Capone was to be released from prison.

Was this a note he kept as his own reminder, or was it put there by those who stopped the clock for him? Does it really matter??

I hope you will forgive me for being a bit sentimental this week. My birthday is in November, so I reflect on the year anyway about now. My Dad passed away at the end of October, 10 years ago now, and that makes me thoughtful, too. Isn’t it funny how life happens in spurts?

In closing, here is Mr. Smith’s original poem, which does an even nicer job of making the point. I can understand why Mr O’Hare had it close to his heart.

The Clock of Life

by Robert H. Smith, copyright 1932, 1982

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one's health is more,
To lose one's soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.

The present only is our own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in "Tomorrow,"
For the Clock may then be still.



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The Great Pumpkin Patch

Growing up, I never thought I would get to live next to the Great Pumpkin Patch.

Imagine my delight the first year I watched the pumpkins grow and change colour in the field behind our house. Magically, they appeared through the leaves and began to glow in orange and pink tones.

Now, that we are almost at Halloween, I feel just like Linus, excited to see if the Great Pumpkin will land and visit us.

OK, so I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to holidays and getting in the spirit. Well, why not? Life is busy, and mostly serious. Look deep down in your soul... Don’t you want a bit of silliness to creep in, once in a while?

Living on the Westside at the edge of Westbank, we have agricultural land all around us. Paynter’s Fruit Market is just down the road. But throughout the Okanagan there are pockets like this with orchards and fields and vineyards. 

Farm markets are not a rare thing in our part of the world, and the end of the harvest season is our last chance to enjoy them.

You may already have your pumpkin for Halloween, all set up for carving into a suitable Jack O’Lantern. But you could take a trip out to visit the fields, pick an apple off a tree or even out of a bin, polish it off on your shirt and sample the crisp taste of fall.

Or pile the kids in the car and let them run in an orchard. Take some family photos with all the fall colours. Doesn’t that sound more fun than a trip to Walmart or Safeway?

Every season deserves respect. As I wrote about a month ago, fall often takes me by surprise. Therefore, I feel it deserves a proper toast to send it off before I prepare for winter. So my final gesture of the growing season is to stop by at Paynter’s Market and get a pumpkin for roasting and apples for baking.

I enjoy the beautiful view as I share an apple with the dogs (they shouldn’t eat the seeds, so they can’t have a whole one.)  I highly recommend it. Your soul will thank you, and so will your local farmer.

I have given you references for places to go; if you need a simple recipe, how about Apple Phyllo Strudel Cups? This one is dairy free, nut free and kid-tested. You can treat yourself to a taste of fall and not even feel guilty.



More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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