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Happy-Gourmand

Is DIY food better than take out?

DIY meals vs. take out

Since the pandemic brought us back into our kitchens, we have been experimenting with variations on how to make a meal.

Some of us started out honing skills like sourdough bread-making but eventually things got busier. Whether by choice or necessity, depending on our comfort level, we had to shift so we could get everything done.

Did you jump on any of the new trends, like ordering ingredients with recipes or prepared meals? Did you get used to ordering from one of the delivery apps? Or are you like me and my hubbie, old-fashioned home cooks who just carried on as before?

For the food delivery apps, the statistics change greatly when divided by generation. Dining in a restaurant has dropped considerably in the last year (from 55 to 30 percent) but ordering food is something 45 percent of British Columbians do at least every two weeks, according to a CTV poll.

It is younger folks who are driving the delivery app business. Here are the statistics by age group from 2020 to 2021:

Order food more often now:

18-34 yrs – 42%

35-54 yrs – 31%

55+ yrs – 13%

Use a delivery app:

18-34 yrs – 67%

35-54 yrs – 39%

55+ yrs – 13%

Food delivery apps here in the Okanagan work largely with fast food restaurants and large chains. They also offer places like gas stations and convenience stores. You pay restaurant prices plus a delivery fee.

Meal kits have also been promoted heavily since the pandemic started, and their business has grown. 26% of people say they have tried an app like Hello Fresh or GoodFood in the last two years. (Like the apps, most of these customers are under 55 years of age.)

These kits involve cooking the food according to recipes that are sent with the ingredients. You order what recipes you like and can change your choices or skip deliveries if you wish. One company even sends pre-chopped ingredients. But you still have to do the dishes yourself.

Here in the Okanagan, the companies offer meals per couple (recipes make enough for two people) or for a family. That makes it cheaper than some of the delivery app food, but then you need the time to cook it. There is one more convenient alternative.

Prepared meals are available from a few companies in the Okanagan, and can be delivered using an app in some cases or an in-house system in others. The minimum order amount means you need to either freeze some meals or be feeding a group of five people. There are vegan and gluten-free options, just like some restaurant menus.

The last new trend is grocery pick up or delivery. With a minimum order of about $30 and a delivery fee that varies by time-slot and city, you can get your grocery shopping done by a store employee. Then you either pick it up or it gets delivered (you have to be home as there is no refrigeration for items.)

Would you order fast food to be delivered? (You can get a Starbucks latte in the comfort of your own home.) Are you motivated enough to cook when you get home from work if everything is ready for you? Are you willing to have someone else pick your fruits and veggies? Are you willing to pay extra for the convenience of saving time? These are the questions I have for you this week.

I am hoping I can spark some conversation around your lunchroom or dinner table. I can’t offer an opinion from experience as I haven’t tried any of these intermediary systems. We still shop for our groceries and either eat out in person when that works or pick up food from the restaurant directly.

It isn’t possible to leave comments on this column. If you’d like to send your thoughts to me, you can send me an email or respond on the Happy Gourmand Facebook page.

If you want to share a compliment for a service, why not do it first with the food source – it will be so glad to hear from you. And the same goes if you have a complaint, so that they know what can be improved upon.

Remember, everything we cook isn’t perfect. When more variables are added, it’s even harder to get it right. A little grace is just part of having good taste.



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Food is something we all share

Something we all share

I was cleaning my office space this week and inside an old Daytimer I dusted off, I found a newspaper clipping a friend sent me years ago.

The friend was a fellow foodie, so the article was unsurprisingly about food and our notions around it. The article was called, “I eat, therefore I am” by Adam Gopnik. (link: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2011/10/25/adam-gopnik )

The piece was from 2011. It spoke about how we have compartmentalized food as we have with the rest of our lives, reducing it to a material desire. (This was the time when television food networks launched and indulging in all kinds of food became an obsession with the masses, not just in fine dining circles.)

I was struck by the similarities to today, a decade later. Not only is food still an obsession, it is also often removed from affairs traditionally conducted around a dining table. Getting creative on a budget was something my mom and her peers did when making dinner, but they never considered including candies or Cheetos in the menu.

Mr. Gopnik mentioned the loss of our sense of wonder at food. He gave an example of a WWII soldier, Jacques Decour, and his letter to his parents, written on the eve of the battle in which he died. Decour wrote that meals he shared were his cherished memories in his life. He did not mention his opinions on how healthy those meals were, or if he ate “local” or “sustainable.” Food was considered as an integral part of a whole life.

The evolution of food as a sport drew us to extremes, with the concepts of slow food, localism and sustainability on one side and the technology of molecular gastronomy and deconstructed tradition on the other side. In hindsight, the notion of having to pick a side or vote someone off the team has just added food to the list of things that divide us instead of bringing us together.

I am still unsure how the pandemic will alter this evolution. In some ways, we gained new insight into the value of quality time around the dining table. We were reminded of the value of food when supply chain shortages made previously assumed staples a rarity. And yet there were endless stories of restaurant staff being unappreciated and even abused when trying to provide an experience in our unprecedented world.

That old adage is rattling around in my head: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

If I have learned anything in the last 10 years, it has been that we must make things happen if we want them in our lives. Very rarely does anything land at our feet, and if it does, my experience shows it is never what we expected.

The friend who gave me this article has since passed away. I cherish meals we shared as some of my favourite memories and I am grateful I can keep them alive by writing and sharing the stories. I know I honour his memory every time I take a moment to toast our good fortune over a delicious meal.

Another friend of mine gave me a great idea this week. She showed me a scrapbook she had made with old family photos and her recipes from when her kids were little. Now that she has grandkids, those recipes can be easily passed along.

There are few things in life that we can say we all share. We cheer for different teams, we support different political views, we believe in different religions. But we all eat food. Just like all those other subjects, it is most enjoyable when we can open our minds, hearts – and tummies – to someone else’s ideas.

Being grown ups means we don’t have to wash down what we try and don’t like with a big glass of water. It just means we have the good table manners to give it a try and be polite when we decide it’s not for us.

Wherever you are dining, on what, and in whoever’s company, I wish you bon appetit.



With the new year, it's time too look at new ways of eating

New year, new food

Did anyone out there make a resolution? I am guessing that many people are not feeling into it, what with all that has been thrown at us in the last couple of years.

Perhaps you decided that just getting out of bed and making the coffee should count as a success? Well, I think you’re right. That’s a fine place to start.

The thing is, once we are out of bed, then what? We do have to get on with the day, and why make it a battle?

“I really shouldn’t have that muffin with my double-double, but I deserve it, after all that shoveling” or “What’s the point of eating healthy? It’s boring. Besides, I can’t get to the gym anyway so it will never be enough.”

I am not a nutrition or fitness expert. If you are a regular reader, you know that even when I indulge, I do like a bit of balance—in my flavours, and in my life.

So, I am here this week as a comrade-in-arms, to say, “we got this!” when it comes to feeling better about how we nourish ourselves.

I did some research to see what foods became popular in the past year and it isn’t surprising to note the themes followed our lifestyles. Dishes such as mac n’ cheese, baked beans and all-in-one preparations like skillet bakes or sheet pan suppers were hot. Insta-pots and air fryers became godsends. And with the stress of life in the world these days, adding a bit of extra cheese or bacon seemed necessary more often than not. Am I right?

I’m going to share what Hubbie and I have decided to try for this year. We didn’t want to feel punished by having to focus on cutting out foods, but we knew we couldn’t continue at the holiday pace. We are fortunate not to have any allergies or restrictions, so this starts from an “anything goes” perspective.

Here are our parameters:

Two veggie dinners a week. Salad or Buddha bowl (grains or rice perhaps, with cooked or raw veggies). These are easy to do – we take two plates out and cut what we have for veggies in the portions we need. The goal is to cover the plate but not heap it up. A base layer of some green starts us off. Fun toppings add a nice twist—think nuts and seeds, dried or fresh fruit, croutons or cheese (see note below about bread and cheese in the week). Make your own dressing and avoid extra sugars and other unwanted ingredients.

Bread or pasta at a maximum of one meal per day, preferably whole grain. I make sourdough bread which is easier to digest but any quality wholesome bread helps you get more from it. And you can think of different forms—pita bread or naan for sandwiches or dipping are fun and focaccia or flatbread is easy to make on a day off. Here’s a recipe for focaccia from one of my favourite bakers.

Cheese at a maximum of four meals per week. This includes breakfasts and lunches,. So, if you like cheese in your sandwiches, think of other ways to get rich flavours at dinner. You can focus on a rich tomato sauce in a pasta dish. Sprinkle it with nutritional yeast for a flavour that is similar to cheese (it also works great for popcorn). Add more veggies to your omelette instead (or lose the cheese from the sandwich that day.)

Fish at least once a week. This has become a more expensive rule, so sometimes we miss a week. However, canned tuna-in-water for tuna melts or casserole counts can give us those Omega 3s.

More vegetarian meals than ones with meat and more healthy snacks than dessert snacks. We focus on choosing quality meats and eating them less often. Getting creative with which cuts you use is also helpful. Ground meats can be used for many dishes. Recipes from different cultures where meat has been less common in the diet have inspired me. Check out see recipes here. For snacks, we want to get past the holiday theme of cookies needing to be eaten. (Hands up if you have used that one too? I thought so.)

We have also incorporated some practical rules we try to follow to set us up for success.

• Everyone in the house has to plan their share of meals. The bigger your household, the luckier you are. Here is your chance to get the kids doing something while they watch a Youtube video.

• Everyone gets at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Going up and down the stairs at work or home does not count. This is about making a conscious effort— walk the dog, go for a hike, dance in the kitchen, use that (excercise) equipment in the basement or push play on that fitness video you saved on your phone. Once you get past the first 5 minutes, you’ll be happy you did it.

• We have a family meeting once a week to choose at least one new recipe we keep, and we relax with a few “zags” during each month. (Two to four zags per month, depending on how strict you want to be about your regime.) A zag is a time we give ourselves a treat—no guilt, no need to change any other meals. It’s a great way to enjoy special foods if we are out, or celebrating an occasion, or we see something that looks really yummy.

I hope this offers you some ideas you find worthwhile.

If you have any you’d like to share, you can always pop over to Happy Gourmand on Facebook or Instagram. I am a firm believer that helping each other stay healthy anytime is just as useful as helping in the kitchen.



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How to find joy in a new year

Finding joy in new year

I grew up in the 1970s with young parents. They were not exactly hippies, although they did wear tie-dye shirts and drove a Volkswagon Beetle when I was a baby. At one point, we had a crochet wall-hanging in the dining room.

My childhood was filled with happy memories, many of them wacky experiences by most people’s standards. Many involved music, and not just the folk music people associate with the 70s. Every year at Christmas, Santa would bring me, my brother, my mom and my dad each a record album. We amassed quite the collection.

I attended my share of hootenannies, but my most impactful memory of live music was the Eagles concert I saw at McMahon Stadium in Calgary when I was 13 years old. Our whole family went. After that, we nearly wore out the grooves on the Hotel California record, playing it at home with the volume turned way up.

I learned about classical music as well, much of it from Mr. Disney. I remember Sundays when we would put on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice after brunch. My dad would lead my mom and my little brother and I around the house in a parade, just like Mickey’s brooms, through the living room and down the hall, then into my parents’ bedroom and over their bed, even! I still chuckle thinking about it.

The most unusual album of my youth played again in my mind as I researched this week’s column. I wanted to write about something fun and positive to start the new year. I came across an article on a site I love called Atlas Obscura. It was about cookies made by a medieval nun that claim to put people into a joyful state.

The reason the article drew my attention was not the recipe, but rather that I knew the nun’s name—from music. One year, my dad received an album from Santa called Vision. It was the music of Hildegard von Bingen. It was mystical, magical and at the same time calming and inspiring.

Von Bingen was a 12th century nun who led an abbey in Germany. She was known as a visionary and a healer, with a great education in classical languages, music and healing of all kinds. Her abbey had a huge garden full of plants known for their medicinal properties. Many of her recipes for tonics and baked goods are consistent with holistic remedies today. There are doctors in Germany who still practice “Hildegardian” medicine techniques.

With the memory of spiritual music in my head and the imagined taste of spice cookies on my tongue, I knew I had the perfect way to bring 2021 to a close. Rekindling fond old memories and igniting my passion with a new recipe and tradition is a great way to honour the old and ring in the new.

I have not baked the cookies as I write this column, but I will be making them this week and posting the recipe on my Facebook page and blog with pictures.

Here is Hildegard’s description of them: “Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves, and pulverize them. Then make small cakes with this and flour and water. Eat them often. It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful. It purifies your senses and diminishes all harmful humours in you. It gives good liquid to your blood and makes you strong.”

I hope you find your own magical way to make the transition a fun one this year. Here’s to you all.



More Happy Gourmand articles

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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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