Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slow Food Saskatoon Planning Meeting

You’re invited to attend the very first planning meeting for Slow Food Saskatoon on Thursday, June 7, from 7-8:30 pm at Caffe Sola (corner of 23rd Street and Pacific Avenue).

Please come prepared to share your ideas, hopes and dreams for Slow Food Saskatoon. I hope that by the end of the evening we will have decided on one or two activities to introduce Slow Food to Saskatoon residents.

I know we all lead busy lives, so I’m hoping we can divide up the tasks into bite-size, manageable chunks and begin sharing responsibilities for internal and external communications and event planning.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email me your suggestions for Slow Food Saskatoon, and I will take them to the meeting for you.

Please feel free to share this invitation. Everyone is welcome.

P.S. Our use of Caffe Sola’s space is free so long as we all indulge in one of their lattes or desserts. They serve awesome food so this shouldn’t be a hardship ;-)

See you soon!
Penny McKinlay

For further information: 
Slow Food: Because Food Matters
What is Slow Food?
Slow Food in Saskatoon: Activities

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 28, 2012

Food news and events in and around Saskatoon – Slow Food Saskatoon, peas and barley, sticky toffee pudding, a very local holiday, and a food drive 

Food Drive, June 2 The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre needs teams of volunteers to go door to door on June 2 to collect food that people have donated (paper bags to be distributed in the mail). If you are interested in participating, contact Evelyn at 664-6565 ext 228.

Slow Food Saskatoon, June 7
Everyone is invited to attend the very first planning meeting for Slow Food Saskatoon from 7-8:30 pm on Thursday, June 7 at Caffe Sola (corner of 23rd Street and Pacific Avenue).

Please come prepared to share your ideas, hopes and dreams for Slow Food Saskatoon. I hope that by the end of the evening we will have decided on one or two activities to introduce Slow Food to Saskatoon residents. I know we all lead busy lives, so my goal is to divide up the tasks into bite-size, manageable chunks and begin sharing responsibilities for internal and external communications and event planning.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email me your suggestions for Slow Food Saskatoon, and I will take them to the meeting for you.

Saturdays at Simon’s 
Chef Simon Reynolds of Simon’s Fine Foods is offering a variety of takeout dishes every Saturday afternoon. They range from soups and stews to sticky toffee pudding and mango chutney.

Local Sask Holiday Guide 
LocalSask is preparing a Holiday Guide so that we can meet all our holiday needs by shopping locally - from locally-raised turkey for Christmas dinner to handcrafted gifts. If you would like to have your locally-made product listed in the Guide, contact Marsha Lemon before July 1.

It’s hard to stay connected with the farm cycle when you live in town, so I checked in with a couple of local farmers.

Marc Loiselle finished sowing his Red Fife wheat approximately 10 days ago. He is also planting small plots of Rouge de Bordeaux and Galician spring wheat, and the U of S organic crop research team is sowing a small plot of black-awned durum wheat. Marc is intercropping brown mustard and red clover with his green peas. The Musketeer fall rye was sown last year.

Kalissa Regier of Hestia Organics says that they are halfway through seeding and right on schedule. The lentils are already planted, and she expected to plant wheat this past Sunday. Hemp and flax are normally planted during the first week of June, and oats are a later crop as well. Hestia is planting lots of barley this year, in combination with peas, and Kalissa is thinking about using her mill to make stone-ground barley flour.

Eat Alberta
Eat Alberta sounds like it was an amazing opportunity to learn new skills and share information with other people who appreciate good, slow food. Check out Valerie Lugonja’s account of the event.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gravelbourg Mustard

Success as an entrepreneur is often a question of being in the right place at the right time. But it also requires enthusiasm and an inquiring mind.

Saskatchewan farmers grow 80% of the world’s supply of mustard seed, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Gravelbourg farmers could deliver their mustard seed to a local milling plant. Now there was an opportunity to manufacture mustard locally, and Gravelbourg Mustard opened in 2008.

Marketing and Promotion
Gravelbourg Mustard was a small operation with limited distribution for the first few years, but it changed hands in July 2011, and the new owners, Val and Leo Michaud, are eager to expand the product line and increase distribution across Canada.

Gravelbourg Mustard currently produces four varieties of gourmet mustard: German style, French style, Cranberry, and Saskatoon Berry.

 Val hopes to change the public perception that mustard is only used as a condiment on hot dogs and hamburgers. One of her first acts was to publish the Gravelbourg Mustard Cookbook (available from SaskMade Marketplace) with over 100 recipes ranging from vinaigrettes and dressings to salads and appetizers. “I want to educate people on the many uses of mustard so that they can make their own unique, gourmet dishes at home,” she explains. The company's new website will showcase monthly recipes.

 With the help of the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc., the Michauds are reformulating the cranberry mustard and plan to introduce three new flavours in the next four to six months.

The Michauds are also changing the look of their bottles and labels. “People shop visually,” Val explains. “Each flavor will be identified by a different colour.” They have been approved as a Canada Brand, and this information will feature prominently on their label as shopping locally is becoming increasingly important to consumers.

Gravelbourg Mustard has increased the size of their batches from 16 to 60 quarts, and they are expanding distribution throughout Saskatchewan and into Alberta. They hope to eventually be available across Canada.

Fluorescent Yellow?
Traditional American mustard is bright yellow, but that colour isn’t natural. The manufacturers add turmeric to obtain that vibrant colour. European-style mustard is darker and more low key, but it has a long and illustrious history.

Mustard seeds aren’t hot or spicy until they are cracked or ground and mixed with a cold liquid. The Romans mixed ground mustard seeds with wine to make a paste, and this remains the basic formula for French-style mustards, which are particularly sharp and tangy. The seeds are cracked, not ground, for German-style mustard. Adding fruit to mustard makes it sweeter.

Three different types of mustard seed are grown in Saskatchewan. Brown mustard is used to make European-style mustards. Yellow mustard is used in American-style mustard and mayonnaise. It’s also used as a binding agent and a protein extender. Oriental mustard seed is used to make a spicy oil that is popular in Asia.

Mustard seed was first grown commercially in 1936 on 40 hectares in southern Alberta. Saskatchewan now produces 80% of the world’s supply, and Gravelbourg is at the heart of the mustard-growing area.

Did you know?
  • In sixth century BC, Pythagoras used mustard to treat scorpion stings. 
  • The ancient Chinese considered mustard to be an aphrodisiac. 
  • German folklore recommended that brides sew mustard seed into the hem of their wedding gown if they wanted to have control of their household. 
  • In Denmark and India, local tradition recommends sprinkling mustard seed around your house to keep out the evil spirits. 
  • American “ballpark” mustard was first manufactured in 1904 by George T. French as "Cream Salad Mustard" and has become the standard for yellow mustard in America. 
Further information about Gravelbourg Mustard can be found in the May issue of SaskMade Marketplace’s newsletter.

See also: 
Gravelbourg Mustard 
Mustard, Government of Saskatchewan
Mustard Seed, Agriculture Canada

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 21, 2012

Food news and events in and around Saskatoon – heirloom vegetables, black pansy/red clover/rose petal syrups, Castle dining, and healthy, local cafeteria eats

PayDirt Farm CSA 
My family has just signed up for a bi-weekly delivery of chemical-free, heirloom vegetables from PayDirt Farm in Wakaw. The CSA is a new venture by Grant Black and Patricia Robertson, local writers who are keenly interested in good, slow food.

As a writer, I’m infatuated by the names of some of the vegetables – Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach, Southern Giant Curled mustard greens, North Holland Blood Red scallions, Cosmic Purple carrots, Rainbow Sweet Inca corn, and Purple tomatillos.

A full share costs $400, while a half share costs $250. Contact paydirtfarm@sasktel.net for additional information.

Vendor Night, SaskMade Marketplace
SaskMade Marketplace is showcasing Bedard Creek Acres’ unique syrups at 4 pm on May 24. There will be samples of Red Clover Blossom Lake Diefenbaker trout; artisan lettuce drizzled with Black Pansy Syrup and Gravelbourg Mustard vinaigrette; organic quinoa and cucumber salad with Rose Petal Syrup, red wine vinegar & lime; and triple-swirl cheesecake topped with a blend of all three syrups.

Live Music at Souleio
Souleio Foods will be showcasing Canadian musicians twice a month all summer long on Saturdays from 4 to 6 pm. Like their Facebook page to be informed of the date of the next event.

I had a strawberry basil iced tea at Souleio recently and appreciated the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet. The basil added an interesting herbal note that harmonized nicely with the strawberry sweetness.

Vegetarian Dining at the Bess
I don’t tend to eat at hotels, even when I’m travelling. However, we had heard that the Delta Bessborough showcased local food, and the menu indicated lots of vegetarian options, far more than most Saskatoon restaurants.

We enjoyed a quiet dinner overlooking the green banks of the river. I would highly recommend the Spiced Lentil Cake and the Fried Mushroom Polenta. The Kidney Bean Ratatouille is also very good, but it more closely resembles chili than ratatouille.

Drew Hornell is now the Bessborough’s Executive Chef as Ryan Marquis has moved on.

Fresh n Local
Fresh n Local is an online grocery delivery service specializing in local, sustainable food.

I’m delighted to see that it stocks some of my favourite products – eggplants and sorrel from Floating Gardens, power bread from Earth Bound Bakery, lentils from Hestia Organics, and Three Farmers camelina oil.

There’s free delivery with a $50 purchase.

Farm to Cafeteria Canada 
Farm to Cafeteria Canada programs are designed to connect local farms with schools, hospitals, universities and cafeterias. Their Facebook page provides a wealth of information about what is happening across Canada, from school lunches to urban agriculture in Cuba.

Canadian Food Policy
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who spent the past week visiting Canada, raised alarm that 800,000 households do not have the means to put proper food on their table.

Food Secure Canada is a national alliance designed to improve food security in Canada and globally. Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada outlines the issues and proposes solutions.

Eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive. A US Agriculture Department study found that most fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods cost less than foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Gopher photo: A.P. McKinlay

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Slow Food in Saskatoon: Activities

Yesterday’s post, What is Slow Food?, explored the meaning and objectives of Slow Food. But how do we actually translate that into action?

There were 13 convivia represented at the 2012 Slow Food Canada national meeting, and they shared their activities over the past year. Here are just a few of the ideas:

Slow Food Calgary served over 4,000 slow food meals at the Calgary Folk Festival and has published a Snail Trail publication and mobile app identifying local producers of good, clean, fair food.

Slow Food Columbia Valley holds an annual palooza to celebrate a particular vegetable (potato soup competition, pumpkin bowls) as well as a Sustainable Speaker series.

Slow Food Southern Alberta published The Faces of Food, with stories and photographs of local farmers and their farms.

Slow Food Toronto is matching every garden that they adopt in Africa with a garden in Toronto. They held a canning workshop with new Canadians, First Nations people, and children to preserve soup for the winter. They held a food fair at the Green Living trade show.

Slow Food Nova Scotia hosts Slow Motion, a food film festival. Last year’s festival showcased 29 films from 13 countries.

Slow Food Vancouver Island held mushroom foraging events and the Sooke Slow Foods Cycle (under Events on their website).

Slow Food Montreal held a wine tasting with organic and biodynamic wines. They collaborate on a Green Restaurant Guide and are planning an active campaign against land grabbing.

Farm Folk City Folk (a partner of Slow Food Vancouver) organized Meet Your Maker, a speed dating event hooking up farmers and producers.

Slow Food Perth County hosts a Slow Food Market.

The Slow Food Calgary Youth Movement and Slow Food Kids in Thunder Bay ensure that young people are well represented.

Saskatoon: Getting Started 
As a brand-new group, Slow Food Saskatoon can’t do everything. Perhaps one of the best ways for us to operate will be by collaborating with others:

Invite vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market to help us plan a tasting event comparing the flavour of different kinds of carrots or potatoes.

Collaborate with the Saskatoon Public Library or Word on the Street on a storytelling event with local farmers and producers talking about the joys and challenges of what they do.

Plan a heritage preservation event with International Women of Saskatoon. IWS members can teach us how to make kimchi or tortillas, and we can show them how to can vegetables or make pickles. Transition Saskatoon might also be interested in partnering with us on this event.

Work with the SEN Environmental Film Festival to sponsor a half day of films about food.

Partner with CHEP Good Food Inc. to support 1000 Gardens in Africa and Saskatoon’s community gardens.

Work with the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate to prepare a list of local CSA (community supported agriculture) and/or hold a CSA Fair.

Collaborate with l’AssemblĂ©e communautaire fransaskoise on an event showcasing Saskatchewan’s francophone farming communities and traditions.

What would you like to do? Contact me at penny@axonsoft.com if you are interested in participating in Slow Food Saskatoon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What is Slow Food?

“Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.” 

The Opposite of Fast Food 
When I left for the Slow Food Canada national meeting in Edmonton, I had a vague idea of what slow food was. It was the opposite of fast food – food gulped down rapidly at a drive-through burger joint – food eaten to stop the hunger pangs without giving any thought to what it tasted like or how it was made.

But that was a rather negative definition of slow food, and I was wrestling with the idea that promoting slow food made me into a food snob who turned up her nose at people who bought supermarket strawberries or used cake mixes.

Good, Clean, Fair
Slow Food began to make more sense to me as I listened to the Slow Food leaders from across Canada talk about their work to promote Slow Food. Paolo Di Croce, Secretary General for Slow Food International, emphasized that Slow Food is a political movement dedicated to ensuring good, clean, fair food for all.

Good Food – My day begins with two cups of fragrant oolong tea (my favourite oolong smells of lilac blossoms in springtime) and a bowl of cereal – chewy grains, crunchy nuts, tangy berries, and creamy yogurt. It’s simple and healthy but also a sensory delight.

At the national meeting, I tasted different kinds of honey from bees that had feasted on different seasonal blossoms – raspberries, alfalfa, sunflower, buckwheat – and they were all completely different. Alfalfa honey was the sweetest, but my absolute favorite was sunflower honey with its lingering floral aftertaste.

Good food is also rich in memories because it respects culture and tradition – your grandmother’s borscht recipe, Saskatoon berries growing wild on the Prairies, making cookies with your children.

Clean Food – It’s frightening to read about arsenic in children’s apple juice or antibiotics in commercial honey.

It’s deeply disturbing to know that, while millions of people are starving, increasing numbers of people are obese with a higher risk of disease, unable to enjoy simple pleasures like a game of tag with their children.

The earth is no longer healthy either. We are draining the rivers dry, destroying oxygen-rich jungles and grassland bird habitats, and unleashing chemicals without knowing what their impact will be on future generations.

Fair Food – For far too long, the focus has been on cheap food. We’ll spend hundreds of dollars on shoes, thousands of dollars on a new car or a new house, but we’re unwilling to spend $5.00 on a loaf of bread that was made by hand at 3 o’clock in the morning while we were still sound asleep.

We refuse to compensate the back-breaking work of farmers labouring around the clock in an effort to harvest their crop before it rains or anxiously watching the thermometer, wondering how they will pay the bills if frost destroys the blossoms on their fruit trees.

Game Changer 
A blog post by Voula Halliday, co-leader of Slow Food Toronto, helped me to understand the political power of Slow Food:

Slow Food is a counter-revolution. We are 100,000 members strong, around the world, and growing. Together we are an active community of citizens working to reverse the life threatening trends of industrialized food production. . . . As a counter-revolution to the idea that large scale is king, Slow Food is the game changer. We are united in the commitment to share and preserve knowledge that will benefit us all. We are an open-book, giving all people access to the true stories of where our food comes from. We know the difference between a direct short supply chain, from farmer to farmer’s market, versus the domino-like two- way industrialized food supply chain—from farmer, to processor, to distributer, to retailer, to consumer. We cherish the joys of sharing food grown by our own hands, the hands of our elders, the hands of our local farmers. We are grateful for this land and we protect it because without it we will die.

It’s Fun Too
Serious stuff, but Slow Food members know how to have fun as well. There’s nothing better than sharing a meal with family and friends or experiencing the rush when your batch of jam or homemade yogurt turns out perfectly.

The barista’s artistry creates hearts and flowers on the surface of your latte, while chefs carefully assemble dessert plates that are almost too beautiful to eat.

Slow Food International
Slow Food is an international movement with over 100,000 members in 160 countries around the world. From its origins in Italy, it has spread around the world to include farmers, producers and consumers. It embraces farmers’ cooperatives in Mexico, traditional food celebrations in Uganda, and children’s cooking classes in Colombia.

There are 1,100 Slow Food members in Canada with convivia (local groups) stretching from coast to coast. Slow Food Montreal is Canada’s oldest and largest convivium. Other large convivia include Slow Food Calgary, Slow Food Edmonton, Slow Food Nova Scotia, Slow Food Toronto, and Slow Food Vancouver. But you don’t have to be a big city to have a local convivium. There are active chapters in Columbia Valley, Northumberland Shore, Southern Alberta, and many more. There’s a Slow Food Youth group in Calgary and Slow Food Kids in Thunder Bay.

Coming Soon to Saskatoon
Enough theory! What are we going to do? I have lots of ideas for fun events with the added whammy of changing people’s perceptions of food.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 14, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – fresh and local, kids’ day at the Market, culinary events, fair trade, reducing food waste 

Fresh n Local, May 14
Fresh n Local will soon be delivering farm-fresh produce and sustainably-sourced groceries to Saskatoon residents. You can try out the system and find out more about the vendors and the types of food that will be supplied on May 14 at 7:30 pm at The Two Twenty.

Farmers’ Market Dinner, May 17
Chef Dan Walker of Weczeria will be cooking up a five-course meal at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market at 6 pm on May 17. Tickets are available at the Market office.

Kids’ Day at the Market, May 19
The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is celebrating Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day with product snacks, displays and activities for kids from 10 am to 2 pm. This is a great opportunity to get your kids hooked on market shopping.

Emma Lake Culinary Evening, May 24 & 25
Enjoy a 6-course dinner prepared by Kevin Tetz, the Executive Chef, at Jewel of the North Resort, Emma Lake on May 24 or 25. Tickets must be purchased by May 22.

Latin Event, May 27
Enjoy Spanish food and entertainment on Sunday, May 27 from noon to 5 pm at a fundraiser for St. Mary’s Parish and the Spanish community. The event is being held at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Tickets are $40 for adults and $10 for children. Call Linda at 260-2410 or St. Mary’s Parish at 244-2983 for additional information.

ZooGala, June15
Enjoy a meal prepared by Saskatoon Chefs of the Canadian Culinary Federation, a tour of the Saskatoon Zoo by train, and Kevin Arcand’s lively music at ZooGala on June 15. Tickets are $110 and support the Saskatoon Zoo Foundation, which is dedicated to raising funds for capital improvements within the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.

Fair Trade
Fairtrade: Is it really fair? examines the pros and cons of the Fairtrade label. As with every system, it has both benefits (reliable price, a living wage) and shortcomings (other schemes are just as valuable, not applicable in every farming situation).

If you want to buy fair trade products, do you know where they are available? Some communities are designated as fair trade communities. Canmore has developed a list of participating businesses, while Vancouver has an extensive website to help you shop fair trade.

Ban Food Waste
1.4 million tons of food waste goes into landfills every year. Massachusetts is seeking to reduce that figure by making it illegal for large restaurants, businesses and institutions to put food waste in the garbage. The food waste will be diverted to composting sites and plants that can convert waste into energy, heat and/or fertilizer.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Photos: Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton

Monday, May 7, 2012

Flavourful Saskatoon, May 7, 2012

Foodie news and events in and around Saskatoon – slow food, Foodshed, chocolate without slavery, and the provincial dividing line 

Slow Food Canada 
I had an amazing time at the Slow Food Canada annual meeting in Edmonton. I learned so much about slow food and am deeply committed to starting a slow food convivium in Saskatoon. I will be writing more about this shortly, but email me if you’re interested in joining.

I was so proud to represent Saskatchewan farmers and producers. I distributed sample bottles of Three Farmers camelina oil – this was something new for all the attendees so a great opportunity to promote this product. People enjoyed the Daybreak Mill granola at breakfast, and seabuckthorn gelato from Northern Vigor Berries was a huge hit with homemade pies (it is such a vibrant orange!). I also distributed samples of hemp hearts from Hestia Organics and served Gravelbourg Mustard. A huge vote of thanks to all the producers who provided me with samples!

Photos: We tasted bread made with Red Fife wheat that had been grown in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Each of them was completely different to bake with and to eat. We also visited Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, a typical farm that has now diversified and provides a variety of activities for families – from petting baby goats in the spring to harvesting potatoes in the fall (Laurie is an active member of Slow Food Perth County).

Foodshed, May 10 
I’m looking forward to hearing dee Hobsbawn-Smith read from her book, Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet, on Thursday, May 10 at 7:30 pm at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.

Chocolate without Slavery 
If you enjoy chocolate but want to ensure that the workers on cocoa bean plantations receive a living wage, you’ll be happy to know that the Co-op store on Attridge Drive is selling Cadbury’s fair trade chocolate bars. Other options are Divine chocolate from Ten Thousand Villages and Camino chocolate that is available at various locations. (via CL – with thanks!)

FairTrade Canada provides a useful guide to buying Fair Trade chocolate and discusses the positive impact fair trade can have on small farming communities in countries such as Ghana.

Provincial Dividing Line
Jonathan Potts, Director of Marketing for Tourism Saskatchewan, says that it’s surprising how much people don’t know about our province. If we live north of Davidson, we rarely go south on holiday – and if you live in southern Saskatchewan, you rarely travel north.

Find out about some great tourism destinations at Saskatchewan Tourism: Our Natural Heritage (from EcoFriendly Sask).

Locally-Grown Food in North West Territories 
Food learning project grows into way of life is an interesting article about how gardening and permaculture workshops in various communities across the North West Territories have sparked interest in local food production.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post regular profiles of culinary entrepreneurs, new restaurants and new food products.

Follow me on Twitter, like the Wanderlust Facebook page, or subscribe to Wanderlust and Words by email (top right-hand corner) to stay on top of Saskatoon’s evolving food culture.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"These are my farmers."

Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet 
by dee Hobsbawn-Smith 

Calgary’s Introduction to Regional Cuisine
When dee Hobsbawn-Smith opened Foodsmith restaurant in 1992, the menu changed every day in order to take advantage of local, seasonal products. All the producers were named on the menu. “I was way ahead of the curve,” dee explains. “It was a tough sell in a meat-and-potatoes town. Calgary has evolved a lot since then.”

dee’s father was in the Air Force, so the family were gypsies for most of dee’s childhood. But her mother was from Saskatchewan, and dee grew up eating and enjoying good Prairie food.

As a young woman, dee started taking university classes but soon realized that she wanted a portable, creative skill and switched her attendance to cooking school in Vancouver. She later completed her culinary apprenticeship in Calgary and then supplemented her formal education with cooking classes in Europe, which had a lasting impact.

Madeleine Kamman, who had a cooking school in Annecy, France, and a television program on PBS became dee’s mentor. “She showed me that in order to cook you have to understand chemistry and methodology,” dee says. “Then you can superimpose flavours and abandon the cookbook.”

Kamman took the class to Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyon and to a local fromagerie (cheesemaker). “These set the benchmark standards to aspire to,” dee says.

A few years later, dee attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. “We cooked fish that were caught right outside in the bay,” dee says. “Europeans understood long before we did that you eat what you view.”

Before opening Foodsmith, dee also visited Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ iconic restaurant in San Francisco that was one of the first to highlight local food.

From Cooking to Writing to Advocacy 
 It was tough for dee as a young mother with two sons to run a restaurant that was undercapitalized, and she decided to sell in 1994. She turned her energies to teaching, cooking classes and freelance writing for the Calgary Herald, City Palate, and other local and national magazines. Her articles not only showcased local restaurants but also local producers.

dee’s first book, Skinny Feasts: Deceptively Rich Cooking the Low Fat Way, was published in 1997 and two more best-selling cookbooks followed. dee’s weekly Herald column featured a monthly round-up of the best butchers, bakers and specialty grocery stores. This evolved into dee’s fourth book – Shop Talk.

At the same time, dee worked with City Palate to organize an annual bus tour. Groups of up to 50 people would visit three or four local food producers, and dee would cook dinner with the ingredients that the group had picked up along the way.

In 2001, dee joined the steering committee for Slow Food Calgary. She served as president for three years and headed up the committee to choose the growers, cooks and youth delegates who would attend Terra Madre, Slow Food’s biennial gathering in Torino, Italy.

dee also worked with the Alberta government to develop Dine Alberta, an annual month-long celebration of local food whose goal was to connect consumers with growers and restaurants.

Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet 
When dee was writing Shop Talk, she realized that the chapter on local food producers could easily become its own book, and she began researching what became Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet. She had originally envisioned writing a regional book about producers in Western Canada, but when Touchwood Editions became the book’s publisher, she narrowed the focus to Alberta. “Food producers in Alberta have the same challenges and problems as farmers in Saskatchewan or British Columbia,” dee says. “The issues are virtually universal.”

Working her way through the alphabet, from A is for Asparagus to Z is for Zizania (wild rice), the book introduces readers to 76 sustainably-minded, small-scale, specialty food producers. The word ‘foodshed’ means gate-to-plate food in a given geographic region.

dee felt that it only made sense to include a recipe in each section as she agrees with Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, that consumers are co-producers and share in the food cycle.

The second section of the book discusses the politics, polices, ethics and issues faced by farmers today, from labour shortages and land use to animal management, succession planning and food distribution.

There is also an extensive reading list, detailed information on sourcing local food, CSAs (community-supported agriculture), farmers’ contact information and maps showing where the different producers are located.

These Are My Farmers
“I realized that people don’t know who is producing their food or how,” dee says. “It’s that sense of connection or community that is missing in our food system. We need to pay attention to who in our neighbourhood is feeding us and who we can turn to for food.”

dee is maintaining her connection with local food producers as she launches her book. In addition to readings at bookstores and Slow Food gatherings, she is spending two weeks in June travelling from Lethbridge in southern Alberta to Beaverlodge in the Peace Country on what she has dubbed the Rural Routes Reading Tour.

She will stay with farmers who will in turn invite their colleagues and neighbours to participate in potluck suppers with casual readings and conversation. They’ll meet in fields and ranches, around beehives and in a heritage grain mill. Dates and details for the tour can be found on dee’s website, The Curious Cook.

Moving Home
dee’s interest in writing has continued to evolve, and she is now apprenticing in short stories and poetry.

She met Dave Margoshes, a Saskatchewan author, at a writing workshop in Banff, and they are now living just outside of Saskatoon in her grandparents’ home on the land her family originally farmed.

“I moved to Saskatchewan so I would have the time to become a writer,” dee says. “My first publication in a literary journal was almost as big an event as my restaurant or my first child.”

Fortunately, dee will continue to share her concern for the local food community with her neighbours in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. Her experience with Slow Food Calgary will be of huge assistance in setting up a Slow Food convivium in Saskatoon.

“I really feel there’s a Canadian culinary community,” dee says, “Regional cuisine based on the local food in the different regions.”

dee will be reading from Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 3 at Atlantis Coffee, Regina, and at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 10, at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Saskatoon, with her partner, Dave Margoshes, who will be reading from his new collection of linked short stories, A Book of Great Worth

Photographs provided by TouchWood Editions