Monday, March 02, 2009

I'm Still Here

I'm just distracted. Our first child arrived three weeks ago. Between the move, baby prep and baby arrival, food has become a lower priority. And yet, after making sure the baby is fed, food is our first thought.

We're lucky that our baby is a good sleeper and already has a rough schedule- which allows us to get some sleep too. But he also likes to be with us as much as he can be, which limits hands and our ability to create wonderful meals. There are things we're doing now, that I never would have contemplated previous to Baby's arrival: we bought Carnation hot chocolate mix instead of making it from scratch; we have individual frozen meat pies in the freezer; I'm composting vegetable pieces instead of making stock. And making cookies or bread, let alone homemade pasta seems like a crazy idea. Food has become a basic for keeping up on other things, and I'm pretty excited just to get my dishes done each day. I know I'll be back to normal in a bit, but right now, I'm even amazed I'm typing this post.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Kitchen

My kitchen no longer looks out on Duke Street: it looks out on a garage and Champlain Street (Champlain is also the statue in my profile picture). We bought a house in early December and I've spent most of that time moving and unpacking. We still have a lot to do, but the place definitely feels more lived in now.

After setting up the bed, the kitchen was the first priority to unpack, and it has become the centre of the house, again.We've already made a few good meals here, including Christmas dinner, but we're still learning about this kitchen: how the oven works (perhaps the temperature is a bit lower than our last), the spaces in the fridge, the best spot to keep the knives and dish towels. There are some elements which won't be decided on until we know our kitchen better: the curtains (I've always wanted red curtains with yellow ducks- but what shape should they be?), where will the rack of pans hang, and should there be a rug at the kitchen sink?

This feels like building a relationship with someone I know is going to be a best friend, so I'm savouring every step.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rhoda's Christmas Craft Fair

I went to Rhoda’s Christmas Craft Fair on the weekend. And all I bought was food. Rhoda’s is one of the major seasonal craft events in the Maritimes. Some people go year after year, like a Christmas tradition, but this was my first time ever. It’s awfully warm in Saint John- going up to 12C some days, I’m wearing shoes and a fall coat outside. Some people run around in t-shirts in the afternoon. The unlikely weather, combined with a variety of distractions made me want to ‘get into’ the Christmas spirit and I thought it would be fun to go to this event that I’d always heard of but never ventured near.

My brother usually goes. He loves the weekend flea markets also put on by Rhoda, but I think he loves the energy and the casual shopping side of it. I went with him and his wife and they were a great introduction to how to enjoy Rhoda’s. Their approach is all about food.

My brother went with the intention of buying dip mixes. His strategy was to start at one end and cover each aisle. We went up and down, observing, tasting, comparing. Then we worked our way back to make our purchases at the stalls deemed to offer the best products. I bought maple brown sugar dinner rolls from the Ginger Bread Christmas Bakery from Penobsquis: “Made from Family Recipes.” An older woman with curly white hair served us, and the rolls were SO good. I ate four of them at dinner.

There were three dip mix vendors. One who mixed her dips with vanilla yogurt, which I do not recommend- the sweetness is just not complimentary to Cajun, garlic or herbs. The company he selected was Hac’n Sac from Enfield, NB. The vendors were charming and helpful, and their dips are delicious. I became hooked on their apricot and jalapeno jam which they served over cream cheese with crackers- so good! The owner also suggests using it as a glaze over chicken, pork and scallops.

We also discovered the Cake Box from Riverview, NB. They had lovely cakes on display, and stacks of cupcakes in wonderful flavours and matching decors of tall swirly frosting: mud pie, drama queen, coconut, chocolate fudge, bananarama. Their buttercream frosting was amazing, and the cake crumb was perfect and moist. My brother loved his red velvet cupcake so much that he went back to buy a box of nine to take home.

We also bought fresh pots of cat grass for our cats!

I’m not sure I came away feeling Christmasy, but I enjoyed myself and am looking forward to roast pork with apricot jalapeno jam- if I don’t eat it first with crackers and cream cheese. And really, Christmas is all about the food anyway.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Relative Nutrition

I'm a little jealous of our American cousins. Not for their more dramatic election, their rich cinema scene or better shopping. I'm jealous of their Overall Nutritional Health Index being implemented in US grocery stores this month. I like lists, and this one combines food and health and aims and probably unfair hierarchy- except that hierarchy is the business of lists.

The ONHI assesses food based on the nutritional health value you receive for eating it, and stratifies each food according to this value. It's fascinating to read through and the relative value of foods you eat, disdain, think you shouldn't eat but discover are better for you than you thought. It's not surprising to see broccoli confirmed as a food champion with 100 points- everyone's been saying forever to eat your broccoli. It's surprising to see that orange juice at 39 is outranked by sodium free club soda ranks at 56 (I didn't think there was anything in club soda), and that cheese puffs are a 4, outranking milk chocolate (3) and apple pie (2).

It's like food gossip. Even better, it's designed and endorsed by scientists and dieticians so it's OK to snub some foods in favour of others now. Although I don't think I'm going to take up club soda at breakfast. But I might choose unbuttered, sunsalted popcorn (69) over prunes (45).

The ONHI was designed to assist consumers in selecting appropriate food choices. It's supposed to be a guide to the "relative nutriousness" of food. It's obviously true we need help, because we're increasingly unhealthy and making poor food choices, in North America at least. More interesting is that the ONHI is actually being posted in grocery stores, next to thousands of brands of food products, backed by an industry keen to sell its products to us. I find it hard to believe that Tropicana will accept their product being listed as a 39, it's completely against all of their marketing. Yet there it will be- generally, since the ONHI doesn't specifically mention Tropicana, just orange juice.

No doubt industry and producers will find ways of marketing around the ONHI, it will be discredited through its methods, and people will grow bored with it. Or maybe it will never really be noticed on the store shelves and never attract too much negative or positive attention. Maybe the politics and the economy will bury it and it will gradually leak into daily grocery shopping. I hope so. I want to be reminded that instant chocolate pudding is a 20, and thus not such a bad snacking choice, all things considered.