Tuesday 23 September 2008

I'm On Vacation.... But Here's Some Restaurant Reviews To Keep You Happy...

I'm pretty sure that Marsha will freak out if I don't write something soon ;-) So, here goes...

I'm on vacation, you'd think I'd find time to write on vacation, but it turns out that I'm quite busy working other jobs. Ah well, such is life. Today I do have a day off entirely, and slept in quite late. It was wonderful. But I do have plans to run (eek - don't freak out Marsha), sew my pants and skirt, work on my big photo scanning project, record old family tapes onto MP3, do my Yoga, do a wee bit of laundrey, and continue transcribing my journals. I know none of that means anything to most of you, but it's a list that has carried over on my "to do" for months. It has to get done, and soon. I think I'll tell you about my recent lovely restaurant experiences...

Early last week I had lunch with a very old and dear friend and we decided to go to this "Mt. Everest's Kitchen" on 17th which was FABULOUS... I've never had Nepalese cuisine, have you? It was wonderful. It was lunch time, so they had a buffet, but it really didn't feel like buffet. The waiters were soooooo polite and helpful, they made us feel like we were in a fancy restaurant. I can't focus on one dish, it was all good. Himalayan cuisine rocks. Actually, no there was one dish I can tell you (because I remember the name - haha) It was called Everest Chicken. It was so good, both my friend and I just loved it, and everything else. So, yes that was my Mt. Everest Kitchen experience.

Then, later in the week, my work-girls and I hit this Bistro 2210 on 4th street. We're moving our clinic on the 3rd, so we've been taking advantage of all our great restaurants more and more before they become scarce. So, this Bistro is again FABULOUS. The food was great, and it was what I would describe as a "real live" restaurant - where they have a menu for each meal of the day, and limited items on the menu - but fabulous items. Everything was fabulous. I took pictures of what we all had...

The soup de jour which was this fabulous butternut squash soup - so creamy and so good and sweet. Mmmm.

Didn't take me long to finish that baby off.

Trish's Cappuccino. Look at how pretty it is... Look at that lovely coarse brown sugar...

This is what I had - it was Spinach and Ricotta in a Crepe. Look at that beautiful presentation... It was sooooooo good too. Very satisfying.

Linda had the chicken - something or other - sorry Bistro people, can't remember the name - it's soooo pretty though, and Linda certainly enjoyed it.

Trish's Pork Schnitzel - Apparently it was the greatest thing ever...

Marsha had the Parm Chicken Burger with - sigh - Sweet Potato Fries - Who doesn't love sweet potato fries? I LOVE sweet potato fries, and actually - may have eaten more of them than Marsha - but who's counting?

Time for Dessert... Yes, I have dessert. I refuse to deprive myself of things if I want them in my diet. If I eat a little dessert, that's better than not having any at all because something happens psychologically when you deprive yourself of such things. Though with this Creme Brulee - I did clean the wee bowl out - because it was so good, then, I had a bite of Trish's lovely moist Rhubarb Cake...

Yes, it was sooo good. I'm not usually a cake person, because so few people can really get cake right, but this one - was right. Mmmm. So right. It had some sort of "fancy-named" fruity drizzle on it, and - it was so worth it.

Yes, so that was Bistro 2210. It's great - and small - and reasonably priced for what you get out of it - which is a really satisfying dining experience - even just for lunch. Also, the service was fabulous, and got us out in reasonable time to get back to the office. Go - they need to stay open - forever.

*UPDATE* - The run went well Marsha - don't worry I paced myself. I feel great - no pain whatsoever...

*2nd UPDATE* - The only things I got done on the list today were the running and the Yoga. Besides that, I ended up - updating the blog (as you can see), msning with my favorite msner, and discovering piratespeak on facebook. Arrrrr, I suppose the other stuff shall have to wait for another day.

Monday 8 September 2008

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Yes, that's right, I've finished "The Omnivore's Dilemma" - the book that is well coveted by other Calgary Public Library users, and am now writing the highly anticipated review. The book is due back on Tuesday, so finished not a minute too soon. As you know (if you've read previous posts), I LOVE Michael Pollan, and what he stands for in the food community. He's the whistle blower. I don't know why, but I love whistle blowers. I love anyone who tells it up straight - like it is, and doesn't sugar coat it. (funny enough, I made a friend just like that today at church)

In this book, Michael followed the food chain for three different meals. One - the typical every day meal that 80% (rough estimate) of the western world eats - The Corn food Chain; the second one is the Pastoral Grass food chain, and the 3rd is the Forest (hunter/gatherer) food chain. My personal favorite is the Pastoral Grass food chain (it seems to be the one I learned the most from, and really is the way of the future).

As far as corn goes, most of the western world is filled with walking, talking, breathing corn. (we're the walking corn) Corn feeds our cows (cows aren't meant to digest corn), and corn is the basis of most processed foods, it is the base for most fried foods, as they are usually fried in corn oil. We ingest an insane of High Fructose Corn Syrup in the Soda we drink. Corn feeds chickens (again, not the best choice for their feed). The entire McDonald's menu should just be replaced and should have corn next to every price. McCorn all the way down the list. The corn we use for these items, isn't the healthy multi-variety grain that was so prized by the Aztec people. It's standard number 2. Genetically modified in most cases, and a simple - high energy, cost efficient way to feed our livestock. You can imagine - that with corn as the basis of an entire food system, there is not a lot of variety of nutrients, or nutrition in this particular kind of diet. This - simplified is why our food today (all of the processed variety of food - corn) lacks the nutrients we need in order to function at our highest level. It's just pure calories with no nutrition. We wonder why we have an obesity epidemic on our hands? It starts - my friends with our agricultural system and works it's way through our food chain all the way to our plates. The other thing about this section of the book that opened my eyes (though I knew about it before) is the way that animals are treated in order to feed our population. CAFO's are evil. (Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations). There is no reason whatsoever to torture an animal before you eat it, and this - essentially is what is going on in most cases. Animals are seen as dollar signs in the Corn food-chain. Nobody cares in that corporate food world what happens to them, just that they make more of them, and fatter ones, with more meat, and keep them disease free even though we are packing them all inside tiny little areas. In fact, pump them full of anti-biotics just in case they do become susceptible to some disease or other - heck it's bound to happen in that small of an area. This is cruel, AND (sorry to say more important to me) incredibly unhealthy for us!!! These animals are getting little to no variety in their diet, they are pumped full of anti-biotics, and who knows what else. Then, we're all shocked, shocked when there's a Listeria outbreak. Not to mention e-coli, and other deadly diseases that come from having an unvaried diet such as Diabetes, Cancer, etc. This is the source of almost ALL of our health problems in the world today. It starts in the food chain. I've only touched on a couple of issues here, but there are many more in the book. I suggest you read it for the full scope. So, needless to say, the Corn food-chain doesn't impress me as the best way.

The second section on pastoral grass, also opened up my eyes somewhat to the "organic" corporate world. Which - really regulation-wise isn't that much different than the other corporate world, except that their chickens aren't fed anti-biotics (and therefore, could end up with who knows what kinds of diseases), and they do have a slight option of being able to go out into a small yard. (which they never use) This by U.S. organic standards is qualified to be called "organic" and "free-range" Though, this is what is wrong with standardizing organic growing. Organizations want to see what they can get away with in order to cash in on the consumer's obsession with anything organic. I myself am a big organic fan. Though, I'm now slightly more skeptical of what really is worth it. In fact, I was looking at free-range eggs the other day, and the only one I felt really secure was actually free-range was the one that had a stamp on it from the SPCA. Haha. You have to trust the SPCA. These were happy chickens evidently. Anyway, in this world today, you hardly know who to trust. That's why the local food movement has become so popular. When you meet the farmer, and you look them in the eye, and you ask them if this was grown organically, you know whether or not you can trust them. In the book - my favorite thing ever - is when Michael spent a week with a Virginia farmer by the name of Joel Salatin on his "Polyface Inc." farm. Joel is self-proclaimed as beyond organic. Joel practices simple, tried and true farming techniques (with a number of his own state of the art twists - such as the egg-mobile). He practices management intensive grazing - a technique where the farmer lets his herd graze on a plot of land only for a certain amount of time (long enough not to kill the grass, but give it a quick cow-chew mowing) and then moves them onto the next plot of grass. The grasses he grows as well are of many different varieties, and provides the cows with a "salad bar" from which to graze. Cows are ruminants, grass is what they are supposed to eat. They were never meant to eat corn - ever. The only animal that can truly digest corn is the pig. After the cows graze the land, Joel brings in his chickens in their egg-mobile to graze after them, and clean up. It's ingenious really. The result is - healthier, happier animals and tastier, healthier meat. The eggs that come out of that egg-mobile are highly coveted by the chefs in Joel's area. The muscle tone of the egg is the real selling point, if you want to know what the heck that means, you'll have to read the book. So, Joel is pretty much living my dream.

The 3rd section was cool, but as I said - the pastoral life - that's for me. In the Forest, Michael learned how to hunt wild California Pig (which is actually a pest, and really - not native to California) from a lovely gentleman named Angelo. Italians always know where the best food is, after all it is them that started the slow-food movement in protest against a McDonald's restaurant being opened in Rome. So, Angelo taught Michael how to hunt wild California pig, and it's really a great story, totally worth reading. Michael also learned how to gather (and hunt) different varieties of mushroom in his adventures. Chantrelles and Morels to be specific - highly coveted mushrooms (wouldn't know about that - hate mushrooms - but I'm working on not hating them) That was also a highly entertaining read. I liked the part where he learned how to "gather" yeast in order to make his bread. I'll have to remember that technique myself for future use.

As you may know if you've read previous posts, I love the idea of doing things like this myself. When I have had time to do so, I have made cheese, and Yoghurt. I have every intention to one day be able to grow and raise my own food from scratch. There's a kind of satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly where your food comes from, and for me - it's about living healthy more than anything else. There's so many toxins, and endocrine disruptors in our world, and for me (and many others) that's dangerous. My body is highly sensitive to those types of things (who's isn't?) and I just feel a lot better knowing exactly where my food comes from, and how it got to my plate. I'm not saying I don't opt out for convenience like everyone else - anybody who knows me at work knows that I'm a big microwave dinner fan. (not fan so much, as just too busy to really take the time to cook) Ideally though, I want to cook my food from ingredients whose origins I know. The last thing Michael wrote in the book sums it up...

"This is not the way I want to eat every day. I like to be able to open a can of stock and I like to talk about politics, or the movies, at the dinner table sometimes instead of food. But imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, these few unremarkable things: What it is we're eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really cost. We could then talk about some other things at dinner. For we would no longer need any reminding that however we choose to feed ourselves, we eat by the grace of nature, not industry, and what we're eating is never anything more or less than the body of the world."

This book is so worth the read - I think food is a subject everybody should read about - who's life isn't influenced by food?

Thursday 4 September 2008

Chad makes 96...

Today on my way out for lunch, I noticed the newspaper out of the corner of my eye... the person on the front cover looked very much like someone I knew. On closer inspection, in about a second and a half, the realization came to me that I did know him. The cover was of 3 Canadians - the most recent victims of the WAR against the Taliban in Afghanistan. I say War because that is what it has become. Young Chad was my co-worker at Petland not too many years ago. He was a really nice person, and he was a typical average kid. He had a desire to do good, and to help people. I remember that he seemed like the kind of person who always wanted to make people happy. He went out of his way to do so. Though, being a typical kid, he really got on my nerves - with his loud rap music, and his crazy love life with co-workers at the store. I gave him a really hard time about it. I regret giving him such a hard time now however. :-( Anyway, my prayers go out to his family at this time. I honestly didn't even know that he was in the army. It makes sense to me though, that he would have done so. He always wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. Though that was his intention, and also is the intention of all Canadian soldiers, I have a feeling, that is not what is being achieved in that country so far away.

There have been threats recently...

The Taliban has threatened Canadians - their threat is that until we pull out of Afghanistan, they will continue to kill our nationals at an increased rate. They did that yesterday with Chad, and his 2 comrades. They intend to kill many more. The Taliban are relentless, and they are a fast-growing, vicious, cruel organization who's intent is to gain control over the Afghan people and ensure their "freedom" from Democracy and Western Oppression. Democracy isn't strictly a Western value. The reality is, Islam was based upon the principles of Democracy. (see book review on "Reconciliation") These Men have twisted what was sacred into another opportunity to exercise power and dominion over innocent people. Because they are a very clever organization, and because parents are very poor in those countries, and the only free schooling available to their children is what has been provided by extremists; it is a very fast growing brain-washing operation which I personally see no end to anytime soon.

I have very mixed feelings on this. I love the Afghan people. I love their history and culture. I appreciate what they have contributed to the world. The problem is, if we pull out of that country, they will again be at the mercy of the Taliban; and their freedom will become a memory. However, the truth is - this is a losing battle. We were sent to that country to keep the peace. It has turned into a war - a losing one.

96 of our soldiers, and one of our diplomats have lost their lives to this conflict. I don't know if their deaths could have been prevented. I believe in protecting these people from extremist threats. However, perhaps it could be approached differently. I don't know what the perfect solution would be, but the source of the problem as Mrs. Bhutto indicated in her last words to the world on the subject - is ignorance. Ignorance on the part of many people. The victims (Afghans), the west (us), and the extremists (the taliban). Education is needed most especially for the poorest people of all Muslim Nations. People need to be aware of the origins of Islam - mainly that the teachings of Muhammad as inspired by God were that a Muslim society (anyone who believes in God) should be based on tolerance, respect, equality and understanding. The fact is that the prophet Muhammad was preaching against the tribalism that was tearing his beloved Mecca apart. He left Mecca for that reason. That tribalism is alive and well today, and they call themselves Muslims when they are not. They turn their backs on the true God of Islam. They call themselves Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, and other extremist groups who's real purpose is to exercise authority and power over those who are peace-loving. The solution really is education. Not just education about Islam, but education about the west. Many of the people sucked into the brain-washing machine of the Taliban have no idea about what our society stands for. Yes, we know that the U.S. is corrupt. Everybody in the whole world knows that, except the Americans. (sorry American friends - it's true) However, there is much good in the West (even among Americans) that these people are not aware of. As I indicated before - many parents in poor Muslim countries can't afford to feed or send their children to school. They send them off to the extremist-run schools. There, they learn how to become the most devout terrorists. They really believe that they are doing the right thing.

So, as I said, I don't know what the answer is, but I do know this - we are losing our young (Chad is merely 21) men and women who are brave to a cause that is and will increasingly become - a losing battle. It is time for the leaders of the world to get together, and come up with a different solution.

Monday 1 September 2008

This Chocolate Bar...... my new best friend. Women - research it - that's all I'm saying. It could save your life and the lives of your loved ones. I'm saying this playfully, but seriously - it saved my bacon this week. Thanks Angelique for suggesting it.

By the way, they make other chocolate bars that look dead useful. I'll keep them in mind for future use - if I ever get to.