Monday, January 31, 2011

Grow Slow Community Gardening

I just got back from my first meeting with the Grow Slow group, a community gardening group in my neighbourhood. Approximately 10 people were in attendance, all coming to the group with different goals, agendas, expectations, intentions and plans! In the end, we all just want to dig in the dirt, grow some food and share, not only with each other, but also landowners and others in the community.

Last year there were 3 gardens tended to in the yards or lots belonging to people in the community, and 15 gardeners were involved. Much was planted, weeded, harvested and learned, and now we're back for another year! This year will be my first year actually joining the work in the gardens, last year I simply wrote about their experiences.

Over cups of tea and delicious muffins, we mapped out a year's worth of preliminary plans and each contributed ideas and goals that we wish to see come to fruition by the time the winter solstice comes along in December. It was a group made up of both novice and very experienced gardeners, enthusiastic environmentalists and food lovers, and community-minded individuals.

I committed to sharing as much as possible about the process on the various blogs I'm involved with; trying to create connections with local artists in the neighbourhood to create more community around the gardening projects; and connecting with another local food group to see about working together.

The quote, "earth care, people care, fair share" came to my mind tonight while we were brainstorming, so thank you, Jackson and Jenni for sharing that quote -- I think it encapsulates beautifully what we're trying to do with our community gardening endeavours in Grow Slow.

An Introduction to Permaculture from Jenni Rempel on Vimeo.

Looking forward to getting some dirt under my nails,


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Orange Basil Salad Dressing

I love making my own salad dressings! I'm going to start sharing my simple, easy recipes, so I hope you enjoy them. First up: Orange Basil Salad Dressing.

I first whipped this dressing up because I had an abundance of basil growing in my herb garden, and I thought it would add some zing to my salad. Turns out orange and basil go well together because many people before me have combined them in dressings, desserts and cocktails.

I know it's not basil season but sometimes you just need a little ray of sunshine in the dead of winter. Never one for exact measurements, here is my recipe:

Orange Basil Salad Dressing

  • Freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • Sunflower oil (or any other light oil)
  • Finely chopped basil (as much or as little as you like)
  • Honey or Agave syrup (to taste)
  • Poppyseeds (optional)

You can blend it, shake it or simply whisk it together by hand. Bright, tangy and sweet, this dressing really wakes up your salad! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

David Suzuki's Sustainable Seafood Picks!

Doesn't David Suzuki look so cute in cartoon form? Playful graphics aside, the message on his latest download is something pretty important! This handy guide will help consumers make the most environmentally sustainable fish-buying decisions possible. Slightly different than the Sea Choice guide, Suzuki's guide drills it down to the 10 best choices, and it also explains the rationale behind each choice.

Many of us are new to asking our local fishmonger where the fish in his display case is from or how it was caught, and to be honest, in some large grocery stores, staff members are often not aware of the answers. However, the least you can do is ask, and in lieu of an answer, look for labels or bring one of these guides with you to the store!

Even the famous fishmongers of Pike Place Market in Seattle have recently made a commitment to only sustainable choices!

Monday, January 17, 2011

What I'm Reading: The Kind Diet

Photo Credit: Food-Fitness-FreshAir

I recently purchased Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet. Alicia also has a blog called The Kind Life and she is spreading her message that a plant-based diet is the way to go. Whether or not you intend to go vegan, I think this book's message and recipes are amazing and I can't wait to start implementing them into my lifestyle! I look forward to trying some of the recipes and sharing them with you! But why not hear it from Alicia herself? (caution: partial nudity!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Post #200! Past, Present and Future at After the Harvest!

Hello After the Harvest readers! I hope you are having a great day and enjoying some tasty food and drink with some good people. If this is your first visit to After the Harvest, welcome! I can't believe it, but this is my 200th post! Thank you to everyone who has been with me thus far on my journey.

I felt this might be a fitting time to chat about what After the Harvest is, why I do what I do, and what I have planned for the future. So, I invite you to take a little trip with me through the past, present and future, and why not help me raise a glass to post #200! I couldn't have done it without you.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Styggiti

As my new Projects Page discusses, I am going to be expanding After the Harvest through various projects that will benefit people, food related initiatives and the environment. I understand that with these projects, I am essentially asking for help in many forms, one being donations, (at least with Project #1 anyhow), so with this in mind, I wanted to speak directly to my readers. Not all of the projects will require financial donations, but if you'd like to help out with any of the future After the Harvest Projects, it might be nice to know who and what you're helping, right? Thus, the how, what and why of After the Harvest:

I started After the Harvest in August of 2009 because I had moved from Toronto back to the Ottawa area, and was looking for work. There is only so much job-searching one person can do without yearning to use her time in a different way! I figured if I got out and interviewed some people I might make connections, and new ideas would take shape. So, I started blogging, and After the Harvest was born. I have always known that I love to write, so that was a no-brainer. I was inspired by the myriad of foodie experiences that I had been a part of during my time in Toronto, so I decided to write about food and drink. I stumbled across an extremely inspiring blog that instantly felt like home to me, and it gave me the confidence to keep blogging.

I didn't know anything about blogging when I started. I learned as I went. I encourage all of you to start your own blog about something you enjoy -- it is so much fun and very rewarding. I don't think you need to follow any rules -- I certainly don't! When I first started, people told me, "You have to post every day", and "You have to have lots of pictures -- lots of food porn". At first because I wasn't working, I did have the time to post frequently, but I wasn't sure if my photos were good enough to publish. But, as I went along, I got better, and although I'm no professional, I can point and shoot and I am really starting to enjoy photography. Obviously I don't post every day, and some of my photos are not my own, but that is all ok! In the end, I don't think anyone can tell you "how to blog". Just blog however you want! That's the beauty of self-publishing.

Not every blog is alike, and not every food blog is alike. Some food bloggers review restaurants, some provide comprehensive culinary guides to cities, some share homemade recipes or wine picks, and some relate personal stories of life on the farm. We are all different, and we all do what we do for different reasons. I love that the internet is so vast that it holds space for all of us.

When I began blogging, the first story that really got me going was the one about Jesse from Vegetable Patch. I didn't know anyone in Ottawa, but I called Jesse up and asked him if I could join him in the garden for a few hours. He was instantly gracious and obliged. More people should spend a few hours or a day in a vegetable garden -- it is really fun! Right away I knew I was on the right track, deciding to write about people who had a passion for food, whether they were growing it, cooking it, serving it or fighting for food issues. I am grateful to everyone thus far who has agreed to spend time with me and answer my questions -- everyone I've ever profiled or interviewed has been absolutely gracious and willing to share. Thank you! You are all an inspiration!

Like I said in my "About Me" section -- I have always been passionate about food. I love how it connects people, serves people and brings them together in a universal way.

Photo via The Lemon Kitchen

There is no rhyme or reason to when or how I "blog". I share stories when I have the time and when I feel inspired. My family has always been a foodie family, so this passion comes naturally. We've been known to spend many hours at the dinner table, still talking and connecting long after the last bite has been eaten, or the last drop of wine has been sipped.

Food for me is much more than just nourishment or energy. I am lucky enough to live a lifestyle where I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, so for that I am grateful. I do need to investigate the origins of my food to ensure optimum health and food safety, but that is why I talk about local, sustainable food so much. In the end, food is a critical aspect of my life. To quote Jamie Oliver (again), "I profoundly believe that the power of food has a primal place in our homes that binds us to the best bits of life."

image via

Over this past year and a half, I have had many people ask me if I'm getting paid to blog, or if I make money from blogging. No, I do not make money from After the Harvest -- I do it for free. Many bloggers do make money by hosting ads on their blogs, agreeing to promote and review products for money (or free samples) and by setting up deals with other businesses to promote products. I have no qualms with what other bloggers do -- I respect them all because they are making their own choices that work for them. In the future, I may end up using my blog to advertise businesses and causes I believe in, but for now I am choosing to promote things within the blog posts, when the moment feels right or when I genuinely want to promote that person, business or project. I am choosing to approach things in my own way, and that's cool too. There's space for us all.

We all want to live our dreams, follow our passions and do what we love, right? Well what I love is to write, and my dream is to use that passion to help others through After the Harvest. The ideas are slowly taking shape, and I will share them with you as time unfolds, but for now just know that there is a lot of energy behind this keyboard, and I want to use it for good!

So why am I asking for your help with my projects? I have chosen to use this blog to give back to the community, both local and worldwide; food-related initiatives and causes; and environmental causes. I will be contributing to these causes myself, but in order to make any real change, I am calling on my friends, family and readers to also help out! By contributing to an After the Harvest project, you will be able to donate easily and securely through PayPal.

So now that you know what After the Harvest is about and where it plans to go, I want to thank you for your time and attention! Without readers, my blog is more of a one-way conversation. I really enjoy reading your comments and emails, and I want to say thanks for keeping After the Harvest on your online reading list. Although this post is not a swan song, I feel that I need to thank some special people who have really inspired me to keep going.

My gratitude goes out to: my parents and my grandmother for their constant love and support; my sisters, both wise and creative in their own unique ways; the rest of my extended family for their love and mutual enjoyment of food and drink; my friends, who are scattered around this world but are still with me every day; Tiny Brushstrokes for the beautiful custom After the Harvest image; my JK family who inspired me daily; my cousin Chris for introducing me to Vegetable Patch; my Whole Foods family who taught me so much; my wine teachers at George Brown College; the lovely people at Good Food Revolution and OCTA; my fellow food bloggers; everyone I've ever interviewed for After the Harvest; everyone who has ever shared a link from After the Harvest on Facebook or Twitter; and last, but certainly not least, my SuperForest family, who inspire me on a daily basis. THANK YOU!

In closing, I have a lot of dreams and plans, and I want to use my knowledge of, and passion for food and drink as a vehicle to serve others and make a difference. I thank you for your support: in the form of dollars, comments, retweets, shares or just good food and drink and great conversation.

May you always eat, drink and connect in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable.
Love, Heather

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guest Post: Terra Madre Day 2010

I spy Chef Alex and Mr. Donovan in this shot...

Last month, my generous friend Heather offered to cover Slow Food Toronto's Terra Madre Day Event for After the Harvest. The event was celebrated all over the world on December 10th, and in Toronto it was presented by Slow Food Toronto with help from The Stop Community Food Centre. The result: an entertaining guest post, mouth-watering photos and a bit of event-envy on my part. Please enjoy as Heather takes us on a journey through local food and drink:

Terra Madre Day, Toronto 2010: A New Celebration of Old Traditions
by Heather Thorkelson

It was a dark, crisp night in Toronto and I hadn’t seen another human for days, nor had I worn anything but pyjamas for almost a week, having been in the midst of writing final papers for school. The second annual Terra Madre Day was taking place just a short bike ride from my house, and I couldn’t resist the call to local, fresh, deliciousness, so I ventured out. As I climbed my way up the slow incline, through the dark and cold towards Artscape Wychwood Barns, all I could think was that the food would make this bleary ride worthwhile. I was not wrong.

The philosophy behind Terra Madre Day is to recognize the importance of supporting local food networks. Organized by Slow Food, last year the inaugural Terra Madre 2009 event was celebrated at over 1000 locations spanning 120 countries. As stated on this year’s promo flyer, Terra Madre Day is “ of the largest collective occasions celebrating food diversity and the right to good, clean and fair food ever achieved on a global scale.” Toronto’s event was co-organized with the help of The Stop Community Food Centre and it brought together Ontario farmers, fishers, cooks and food artisans whom are all committed to delicious, local and sustainable food.

The cover charge was $15 with $5 going to Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project. Upon arrival, I was left to fend for myself in a giant hall full of mouth-watering free samples. In typical ruin-yourself-out-of-the-gate fashion, they had the cheesemakers located at the beginning of the tasting circuit. Before I even got to see what else was being given out, I had filled my small plate with a pile of artisanal cheese – a strategy which would not leave me feeling great at the end of the night, but that didn't stop me. Catering to the lactose-tolerant, there was everything from hybrid goat and cow cheeses to homemade Indian paneer. Further along the tables I came across hearty crackers and breads, including tasters of Native bannock which I haven’t had since I was a kid.

Scotch Mountain Meats

Then came the meats – perfect on a cold night - from GMO-free steak and sausage grilled on the spot, to venison chili, elk, and cured meats of all kinds. After the meat, the chocolate. I was already stuffed by the time I got to the far corner and came across the ChocoSol stand. Described on their blog as a “...learning community/social enterprise that uses artisanal chocolate as a symbolic product that incarnates the values that we make part of our art of living and dying with dignity,” ChocoSol is a unique company that offers a stellar product. I literally stopped in my tracks when I saw what they were serving up.

The culprit...

Their offering was a homemade mini blue corn tortilla with a chunk of homemade dark chocolate, topped with a blob of brie. I got in line behind a gentleman who was practically drooling, and knowing this would push my stomach to its outer reaches, I tasted the decadent creation. This little treat was so otherworldly, that in the process of eating it, I accidentally ate a leftover toothpick that had been sitting on my plate. This was probably the moment when my belly started flashing an invisible neon, “FAIL” sign, but I was well beyond caring at that point.

ChocoSol white chocolate

Like a good food-loving soldier I marched on and visited the remaining booths, chatting with the local producers and learning all sorts of things along the way. There were producers selling preserves, mushrooms (not the magic kind), oil and honey, sprouts and microgreens (two thumbs up!), fruit, fresh apple cider and cranberry juice. A full list of all of the food producers who were in attendance can be found here.

Mycosource mushrooms

Kind Organics

The event ran from 6 to 9 p.m., and in spite of the self-inflicted food baby that was sucking the life force out of me two thirds of the way into the night, I stuck it out until the end. I think I can speak for most of the attendees in saying that the event was quite inspiring, as it showcased how invested so many people in our local communities are in getting back to the land and their commitment to sustainable and ethical ways of producing food.

Lincoln Line Orchards

One organization that deserves special mention is one I had never heard of before called Not Far From the Tree. They organize a volunteer force every season to harvest fruit from trees in private residents' backyards. As most households with fruit trees can’t possibly use the full bounty, Not Far From the Tree picks the fruit, offers 1/3 to the tree owner, shares 1/3 among the volunteers, and 1/3 is delivered by bicycle as donations to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens in the neighbourhood so that these existing sources of fresh fruit are put to good use. Awesome!

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention that there was live entertainment all evening in the form of Native Canadian musicians performing traditional songs from a central platform in the venue. All in all it was a wonderfully well-run, kid-friendly event with a great community atmosphere that would appeal to all manner of food lovers both from the neighbourhood and beyond. Many of the producers showcased at Terra Madre Day also have stalls at the farmers market every Saturday in the same location, so you don’t even have to wait until next year to check it out! Happy discovering, and consider yourself warned about the cheese!

Many thanks to Heather for providing coverage on this event! Heather is a world-travelling, tabla-playing, adventure-seeking foodie who never passes up a good Argentinian Malbec or a snuggle with her beloved pooch, Wicket. She is currently hitting the high seas with her adventurous beau and partner in crime, Sean.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Congrats to Chef Jamie Kennedy!

As I am sure most of you have heard by now, Chef Jamie Kennedy has been chosen to be awarded The Order of Canada for his work promoting local, sustainable and organic food in the Canadian culinary industry.

Capturing Chef's reaction is my pal Jamie Drummond, who was kind enough to allow me to share his video with you all, courtesy of Good Food Revolution:

Toronto Chef Jamie Kennedy is awarded the Order of Canada from GoodFoodRevolution on Vimeo.

This is me raising my glass of local wine to you, Chef.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 11 After the Harvest Highlights from 2010!

Happy 2011, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed a fun holiday season filled with good food and drink, and great company! Last year I shared my top 10 highlights from After the Harvest's first year in existence, and with the start of this new year I have decided to continue the tradition, but this time I couldn't decide on just 10 posts, so here are my top 11! Very fitting on this 1/1/11, don't you think?

Thank you to everyone who reads After the Harvest. I hope to continue to share stories of eating, drinking and connecting with you all in the coming years, and I can't wait to share with you some of the projects I'm working on to expand After the Harvest.

Without further ado, my Top 11 After the Harvest Highlights (in no particular order):

#1 Listening to Raj Patel talk about food sovereignty

#2 Spending a day in the Sugar Bush

#3 Learning about backyard chickens from a friend in Seattle, Washington

#4 Doing my part to help re-write Ottawa's Food Policies

#5 Launching a new blog, Little Foodies, with my sister -- a project to celebrate kids, food and art!

#6 Visiting a Community Garden in my neighbourhood. More to come on community gardens in 2011!

#7 Exploring new wine pairings...with music!

#8 Launching my Save a Seed project -- if you'd like to help out, just click on the super cute seed image on the left sidebar and you can donate to the Kew Gardens' Millennium Seed Bank!

#9 Raising a glass to Regular Joes and Restaurant Pros who enjoy a good cocktail!

#10 Chatting with a foodie I look up to, Tricia Huffman, a.k.a. Your Joyologist.

#11 Participating in the Ottawa Foodie Challenge!

I hope you also enjoyed these posts, or if you missed them the first time around, here is your chance to catch up! I am also open to suggestions for the new year, so if there is anything in particular you'd love to read about on After the Harvest, let me know in the comments section and I'll do my best to tie it into the content of the blog!

Happy New Year!