Fresh Bites

Diving into the Black Box – a Leftovers Challenge

Blush Lane- LeftOvers pickup
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

If you’ve been following my FRESH BITES blog or my FaceBook page, you’ll know I’m as hooked on issues of food waste and hunger as I am on sharing stories of great food in amazing places.  (Check out the new issue of City Palate magazine for my article “Feeding the Community” – highlighting an innovative organization tackling food waste and hunger right here in Calgary).

But when I learned from a 2014 City of Calgary study that 36% of the household trash hitting our local landfills was FOOD – and that more than half of that discarded food was edible – it was pretty impossible not to look at my own kitchen.

I like to think I do better than average at minimizing what I throw out (don’t we all?).  And my weekly volunteer work for LeftOvers Calgary certainly keeps a fire lit under my feet.  But DANG I get myself into trouble sometimes (see the reference to ataulfo mangos in the City Palate piece.  Add to that my weakness for fresh herbs, leafy greens, growing tomatoes, trying out unusual ingredients – throw in the siren call of Calgary’s great restaurants taking me away from my kitchen… Let’s just say my crisper drawer can get overwhelmed pretty quickly).

So I’ve decided it’s time to up my game.  I’m launching a six-week quest to reduce food waste in my own kitchen (six weeks’ practice creates a new habit, they say).

Each week, I’ll identify one thing that’s languishing in my fridge.  My task will be to find creative ways to use it up.  Sort of my own Black Box challenge.

In the interest of accountability, I’ll post my efforts to my blog.  I’ll include a recipe or two – and any tips I’ve uncovered on my own or from others.

Don’t think for a minute that this is just about principle and virtue and doing the right thing.  Truth is, I’ve tried previously to start my meal-planning with what’s already in my fridge and made a remarkable discovery:

It’s FUN! Gets my creative juices flowing.  Expands my cooking repertoire. (And – okay – makes me feel a little virtuous, too).

So look for my first Black Box post in January (Launching the series now, as we head into the holiday season = recipe for failure).  In the meantime, send me your own leftovers conundrums.  Or your proven personal tips.  Or tell me about people in the community who you know are tackling this well.

I’ll take a look at what’s lurking in my fridge and let you know what I find.

Text and photos © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

 

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Bali 2002 Remembered

Bali Bombing Memorial

Fifteen years ago today – on October 12, 2002 – a bomb ripped through a crowd in Bali, Indonesia. Three bombs, in fact:  the first, inside a small, busy pub in the chock-a-block tourist district of Kuta; the second, across the street, outside a nightclub where revelers gathered to celebrate their participation in a rugby tournament; the third, near the Australian and U.S. consulates – underlining this clear message from Al-Qaeda that their war on Western “infidels” continued.  As wooden structures blazed and thatched roofs fell, hundreds fled through the flaming corridors and alleyways.  When the smoke cleared, 202 people were dead.

I lived in the country’s capital, Jakarta, at the time.  Was one of the Western “infidels” who made the emergency phone-tree calls, alerting other parents to the closure of our international school.  Listened to them react: first to the attack on beautiful Bali, more often than not their planned destination for the upcoming school break; then to the crater that now existed in the street where they and their families, too, might have walked.

Bali Bombing Memorial - Jamie WellingtonI watched staff and students mourn the death of Jamie Wellington – a popular math and phys.ed. teacher, avid rugby player/coach, husband to a school counsellor, and father to two toddlers.  I attended the funeral of fellow Canadian, Mervyn Popadynec, and listened to young widows of other rugby players speak about what they had lost that day.

Meanwhile, hundreds of other funerals took place in Australia, Indonesia, and 20 other nations – and 209 people returned home from Bali with injuries sustained in the bombing, including burns and amputations.

Bombings targeting foreigners continued in Jakarta and Bali – in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2009.  Hotels and malls responded with blast walls and bomb-detectors; international schools became armed fortresses; tourists and expats (like us) left the country in droves.  Terrorists were caught, brought to trial, executed.

Two years after the initial Bali bombing, a memorial to those who died there was opened by the Indonesian government on the site of the former pub.  Photos showed it to be a small, tasteful plaza, featuring a lotus-shaped fountain and a tall stone carving of a Balinese kayonan depicting the tree of life.

Now, quieter times have returned to Bali and so, too, have the tourists. I was one of them last month, and together with my husband, made my way for the first time to the Bali Bombing Memorial.

Bali Bombing Memorial - CanadiansAll 202 names are etched in black marble there beneath the tree of life, divided by country of citizenship.  We searched for the names that we knew; shed a few tears for their loss – and for the loss, too, of our own naivety.  The 88 fatalities listed below Australia reminded us again of the enormity of that country’s bereavement.  The 38 Indonesian names detailed the cost to those who dared to work or fraternize with “infidels”.

We were not alone in the plaza.  Tourists paused to peruse the names, to take pictures; others with their own personal memories of that day leaned into one another, brushing fingers across the gold letters that represented a life.  While we lingered on the street scanning the new shops and the bumper-to-bumper traffic, visitors continued to come, in clumps of two, four, eight.  I was amazed at the numbers, given the 15 years that have passed.

And I wondered how many lives still bear scars of this day:  family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances of the 202 dead, of the 209 injured.  And the friends who, in turn, supported these survivors in their pain and loss.

From this one attack on this one day.

In a world where bomb blasts occur almost every day, in countries all over the globe.

I stopped doing the math.

 

IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO DIED IN THE BALI BOMBING OF 2002 –

AND FOR INDIVIDUALS EVERYWHERE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST THROUGH TERRORISM AND WAR.

STRENGTH TO THOSE WHO LOVED THEM.

 

Text and photos © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

International Recognition for Calgary Pâtissier

Yann Haute Patisserie - Calgary

In a pretty yellow house in Calgary’s Mission district, magic happens.

And now the world has been let in on that little secret.

I’m talking about Yann Haute Patisserie, owned and operated by pastry Chef Yann Blanchard and his wife, Jeraldine, since Christmas Eve 2009. It’s an unlikely slice of Paris on the Canadian prairies – a picture-perfect boutique dedicated to the creation of pastry that is as beautiful as it tastes.

The tiny shop has a reputation for having the best macarons in a city spoiled for choice on that front.  I’m a personal fan of its viennoiserie.

And you should see the cakes.

This past week Chef Yann Blanchard became the first and only Canadian chef to be admitted to the Relais Dessert Association, an organization that recognizes the best in French pastry.  Akin to obtaining a Michelin star, Chef Yann joins an elite group of approximately 100 pastry chefs and chocolatiers from 19 different countries who have been acknowledged for the quality of their ingredients, execution, and artistry, as well as their passion and professionalism.

Yann w Relais Dessert pieceChef Yann excels on all those fronts.  But I’ll let you in on another secret.

Some of those gorgeous pastries are delivered free each week to those wrestling their demons at Alpha House – a non-profit agency that has offered a safe environment for 35 years to clients struggling with addiction.

You see, Yann Haute Patisserie is also a regular donor to LeftOvers Calgary – a grassroots organization that rescues food that would otherwise be thrown into the landfill, and gets that food to service agencies in need.  Each day, the staff at Yann Haute carefully squirrel away unsold pastries into their freezer.  Once a week, a LeftOvers volunteer picks up those pastries and delivers them to Alpha House’s detox and recovery centre.  As a volunteer driver with LeftOvers Calgary, I’ve been a lucky witness to the smiles that appear at the recovery centre when I arrive with that bag of magic.

Yann Blanchard and colleagues at Relais Dessert AssociationSo congratulations to Chef Yann Blanchard for his remarkable Relais Dessert distinction.  It’s time the world knew more about his pastry and passion.

And kudos for extending that passion to the environment  – and to those who might not ever pass through the patisserie doors.

Read more about Yann Haute Patisserie and Chef Yann’s Relais Dessert designation at yannboutique.com or on Facebook .

 

Text © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

Photos – Yann Haute Patisserie

 

Following Vernon’s Culinary Trail

Paddling with ELEMENTS Adventure Company
Photo credit: ELEMENTS Adventure Company

When I came in search of food experiences in British Columbia’s North Okanagan Valley, I didn’t expect to find myself HERE.

Pine forests tumble down the Monashee mountains and cottonwoods throw shadows over the canoe, as I float with seven other paddlers down the Shuswap River.  Other shadows flit below the water:  Chinook and Sockeye salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn.  A Bald eagle whistles from a tall snag, but before I can locate his partner, my guide, Charles Ruechel, sounds his call to stroke hard on my side of the canoe.  By the time we clear the “sweeper” – a tree laid low over the water – we’ve left the eagle behind.  No matter.  Minutes later, another eagle splits the October sky.

Read the full story in the Summer Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Feeding the 5000 Calgary

Feed the 5000 Calgary logoFor me as a food and travel writer, food is about adventure, about culture, about creativity and conviviality.  But food is also about nurturing body and spirit and – at its most basic – it’s about survival.   That’s why I volunteer at the Drop-In Centre, the Food Bank, and with LeftOvers Calgary.

Through LeftOvers I’ve learned that, at its worst, food is also about waste.  HEAPS and HEAPS of it.  So I’m excited to be a part of Feeding the 5000 this upcoming Thursday in Olympic Plaza – an event that will see Calgary chefs and volunteers turn perfectly edible food that would be destined for the landfill into a tasty lunch for 5000 people.  And the best part?  LUNCH IS FREE AND EVERYONE’S INVITED.

From its inaugural event in the UK in 2009, Feeding the 5000 has spread to locations around the world, including Paris, Sydney, New York, and Vancouver.  Its aim is to raise awareness about global food waste.  Fully 1/3 of the world’s food production is wasted, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization – discarded in processing, transport, warehouses, grocery stores, restaurants, and home kitchens.

Yes, you read that right – ONE THIRD of the world’s food production never makes it into the mouths of people.

In Canada alone, approximately 170,000 tonnes of edible food – or 300 million meals valued at 31 billion dollars – are sent to landfills every year.  This squanders countless resources in terms of water, energy, land and the like – and makes discarded food one of our largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

Here in Calgary, we’ve got work to do, too.  Discarded food accounts for 36% of all material going from our homes into our landfills  – and a 2016 study commissioned by the City of Calgary revealed that 52% of that discarded food is edible.

The food we’re talking about is not spoiled, mouldy, or otherwise unsafe to eat.  Think those imperfect fruit and vegetables that you’re reluctant to buy at the supermarket (Yup – I’m guilty as charged).  Or food beyond its “best before” date, but not past its expiration date.  Overstock and oversupply at retailers.  And mislabelled, improperly packaged, or damaged food.

Feed 500 Red Deer eventWhat SAIT Chef Andrew Hewson and his team of volunteers aim to do this Thursday, June 15, is transform unsellable winter-stored potatoes and carrots, ugly tomatoes, surplus chickpeas, day-old bread – and anything else that might turn up in the food truck – into a delicious and nutritious summertime lunch that includes soup, salads, and dessert.

I’ll be chopping up some of those vegetables in the lead-up to the event and serving food in Olympic Plaza from 11 am to 2 pm.  Come on down and have a taste – did I mention that it’s free?

While you’re eating, you’ll be able to find out what LeftOvers Calgary, the Calgary Regional Partnership, the Recycling Council of Alberta, and other organizations are doing to address food waste at the community level- and what we can do at home and at the supermarket to reduce our own food waste.

If you’re interested in joining me at the chopping block, contact me here – or on Facebook – and I’ll let you know where to be and when.

Or contact Jessica Letizia directly (jessicaletizia@calgaryregion.ca) and she’ll tell you how you can still help out before, during, or after the eventFeeding the 5000 would be happy to have a few extra hands on the team.

The food you’ll see is destined to surprise you.  Come on down and check it out.

Feeding the 5000 Calgary

June 15, 2017/11 am to 2 pm/Olympic Plaza

For more information, see F5Kyyc.com.

 

Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula

Salt pans from Napoleon's road, Croatia
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

If I could design a perfect day in food-travel heaven, this would be it:

A gentle hike on a mountain trail, overlooking vineyards heavy with fruit. A meet-up with a winemaker and a lingering visit to his cellars and tasting room. Perhaps a breezy float on the bay to take the heat out of the day. Then a long picnic lunch of shellfish just plucked from the sea.

Lucky for me, today IS that day.

Read the full story in the Spring Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Eating India

Surjit Singh in Amritsar
Credit: C. Van Brunschot

Thanks to Karen Anderson for the shout-out on her Savour It All blog about my “Eating India” article in the newest issue of City Palate.  The article highlights my travels through northern India in late 2015 with Alberta Food Tours   a truly delicious adventure.

I’m happy to say I’ll be making a return trip with them in the fall – this time to Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, and the Cardamom Hills!

You can read Karen’s post here – and see my full article in blazing colour in the digital edition of City Palate here.