• Abundance: Creamy Potato and Kohlrabi Soup with Spicy Brown Butter

    I officially marked the start of week seven as a phlegm bot yesterday.

    This isn’t an anniversary I want to mark or even acknowledge with a passing thought, yet I can’t help but wonder where the hell my immune system went with no telling when it will return.

    It’s been the winter of my discontent with illness. It started with pneumonia, morphed into a sinus cold that lasted longer than its predecessor, and later a cough that came on so strong at times, it made me throw up. All of this was followed by a fresh set of symptoms this week. They came on the moment I felt confident I was at the very tip of the tail end of all this sickness.

    It’s been nothing short of demoralizing. I make a point of trying to live well. I get nine hours of sleep a night and clock my seven to 10 fruits and veg every day.

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  • Spreading hope: The Southridge Jam Co.

    This story originally appeared in Edible Toronto magazine, Winter 2017. Other than the main photo, all images were supplied by Southridge Jam Co.

    A sweet scent spills from the kitchen at Southridge Community Church in Vineland, Ontario, and it’s unmistakably that of Concord grapes and sugar joining forces to make jelly.

    For Scott Cronkwright, the aroma is much more than a preserve-in-the-making. It’s a smell that triggers happy memories from days long past and, especially, hope for days – and years – ahead.

    Cronkwright is one of about a dozen people who make up the current cohort of The Southridge Jam Co., a small-batch-preserves operation launched earlier this year to support homelessness programs, including a shelter that is run out of the St. Catharines location of Southridge Community Church.

    As the guy stirring the pot, measuring sugar, or doing whatever job is required of him to turn grapes into peanut butter’s soulmate, Cronkwright relishes the scent wrapping itself around him, sticking to his clothes, his hair, his skin. “The smell completely envelops me,” the 55-year-old says. “It takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. It takes me back to my childhood. Every jam that we produce has this incredible memory generating from it.”

    But it’s what happened between those moments playing kitchen assistant to his grandmother as a boy and January 2016 that ultimately led him to a church kitchen to make jam. Cronkwright is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He grew up to work a mixed bag of entertainment, writing, and restaurant jobs, got married, and had children. And for nearly half of his adult life, he existed as a “functioning opiate addict.” Continue reading

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  • Meet four Niagara food entrepreneurs who want to feed you

    Small Batch Co. Granola from its early days in 2014.

    This post was sponsored by the Greenbelt Fund. What does that mean? I was paid to write about a topic of my choosing inspired by the most recent story published in The Toronto Star related to Ontario’s Greenbelt. The ideas, interviews, writing and editing are my own. The Greenbelt Fund fact-checked all information, including numbers and statistics, about the Greenbelt in this post before publication.

    There’s more to education than the three R’s.

    At Mohawk College in Hamilton, there are also the three P’s: production, preparation and procurement. They aren’t related to anything learned in a classroom. Instead, they’re all about what’s on students’ plates come lunch, and they offer a lesson about the importance of local food.

    Production teaches students about growing food. Preparation is about cooking what they grow. And procurement is about buying it, particularly food with origins close to home.

    With the help of a $100,000 grant from the Greenbelt Fund, Mohawk is leading a project to create a common model for that third P, local food procurement, for Ontario’s 24 community colleges.

    Public institutions from schools and hospitals to universities and government offices have talked for years about how they crave more local food in their cafeterias. Here at home, Brock University sources regional ingredients when it can for the daily offerings served on campus. The French fries there, which were a real weakness of mine when I worked at the university, are made with potatoes that have local roots.

    This weekend, a story in the Toronto Star talked about some of the  inroads made when it comes to getting local food into schools, and the recognition by students that cooking and eating good food grown nearby matters as much as math class.

    Offering local food doesn’t merely nourish students’ bodies. It feeds their imaginations and plants the seeds for fruitful careers in food. And Niagara, which is on the southwestern periphery of the Greenbelt, is fertile ground for such career ambitions.

    The Greenbelt is two million acres of land protected from urban sprawl.  It’s bigger than all of Prince Edward Island. That makes it one big insurance policy we’ll have some of the best farmland to continue providing us many local meals in the future. It also makes it one giant muse for people pursuing careers in food.

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  • St. Catharines dining scene mushrooms with Bolete

    Andrew McLeod of Bolete.

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    My husband and I have a deal that he golfs and I forage.

    It’s worked out well for our marriage. So a few years ago when the opportunity arose to go mushroom hunting, I happily donned my Wellies and he his spikes.

    I returned with a haul of wild oyster mushrooms and the most beautiful ash bolete. I felt like the most clichéd kid in a candy store, or food geek in a forest.

    I also felt myself waver as I dumped my mushrooms onto my kitchen counter to make quiche.

    “What if my guide was having a bad day?” I worried as I brushed the dirt off that bolete. “Nah, surely he got this right,” I convinced myself as I pushed aside all thoughts of winning a Darwin Award — an honour no human wants.

    Still, I chopped slowly. Every twinge I felt in my gut for days after eating that mushroom pie prompted a mental edit of my final wishes.

    A few years later, Niagara chef Andrew McLeod found himself in a forest with a friend and their children, hours away from anything resembling civilization. His friend noticed something peeking from the ground under a tree.

    It was a bolete. At least he thought it was. A thorough scouring of their field guide and many questions asked of the Google gods left them fairly certain this was no evil, poisonous twin. They cooked it up and ate it, not sharing with their kids, just in case.

    So how did these stories end? McLeod went on to open a long-awaited restaurant in downtown St. Catharines named after that mushroom, and I lived to write a story about it. Lucky for you, especially because of Bolete, the restaurant.

    Read the rest of the story

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