Good Clean Food For Everyone! The Food Security Revolution and Environmental Health

by Gramma Willi

Relatives – like so many of us, I find myself more and more pleased that being an activist has become an easier road to walk. Victories for human rights and for the Earth increase in number and significance and we hear about them sooner than we used to. Everyone’s talking about green jobs. Our hopes are up, we may actually have an activist leading the free world – Yes We Can! It’s quite a time to be a part of it all, isn’t it?

One of my favorite stories about the changes in public attitude towards environment and health concerns feeding our children. So much has changed in my lifetime. As a young mother, it was almost impossible to find, let alone afford, organic baby food; it was tricky to find a place to breast-feed a baby in peace. These days, parents can find a wide variety of organic baby foods and formula in almost any supermarket; my grand-babies were all breast-fed (even the twins!) and fed organic baby foods. Now that the monopolies have more “natural” offerings available to consumers, are we happy with the production? Is there a next step that we need to take?

IICPH (International Institute of Concern for Public Health), whom I have worked with for many years, has a stellar reputation for providing independent, thoughtful analysis and corroborating community environmental health concerns. Most of our works for communities report on contamination of the air, land and water. It has always given me sadness when we report arsenic, tritium, mercury, lead or other highly damaging pollution where people have food gardens or farms. Food discussions at our youth and elder gatherings took on sad notes when realizing how very careful we must be where we grow our food, where it comes from and how it is prepared. We can make sensible choices when we consider our health.

The good news is, learning to choose, grow and cook good food provides not only sound environmental education, but when applied, benefits everyone’s health and saves people money! The truth is out there, people want clean food and groups like IICPH are uniquely positioned to help them to learn about it. Never has environmental health education been more timely and important… and good food is a delicious place to focus.

Perhaps the silver lining of the economic collapse is that the cards are on the table. Finally, the voices of old hippies and tireless activists are welcome and needed. The public continues to become informed and grows in wisdom as the next generation begins making its mark in history books and business reports. Let’s fill their bellies and minds with good things.

Remember that I love you

All My Relations,

Gramma Willi

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Gramma Willi has been working with IICPH since 1997. Expressions of her dedication to the clean food revolution can be found at http://roughtimes.ca and http://YouTube.com/roughtimescooking.

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Here are a few more resources to get you started if you want to do more about clean food:

http://www.foodsecurity.org/
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)
is a non-profit 501(c)(3), North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times.

http://www.toronto.ca/health/tfpc_index.htm
Toronto Food Policy Council
, 277 Victoria Street, Suite 203, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W1l: Wayne ““Taking control of our food” Roberts, Project Co-ordinator: 416-338-7937. Friends of Toronto Food Policy Council is on Facebook.
Their aim “is a food system that fosters equitable food access, nutrition, community development and environmental health.

http://www.foodsecuritynews.com/Resources.htm
The Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador
have a great page full of links to action going on all over!

Please email to Gramma Willi if you know of any more independent and reliable resources to help our Rough Times mission:

Good Clean Food For Everyone!

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Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Baked Beans

Home Style Baked Beans

Click here for Baked Beans Video recipe

An all-time, slow-cooked favorite with country and city folk alike. It’s amazing how many cultures claim to have the best baked beans – and how mouths can be fed from one little bag of dry beans – this is Rough Times Cooking at it’s finest! To make sure that you get complete protein without eating meat, add a “grain” food to the meal (flour-bread/cookies/pie/cake, rice, corn, etc.). I like to serve mine with Corn Bread or Bannock.

2 cups navy beans soaked in water to cover 3-4 in. above beans, overnight
1 cup molasses
1/2 C brown sugar
1 tsp. Prepared mustard or 1/2 tsp. Mustard powder
1-2 strips of bacon (or small piece of pork fat) – optional
1 tsp. Salt (added after cooking, so the beans cook nice and soft)

Discard soaking water from beans, add water to cover and cook until almost tender (Hint: adding boiled water at this stage speeds up the cooking.)
Add rest of ingredients, mix well, and place in an oven proof dish. Bake all day or overnight if you can, or at least 3-4 hours. Serve with home made bread or bannock.

Options: Vegetarians can skip the meat entirely and add a little soya sauce, smoke flavoring and/or tomato sauce. Keeping kosher? Use smoked turkey for that nice smoky flavor. Yellow eye or other small, light colored, mild flavored beans work well too.
Hints: Some folks add a teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water to make them less “gassy” – the beans will cook quicker, but tend to get mushy. I like to put a little piece of dried seaweed (kombu, kelp or dulse) in the soaking and cooking water, and remove it before baking – I find that it makes the beans more digestible too!
If you don’t have time to soak the beans, add them slowly to boiling water, keep them at a rolling boil for 15 minutes, simmer until tender.

SPIN-farming – Let’s Grow Our Own Food

The info in this article for city and town folk who want to buy local or farm their own Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) food is a beautiful gift – they’ve even considered how to minimize pollution! I hope that some of you take the opportunity to try it out… and share your stories with us.

Good Clean Food for Everyone!

SPIN Farming and Soup Service Are Yielding Profits

by Elaine Morin; Alternatives Magazine, 35:1 (2009); www.alternativesjournal.ca.

What happens when food production moves to the city and downsizes in the process? Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen of Wally’s Urban Market Garden, a Saskatoon farming operation, are showing that some 30 backyard plots totaling less than half a hectare can be as profitable as, and more ecologically sustainable than, their old eight-hectare agribusiness in rural Saskatchewan. The program they’ve developed, Small Plot Intensive or SPIN farming, aims to maximize crop yields of smaller gardens. “The key,” Satzewich says, “is to produce high-quality niche crops.” The enterprising duo grows garlic, spinach, salad greens and other produce, which they sell at city markets and to local restaurants. Reduced transportation costs and less food spoilage help boost profits, as does their low overhead since they have no tractor or paid work crews. Another advantage of co-opting backyard gardens is that many urban homeowners don’t have time to till, and will often rent their backyards for little or no fee.

“One acre [less than half a hectare] is about the right size for one couple to farm,” says Satzewich, who has no plans to expand. “You can always intensify production, if necessary.”

With the majority of Canadians living in cities, urban agriculture makes sense. Shrinking the distance between food production and markets means fewer trucks on the road and thus fewer carbon emissions. At a time when most food travels vast distances to get to the table, local food production can drastically cut the need for processing, packaging, refrigeration and hauling. And local, just-produced food can be fresher too, an important benefit.

Market gardens scattered throughout the inner-city, on abandoned lots for instance, can improve air quality and help offset urban heat buildup. Captured rain and wastewater, if deemed safe, can be used in place of treated municipal water, and organic solid waste can be composted to fertilize crops. And then there’s the issue of food security. More local agriculture reduces dependence on uncertain global food and fuel supplies.

Small-scale farming has its challenges. Urban gardens compete with municipalities for freshwater supplies. Rain and wastewater can help, but must be free of toxins. Abandoned lots must also be cleared of contamination before food crops are grown. And uncertain tenure on abandoned lots and borrowed backyards makes long-term projects a challenge. Satzewich’s and Vandersteen’s success comes from competence, dedication and hard work, but what they produce is a drop in the bucket beside the capacity of massive agribusiness. Still, city gardens have a long precedent and small plots are plentiful. Toronto’s Annex Organics, for instance, uses a warehouse roof for its garden.

A commercial market garden within Calgary would be a boon to Carmie Nearing’s business. A professional chef and owner of Spoon Fed Soup Company, Nearing uses local organic ingredients as often as possible, but with growing demand for her soups, it’s not always easy to find suppliers. In the last five years her company has burgeoned from a tiny home operation to a viable, thriving business. “At each step of the way, I’ve thought long and hard about how to expand,” says Nearing. For instance, she’s kept her original mandate to minimize the size of the area she services. She delivers her soup three times a week, up from once weekly, and only to inner-city Calgary addresses. And on one delivery day, soup will one day be shuttled to downtown customers via cargo bicycle.

In the beginning, Nearing developed recipes in her inner-city home kitchen, peddling them to friends and neighbours. She then borrowed a catering company’s kitchen, producing soups on weekends and delivering Mondays. Since then, she’s moved to a brand new kitchen. As the scale of her operation has increased, Nearing has worked hard to uphold the same principles of sustainability. For instance, she still uses one-litre canning jars, and the $1 deposit encourages a high rate of return. Though she’s careful about expansion, Nearing expects to make her soups available at two local food markets.

Can local, small-scale food producers replace massive agribusinesses and factory-food manufacturers? For a generation habituated to fast-food joints and big-box supermarkets, and with little knowledge of gardening, it’s hard to imagine. Yet the benefits of local food production are difficult to ignore. Interestingly, Satzewich and Vandersteen have been welcoming interns to their operation, some of them families with young children. Interns provide manual labour in exchange for learning the techniques of small-plot farming. Perhaps for the next generation, a major shift is on its way.

Elaine Morin is a Calgary-based freelance writer and recipient of the 2007 Brenda Strathern Writing Prize. She has been frequenting inner-city markets since she was four years old.

Start your own SPIN-farm! Check out http://www.spinfarming.com for do-it-yourself guidelines and examples of several SPIN cities and neighbourhoods. Visit http://www.cityfarmer.org and http://www.metrofarm.com to plug into urban agriculture communities from coast to coast. And if you live or work in Calgary, don’t forget to visit http://www.spoonfedsoup.com to order a healthy and sustainable soup-lunch.

Curried Potatoes

A quick and easy recipe, good as a side dish or when you want to treat family or unexpected guests This is a delicious and elegant way to use leftover potatoes. Make it a complete meal by adding some protein food (eggs, mild cheese, tofu, beans-lentils, meat). Don’t forget to serve vegetarian meals with bread or other grain food, so that your body gets enough protein.

4 tsp. curry powder
1 onion, chopped or sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Oil for frying
4 – 5 large cooked potatoes, peeled and cubed
Water to cover

Sauté the onion and garlic in oil on medium heat until soft. Add the spices and gently stir, taking care not to burn.
Add potatoes, coat with the spice mixture, and heat through.

Suggestions: Add finely chopped green onion, sautéed red or green peppers. Grate some mild cheese over all at the end to add protein

Hint: Add more potatoes if you’re serving a crowd or want lots of leftovers.

One Pot Meals

Rough Times Cookbook Recipes

Got a Crock Pot? Roast Pan? Casserole Dish? Since civilizations began, slow cooked, one pot meals have fed busy people with hungry bellies. Simple to prepare and made from almost any combination of staple foods, grains, vegetables, beans, meat, you can pretty much use whatever you’ve got. Here’s an example of a simple vegetable stew that can feed about 8. Use a bigger or smaller pot and more or less stuff to feed more or less people. Depending on the ingredients, this stew freezes quite well.

Simple Vegetarian Winter Stew

6-8 liters water or vegetable broth
3 C diced root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnip, parsnip, etc.)
onion and garlic to taste (imho – the more the better!)
1/2-1 C grains (rice, millet, barley)
1/2-1 1/2 C green, fresh, frozen or canned vegetables (cabbage, chard, spinach, tomatoes, corn, green or yellow beans)
2 C cooked “legumes” beans (e.g. lentils, kidney, romano, pinto, adzuki, black turtle, navy, soy, chickpeas)
Herbs and spices to taste (oregano, parsley, savory, thyme, lemon; see curry hint below)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tsp. apple cider or white vinegar (to purify and add a nice tangy flavor. You can use the juice from pickles too!)
1 C mixture 1/2 milk or yogurt and 1/2 water

Put the grains in a big pot and bring to a boil. While you’re waiting, sauté or fry onions and garlic until soft; you can add your green veggies and sauté them for a few minutes. Add to the boiling pot of grains with vegetables, beans and your choice of herbs and spices.
Simmer on top of the stove for 2-5 hours, (or put in a crock pot all day/overnight). Stir once in a while to make sure that the food isn’t sticking to the pot and that there’s enough liquid. Add water/broth if necessary.
When everything is cooked and you’re almost ready to serve, adjust your spices, add the yogurt/milk and water mix, salt and pepper and heat through. Serve with hearty bread and a big pot of herb tea or cider!

Hints: This is especially good with curry spices (garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, ginger, mint) – warm the curry spices in the onion-garlic sauté to enhance the flavors. This recipe is a great for using up leftovers! Use a pressure cooker if you’ve got one to reduce cooking time and retain more vitamins in the food.
Vegan options: Instead of yogurt or dairy milk, use coconut milk with a root vegetable-based stew; most excellent with curry or Thai spices. Add some marinated firm tofu, lightly browned in a frying pan to increase protein and add really nice texture and body to this dish.
Lazy/Busy Day options: Prepare the ingredients the night before, store in the pot in the fridge; in the morning, add boiling water over everything, bring to a boil, then let simmer for hours/all day (my personal favorite technique!). Put the ingredients in a big roast pan and cook in the oven; add some extra water or broth so it doesn’t dry out.
Meat Lover’s option: add diced cooked (beef and chicken are nice) to replace 1/2 or all of the beans for protein… or use both for an extra-high protein meal.
Note: This recipe was added at the specific request of legendary Toronto activist Josephine Grey.

Gramma Willi’s Random Blogging

Rough Times Come Again No More

It’s January 2009. Everybody’s talking about the world’s economic collapse. Canada said it’s officially in a DEPRESSION last week, while the United States, Asian and European countries are still calling it a RECESSION. This is leaving the rest of us wondering, what should we be doing about it?

Being old enough to be a Gramma, I’ve already been through a few recessions. I also listened hard to my Mom and a lot of other older-than-me people tell me what the last Depression was like. I’m pretty sure that this one will be way harder on big companies than on the average person… so relax a little, willya?

My strategy is to ignore the hype, get back to basics and do everything I can to share what works for my family with people who are asking what to do. After all, when you cut out the opinions of the media, your boss, banker, wealthy people and “experts,” the bottom line is “what can I do to help myself and my loved ones?”

I wrote the Rough Times Cookbook a few years back to help people like you and me. Lately, it seems a whole lot more important to get it out there as widely as possible! People are starving in cities, towns, whole regions of the Earth and it’s NOT because we don’t have enough food to feed us all. Answer questions about what we eat, spend our money on, how and and where and why we buy things and you’ll find out important truths about yourself and our world.

Seems to me, too many of us are acting like the big companies – selfish and lazy. Too many of us depend on governments and big companies and don’t take control of the little money that we do have. Not enough of us are learning OR doing what it takes to take care of our communities and our lives and become more self sufficient. For us little guys to survive, supporting each other is the name of the game… after all, the big guys are bailing each other out like crazy, aren’t they?

If you take the information I’m offering to help you take immediate action to get and stay ahead financially, then I’ve done my job. Support this work and then you’ve done your job.

Love, peace, hugs and full bellies for all

Gramma Willi

P.S. My next move is to get Rough Times cooking stuff published and televised… anybody out there interested in a fun, radical, waaaay-cool cooking show? Well then, let’s have a cup of tea together!

Rough Times Cookbook

RoughTimesCookbook.jpgAbout The Book

ROUGH TIMES COOKBOOK: How to Cook, Eat and Shop on a Low Budget. By Willi Nolan

Written by a former welfare mother and legendary human rights activist, Nolan’s cookbook is a labor of love and a chance to help low income people to eat well for life. People on the smallest budgets will find ways to stretch their food dollars and make delicious, gourmet-quality, quick and easy, meals at home with this timely, simply written book. Sure-to-become a kitchen classic, The Rough Times Cookbook teaches common sense, tried and true ways to shop on a budget, stock a kitchen, store good food and eat healthier.

Although it was written to meet the needs of people who live on very low incomes, anyone who wants to eat well and still have money left to enjoy life will appreciate The Rough Times Cookbook’s no-nonsense approach to eating and living well. Drawing from grandmothers, students, and single parents, The Rough Times Cookbook gives plenty of great tasting, inexpensive and nutritious recipes, from main dishes and soups to quick breads and desserts using ingredients found in most kitchens.

Its great combination of home-style and unique recipes include low meat, no meat, East Coast, Asian, Jewish, wartime and Native Indian cookery. An entire “Meatless Meals” section is devoted to vegans and vegetarians. The thought-provoking section on “Healthy Foods” takes the mystery out of health food, while the mouth-watering recipes provide plenty of helpful hints and suggestions for saving time, substituting ingredients and putting your personal touch to any dish. Most main dishes will feed 4 people and can be prepared for $2.00 -$5.00

The Rough Times Cookbook makes a great gift for anyone who wants to get the most out of their food dollar, and is especially useful for the budget-challenged. $20.00.

Contact: Willi Nolan, The Backwoods Writing House