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Archive for November, 2010

…isn`t about local food.  But it really has taught me a massive amount about local food.

The show is sort of a documentary, part reality (in truly the best sense) and part educational.  I haven`t seen the entire thing but I can`t reccomend it highly enough.

Turn Back Time: The High Street is a six episode mini-series takes a few UK families and pits them as shopkeepers on a real street in the UK – though the 6 episode cover how their business would grow, succeed, shrink and struggle from the 1870s to the 1970s. Each episode picks a decade and the show demonstrates how the local shopkeeper and their emphasis on service and relationships got replaced by a search for lower prices and cheaper fare.

One of the most amazing facts that I learned was that shops had controlled prices until 1964.  When the UK decided to allow shop keepers to set their own prices (largely in response to large supermarkets), the small shop keepers started a quick demise.  The documentary sees local shop keepers (with real stores and real customers) experience the struggles and success that their real-life predecessors experienced 50 years ago.  It’s stunning to see people near tears as their local store closes down due to lack of business – even though they had stopped supporting them in exchange for lower prices.

There’s a lot of food in the show too.  The decline of the butcher, rationing during war-time and even the first imports of delicacies from far away.  There is a balanced story telling which shares the excitement of the arrival of new foods (like olive oil and garlic) with the impact on the local food supply, the demise of the butcher and the overall culture of a community which is replaced by commodity.

This fantastical trailer is fun though is nothing like the show (You-Tube has many clips):

The BBC is taking the experiment on tour.  Towns across the UK are being visited by “pop up” stores from across history.  People can interact with “shop keepers” and draw their own conclusions to where we’ve arrived – and where we could be.

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There`s a link way down at the bottom to all of the jars in this series so far..

Don’t mess with peaches! More fun Pimpin’ Preserves!

It doesn’t have to be holiday, or winter themed! I just needed an excuse to use this great cowhide upholstery remnant that I found at MacFab. When I found the little texas souvenir spoon it seemed like a perfect match. My grandmother collected these spoons, she had tonnes of them…now they are in my Mum’s possesion. It was fun going through the (50+) spoons….ranging from LasVegas, to Saskatchewan and PEI to California. There was even one from the St.Albert Figure Skating Club (of which I was a member a looong time ago). Talking about my grandmother and hearing about the spoons, a lot of which had been brought back by my dad from business trips or from holidays). This one also gave me an excuse to use some of the fonts in the wild west font pack I bought a while ago…i love them, but they have limited use for my clients 😉

Come on! send me your ideas! You could win a great book…..

Here’s the Details:

* Embellish, package or otherwise ‘dress up’ your favourite  jar of preserves with anything you like as long as it doesn’t damage the contents or break the seal.

* Send us a JPG of your creation to wearewellpreserved at elevenideas dot ca subject line: Pimp my Preserve.

All entries must be received by 10pm EST November 29th, 2010.

We will post the entries and leave it to you guys to vote for a winner! Winner will be announced the 2nd week of December.
The winner will be contacted by email and receive an autographed copy of “Canning & Preserving with Ashley English”
**have fun!**
Wanna see more. Click here for links to them all.

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The combination of 9 days in a hotel room and the complications of a 5-hour time difference which makes me feel I should be sleeping when I am working and awake when I am lying in bed tend to lead to higher than normal consumption of television.  As a creature of habit, I tend to find myself looking for anything to do with food and am consistently surprised that he relatively small amount of channels produce consistently interesting content.

Saturday Kitchen Live is a fantastic example.

A 10-minute view of a 2-hour episode wouldn`t show anything outstanding.  Watching an entire episode will reveal something larger than what is on the surface.

The show is hosted by James Martin and revolves around his kitchen with a live studio-audience.  Yesterday`s 200th episode focussed on James and 3 guests (2 were chefs of significance and 1 was more of a celebrity).  Each took turns cooking a dish and sharing stories.  The dishes were`t exactly pedestrian – one prepared a loin of venison while another brought his own tandoori oven and he  casually discussed the benefits of charcoal vs. electric tandoori ovens if you were to go through the expense of buying one for home.  When the local celebrity cooked for the chefs it was refreshing to see a lack of `yumm-os`as they begrudgingly rated his souffle a 6-0f-10.

The panel of chefs partake in a competition that spans the entire series to see how long it takes them to cook a 3-egg omelette.  Your time is recorded on a wall of fame with all of the others who have completed the task to-date.  To be amongst the best you have to complete your challenge in under 20 seconds.

The show periodically cuts to vignettes that form a show-within-a-show.  The small sessions are a reality show which feature chefs cooking in a competition similar to Top Chef.  There is a not-so-subtle focus on local ingredients which includes revealing the percentage of local ingredients in each dish.

As the chefs cook, the scene cuts out to pre-recordings of local wine experts who are tasked with selecting a wine pairing (which is not-so-local) to do with the dish that they select.  The pairings are generally very affordable and defended in such a way that you can legitimately learn how to make your own pairings.

Small cut-aways are also made to reveal the manufacturing of ingredients (such as fish sauce in the latest episode).  These segments resemble cooking shows which reveal `how did they make that`combined with featuring an ingredient viewers may not be familiar with.  The recent episode also featured the cultural significance and nutritional importance of fish sauce in Cambodia.  It`s a bit of a travel show wrapped inside of `how did they make that`inside a studio cooking show.

There is also a call-in segment as well where the audience can interact with the chefs…

I suppose the show is a bit like the Turducken of food shows.

An episode does come across logically and doesn`t feel frenetic.  There are pieces I really love and pieces I could do without but that`s the beauty of the show.  You can see a full episode at the link above (or here).

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For links to the entire series, look way down at the bottom and you`ll find a tag to each of the posts in this series.

Here’s hoping that a lot of you are spending this weekend getting ready for the holiday…and perhaps Pimpin’ some Preserves for presents…entries have been a bit sparse and i’d LOOOOVE to give away this fantastic book “Canning and Preserving with Ashley English” (it’s great for beginners and experienced canners will find lots of inspiration). We also have a copy of Ashley’s book on Keeping Chickens that we’ll be finding a home for early in the new year. Contest info is at the bottom of the post…I’ve been having fun dressing up some jars…once you get into it you just want to keep going…beats the heck out of going to the mall for presents and I’ve been able to repurpose a lot of stuff I had around. I promise, you’ll look like a rock star if you show up at a dinner party with a fully pimped preserve.

I’m visiting my parents, just over an hour’s drive north of Toronto, we got totally dumped with snow in the early hours this morning. The first snow is always exciting but this was like going from fall to full on winter in a matter of hours. I took a big long walk with my dad and Shaeffer this morning down an old railway trail through the country (part of the trans canada trail)…beautiful sunny morning, I forgot how a big hit of snow seems to dull all the noise…really enjoyed the quiet.

So here’s my Pimped out preserve du jour….inspired by snowy days. Nothing warms you up like Carrot Cake Jam….yum.

– I used the sleeve of a sweater from value village (someone had shrunk it up good for me!)

– some snowy decor pinecones were also found at value village

– got the tiny little string of lights from my mom, she has a big box of random things (guess i come by my collecting honestly)

– i did buy the little dear at a toy shop when we were out shopping yesterday, thought it would be a cute addition to a jar

– used a brother p-touch to make an adhesive label

**************************************************************************************************

Here’s the Details:

* Embellish, package or otherwise ‘dress up’ your favourite  jar of preserves with anything you like as long as it doesn’t damage the contents or break the seal.

* Send us a JPG of your creation to wearewellpreserved at elevenideas dot ca subject line: Pimp my Preserve.

All entries must be received by 10pm EST November 29th, 2010.

We will post the entries and leave it to you guys to vote for a winner! Winner will be announced the 2nd week of December.
The winner will be contacted by email and receive an autographed copy of “Canning & Preserving with Ashley English”
**have fun!**
Wanna see more. Click here for links to them all.

Read Full Post »

As I am currently in the UK I am enjoying checking my `norms`around food and drink and learning about a different perspective that comes from living half a world away…

I might make it to my first Football (known as `soccer` in North America) match (known as `game`) in a few hours from now.  It`s my fourth or fifth visit to the UK and I haven`t been able to catch one yet for many different reasons.  Today`s game is in doubt because the referees are on strike (their issue is that one team is complaining too much for their liking) and a few inches of snow has crashed the nation.  It`s a combination that leaves the best plans in peril.

Our dilemma will soon be resolved.  We`ll be meeting our crew of singing revellers around noon to get ready for the 3.30 match. `Get ready`is indeed a code word for drink beer at a local pub and eat a little lunch.  The 3-hour head start is pragmatic – the stadiums do not sell alcohol in them.  The North American tradition of sipping (or siphoning) an ale while watching your favourite team compete for your pleasure does not translate here.

I am told that, in theory, the alcohol bans come from an effort to stop mischief amongst rival fans.

My experience in the UK is limited but I have walked the streets of Scottish cities before several matches and my observations have been consistent: the elimination of beer in the stadium appears to increase the activity and sales in local pubs.  It doesn`t seem to matter when the match starts; a lunchtime match in Edinburgh was preceded by packed bars of partying fans at 9.00AM.  My impression is that the number of drunken fans is higher here than home as a sense of urgency in the bar creates rapid consumption as the game approaches.

I suppose the next time I complain that a stadium is selling me a $12 beer, I`ll have to reflect on the cheaper alternative here…

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For links to the entire series, look way down at the bottom and you`ll find a tag to each of the posts in this series.

When it started to get cold a few weeks ago I bought some nice new socks….of course only a couple of weeks later…one of the socks decided to ‘get lost’, so I was stuck with one, lovely, clean, hardly worn sock…so sad. Then I thought it would make a nice ‘sweater’ for a Jar of Pickled Carrots. The ‘bling’ is a vintage chrystal broach I bought for myself at a flea market many years ago…I love it, there are lots of these to be found at flea markets and they would make a great gift for a girlfriend, aunt, grandma, mum….everyone can find a way to use a pretty broach to fit their style. The gift of pickled carrots is super nice, using it to ‘wrap’ the ‘real gift’ makes it a nice surprise as well.

REMEMBER * you only have until MONDAY to submit your ideas to our Pimp that Preserve contest: you could win a copy of “Canning and Preserving with Ashley English”, and best yet…you’ll have one of the gifts knocked off your ‘giving list’ too!!

Here’s the Details:

* Embellish, package or otherwise ‘dress up’ your favourite  jar of preserves with anything you like as long as it doesn’t damage the contents or break the seal.

* Send us a JPG of your creation to wearewellpreserved at elevenideas dot ca subject line: Pimp my Preserve.

All entries must be received by 10pm EST November 29th, 2010.

We will post the entries and leave it to you guys to vote for a winner! Winner will be announced the 2nd week of December.
The winner will be contacted by email and receive an autographed copy of “Canning & Preserving with Ashley English”
**have fun!**
Wanna see more. Click here for links to them all.

Read Full Post »

As a bit of a prologue I find myself examining local food and connections to what I consume through very different eyes this week as I find myself enjoying Glasgow as part of a business trip.  It`s been an odd week exploring a different version of local as well as very odd seeing products that I can buy at home that are just as available here.

The quest to find something local has been interesting – for example, a Scottish Ale with a very Celtic name turns out to be the product of a large US Brewery.  While being a decent beer, it is more American than the Czech Budweiser (that fascinating storyhere).  It has been very odd – of not concerning – to see bottles of wine, booze and coffee that I can buy the exact flavour so far back at home.  As someone who is a major fan of terroir and non-snobby exclusivity, the thought of many of these offerings have lost their previous allure.

Having said that, there is also room for exception.

Our posts are continuing to appear around the clock as Dana and I are writing from half a world apart from each other – I`m in an odd vortex of time zones (for example, I have a meeting at 9AM Glasgow time in the morning and then another 7 hours later at 11AM EASTERN STANDARD TIME).  I`m living in two places at once – going to sleep on Toronto time and waking up too late Scottish time.  I feel like I`m living in two different places at the same time.

My odd sense of time travel was further stymied this evening as I sat at a hotel bar after a lovely dinner with some business associates.  I sipped a beer with a newish colleague and we traded laughs as we got to know each other better.

My colleague is a fan of brandy.  He `twisted my arm` to have a second night-cap and I decided to join him and his desire to sip a tipple of Brandy.  If the idea of drinking Brandy (or Scotch) sounds less than appetizing or your are intrigued as to how in the world someone could enjoy the taste, you may be interested in learning the basics of learning how to drink either.  As you`ll learn in that link, I learned from my mentor many years ago.

Dr Michael Stanwick was many, many things.  He was a philosopher, teacher, inspiration and lover of food and drink.  As a man who dropped out of Grade nine 3 separate times he was one of few teachers to get their doctorate in Education.  I had the privilege of learning how to teach from him by shadowing him 4-nights a week for almost 2 years.  He remains as one of the largest influences in my life many years after his passing and many more since we worked together.

My development had a process.  Go to night school with the kind Doctor, lay my best efforts on the line and return to his house (2 doors down) where we would recap the evening over a few beer or, more than likely, a few brandy.  A typical night would easily see a 4-hour recap of a 3-hour teaching session and would easily break down to philosophy, spirituality, divining and other things.  Sometimes the conversation was calm, other times it would be a single tirade from him or I and on the rare occasion it would be a crazy intellectual argument.

One of the largest honours in my life remains being cited as an academic reference to his Doctoral Thesis.  My library of reference he quoted came, primarily, from these brandy-infused conversations.

So I sat at a bar this evening with a near stranger and sipped from a similar bottle of elixir that I used to share with my mentor.  It wasn`t the same nor was it unique or local to either place but it was just as powerful.  Like it or not, part of my local diet is what I have consumed in times and places that I was in – regardless of where the product was manufactured.  I`m not trying to make the case that Brandy was local – just that despite it`s origination, there`s very little that can bring back the memory of my fallen mentor than that taste and the conversation I had tonight.  I was a lovely moment.

As I approach the end of the evening I find myself in a wonderful glow – feeling as though I`ve somehow shared just one more glass with an old friend…or perhaps a new one.

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