Monday, January 22, 2007

Newspaper Column - SNOW DRIFT

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 22 January 2007.

It was mighty cozy at my house during the blizzard last week. The wood stove was crackling, keeping warm a big pot of soup. If the power had gone out, we would have pulled open the sofa bed and slept near the fire. Food and fuel – we’ve got plenty of that on hand at our house. I’ve been stockpiling food staples for a couple of years. Not because I’m worried about survival, but because I discover such wonderful Saskatchewan foods that I want to make sure I have a good supply.

For instance, we have enough lentils and split peas to serve a small village for a week. Jars and jars of canned fruit. Half a pig and half a lamb. A sack of rolled oats. A ton of frozen tomatoes. A bucket of wild rice. But it makes you wonder… What if a blizzard or an ice storm closed the grocery stores for a few days? Or, prevented the food trucks from arriving in the city? Almost everything we buy in the grocery store comes from far away. A study in Chicago a few years ago found that most fresh produce travelled more than 2,000 km from the field to the store, and we are quite a bit further north of Chicago.

One day this past fall, while driving to Delisle, I counted all the trucks on the highway that were transporting food. The trucks were either refrigerated, labeled with a food company logo or involved in agriculture. Close to 75% of the transport trucks had something to do with food.

The evening of the blizzard, I was scheduled to give a talk for the Environmental Society on the environmental benefits of eating local food. Shipping food by truck is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so it stands to reason that eating locally-produced food is better for the environment. It’s also good for the environment in that local food often requires less refrigeration, less packaging, fewer sprays and fewer non-food additives. There is less wear-and-tear on the roads and less going to waste. Many environmentalists are now concluding that eating local food is better for the environment than eating organic produce that is shipped in from distant farms in California, New Zealand and Mexico.

Perhaps we could all make a New Year’s resolution to eat more food produced right here in Saskatchewan. A local food potluck would be a great way to start. Here is the local food menu of my day-after-Christmas dinner: potato casserole, wild rice salad, stuffed goose breast and a funny-looking dessert that I call Snow Drift. I thought I might try to bag my own goose, but in the end it was provided by my hunting friends Sue and Vance (and their bird dog Belle). It was complimented by some Dolgo crabapple jelly from Boris and Anne.

I found the goose recipe on the internet attributed to celebrity chef Mario Batali. The recipe for the wild rice salad is here. Here’s that crazy-looking dessert, adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.

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