Good Eats

A family outside for a picnic

La Dolce Vita by Alastair Gregor

• As I write this, I feel a sense of dread on behalf of the people of the US. On March 20, Monsanto managed to slip its Monsanto Protection Act through the US Senate. If signed into law by President Obama, the rider will allow farmers to plant, harvest and sell genetically engineered plants even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavourably in court. Monsanto will be able to act with impunity; no court in the nation will be able to challenge them on their lack of due diligence with regard to the safety of GMOs. What has the world come to when a corporation is above the law?

Without even knowing it, we have drifted into a situation of having to personally protect our food supply because our governments have failed us. There has never been a greater need to buy all our seed from local sources, to gather, save, trade and share seed and to diversify and grow as many different varieties of crops as possible to ensure the health of our food supply. The seed you grow today may well be the seed that saves the world when monoculture fails, as it has in the past. To protect our food supply, diversification must become the norm, and organic practices have to be learned, shared and practiced at home.

Most commercial crops are sprayed with a wide array of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and rodent killers. After spraying, carcinogens and toxins remain on the food and we ingest them, presenting long-term health risks. You can now buy a variety of organic foods at most local stores and they are priced near the same as conventional foods. Talk to your grocery store manager and ask for organic foods.

It is healing and rewarding to work with our hands in the soil. Farming, hobby farming, gardening and turning lawns into gardens – it is amazing the amount of organic food one can grow. Hoeing, tilling, planting and nourishing a barren patch of land show how healing and sustainable it is to grow food at home. In Vancouver, we can even have our own hens and honeybees and the climate allows us to grow food year-round. If you don’t have any green space, you can ask friends or family with yards if you can grow food there. And if you own a home with a yard, but can’t do the work yourself, ask friends to work on it with you. You will find the act of working together becomes an act of service to one another and to the community. Create your own gardening community and invite others to join you.

If you still don’t know where to start, ask at a garden shop. Or post a notice on a community bulletin board or at your community centre or church, inviting people to get involved. You can also post online at Craigslist or Kijiji.

Now is the time to get your garden in. The ground is warming up and it’s ripe for planting. This is your opportunity to begin living your life with healthy, renewed meaning and purpose by creating community and kinship.

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother.

Good Eats

A family outside for a picnic

La Dolce Vita

article by Alastair Gregor

• February is one of the coldest months of the year in Canada, but it could get plenty hot inside on Valentine’s Day, February 14. Build onto the day gradually, starting with the most important meal of the day – breakfast – when we Break-our-Fast of the night. Eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, which is at its highest in the morning, burning the most calories. The saying “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” contains great wisdom. Start the day off right with foods that are good for the heart, high in Omega-3s fatty acids, but low in saturated fats and sugar.

A healthy, balanced breakfast gives you stamina, keeps your weight down and helps you avoid developing heart disease and diabetes; 70% of adults who develop diabetes skip breakfast. A decent breakfast is crucial; it releases serotonin in the brain and improves your focus, memory, concentration and mood. It has a calming effect and reduces stress, which makes tasks easier.

Start the day off with two glasses of room temperature water to get you rehydrated, followed by some fresh, organic fruit. On Valentine’s Day, you may wish to surprise your lover with chocolate covered strawberries and bananas, pomegranates, fresh figs and some honey for tender, intimate drizzling served up with a little champagne. Take quality time harmonizing with your lover, be playful and have fun…

After your shared bubble bath, enjoy your main breakfast together. Breakfast is the land of unbridled possibilities and the choices are endless. Enjoy banana pecan pancakes or French toast stuffed with brie or apricot jam, served with organic maple syrup, blueberries and true cinnamon, not the substituted cassia bark marketed as Saigon cinnamon. Cinnamon is a wonder food which regulates blood sugar and it ought to be consumed daily with local honey and organic yogurt.

If you are a cereal eater, Nature’s Path offers some excellent premium, organic cereals, including their amazing Love Crunch Granola, which has a romantic story all its own for you to discover. Each purchase also helps the Bite4Bite food bank program. Remember the importance of donating all year so please support your local food bank.

You may wish to plan your Valentine’s Day with a special trip up to Whistler Mountain, taking a romantic gondola ride to the top of the mountain for a day of skiing. Head to Christine’s for mountaintop dining and enjoy the breathtaking view of the village and surrounding mountain peaks. Ski to the bottom and relax together with a long couples massage at one of the spas before heading to your chalet for a hot tub and an evening indoors preparing a beautiful dinner together.

Preparing a meal side-by-side can be a deeply intimate experience and sensual affair. To love and be loved is the greatest happiness of existence. There is a magical, alchemical phenomenon that occurs in preparing foods to feed one another. Foods prepared with love become utterly sensual; you discover a new way of communication, with you as the sender and your lover the recipient. Simple foods prepared this way take on the joy, gratitude and unity consciousness of two being together as one.

However you plan your day, make it special, make everyday special. The more intimacy is practised, the better it becomes. Love is an art and it becomes better and more beautiful with every cherished encounter

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother.

Good Eats

La Dolce Vita

article by Alastair Gregor

• It’s time to start the New Year off right by achieving your goals of getting healthy and losing weight. Firstly let’s start with a couple of cleanses. The first is to remove all temptations, clean out your cupboards, freezer and fridge of all that is sugary, tempting and unhealthy.

The second is personal, to cleanse your liver which is responsible for over 500 jobs, from balancing hormones and processing of every drop of blood in your body, to all the foods you eat. Cleansing the liver is like cleaning out your drain, unplugging your pipes, and letting the toxins out; everything just flows smoothly again. You will feel cleaner, lighter, happier and healthier. Remember when you start detoxifying you may often feel worse before you feel better as your body is letting go of toxins. It is important during this time to drink plenty of pure water to flush the toxins from your system, and get plenty of rest.

Go to your natural health store and pick up a good liver detox kit; the Wild Rose Herbal D-Tox 12 day Program worked well for me by cleansing the liver, kidneys and lymph system. I liked this especially as it has a food guide in the box which you can take with you while shopping. I followed it with their Cand-Aid Candida cleanse, (sugar detox). I did these two cleanses back to back and lost 21 lbs in 27 days and felt great.

Remember to be patient with yourself; it takes time for healing, for inflammation to go down, to feel better. Stick with it. January is not the time for spontaneity; it is the time for planning. Planning your meals and preparing them ahead of time. Telling those around you what you are doing helps, as does being aware of what your eating by reading labels.

Welcome the change, don’t take days off, don’t reward yourself with old habits. Carry healthy snacks with you, and if you slip up, forgive yourself and get back up. Stick with it. Keep drinking water, hydrate your joints, your eyes and your body. Before long your skin will look better and your sleeping, thinking, digestion and physical agility will improve. Remember size is no obstacle to desire, you can do anything you want. Envision your life as you would like it to be. You may find it difficult at first, but you will find it’s easier to get back on track by clearly defining your lifestyle goals, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. This is your journey, don’t let anyone else side track you.

In the process of doing the cleanse you may wish to consider going strictly organic, eating only chemical-free whole foods and taking your diet entirely gluten-free. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease has been tied to over 190 auto-immune disorders. If you have problems and your doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong then pay attention at this time of cleansing. You may notice many of your symptoms clear up and you feel better than you have in years. However, if you go gluten-free and do not heal, then it may be necessary to further investigate your diet to address the root causes rather than the symptoms.

Eating sprouted grains, seeds and legumes is super healthy. Germination breaks down the harsh protective coatings of the seed, greatly increasing enzyme content which aids in digestion and nutrient absorption levels. Try sprouting; soak overnight in pure water with a capful of raw apple cider vinegar to speed up nature’s sprouting process. Add to salads, share, enjoy.

Educate yourself, research, exercise, play, experiment, and enjoy your journey to good health!

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother.

Good Eats

candle

La Dolce Vita

article by Alastair Gregor

 

• “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!” With these words from O Holy Night, I ask you this season to release all the conditioning you have learned, discharge all notions of control and instead find freedom and liberation, rejoicing in everything this season brings. Say yes to everything, participate and indulge your spirit as if you were a child again. Fill your soul, fill your heart and fill your belly. In Isaiah 22.13 it is written, “Behold joy and gladness… let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.”

This is the time of the year to break your own bonds and feed your soul, as it is your soul, the true you, who strives for more. We are masters of each moment. Within each moment we find perfection, beauty and joy, for we are alive and able. Fear dissolves into trust and we find compassion as part of a great unity with all creation – the grace, passion and glory of being alive.

Why, then, are so many of us quietly dying inside? Why are we afraid of getting old, of participating, of living life fully engaged? Life is a one-way ticket; we are born, we die. There is no escaping death; it is but a blink between this world and the next. It is time to tear down your walls of fear and let them dissolve away. Open yourselves to your magnificent spirit’s healing flow of love, light and brilliance.

Pray for peace between the diversity of people and cultures, for unity, harmony, appreciation with the spirit of understanding that we are all one, sharing this miraculous world. Seek then to absolve, surrender to joy and to forgive the past. This is the time of gratitude for what we have now; there is so much to be thankful for. Have faith, you will be triumphant and discover a healthy new relationship with yourself.

Hazrat Inayat Khan, poet and teacher of a Sufi Order said, “The peace for which every soul strives, and which is the true nature of God and the utmost goal of a man, is but the outcome of harmony.”

Break free from your rational nature and transcend limiting beliefs. Get out and participate. Delight your senses this season; do everything to indulge your body, get out of your mind and explore. Feast on music this joyous season of merriment. Dispense with any excuses, liberate your mind from self-judgement and passionately give yourself permission to entertain your soul. Find the courage to be indifferent to limitations and to enthusiastically feed your senses.

While doing all this, I invite you to keep a journal, such as The Gratitude Power Workbook by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. Use this book or your own journal to express your gratitude and thanks, focusing on everything that is good, beautiful and wondrous. Where you put your focus expands. It is through gratitude that your life becomes richer, calmer, more harmonious.

Start today with your food – choose food that is healthy, beautiful fresh. Make every movement count, every moment special. Dress up, ask strangers out, share, walk in meditation, quietly and loudly participate, treasure the change, join in and magnify your purpose.

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother.

photo © Sonbeam

Good Eats

La Dolce Vita

article and photo by Alastair Gregor

• Grandpa always said, “When you do something, do it right.” In Abbotsford, BC, the ‘garden’ of Canada, there is a potato farmer who is a shining example of an eco-trailblazer. How is it that a person with a vision to make a difference actually dedicates their life to making it happen, walks their talk and sets an example for the rest of us? You do it by taking calculated risks.

The Heppell family has been growing potatoes in Cloverdale since the 1920s and over the years has expanded to Abbotsford to encompass 1,200 acres. Today, they produce mainly squash and potatoes. All that farming produces waste that would normally decompose and release greenhouse gas emissions into the air.

Not there, though, because farmer Peter Schouten of Heppells Potato Corp. saw the waste his farm was producing and decided to do something about it. He invested in a bio-waste digester plant, which takes all the organic farm waste and manure within a 10-kilometre radius and puts it into a huge organic waste digester. It is an amazing system and has taken thousands of hours of trial and error to create a recipe for the perfect slurry mix for natural gas production. The facility produces enough natural gas – which is sold back to Fortis – to supply all the needs of the City of Abbotsford and some of Chilliwack, all from farm waste.

The local chicken and dairy farmers bring their bio-waste, which is put into a huge tank, and they return to their farms with the digested waste to be spread onto their fields as fertilizer. It is a near perfect loop system.

Pete and his partner Wes Heppell supply much of the local community with potatoes. They have also created Hardbite, their own brand of kettle cooked chips, which are hand-made in small batches. The chips are vegetarian, non-GMO, gluten-free and low in salt with no MSG, cholesterol or trans fats. General manager Kirk Homenick noted how difficult it was to find an alternative to the GMO corn-derived flavouring binders that many companies use. Ultimately, they sourced tapioca maltodextrin, an all-natural flavouring binder.

In today’s fast paced snack world, it is too easy to slip into just grabbing something and running home to eat it. It takes time to know if what we are eating is healthy. While examining what we eat and redefining what we buy, it is nice to know we can still get snack products which we don’t feel guilty about eating, but why not learn to make them yourself and share the love by giving them to your friends, family and co-workers?

Arron Ash, the charismatic chef of Gorilla Food on Richards Street in downtown Vancouver, runs an organic, vegan, raw food take-a-way and catering service. He has just released his book Gorilla Food from Arsenal Pulp Press. Grab a dozen copies and give them to everyone for Christmas. It is an amazing book, which takes the concept of wholesome, healthy snack food even further. He creates food that still has all the natural health and vitality in it, food that is still full of nutrients and enzymes. He makes nutritious delicious. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMKVV8EAOVQ

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.

Good Eats

good eats

La Dolce Vita

article and photo by Alastair Gregor

 

• Driving through the mountains, I could see the heat shimmering off the hot rocks, playing tricks on my eyes as mirage pools appeared in the distance only to disappear as I got closer. Free of the city, I was enjoying a spirited ride along narrow mountain roads and it was then I noticed it, faint at first and ephemeral. I found myself searching for another wisp carried on the warm mountain air as my senses were infused with memories of being in the vegetable garden with my mother. There it was again, oregano. Yes, definitely oregano. My mind flashed back to making fresh tomato sauce from beautiful red Roma tomatoes, olive oil and roasted garlic, tossed with oregano from the garden at the height of summer.

As I drove into the valley, I could see a beautiful farm ahead with huge fields full of oregano, basil, coriander, tomatoes, eggplant, beans and zucchini. “Organic fresh eggs ahead,” the hand-painted sign noted. Slowing down to a near walking pace, I saw the farm gate and pulled the car into the gravel driveway where I was welcomed by two beautiful English Setters. These dogs were so friendly, the cat didn’t stir a whisker as she lay basking in the sun, while hens pecked their way away along the edge of the produce barn where tables overflowed with everything one might wish for.

Seeing all that beautiful, farm fresh produce, I couldn’t help but conjure up dishes in my head and I imagined making pickles from the long green beans and bulbs of garlic. It truly was a cornucopia of delights. When I heard feet crunching on the gravel behind me, I turned to see the farmer’s wife walking towards me smiling, carrying a tray of freshly baked tomato tarts. As my mouth watered, she asked if I would like one while I walked around. I didn’t need to be asked twice and I graciously accepted a tart, admiring the symmetry of the tomato slices. Still very warm, my first bite was like heaven and I wondered why we couldn’t find this everywhere.

It was like a dream, everything organically grown right here, on the farm, without chemicals. It was food I could trust, food I didn’t need to be wary of unlike from the big markets where the GMO Frankenfoods are sold.

I felt a sense of peace as I wandered up and down the tables filling my reusable shopping bags with produce. As I paid my bill, we talked and she told me about a friend who had just died from pesticide poisoning at a farm a few miles away. She asked if I was heading in that direction and if I might take a box of produce with me to drop off. “Of course,” I answered without a second’s hesitation. As she pushed the address into my hand, her eyes brimmed with tears and she recounted a grim tale.

She shared the tragic story of how chemical companies had come through the valley 15 or so years ago, spinning yarns of how their new products would bring miracles. Her husband had declined, believing in the old ways, but many others had accepted the free seed and signed long-term contracts as their friends had done, believing all would be wonderful.

And now today, many of their friends have passed on from cancer, renal failure and worse. The social fabric of their once thriving community has been ripped apart by the poisons and toxic seeds these companies provided, companies that lied with impunity. The new products had brought nothing but death, despair and ruin. These same companies then moved in like vultures, feeding on the scraps. They bought up the farms from the bereaved families for next to nothing, their lawyers claiming vast amounts of monies owed. Complaining to the government did nothing, as the officials grew fat from bribes given by the lobbyists.

After I said my goodbyes and pointed my car in the direction of their friend’s farm, I felt a deep sadness. We are stewards of our own sphere of influence; we have to do everything in our power to fight back against Frankenfoods, GMOs and agribusiness. We have to hold our government officials liable. We must go back to basics and rethink everything we are eating. We have to sound the bell before it’s too late.

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.

photo © AGfoto

Good Eats

La Dolce Vita

article and photo by Alastair Gregor

An older woman with knife and fork over a plate of colourful cooked vegs
My great-aunt Mave, at age 92, enjoying Shrimp Eggs Benedict at Havana’s on Commercial Drive.

What would it be like if we didn’t have any choice about what to eat? It would be mundane. I think of my old dog ‘Brie’ try as I might to give her the best organic dog kibble, no matter what, she would look at it and push it out of the bowl with her nose in obvious disapproval, and she would lie there with those eyes asking, “What? You can’t do better than kibble?”

Yet as soon as I started to cook, she would watch my every move, not missing a thing – “Doggie TV,” as my friend Benjamin called it. Given the choice, Brie would always eat what I cooked and shared.

I think of all the wonderful times I have had around food and truly, to love life, you have to love food. My great-aunt Mave recently passed away peacefully at 94 years of age. She loved food and always introduced me, with a hearty laugh and smiling eyes, as her gourmet chef.

Mave had a great appetite and loved to eat delicious food: “Oh boy, oh boy, what are we going to have today?” she would ask. I would always find a variety of seasonal fresh fruit combinations for breakfast: mango, pomegranate and kiwi or blueberries, strawberries and apple, with a little organic plain yogurt, cinnamon and honey. This was part of her secret to a long life.

When I was a kid, she taught me how to eat pizza, how to properly hold it with a slight fold so you don’t lose the toppings. And it was with Mave that we celebrated life and the bounty it offers at large family parties at charming restaurants, with gleaming silver and crisp white linens.

When I think about all my family gatherings, I realize the most fun was always centred on the creation, preparation and enjoyment of wonderful meals. Food is our common ground, a universal experience; it is what brings us together. Welcoming new neighbours with gift baskets of food, including summer jams and fruit pies along with fresh cut flowers has often laid the foundation for creating life-long friendships.

Food repairs relationships and can even create special adopted families. Think of the movie Julie & Julia where the character Julie practices techniques and tests each of the recipes from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking on her friends, culminating in a special family of friends who courageously celebrate culinary disasters and triumphs together!

So many times I’ve heard someone say they don’t like a particular food. Take cauliflower; I toss it with organic olive oil, sea salt and allspice and roast it in the oven to caramelize it and the person loves it! Or I blanch the flowerets, drain them and pan fry them in butter tossed with finely chopped ripe banana until the banana is melted and the cauliflower is well coated and lightly caramelized. Near the end, I finish it off with chilli flakes and sea salt. Astonishment! They go crazy for it. These are accidental dishes I created out of necessity for people who hadn’t yet experienced the adventure of food.

For me, there is nothing better than seeing everyone at the dinner table talking, laughing and sharing, followed by the quiet that descends when, for a few minutes, everyone is just in their zone savouring the delicious food. Then the mmm’s and ahh’s start along with questions about whether people have tried this or that. The sharing, the laughter, the interaction – cooking truly is like love.

Make this Latin phrase your new life motto: “Dum vivimus, vivamus!” – “While we live, let’s live!”

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.

Good Eats

bee on red flower

La Dolce Vita

article and photos by Alastair Gregor

• The “Good Life” comes through taking a series of purposeful actions. It doesn’t just materialize; it becomes manifest because we choose it, but first we have to journey a while to sample life. It is then we can understand the difference between what we want and what actually fulfils us. What fulfils us is where our attention should be focused, as where we place our focus expands.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.” This thought expresses the mindfulness that we must apply not only in our daily actions, but especially around the energy and conscious intent in the preparation of food.

Food prepared with reverence and gratitude carries a higher vibration and is more satisfying; a little goes a long way and we feel more energetic and satisfied after eating it.

Use your intuition when choosing and eating foods. Use your senses. Do you feel uplifted after your meal? A doctor friend told me to smell the ingredients and if I felt an increase in my energy, the food would be good for me and what my body needed. So if you don’t feel uplifted, choose something else.

Ethical Kitchen organic restaurant

How do you make these choices when dining out? Again, use your senses. When you walk into the restaurant, does it smell clean and uplifting? If not, leave and find another. I recently visited two restaurants in Vancouver that exemplify these food preparation principles, and both make everything from scratch. At Vancouver Tibet Kitchen (6591 Fraser Street), Tibetan-born chef Tsering Norsang has worked in five-star hotels throughout the world for 25 years. In 1996, he won Gold in the Culinary Olympics. The food was wonderfully simple, traditional, very tasty and immensely satisfying.

At Ethical Kitchen, an organic Restaurant at 1600 McKay Road in North Vancouver, they grow some of their own produce on their 4,000-acre organic farm as well as in standing box beds in a small garden outside the restaurant. Proprietor Barbara Schellenberg shows a great love for her business; she changes the menu almost daily according to the weather and available ingredients.

Everything at the restaurant is based on the premise of stabilizing the food culture, focusing on more home-based cooking using styles from around the world. All the staff, regardless of their culture, influence the food, which keeps it fun and fresh. All cultures globally use the same basic food concepts: some vegetables are fermented, a certain amount of the food is raw and everyone makes stocks, all of which form the basis of the restaurant’s wholesome foods. The restaurant even makes its own Ethical Soda, a Kombucha tea in many different flavours, and is similar to a French country bistro with lots of fresh, home-style foods to take home. Hang out there a bit and you’ll see a great diversity of clients from all over the world and the place is constantly busy.

I was most impressed with their 15,000 new employees busily working up on the roof preserving civilization – bees – ethics in action at Ethical Kitchen. I spent a few hours with beekeeper David Macdonald and the bees. What an experience! Wandering round their edible flower garden, you’ll see many bees busy at work. David explained how the urban beekeeper is saving bees from almost completely disappearing since 96 percent of the wild population has collapsed since the introduction of GMOs and monoculture farming.

Seek and you will find many great restaurants; just follow your nose and ask good questions. Have fun.

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.

Good Eats

A family outside for a picnic

La Dolce Vita by Alastair Gregor

Summer time and the living is easy; it’s the time of year when the curious get out and seek new foods, explore what’s in season and experiment with the tastiest, freshest produce of the year. Good Eats is here to bring you La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life – and we invite you to join us on a culinary adventure every month.

Food is my passion; it is what I know and what brings people together in laughter, light and love. Food is literally medicine for the body and the powerful health benefits of choosing the freshest ingredients help keep you healthy and uplift you when you’re feeling down. Food is fun! It allows you to travel to different cultures and escape the mundane without leaving your hometown.

A family outside for a picnic This summer, I’m throwing down a challenge to our readers to break the habit of doing what you have always done. It’s time to get honest with yourself and stop putting off what you have wanted to do for so long. If you haven’t already done it, go through all your cupboards and fridge and toss out everything that is out-of-date, old or suspect. It’s also time to replace all your old herbs and spices. If they are more than six months old, they have oxidized and aren’t at their freshest – kind of like eating a stale cookie. Remember to replace all your cooking oils and fats with purely organic oils.

Take time for you and your family and friends. Take time to savour the bounty nature provides. Do this by seeking the freshest, healthiest and most nutritious produce you can find. It’s the time of year to get active and to get out there to the farmers markets and fill up on organic produce. Why organic? Because it’s the best for you and for the environment and it tastes great. Your cells contain 20 percent foreign RNA (the building blocks of nature), which comes from the food you eat. Your body uses it to make new cells so you literally are what you eat. The healthier the produce, the healthier you will be.

You have to understand the difference between natural and organic foods. It’s important to realize the “natural” label is not regulated and does not provide a guarantee of being free of genetically engineered ingredients (GMO’s) or synthetic pesticides and additives. Currently, the only label that can protect you against genetically engineered ingredients and other unsavoury additives is the “USDA 100% Organic” label, which must contain only organically produced materials. In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity and sustainability.

So where to get organic crops which are grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers? Most towns feature organic co-ops and organic food stores. Take a trip to your local market and ask. Most markets today carry a broad selection of organic foods and many of the prices are in line with conventional foods so there is no reason not to eat organic.

For a true shopping experience, you can take day trips or weekend trips with friends and family. Explore the Fraser Valley, head towards Agassiz and do some of the Circle Farm Tours, www.circlefarmtour.com. You can also search the internet for many of your local summer food festivals. Head over to Vancouver Island or through the Okanagan for a broad selection of the freshest, tastiest ingredients right from the farmer: farm fresh eggs, honey, heirloom varietals and the freshest of specialty cheeses; ask the farmer for their favourite recipes and share with your friends.

And whatever you do, start with the freshest simplest ingredients and experiment with new flavours and seasonal favourites. Very soon, you will have new favourites to enjoy.

To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at alastair@commonground.ca. Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.

photo © Monkey Business Images