You know that feeling of dread when you look out your window at the BBQ covered in 6″ of snow and it’s only the second week of October? Ya, well then you can relate to how I feel about cooking in the winter in a climate where fall only lasted as long as it took for the leaves to literally fall off the tree in our front yard; less than 2 weeks!
I know there are a lot of root vegetables that do well in cold storage. My wife Kelly and I used to buy potatoes, beets, carrots and squash at the farmer’s market when we lived in Halifax, NS. But now that we’ve moved back home to Bashaw, AB we don’t have the same kind of access to locally grown produce in the late fall and winter months. I would love to learn how to can and preserve, and next summer once I have my own garden and can grow more vegetables myself I do plan to preserve a lot of them for the following winter. But for right now, even if I did know how to can veggies, I’ve got no veggies to can!
Hence my dilemma. What does an aspiring locavore, gourmet-at-home chef do to feed himself and his wife when the snow starts building up and there isn’t a fresh carrot or cabbage to be seen for miles around? I’m a full on foodie and passionate ag activist and it tortures me to walk into a gigantic supermarket to look through the thousands and thousands of food products that have traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get there. As my wife and I search for the coming week’s groceries I look to see where the apples and lettuce were imported from, what artificial additives, flavours and preservatives are on the various packages, and with every single purchase we attempt the nearly impossible task of finding a balance between how local the food is, how healthy it is, how affordable it is, and what the environmental impact was of producing it. These are all important priorities to us, but in a Canadian winter it’s almost impossible to find healthy, affordable, fresh produce from a local source. It just doesn’t happen, not at a grocery store anyway.
So as I continue to pursue my dreams of having a garden and maybe even one day a small farm to grow enough food to feed my wife and I and our future children (something closer to a “100 meter diet”) I am still also looking for ways to minimize the environmental impact of my eating habits right here and now. And we want to do it in a way that doesn’t mean we have to become extremists, eating only rice and beans or beef and potatoes every single day of the week. It’s much more than a question of eco-friendliness and requires more thought than you’d put into the choice between an incandescent light bulb or the more energy efficient compact florescent. Food is meant to be fun and delicious, with variety, flavour, quality and excitement. Every single day we all make choices of what to feed our bodies. In fact, I’d say it’s arguably one of the most fundamental acts of human existence. But the decisions of how we feed our bodies, our families and our world, have long lasting and global consequences on the health of not only our own bodies but that of the soil, our shared water resources, our rural communities, and our cultural heritage.
Today the snow is melting, and for supper I’m roasting stuffed pork chops from the Bashaw Meat Shop that buys it’s meat from local farmers in our area. I feel good about that. I just wish we could also grow green beans and broccoli in December.
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