How blood thirsty are you?

October 21, 2009


(click image for larger version)

I come from a long line of blood thirsty hunters. On both sides of the family my ancestors were immigrants to Canada who settled crown land. That means that they arrived here and bought settler’s packages that consisted of unbroken land, a shovel, a pick axe and a few other tools. They were also given some of the bare essentials like a cast iron frying pan (I still have the frying pan from our McCauley homestead on the Manitoulin Island) and a few bags of seed. Needless to say, they needed to hunt to survive, especially in those first few years while they were breaking the fields and building houses and barns.

While several of my cousins and even some of their kids still hunt each autumn, I’ve never had the urge. My motto is: Why go shoot some animal when the store is full of yummy steaks?

But, my attitude is not necessarily representative. Not only are hunting and cooking more often topics that go hand-in-hand in the blogosphere, but those in the know tell me that interest in hunting is on the rise. “Hunting is definitely trending up among women in the US. Anecdotally, overall hunter numbers are slowly declining, but the ‘replacement’ hunters for those who die off are increasingly yuppies — or whatever we’re calling them now,” notes Hank Shaw, author of the very popular blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, in 2007, the purchase of hunting licenses was up in all categories including small game, moose, bear and deer. In 2008 there were an estimated 450,000 hunting licenses sold in Ontario. Likewise, Lezlie Goodwin of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters says that participation in Hunter Education programs is growing. “Hunting is such a holistic approach to food,” adds Lezlie. “It provides delicious, wholesome, fresh meat and it helps people to become more respectful of their food.”

I like what Lezlie has to say because I think she’s right: seeing your dinner on the hoof (or on the wing) makes you realize that every bite is precious. That said, It’s my guess that hunting is like meat eating. Either you do it, you did it or you won’t ever do it. Use the chart above to rate your hunting interest and tell me how blood thirsty you are. I’m a 4 on this blood thirsty scale.

Rate your food threshold

August 26, 2009


(click chart to enlarge)

If I’ve learned one thing by writing last week’s post about horsemeat, it’s that people draw the line about what is – and isn’t! – permissible for them to eat in different places. Choose any meal you find normal and there will be at least one person who considers it revolting.

This chart (don’t laugh – I’m a writer not a designer!) outlines the various limits I’ve observed people choose when considering menus and questions about appropriate food choices. From Fruitarians who will only eat produce that naturally fell from the vine, to people who will literally eat anything, this chart goes from 1 to 20. What number expresses your upper limit? I’m a 14.

Boob job

July 9, 2009


If you’ve seen the movie Food Inc., you’ve likely been spending a bit of time wondering how the food you buy in the grocery store got there. I know I have and to help understand the process a bit better, I’ve been visiting as many food plants as I can persuade to let me in. Last week I visited the state-of-the-art plant operated by MacGregor’s Meats and Seafood in Woodbridge, Ontario where they have separate rooms devoted to processing chicken, fish and meat. I learned a lot there (I’ll be writing more about my visit in the weeks to come) but by far my favourite revelation was watching these technicians skillfully trim fresh chicken breasts.

I’m sure that if they were to tell their friends that they spend all day doing boob jobs that no one would envision this scene!

How do you buy your chicken? Whole, bone-in or cleaned and ready to cook?

If you are what you eat, then I’m a butter tart

May 7, 2009

questionmarkIf you were a food, what would you be?

Don’t think too hard about this one, just write what comes to mind in the comment section below.

Me, I’d be a butter tart square.  Like me, they are proudly Canadian, sweet, flaky, occasionally a little nutty and much to my ego’s pain: square.

While you ponder the good and bad aspects of   what kind of food epitomizes your character, try this recipe for butter tart squares from my repertoire of family faves:

Cranberry Butter Tart Squares

1/4 cup (50 mL) butter softened
1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder
pinch salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) dried cranberries
1 square each bittersweet and white chocolate, melted (optional)

Crust: Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Beat the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl until creamy. Add the flour and salt and stir until well combined and crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-in (20 cm) square baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until pale golden around the edges. Reserve.

Topping: Stir the brown sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter, eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended and smooth. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and bubbly around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the centre. Cool the squares completely in the pan on a wire rack. Drizzle with chocolate (if using). Slice into squares. Makes 16 squares.

Tip: Recipe doubles easily to fill a 9-x 13-in (3L) baking pan.

A year in my life

October 8, 2008

Until last night, I was convinced that I started writing this blog a year ago today. Then I went into the archives and realized that my first post appeared on October 1, 2007. Guess I missed my big anniversary! Flaky – that’s a description that describes both me and my pastry.

I was a complete neophyte a year and a week ago when I started this project. Not only had I never written a blog, but I had barely read any and had never posted a comment on a blog or subscribed to one using RSS feed.

Things have changed! I have learned so much the last year and being a blogger has certainly been fun. I can honestly say that I have new friends because I became a blogger and I feel like I have new insights into how people cook and feel about food, too.

Since this blog was not available on WordPress until January, I thought I’d add links to some of the early posts which were hosted on the website. I got a kick out of revisiting these early attempts and hope that you will as well.

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

I also want to extend to everyone who’s stopped by in the last 12 months a hearty ‘thank you!’ and for those of you who comment, the gratitude is sent out in double measure. Likewise, this blog would never have happened without Jennifer Melo suggesting it so I thank her as well. Jen, you’ve been unfailingly supportive and encouraging this past year and every kind word has been greatly appreciated! Special thanks also to Dayna Boyer and Adrienne Robertson.

I can’t believe I missed my own blog anniversary and now have to post these thanks on the wrong date. I assure you that they are no less heartfelt because of the delay.

Have you ever missed a birthday or anniversary? If so, please tell me about it so that I won’t feel like such a lonely goof.

When food isn’t food anymore

July 21, 2008

Back to keep us informed about the latest developments in the nutrition arena is my colleague and friend Amy Snider. Today she has interesting news about how food products are now being classified as health products and what that means for consumers.

* * * * * * * * * *

Futurists predict that in the future, rather than sit down with a knife and fork to eat our meals we will simply pop a pill that supplies all our daily nutritional needs. Food lovers like me find this concept rather bleak (especially since I’ll be out of a job as well as bored with my meals!) but have comforted ourselves that the scenario is in the distant future. However, at the recent international launch for Nestea Vitao, I realized we’re already striding down this path.

These cool, flavourful and refreshing teas come in three flavours, Fuji Apple Green Tea, Acai Blueberry Red Tea and Mandarin Orange White Tea. Although these descriptions sound like food and are delivered as a conventional drink experience, instead of being classified as food products, these drinks are considered Natural Health Products.

That’s a distinction worth noting. Rather than a Nutrition Facts Panel on the package (as required by law for all foods and beverages) the label on this product reads like a prescription: “Drink 1 to 3 bottles per day as needed. Do not exceed 3 bottles per day.”

What bothers me is that while these teas are made with natural ingredients and contain healthful antioxidants they still contain calories… how are consumers supposed to balance their caloric intake if there is no information provided?

Expect to see more products take this approach as R&D teams try to give their brands an edge as foodaseuticals. Nanotechnology and other advances in supplementation are pushing the envelope further… I’m paying attention and hope you are, too.

Text written by Amy Snider, PHEC

Amy Snider: not your typical Becky Homecky

April 24, 2008

Amy Snider is the fresh face of fibre and one of my closest colleagues. She devotes a considerable amount of her spare time to working hard to make sure that she and other professional home economists get the respect they deserve. Today she tells us why we all need to revise our opinions about Home Ec.

DM: So, what the heck is a home economist?

AS: A Professional Home Economist has graduated from a degree program related to home economics (in my case a BSc. Human Ecology, Foods and Nutrition) and is registered with the provincial governing body of the Ontario Home Economics Association. (There are also associations in New Brunswick, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba).

As professionals, we can generalize or specialize in many areas such as advertising and marketing, recipe development, food styling, product research, public health, media relations, teaching and textile design.

DM: So you don’t spend all day long making ponchos and teaching kids to macramé?

AS: Very funny, Dana. As you know from hanging out with me on a daily basis, my role in the office is to oversee our recipe development practice. I am also the office authority on nutrition-related issues that come up with our clients’ recipe programs, nutrient analysis, copy writing, product development and current trends and innovations.

DM: Describe your typical workday.

AS: I don’t have a typical work day – some days I spend time at my desk researching nutrition topics, running nutrient analysis or writing and editing recipes. Other days, I’m out of the kitchen doing spokesperson work, meeting with clients, leading recipe tastings or going to trade shows to research innovations in food… There are lots of days where find myself having so much fun that I say to myself – ‘I can’t believe this is part of my work day’ – I love it!

DM: What’s the difference between a home economist and a dietitian?

AS: A dietitian often has the same undergraduate degree (BSc. in Foods and Nutrition or Applied Nutrition) but has also completed a yearlong internship (most commonly in a hospital setting) under the authority of the Dietitians of Canada. After completion they register with the Dietitians of Canada.

DM: Can you tell me three reasons why home economists shouldn’t be the punch line of my jokes?

AS: Just three?
1. We are a vibrant group of professionals who are knowledgeable in our chosen fields.
2. Look at the popularity of programming on the Life Channel, the W Network, The Food Network, TLC and HGTV as key examples of society’s interest in all things domestic. Teaching these basic life skills of nutritious food preparation, household management, budgeting, etc. are at the core of the home economics profession.
3. At the end of the day, a Professional Home Economist has the Canadian consumer at heart.