Spending the last few weeks with friends and family over the holidays, I have had the pleasure of a good amount of time to reflect on the past year and where this journey I’m on is taking me.
During 2013, I made many changes in my personal and professional life. The experience that has humbled me the most is not the opening of a 500-seat restaurant, but cooking for 40 children at the Two Row Society Summer camp. From one extreme to the other, it changed my perspective on cooking and helped me think of food in a way that I had grown distanced from while cooking in Toronto.
I have always believed in the need to invest in our youth. Now it seems even more important than ever to put aside our differences and recognize we’re all here sharing this earth. We are all part of creation and need to be considerate of what we are leaving behind for the next generation. Too often when cooking in Toronto and designing menus, putting together a children’s menu would be an after thought or something done with very little enthusiasm. Regularly, children’s menus feature the expected mac’n’cheese, deep fried chicken fingers with fries, grill cheese sandwich, and an ice-cream sundae. Of course these treats both enjoyed by children and adults alike are perhaps familiar comfort foods that are safe and easy to please options. I will admit that I do love a good grilled cheese sandwich from time to time.
With that said, cooking for the children this past summer and engaging with their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles helped me realize that children are far more adventurous, are willing to try unfamiliar foods, and love nutritious options when presented to them in a fun way with an explanation of the value of what they are about to eat. The excitement on the children’s faces and their very honest reactions to the simplicity of chopped up watermelon or corn on the cob, the delight they took in eating a fruit kabob, how much they adored the homemade bread I had baked for them brought about a true “ah ha” moment for me regarding the importance and privilege in cooking for children.
Getting to know various community leaders and programs that focus on community engagement with food, I have had the pleasure of meeting folks at the Six Nations Farmers’ Market greenhouse and kitchen where children are taught the fundamentals of growing and cooking. At the Six Nations’ greenhouse located on Fourth Line in Ohsweken, you can pick your own salad, combining a variety of leafy greens and veggies grown all year round. The greenhouse is such a warm, inviting, and inspiring place that I highly recommend a visit for persons of all ages.
The Frugal Foodie Workshops at the Aboriginal Student House at Wilfred Laurier, Brantford campus is a program that I very much look forward to being a part in the upcoming months. The Frugal Foodie Workshops aim to teach students how to prepare nutritious, local, and delicious food while on a budget. In my opinion, the increasing number of people reconnecting with the land by planting food gardens at home, starting one in their community, and engaging in food programming and outreach as the above mentioned actives – are all indicators of ongoing change and efforts being made in how we view food and its production. It is with investments both physically and spiritually to these things that we can make a difference. Every seed planted with a good mind is an investment in the future and a step away from dependency on a broken food system. Every meal made with love and positive intentions will bring the joy back to the food we eat.
I look forward to sharing what little knowledge of cooking that I have with those around me this year and growing with the community.
Inspired by the Six Nations’ Greenhouse pick your own salad, I must say salads aren’t only for the summer; winter salads are a great way to use winter vegetables in a fresh new way.
I’m a big fan of roasted vegetables in a salad. They are not only delicious but keep in the fridge for a couple of days if you don’t use them all right away.
Winter Salad Recipe
- OR whichever root vegetables you prefer (beets, parsnips)
- greenery (whatever you choose)
- dried fruit of your choice (raisins, cranberries, apricots)
- optional: roasted nuts or seeds make a nice addition, such as pumpkin seeds or toasted walnuts
- Cut vegetables in small diced pieces
- Place in salted cold water. Bring to the boil and turn off heat, strain and let dry with paper towel or a cloth.
- Heat butter or oil in pan on medium heat, roast until a nice golden brown colour is achieved; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Chop your dried fruit (right now I’m into dried cranberries)
- Toss vegetables with vinaigrette, dried fruit and the greenery of your liking (lately I’m loving the play between bitter arugula and the sweetness of the roasted root veggies)
- Adjust your seasoning as needed and enjoy!
For the vinaigrette:
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Whisk together sugar and vinegar and stream in oil while whisking to create a temporary suspension. Note: if you let it sit it will break (separate) and you will have to re-whisk it.