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You win some, you lose some… and some you get rained out

I remember this expression from my childhood, and it has applied in so many situations I long ago lost count. Everyone likes to win at something, but quickly we learn that we won’t win every time. For there to be a winner there also has to be a loser. You wouldn’t have a game otherwise. But it’s the times when you can’t seem to win no matter what that can be the toughest. Matters beyond your control stop the game mid-stream, and you have to change things up to continue. Such is life, or as the French put it,

C’est la vie.

I’ve been in this kind of situation in the kitchen when I did movie catering. I remember the first time I cooked brownies for 100 people on a catering truck while parked on a steep hill. I had to think fast when they came out of the oven – there was a thicker end to the baking pan of batter that was a big brownie (more like cake) and a thinner end that was more like a biscotti. I could not choose “game over” as an option, the cast and crew had to have dessert. So I iced the thick half and dusted the thin half with icing sugar. I cut the pieces smaller and served up a choice: chocolate wacky cake AND biscotti. It worked, even though it wasn’t the original game plan. I did make a note to myself to prop up the pan the next time we cooked on a hill, though. When you get rained out, you learn a lot.

We got rained out tonight for dinner. We were supposed to meet friends at a local restaurant to catch up on all our news, as we hadn’t seen each other in months. We wanted a place on the Westside so it would be close for all of us. She made reservations.

We pulled up first and found the restaurant closed up. We knew it wasn’t open for lunch and we had arrived early… we checked the website and it said they were closed Mondays. So we texted our friend; perhaps she had made a mistake when reserving? She and her partner pulled up a few moments later, and she told us she had specifically asked if they were open since the website said otherwise. The staff said of course and took her booking.

when things don’t look good, we try to think outside the box and see other options.

Growing up with parents who worked in the movie industry meant I learned the motto, “Be Prepared” long before I was a Girl Guide. My hubbie is just as adaptable having spent years in a hot kitchen. We are always prepared for rain. (If we ever ended up on a show like Amazing Race, I think we would do really well.)

It took only a minute or so before we had come to a consensus. Many small restaurants are not open Monday, something we can sympathize with since we know weekends are the busy days. We brainstormed and quickly found someplace close that was open and headed out.

So I’m sorry, Thai Fusion , but I can’t offer any commentary about your experience. It’s a shame, as we don’t get out that often and I like to support small businesses. Unfortunately since part of my expertise lies in customer service I have to say that you did lose out when you had a staff member so out of it they never realized even after taking a reservation that they booked clients for a night you’re not open. You missed an opportunity to win.

As a result, 19 Okanagan Grill and Bar got our business tonight. They welcomed us with open arms and smiles, and took good care of us all evening. The drinks were fun and tasty; my Pineapple Ginger Margarita was the perfect beverage for reminiscing about my Mexican holiday. The food was hot and full of flavours. I had plenty of fish tacos in Mexico, and I already know theirs are good so I chose the Butter Chicken Bowl. I was pleased with the abundance of veggies, chicken and rice; the hot naan bread was a perfect accompaniment. My hubbie said his Cajun Burger was just right too, with a good kick of heat, fresh lettuce and tomato and hot fries. Our friends were both happy too – apparently the Caesar cocktails are at least as good as the Margaritas.

I’m glad I was able to support a neighbourhood business tonight. I am thankful that we got some quality time with friends, and a fun memory to share. Thanks, 19, for keeping us out of the rain. You’re a winner in my eyes. I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.

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Responsible food choices

local food collage words

There is a great effort to support local businesses especially when it comes to food and often supporting “organic” is seen as a good sign as well. But when we talk of manufactured brands, do we really know where the brands come from? This infographic below shows a bit of “behind the scenes” info on who owns what. I don’t mean to pass judgement on any of these companies, but as the article from TakePart states if we wish to make more of a statement we need to make sure we learn about all the steps in our food’s progress to our table.

Now that the farmers’ markets are opening up and the fruit and vegetable stands will soon follow, it becomes easier to support local growers. How many of us also support local producers when we buy meat or cheese? Do we shop at a local independent store or a large national chain? Do we support brands based in our own country, or province (state)? Often supporting a local effort means paying a bit more… is this decision one that we feel is worth the extra pennies?

I grew up in  a time when food from countries halfway around the world was more expensive and not always available. Nowadays many of those items are always on the shelf and at a price that doesn’t change much (kiwis, pineapple, asparagus and strawberries in winter, citrus fruit in the summer). Big box stores didn’t exist either, and my parents knew the butcher, the greengrocer, the fish monger and the baker. At Costco or Walmart no-one asks to speak to those people, but they do expect the prices will be much lower than at the little local shop – the big guys purchase items by the container-load, so why wouldn’t they be?

I guess it comes down to value… how much would you spend on a pair of designer shoes or an outfit? What brand of smart phone do you prefer? If food is a priority, then likely you spend accordingly to find what you want. What is good wholesome food worth?  The same goes for supporting local; is your community something you value on a personal level – do you want to know and support your neighbours? It truly is up to each of us to decide, hopefully in an informed way. To borrow the phrase, “take part” – get engaged so you can defend your choices and live with a happy conscience!

Inside the Business of Organics: Big Companies That Own Your Organic Brands
Via: TakePart.com

 

Celebrate food!

Okay, maybe that sounds a bit excessive. We celebrate WITH food all the time – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving… not to mention birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, and so on. But especially in our part of the world, where we seem to feel that everything needs to be fast and we should always be doing more than one thing at a time, perhaps taking the time out to celebrate our food that comes from right here in our own backyard would be a good idea. Maybe it might be a way to remind us of how fortunate we are? Or maybe it might just teach us something  – are you aware of all the things that are grown or produced here?

This Saturday, August 4th is Food Day in Canada. Never heard of it? That’s okay, it’s never too late to join the party! It’s a celebration of Canadian ingredients across the country. There are restaurants that offer special dishes, or even menus, and there are lots of people who offer their comments on the website (www.fooddaycanada.ca) about their own backyard parties. Since we live in one of the most abundant food basket regions in the country, I thought it only fair I put the word out. And besides, it’s always great to enjoy good food with friends. At the peak of our growing season, why would you not sample the local fare?

Here’s a few ideas for you to make the most of this event:

  • visit a local farmer’s market – check here to see many of the ones around the province. Here in the Okanagan every community has something every week, and they are all worth visiting as each one is unique. 
  • pick fresh fruit – if you don’t have a tree, ask a neighbour or stop at a “u-pick” place. There is no food fresher than stuff you pick right then and there. It’s as much fun as drinking from the garden hose!
  • stop at a fruit stand or a farm stall – talk to the people and ask them how to prepare or eat anything that is new to you.
  • visit a local food store (by this I don’t mean Walmart or Superstore). Ask the butcher or cheesemonger or baker , etc. what they recommend for local fare
  • if you shop at a larger store, look for local seasonal fare – you will be supporting local farmers and the food will likely be fresher than something shipped from further away
  • Share! Invite friends, family, neighbours to share in a meal – share recipes and ideas. It’s impossible not to learn and discover new things when you do this.

If you are reading this after Saturday and feel like you missed out, never fear. Here are a few suggestions for celebrating food on other days:

  • try out food events – Feast of Fields is a great event that focuses on local producers.. Here in the Okanagan it is on Sunday, August 12. Details on their website.
  • join Slow Food – a local chapter is forming in the Thompson Okanagan. Check out the international organization that started in honour of keeping local traditions and food specialties and now operates in 150 countries
  • celebrate Julia Child’s birthday coming up August 15th (she would have been 100 years old this year) . She was quoted as saying that food should be a recreation, not a fuel stop. That’s my kind of hero! Watch for more on Julia in future columns.

Whatever you do, take the time to enjoy your food and the company at your table, every chance you get.  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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