Does Life Get Better Than Fresh Strawberry Pie?

It’s strawberry season in Canada, although here in our corner of the Canadian Shield there are no strawberry farms within 200 kilometres, and no organic ones within 500 kilometres. But, thanks to Mark’s lovely parents, who visited us from Manitoba, we had 16 pounds of fresh organic strawberries to enjoy this weekend. Many of the berries ended up in the freezer to be enjoyed in smoothies in the winter, but I did make 2 pies.

While all fresh local strawberries are delicious, I make a special effort to buy organic berries. Although they can be a little more expensive, they are worth it because, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides, non-organic strawberries are #3 on the “Dirty Dozen” list, due to of the high amount of pesticide residue they may contain.

5 cups of fresh organic strawberries, ready to become pie!

Here are the recipes, and the photos, from my kitchen this week. I like this pie recipe because fresh berries are mixed in with cooked ones, giving it a truly fresh flavour:

Fresh Strawberry Pie (adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook):

5 cups strawberries

3 – 4 T cornstarch

1/2 – 1 cup honey (depending on how sweet your berries are, and how sweet you like your pie)

2 T lemon juice

Baked pie crust*

Divide the strawberries into 2 bowls. Slice in half the berries in one bowl. Crush the berries in the 2nd bowl (which should be microwaveable) with a fork or potato masher.

Stir in the cornstarch, honey, and lemon juice into the crushed berries, mixing well. Place the bowl in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, take out and stir well, and repeat until the mixture looks clear or translucent and is thickened. Remove from the heat and cool. When cooled, stir in sliced strawberries and put the mixture into the baked crust and place in the fridge until firm. Serve with whipped cream.

crushing berries with a potato masher
mixing sliced and crushed strawberries together

In our house, opinion is divided on whether a graham wafer crust is the best one to use for this recipe, which is why I usually bake two, one with a graham wafer crust and then a second one with my favourite, Tannis’s Pie Crust. That way everybody is happy!

*Tannis’s Oatmeal Pie Crust:

Tannis's Oatmeal Pie Crust

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup almonds or pecans, chopped finely

2 T brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

Mix dry ingredients together, then add butter. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate and bake at 400 degrees F for 12 – 15 minutes.

Pies are ready for eating!

More links:

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides

Strawberry Fields Forever

To find a U-Pick farm near you, check out this website, www.pickyourown.org (and remember,choose organic whenever you can)

How Our Food System Is Making Us Sick: Former Food Industry Analyst

Robyn O’Brian, author of “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It” shares her personal story and how it inspired her current path as a “Real Food” evangelist. Grounded in a successful Wall Street career that was more interested in food as good business than good-for-you, this mother of four was shaken awake by the dangerous allergic reaction of one of her children to a “typical” breakfast. Her mission to unearth the cause revealed more about the food industry than she could stomach, and impelled her to share her findings with others. Ms. O’Brien went on to found allergykidsfoundation.org. If you are concerned about your health, and the health of your family, you will find this talk informative and alarming:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA]

More links:

Allergykids Foundation.com

Climate Change-Related Food Shortages Becoming a Reality

This summer has been devastating as China, Pakistan, and Russia reel under extreme weather events. Pakistan in particular is in need of humanitarian  yet “donor fatigue” is cited as one of the reasons for the less generous aid responses so far. Food crops have been affected both in Russia and in Pakistan, with Russia responding by cancelling this year’s grain exports. In Pakistan, the floods have damaged wheat and rice crops as more than 17 million hectares of arable land lies under water. We already live in a world where one billion people go hungry every day. In a world experiencing climate change, food instability will only grow. According to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, more than 75% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and most of these are small-scale farmers. These are the people most at risk of increased hunger from climate change.

Donor fatigue is not an option for those of us in the richest parts of the world who are directly responsible for the increased suffering around the globe. And let’s not stop with aid relief – take time to send a message to your government that it’s time to address climate change NOW, before it’s too late. And join 350.org’s 10-10-10 work party and make a difference in your community that will send ripples around the globe.

More links:

Go to The Humanitarian Coalition (Oxfam, CARE, and Save the Children) to donate to Pakistan Flood Relief.

Click here to tell world leaders to begin to address climate change by putting solar on their residences.

If you are Canadian, go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank climate change page to send a postcard to your MP commending the government for setting aside $400 million to help developing countries adapt to and fight climate change, and to ask that it goes to where it is most effective, and is given in the form of grants and not loans.

To get an idea of the stark reality of food shortages that climate change will bring about, view this slide show prepared by Dr. Peter Carter: Hello. This is the map to the end of our world. Goodbye.

credit: Canadian Foodgrains Bank

One Step to Changing the World – Eat Locally

Today is “Meatless Monday“, a campaign that encourages us all to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health by eating less meat.  Today’s posting is a discussion about the “Eating Local” movement by my good friend, Vi Stoesz.  She and her husband Barry participated in a “100 Mile Diet for 100 days” experiment several years ago, and Vi was recently invited to share their experience with an interested group of women in Altona, Manitoba.  Vi was gracious enough to agree to my request to share her talk on this blog:

Thanks for inviting me to talk about my experience with the 100 Mile Diet.

In the spring of 2007, we had heard about the 100 Mile Diet and were inspired by the Vancouver couple who went on a local diet for one year, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. A couple from our church, Jennifer deGroot and Will Braun, had also been gardening in the city and been very committed to putting food up for the winter. Jennifer shared extensively about eating local with members of our church, Hope Mennonite.  She and Will also worked on a farm as part of their journey towards eating locally.

Via the grapevine, we heard of the 100 Mile Diet challenge for interested people in Winnipeg. The challenge was to eat food grown in a 100 mile radius for 100 days and they were hoping that 100 people would sign up to participate.  A website was formed, where people could register to be official participants.  The challenge lasted from September 1 –December 9, 2007.  The group that created the idea wanted the experience to be somewhat of a challenge so they started it in September rather than over the summer.  This gave us time to prepare, learn to put food up if we needed to, research local sources of food, and network with others.

In the early spring of 2007, I really thought about it and wondered if we could do it.  I love contests that have a competitive edge – especially if they include my husband.  My children were 18, 22, and 24 at the time so I didn’t really have anything more to say to them in terms of advice – they knew all the answers! However, I still wanted to be an inspiration to them just as my parents have been to me in terms of service and life challenges.   I also came to believe this experiment would be a direct act of faith, in keeping with God’s call to care for the environment.  By eating locally, our food travels less which reduces green house gas emissions, it tastes better, and – most of the time -there is less packaging. The foods eaten are whole foods, with less processing. I would have to do the processing.  My connection with the land that grows my food would be strengthened.  I liked that.   My demand for cheap exotic fruits like oranges, pineapple and bananas is also directly linked with the oppression of poor farmers who have to use their land to grow food for me instead of their families.  Were my choices in food affecting someone else’s livelihood and contributing to their poverty?  I needed to think about those connections, and  I wanted to connect my actions with my beliefs.  This would be a good opportunity to directly live out my faith and learn lots in the process.

I ran the idea past my husband Barry and he agreed to join me if he could still drink coffee and eat chocolate.  We had been drinking fair trade coffee for about a year – would we have to give that up too?  Would we really try to give up chocolate?  We talked to others who were joining about their thoughts on coffee, chocolate and salt. Where would we get salt?  It turns out the only source of salt we could find that was somewhat close was in Saskatchewan. Was this too far? It wasn’t 100 miles.  If we couldn’t get it locally, what will our food taste like without salt? What about spices?  Isn’t this something that the First Nations traded for furs?  We were getting scared and very hesitant about this whole thing.  We thought it was a bit crazy.  Why put ourselves through this?  Weren’t we already eating local chicken and going to farmer’s markets? We were concerned and spoke with others.  They reassured us that if we joined, there would not be daily visits from “100 Mile” police to check up on us, or dire consequences for diving into a chocolate bar in the middle of the night.  If some people wanted to join with a few exceptions, that would be acceptable, and they could still sign up.  The point of the experiment was to be as open and transparent as possible.  We were still scared but excited at the same time when we took the plunge and signed up.

Read moreOne Step to Changing the World – Eat Locally

Norway Outlines Its Climate Cure, Climate Change Response Plan for Ontario Urged, Meanwhile Alberta Tar Sands Growth Unchecked

In the news this week, those progressive Scandinavians are at it again! Norway has announced one of the world’s toughest climate goals, with a target of 30 – 40% reduced CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Unlike recent announcements of a progressive new Canadian environmental policy, which turned out to be a Yes Men hoax (click here or here for more), Norway is serious about pursuing this strategy.  The “Climate Cure” plan that has just been released is a 300-page document prepared by Norwegian state agencies to guide deep cuts in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This policy is in line with the reductions that the best science say are necessary to avert global climate destabilization from greenhouse gas pollution.  The economic cost is considered in the plan as well, with Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim saying the modest impact on economic growth predicted will mean that Norway will be as rich by Easter in 2020 than the country otherwise would be at Christmas in 2019. Seems a small price to pay to keep the planet habitable for future generations! To read more about Norway’s announcement, click here.

Meanwhile, closer to home, a blue ribbon panel of experts has produced a 96 page report entitled “Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario” which makes 59 comprehensive recommendations on how to deal with coming climate change-related effects. By this spring, the report states, Ontario should produce a “climate change adaptation action plan,” to guide policy creation in everything from physical infrastructure – such as building better roads and bridges – to agriculture, water, at risk species, and human health. Click here for more.

No announcements from the Canadian government on an environmental plan that will ensure a safe and healthy future for Canadians, though. The federal and Alberta governments’ support for the oil sands, the dirtiest oil in the world, continues unabated. However, there are signs from outside the country that campaigns that target the tar sands and the companies associated with them are having an effect. As discussed earlier on this blog, two Fortune 500 companies – Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond – recently announced they were going to remove the oil sands from their supply chains. Meanwhile in Britain, campaigners are encouraging people to lobby their pension plans if they hold shares in BP or Shell, two major oil sands investors. And in the U.S. a “Love Winter Hate the Oil Sands” campaign is just getting started. It seems these companies will only listen when their bottom line is threatened – sanity, science and long-term planetary security don’t seem to make a difference. A campaign that targets Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for its bankrolling of the tar sands is also underway – and is having an effect. This week, RBC Chief Operating Officer Barbara Stymiest (yes, that really is her name) and Rainforest Action Network met – click here to read “Getting to Maybe with RBC” or here for a Macleans article about this issue. To send a letter to Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon telling him to stop investing in the tar sands, click here. To join the Facebook group “Ending Investment in Tar Sands” click here.

The Joys Of Eating Sustainably

This weekend I attended a supper that featured locally and sustainably grown food, part of a larger “Growing Local” conference. The food was delicious, the entertainment good, and the conversations interesting. It turns out there is a strong connection between the food that we eat and the production of climate-changing pollution. How so, you ask? Here are a few statistics that demonstrate how agriculture emits carbon dioxide through transportation, fertilizer production, and other means  (from veg.ca):

Deforestation (partly to clear land for agriculture) is responsible for 13% of climate change through the release of stored carbon dioxide. Methane causes 17.3% of climate change due to livestock digestion, animal manure, rice paddies, dams, fossil fuel extraction, and landfills. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) accounts for 5.4% mostly due to fertilizers.

Livestock generate more greenhouse gas emissions, in CO2 equivalent, than transportation and it’s also a major source of land and water degradation.

The food that North Americans eat now takes far more energy to get our table that the energy we get from eating it. Brian Halweil, author of Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market points out:

A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives.

The winners in this kind of unsustainable, energy-intensive food system aren’t local farmers or consumers, it turns out. Halweil goes on to say:

The big winners are agribusiness monopolies that ship, trade, and process food. Agricultural policies, including the new Farm Bill, tend to favor factory farms, giant supermarkets, and long-distance trade, and cheap, subsidized fossil fuels encourage long-distance shipping. The big losers are the world’s poor.

And, a new study from the University of Arizona shows, that in the United States at least, 40% of the food produced and shipped in that energy-intensive way ends up being thrown out without even being eaten. So it turns out we, the consumer, can save money and make a difference in the production of greenhouse gases just buy making sure we eat our leftovers.  Buying less junk food and more food that requires little packaging, like fresh fruits and vegetables, also decreases our carbon footprint – not to mention being better for our overall health and our waistlines!

Fighting global warming can start right in our own kitchens, by changing what we put on our forks everyday.  Today is Monday, so in the spirit of making a difference, consider joining the “Meatless Monday” movement. For more information as well as recipes, click here. For some of our family’s favourite vegetarian dishes, click here.

For more information on this topic, check out these links:

Local Food Plus (Canada)

Toronto Vegetarian Association: Climate Change: The Inconvenient Truth About What We Eat

The 100 Mile Diet: Why Eat Local

Organic Consumers Association:Americans Are Tossing $100 Billion of Food A Year

WorldWatch Institute: Globetrotting Food Will Travel Further Than Ever This Thanksgiving

FAO Institute: Livestock a Major Threat to the Environment