This blog has been on my mind for several weeks now, and I am finally sitting down to write it. My sister in law, Mirela called me and said she had a great idea for a blog post, to talk about shopping thoughtfully and why I shop the way I do. At first I didn’t quite understand what she meant about shopping thoughtfully, but after thinking about it, it’s a good way to put it, I do shop thoughtfully (thanks Mirela!). A trip to buy my groceries for the week can mean a stop at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market, Acme Meat Market, Bonjour Boulangerie, Planet Organic or Blush Lane (or both!), The Italian Centre, Save on and Vines.

December was crazy busy for me, and it would have been very easy to throw my values out the window. My shopping could take an hour, I could head into Superstore, and pop across the parking lot to their liquor store and be done with all of the ingredients and the wine for my classes. Instead, I chose to support other small local businesses, local farmers and producers and to have relationships with these people – who like me, love what they do. I head to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market every Saturday not only for my business, but also to do a big portion of my weekly shopping for my house. Of course, living in Alberta, especially at this time of year, you can’t check everything off of your list at the market. For me, it’s how I shop for myself, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t shop like this for my business, yes, it takes more time, but I feel like I am buying the best quality ingredients that I have access to. I had a client tell me a month or so ago that she had recently started to really make a conscious effort to know where her food was coming from and to try to buy the best quality, in season and local ingredients should could find, to her the surprising thing was it made cooking much more simple. She told me she needed to add fewer things to a dish to make it taste good – funny how that works!

There are so many food trends that you see over the course of a year, people saying they are going to stick to this regime or that regime, and they can’t stick to it or cheat or end up doing more harm than good to their body. I believe that we need to eat a balanced diet that includes all of the food groups. I believe that we need to make a conscious effort to know about the impact that food can have on our environment. I believe that we should know (and care!), how our food is produced from the beginning to the end, and I believe that we should all care about how our food is put together before we eat it, and what is done with any waste. A lot of people chose to be ignorant to the issues that surround food and food security not only in our city but around the world. We all have to eat to stay healthy, and we should all care about that – this should be reason enough. A lot of people know about these issues but are unsure of how to make changes, or are unsure if they can afford to. We can all make changes in our lives (make your coffee at home in the morning, take your lunch to work, drink less wine (guilty!), eat at home more…) that can save us money without affecting our life too much, it just means being a bit more organized and having a routine.

So try it, go to the markets, ask questions, find out why each producer does what they do, find out if they spray or not, find out how they butcher their animals, how they raise them, what the animals eat, how they treat their employees, how many employees they have, etc. etc. etc. Create your own routine, your own relationships with the farmers and by doing that, you’ll have better tasting food, waste less, and care more about what you’re putting into your body. I hope that you’ll create a Saturday morning routine that you enjoy as much as I enjoy mine! And always remember why you’re supporting local — it’s their livelihood.

Over the next few months I am going to add a section to my website called, “Meet my Producers,” which I hope will encourage all of you to get out there and support local farmers and producers. There is so much going on in Edmonton right now with small business – especially in the food scene, find the people who are passionate about what they do, and get on board! This is as important to me as any aspect of my business and cooking philosopy, I hope to plant the seed in a few minds and to hear your stories about supporting local producers. At the end of my recipe booklets in all of my classes I have a “Vendor List,” that is relevant to the specific class, it’s great to hear about clients using the list as they go and shop to recreate what we’ve made in a class.

In saying all of this, of course there is one other bit that is very important to me when it comes to using the best ingredients, and that is to have your own little garden. But, that’s a topic for a day closer to spring!

I sit and write this blog this afternoon, thinking back to where I was on January 5th last year, I was sitting in my room in The White Cottage writing my first blog after my first day at Ballymaloe. My blog is over a year old (wow!), and one of my resolutions is to be better about blogging again…

Happy New Year!

I’ll leave you with the question….

Why is it that a bag of “mini carrots” has an ingredients list, but a bag of normal carrots doesn’t?

And a quote from my first at Ballymaloe one year ago today!

“Basic ingredients are terribly important…” – Darina Allen