Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Eating Our Way Around Montreal

A recent 2-day, part-family visit, part-honeymoon trip to Montreal turned mainly into a tour of a few of the many excellent vegetarian, vegan, and veggie-friendly restaurants. Montreal is a great place to be in early June – warm, but not too hot, and everyone is outside, enjoying a drink on the patio, even in the middle of the day on Monday.

Aux Vivres
Aux Vivres BLT

Aux Vivres BLT

A fantastic place for a lunch when you’re really hungry. The portions are huge, and the service is quick. We had the gyro and the BLT, and both were amazing. I’ve never had vegan sour cream before, and they did a great job, and the coconut bacon in the BLT, while not something that would be mistaken for real bacon, was really tasty. If I lived in Montreal, this would be a frequent destination until I’d tried everything on the menu.

Zyng

Not a solely vegetarian restaurant, I remember this place from previous visits, and although my standards may have been a bit lower in my younger years, it’s still pretty good. You choose your own noodles, sauce, and protein from the menu, which includes 2 veggie proteins, tofu and “zoya.” Then you fill up your bowl with veggies of your choice, and they fry them up on a big grill. I forgot to pay close attention, but I’m pretty sure there was a separate grill for the meat and vegetarian fries, which is different from the Mongolian grill. I like this style because you always end up with exactly the veggies you want!

Commensal

This place was recommended by a friend, and had good food. Buffet style, but you pay by weight, and there was a huge variety of different foods, hot and cold, from all over, including a lot of desserts. If you came to this place often, you would know what were the best dishes, and what not to bother with. With this style, it’s easy to take too much food, and focus on heavier stuff like pasta and potatoes, instead of salad, which can get the price up pretty quick. Ended up eating a lot of food, and didn’t get a chance to taste the desserts, but have heard they’re amazing.

La Banquise
Poutine at La Banquise

Poutine at La Banquise

We asked the person at our hotel when we arrived where we could get vegetarian poutine, and she recommended this place. They have a large menu of a lot of different poutine options, pretty much anything you can imagine. Most people ordered a regular for themselves, but not being Montrealers with arteries made of steel, we split one. It was great. Having spent many summers in Quebec eating poutine, I have a snobbish attitude towards poutine in Vancouver, where I once worked at a grill that called cheddar cheese on fries with gravy poutine (or “pooh-tine” as people call it), although I admit that it seems to be getting more authentic these days. In any case, this hit the spot.

L’Escalier

This hole-in-the-wall on St. Catherine’s was a good stop, especially since it was close to our hotel and there was a downpour. We had a sandwich and a pizza. The sandwich was good, the pizza was so-so, and the atmosphere was fun – seemed to be a lot of hipster students on a Tuesday evening. We almost missed the place going by.

Crudessance

We met a friend for lunch at this raw-vegan restaurant, our last proper meal in Montreal. Between the 3 of us, we tried the Pad Thai, and the Champion and Nirvana wraps, all excellent, along with a couple of tasty kombuchas. I’m somewhat wary of raw vegan cuisine sometimes, but this really was tasty.

We did a few other things while in Montreal, including visiting the environment museum at the Biosphere, which was an excellent use of a rainy day, and drinking a lot of beer. Also impressed with the bike sharing system in the city, with cyclists everywhere, albeit without helmets. But enduring impressions were definitely of food!

Bixi shared bike system

Bixi shared bike system

View from the Biosphere

View from the Biosphere

Connecting with what you eat

Food is a huge part of sustainability. In this article on The Tyee, where the topic of obesity and “informed dining” is addressed. Although the article does not talk about sustainability, I think that health and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked. The Slow Food movement, a reaction to the prominence of fast food and loss of traditional food knowledge, demonstrates how taking time to source good food, cook at home, and support local traditions has benefits for health and community.

I recently watched a Passionate Eye episode about chocolate and child labour, and it really emphasizes for me how disconnected we are, as a society, from our food chain. For the most part, people don’t know where their food has come from, how far it has traveled, what its carbon footprint is, or even what is in it.

In the video below, I talk a bit about how to connect more with the food we eat. Local food is a big part of that, supporting local agriculture and reducing our carbon footprint. But there are a lot of things we can’t produce here, chocolate being one of them. I love chocolate, so I try to always buy organic, fairtrade chocolate, to reduce the impact.

I am not a video specialist! The extreme windiness today made filming this short clip on my simple camera difficult, occasionally drowning me out. I hope you’re able to get what I’m trying to say!

Top ten easy changes you can make towards sustainability

Change can be hard. Trying to break old habits and form new ones does not come easily. But it can be done! Here are my top ten changes everyone can make on their journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

1. Make smart commuting choice

  • Do you really need to drive there?

    Biking on Salt Spring Island

  • Try walking, taking the bus, biking. It might take a bit longer, but you get exercise, it’s cheaper, and no road rage.
  • When you’re ready, try giving up the car entirely. If you live in Vancouver, it is so easy to get around by public transit and bicycle, and when you really need one, there are loads of car shares available (car2go, Zipcar, etc)

2. Switch to 100% recycled products

  • You might be really proud of yourself for recycling, but if you don’t buy recycled products, then where do you think all of that recycling is going?
  • Toilet paper, paper towel, notepaper are easy examples of paper recycled products that are just as good as the non-recycled kinds. And no rainforest gets cut down.
  • Some clothing is made from recycled plastics. MEC carries such products. There are also things such as chairs, tables. This leads into my  next point:

3. Reduce! Stop buying things in plastic!

  • Do you still drink bottled water? Here is an excellent video stating, in 3 minutes and 30 seconds (in an entertaining way), exactly why you should NEVER DRINK BOTTLED WATER. Ever.
  • Besides that, look to buying things in bulk, like beans, rice, nuts, and all sorts of other things. Save-on-Foods usually has great bulk sections. So do some of those mom-and-pop shops on Fraser Street.
  • Bring your own containers and bags. You do not need styrofoam containers for that little bit of leftover Chinese. You do not need that plastic bag for those 3 products. Get one of those little pouch bags you can keep in your purse/pocket, and have containers every time you go out for food.

Not good for turtle digestion

4. Support local food systems

  • Some potatoes and greens grown right on our tiny patio.

    Buy from your local farmers market or food that is locally grown. It reduces food miles, and thus carbon footprint.

  • It supports people who work pretty damn hard.
  • Food tastes better when it’s picked and consumed within days, instead of traveling across the globe.
  • When you can’t buy local – and I know, it’s tough – choose organic and fair trade.

5. Give good gifts

  • Give experiences. Tickets to a sporting event or theatre, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
  • Choose things that last a long time, not something that will break right away.
  • Get things that people actually want and need, not just something random because you feel like you’re supposed to get them a gift (no one needs another bath set or scented candle).
  • Edible or otherwise consumable gifts are great – a bottle of nice local wine, some excellent fair trade organic chocolate, some homemade cookies or candles show that you spent more than just money on the person.
  • Don’t wrap it! Seriously, how pointless is wrapping paper and ribbons?

Green Angel campaign from Metro Vancouver

 

6. Save power

  • It’s good for the environment, and it saves you $$.
  • Turn off you computer, turn off the lights. Seems so simple, but it can make a big difference.
  • Did you know that your electronics still draw power, even when the power is off? You cell phone charger, your laptop, your TV, are all drawing vampire power, even if you think you’ve been diligent and turned everything off. Easiest thing to do is plug everything into a power bar, then turn that off at night. BC Hydro tells us, “Standby power can use up to 10% of a home’s energy consumption.”
  • Hang dry your clothes. A dryer is a serious waste of energy.

7. Save water

  • In a rainy city like Vancouver, water seems endless. But we don’t harness the power of the rain in most places, so it’s important that we are conserving water, so that we have clean water sources for generations to come.
  • Take shorter showers, and lower water use in toilet by putting something solid in the toilet tank (i.e. a filled water bottle), which will reduce the amount used when flushing.

8. Compost

  • Food waste rotting in landfills is a major source of greenhouse gases.
  • You might be thinking this isn’t very easy. But it actually is. If you’re lucky, you live somewhere with curbside pickup. But most of us don’t.
  • You can get a worm composter, which is small enough even for small apartments. The City of Vancouver even offers subsidized bins for residents.
  • Drop off your food scraps at the Farmers Market. The Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium collects them, and I hope to see all the farmers markets this summer doing food scrap collection.

9. Eat less and choose better animal products

Happy cows in Agassiz, BC

  • Raising animals for food has huge impacts on the environment, considering everything from waste, land use, feed, and greenhouse gasses.
  • Eat less meat (try Meatless Mondays)
  • When you do eat meat, try to choose happy, healthy meat – grass fed beef, organic free-range eggs and chicken, oceanwise fish. Why? Watch this fun video.

10. Support green initiatives

  • Lots of local and international businesses are trying to reduce their carbon footprints. Support businesses that are doing that, and tell them that’s why you’re supporting them.
  • There are lots of great local green businesses in Vancouver. The Soap Dispensary lets you fill your own shampoo and detergent bottles, and Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. offers sustainable food and social initiatives (not to mention fantastic pizza), to name just a couple.

Soap nuts are my own choice for laundry detergent

 

So, to sum up, there are lots of things you, as a single person, can do to make small changes. And once you start to make a few, you will start to realize it’s not so hard, and we can all create a wave of more sustainable lifestyles!

Using my own containers

What I learned about blogging today: If I’m going to be any good at it, I’m going to have to get a lot better at being up to date on news stories. I have a bad habit of letting my news intake fall behind a day or two.. always knowing that I will be able to catch up (somewhat) through podcasts and backlogged Twitter posts.

So today, my friend and social media mentor, @erin_braincandy, pointed out this Vancouver Sun article about MacDonald’s, and the fact that some customers had been refused when trying to use their travel mugs for coffee, citing company policy.

I have many opinions about MacDonald’s, most of which lead me to never step in their doors if I can help it. But that aside, they are obviously a scapegoat for what is a common problem. Sure, most places will happily pour your hot beverage of choice into your travel mug. But, as is pointed out in the article, more than once (notably at Tim Horton’s), I have been astonished to see that they take my mug, and still use a paper cup to measure out the amount. This absolutely floors me. Do they think I’m using my own mug because I like the colour? If they were concerned about the size, they could have brought this up with me. I would have paid for an extra large tea just to be sure that they wouldn’t use a paper cup to measure. Or told them that I know for a fact that my mug is exactly the size of a medium (proven by the last time someone filled it to the brim after measuring with a paper cup).

But there is more than the mug at stake. I am the type of person who refuses to eat out if I know there is going to be a take out container (especially a styrofoam one!) involved. If there will be a possibility, I take my own containers with me. My partner and I sit at any restaurant and pack our leftovers into our own containers. If we don’t have any with us (and if we knew we were going out for dinner, that wouldn’t happen), then we order much less food. That’s just the way we work. But I have been in take out places that refuse to put the food in the container. And my response is simply that I won’t eat there. Funnily enough, usually the vendor next door will happily put the food in my container!

Health concerns be damned. If I use my own container, I take my own risks. The minor risk of contamination you might think I risk by not washing my container to the industry standards are much better than the risk that all of those non-biodegradable, toxic styrofoam and dyed paper containers are posing to our land and oceans.

I would like to credit Plastic Manners with giving me a hyper-awareness of the small plastics that come with ordering the simplest things – the stirring stick, the cream containers, the plastic grass with the sushi. Once you start to look carefully, you realize that bringing your own mug is only the tip of the iceberg.

Where styrofoam goes to live forever. *

What is something you always bring out with you? Your own fork or chopsticks? Grocery bag? Is there something you always kick yourself for forgetting?

 
*Photo credit: SamuelBenoit, Flickr Creative Commons