Oh Dairy Dear…

11 Jan

Before I get into the gristly details of my first excruciating shopping trip for organic goodies, let me set down the ground rules. Here’s the madness I have decided to embark upon:



– All produce must be organic, and if possible, local and/or in season.

– All meat must be humanely-raised and/or organic, and if possible, grass-fed.

– All seafood must be from sustainable sources.

– All eggs must be from free-range hens and organic, and if possible, local.

– All dairy products must be organic, and if possible, humanely-produced.

– All other groceries must be organic, unless no organic substitutes available. If not organic, must contain:

-No corn or soy products

-No plastic packaging

– All coffee must be organic, shade-grown and fair-trade.

– All tea, cocoa, sugar and chocolate must be organic and fair-trade.


–          During house visits, it’s ok to eat/drink anything that is served by host.

–          During travel, if organic food is not available, it’s ok to eat conventional foods, but vegetarian/vegan options should be taken whenever possible.

As of yesterday, when I returned from my wild trip east, the game has been on at full strength, along with my determination to do this on a tight budget. The first days, however, are not necessarily the hardest. In fact, they are quite easy, seeing as my freezer and pantry are (not intentionally, that’s how I always keep them) packed full of non-organic food. They need to be used up. In the meantime, though, anything I buy has to be organic. So my first trip to the grocery store involved picking up organic milk, yogurt (mainly to get a starter culture so I can make my own), and fruit. As a bonus, I found a slice of wild Ocean-Wise salmon that was in the discount bin. As a kick in the shins, I realized that the only organic free-range eggs in the store were $7 a dozen, which, to put it mildly, doesn’t fit very well into my current budget. So no eggs. And this is how the rest of the story went:

First meal: Discounted salmon and organic avocado. Not too bad.

Second meal: Chicken from freezer with potatoes and garlic from the pantry- nothing organic there, but I did ration out the chicken as I have a feeling it will become a scarce treat in the not-too-distant future.

First attempt at baking: I made cheese scones to eat for breakfast, seeing as the prospect of scrambled eggs was out the window. Once again, nothing organic except the fresh parsley from the garden. Still, the mindset was already shifting. Organic butter is $10 a pound here, which is close to gourmet delicacies such as chanterelles (which, by the way, I can get for free if I wander into the woods deep enough). I do have a pound and a half of butter squirreled away in the freezer during a sale, but I realized that like the chicken, it had to be rationed out. The recipe I have called for shortening, but I refuse to use margarine on principle (my father, being a unique sort of health nut, banned it in our household long ago, and not having grown up with it I can’t tolerate the stuff). So I ended up going with 1/3 butter and 2/3 oil, all the while feeling like a pre-industrial-revolution farmer’s daughter. Butter = creamed gold. Preeeecious. The scones turned out amazing.


Joys of Travel #1- Analyzing Airport Sushi

8 Jan

After reading a book about the North American food industry, shoved at me by a vegangelist friend, I had the hopelessly hippie idea of making a New Year’s resolution based on eating mindfully and ethically… Details to be announced later, but the gist of it is that I will from hereon buy and eat organic and ethically produced foods only. (And do it on a budget, mind you.)  The exceptions to the rule are travel and house visits (refusing food at a family visit would be the epidemy of rudeness). And since I greeted 2012 visiting my brother in the capital of capitalism, also known as New York City, the year of mindful eating hasn’t officially started. Still, I try to change my mindset the best as I can given the circumstances, and be mindful of what goes through my digestion. It’s been an interesting ride already.

I spent the first few days of the year eating out as per my brother’s head-to-head-opposite-to-mine American lifestyle, trying to keep to the vegetarian options on the menu (to avoid eating factory-farmed meat) and cheating every now and then out of either lack of choice or sheer temptation. (I am human after all, and the point of the resolution is cultivating mindfulness, not self-denial.) Then came a weekend in Quebec, which involved camping out in an old Catholic church for two nights and joining hundreds of jugglers for 48 hours of magic, mayhem and sleep deprivation, also known as TurboFest- the Quebec Circus School’s annual festival. During the festival, most of us subsisted on trail mix (couldn’t find organic trail mix in the Manhatten supermarket where I bought it), coffee, chocolate, and the sandwiches from the school’s cafeteria (hummus and cheese wasn’t too bad). I don’t know if anything beside my Endangered Species chocolate was organic, nor do I have the faintest clue whether the coffee was shade-grown or fair-trade. They were the only options I had though, and my body was abused enough without having to starve it for the sake of ideals. So that was that.

Now, my location is Montreal Trudeau Airport, and I have just discovered an airport food that is a half-decent alternative to grossly overpriced burgers: sushi. More specifically, the one, the only, the magnificent Avocado Roll. In a Comparative Anatomy 101 approach, it has several advantages: it doesn’t contain farmed salmon or other dubiously-sourced seafood, it’s significantly more filling (and tastier in my humble opinion) than the infamous cucumber roll, and only costs $3.50 for 8 pieces. On an Everyday Economics 101 approach, it’s about the same size (and about as filling) as a Starbucks sandwich, and costs half as much. Not bad. From an environmental perspective, it comes in a plastic container along with disposable chopsticks, but so does just about everything else at the airport. Besides, I was able to bypass the chopsticks as I randomly found a pair stashed in the dark depths of my laptop case- don’t ask why. I have no clue when I shoved them there, and for what purpose, but I decided to keep them as my reusable travel chopsticks. Here’s to hoping that all airports I go through have a sushi bar… (Riiight…)

Pill Pockets vs Cheap Pockets- the Fine Art of Medicating a Dog

20 Dec

Mini, being a little old fuzzball with a medical record thicker than the phone book, has half a dozen medications she has to take every day, each of them at a different time: one with food, one an hour before or two hours after food, one before bed but not within two hours of the one that’s given with food… It’s interesting times. The good news is, she’ll eat anything in terms of food and treats. The bad news is, she has a total of 4 teeth and can’t eat anything that requires chewing. The worse news is, she is more difficult than a cat when it comes to dry-pilling… Instead of wrestling with her three times a day, I’ve had to come up with a few tricks that make sure the pills go down at the right time and without trouble.For anyone out there who might find it useful for their own stubborn mutt, this is how it goes:

-“give with food” pills: Toss into bowl of kibble at meal time. (Mini’s food is soaked in warm water due to lack of teeth. I used to feed her canned food, but then realized that the highest quality veterinary diet in kibble form is actually way cheaper per month than the cheapest canned diet, and is a LOT more nutritious.)

-glucosamine capsule: This is gigantic, so I open the capsule and dump the contents into the kibble as well. The powder doesn’t interact with any medications, and is tasteless.

-“don’t give with a meal” pills: Hide in homemade “pill pocket”. I used to buy the actual Pill Pocket treats, which are the best invention of the decade, but here they cost almost $10 a pack. Even if I get the cat version (same ingredients, just smaller treats, so there are more per pack) I go through a hell of a lot of them and the cost adds up. So I’ve been using the following recipe:

-1 tablespoon peanut butter

-enough tapioca flour to turn PB into play-dough consistency (around 2-3 tbsp, but exact amount depends on brand of peanut butter and air temperature)

Keep in tupperware container, doesn’t need refrigeration. Just pinch off a lump and tuck pill inside. You could probably make it with regular wheat flour as well, but Mini is allergic to everything under the sun so I didn’t dare try. One batch lasts me as long as a pack of Pill Pockets, and costs literally  a few cents.


5 Dec

It’s the eternal irony of Sunday night- that there is no sun, but a cold winter crescent over frosty grass that sparkles in an echo of Orion’s twinkles above. Supper has been eaten, sausages cooked over the fireplace along with mulled blackberry wine, and dessert promptly forgotten due to an acute onset of food coma. (My stomach is still fervently protesting against my lack of common sense, so it’s probably a good thing that the s’more-making never happened.) Mini is curled up in her favorite spot (i.e. on my sweater that I previously threw on the ground in a moment of intense laziness), and is snoring a light Yorkie snore. Scott and Maya have withdrawn into their basement cave, and judging by the lack of cats around me, I presume Grandma and Fatty are there to occupy any vacant laps. We are all doing the same thing though, really. All waiting for the end of today, and the start of tomorrow, that it may come and go and be done with it. It’s the eternal irony of Sunday nights, which has bothered me since the days of having to cram the entire weekend’s homework into the last hour before bed. The night that is lived not as itself but as the dread of the coming day. The future’s shadow cast on the present. Monday impending. Monday. Moon Day. Sun Night. It’s all the same.

dramatis personae

23 Nov

Scott and Maya: My housemates. Self-proclaimed ski bums and bicycle fanatics, who have traveled through all the weird nooks and crannies of the planet together. They can usually be found occupying my kitchen with a giant wok and an obscene amount of vegetables, and tend to disappear into the mountains on the rare sunny day.

Grandma: Scott’s 17-year-old cat with an attitude worse than my own grandmother’s. She’s a patronizing little bugger, and if she’s not curled up tail-to-nose on my bed and purring her way through a nap, she is probably outside with her face in the catnip patch. She’s two-dimensional, and therefore is invisible when turned sideways.

Fatty: Scott’s other cat, younger and contains considerably more cat than Grandma. Any attempts at getting her to lose weight have been suspended till Grandma passes from this world, as their food dish is shared.

Mini Mouse (aka. the Little Ratface): Being a teenage Yorkie & dishrag cross with more medical conditions than teeth, Mini is my recycled and retired dog. Her main activities include sleeping, wagging her tail, peeing in the house and looking impeccably adorable.

Souffle, Orange and Marshmallow Fluff: My guinea pigs, more commonly known as the Good, the Bad and the Utterly Ridiculous. They come from a pet store, the local hippie commune, and a regrettably allergic friend, in that order. They possess a total of two and a half brain cells, which they share amongst themselves, and function as our vegetable garbage disposal and cheap entertainment.

Nathaniel: The ghost that lives in our kitchen and likes to open the cupboards, especially when we are standing in front of one. He is currently responsible for two bruised eyebrows, a sprained wrist (from slamming the cupboard shut for the zillionth time) and the invention of countless profanities. We’d exorcise him, but he keeps life interesting.

Petra: My colleague and friend of old. The only person on this side of the country who not only appreciates the insanity of my life, but has an equally strange one.

Circus Girl: That’s the name given to me by my boss, of all people. I’m a part-time professional, full-time fantasy geek, quarter-time writer and pi-to-the-power-of-sixth-time idealistic airhead hippie. I’m in love with circus arts, as it happens, hence my nickname. This is my life. This is my blog. Greetings, earthling. We are friends.

It was a dark and stormy night…

22 Nov

It really was. Last night. It rained like holy hell, and the wind blew right through our single-pane windows and down our chimney into the now-ash-covered living room. True, the Homestead didn’t sway back and forth like my rickety old apartment in St.John’s, but the question of “what in heaven’s name am I doing here??” still rose in my mind in a tiny, schizoid voice. So there. This is a blog of my ridiculous life. It may or may not be more ridiculous than yours, but it’s sufficiently ridiculous to blog about, and besides I’m in dire need of something to write. It may, in time, morph into something useful. It might not. But this is the story of how it all started- it started on a dark and stormy night…