Today on CBC Radio Victoria’s All Points West show I started a new column is called ‘Food Matters’, and I like that name because it has a double meaning. Food Matters is partly about food issues or matters, and they are the kind of issues that do ‘matter’ to us as we go about our everyday lives.
I’m going to focus a lot on sustainable food matters. I want to help our listeners try to navigate what has become quite a maze of information and misinformation and clever advertising and marketing and try to get to the heart of the matter: How should you eat if you want to be good to yourself and your family, and how to eat so that you are good to the planet. So some of the ‘Food Matters’ columns will give you tips on how and why you should choose sustainable seafood, for example. What the heck is a free-range chicken vs. a free-run chicken, or egg? What kind of questions should you be asking a farmer that has a sign that says, ‘no spray’ at your neighbourhood farmers market? Is grass-fed beef really that much more healthy for you than grain-fed, and how does the way it is raised impact the environment?
At the same time I want to look at some modern conventions. I’ve been looking at and collecting a vast amount of information over the past few years about sustainability. For example, one book I’ve been reading lately by James McWilliams called Just Food makes a case for genetically modified crops, floating algae from the sea as protein and mass food production as the best way to feed the world. He’s an associate professor of history at Texas State University and has been called an ‘honest environmentalist’, so he’s just not spouting off random opinions. Another issue I will look at is aquaculture. Does salmon farming really deserve the bad rap it’s been given in British Columbia? How did it get the big target painted on it?
Each time I sound off on one of these issues, I will also publish a blog entry where I will put as many links to articles as possible and detail some of the conversations I’ll be having with people in the sustainable food field so that our listeners can play a role in all of this. We want to hear your opinions as well and find out how you make your decisions when it comes to choosing the food you eat. Is it with your pocketbook? To satisfy the particular needs or cravings of your family? Or have you been influenced by the marketing and labelling? My most famous example of misleading labelling comes from the frozen fruits and vegetables found in most grocery stores under the trade name ‘Europe’s Finest’. But turn the package over and most of what’s inside has actually been grown in China or Chile! Also, if there’s a sustainable food topic you’d like me to explore please feel free to contact me through All Points West or by direct email at don at dongenova dot com.
The column that I did on All Points West for the past couple of years was called Island Artisans, and that’s not going to totally disappear. To see past columns just click here for the archives. Every other week I will still bring you visits I make to artisan food producers, chefs and farmers from around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Over the next couple of months I’ll bring you stories from the cider apple crush at Merridale Cider…that’s a company just down the street from where I live in Cobble Hill where Rick Pipes and Janet Docherty took an old cider apple orchard and fairly dilapidated apple press and have turned it into quite an agritourism attraction, with a cafe serving local foods, a wood-fired oven and a beautiful banquet facility.
Then I’ll take you to Nanaimo where St. Jean’s Cannery has just celebrated its 50th anniversary in business, and that’s in an era where many canneries have gone out of business. Instead, this cannery has expanded and just manufactured the largest salmon can in the world! Of course there will be more pictures of that on my blog in the weeks ahead. It’s all called Food Matters, because, you know, food DOES matter to each and every one of us.