Posts Tagged ‘communal’

With news shifting from harvest recipes to articles of ‘how to prepare your garden for the winter’ and the Vancouver’s summer farmers markets coming to a close, it is becoming less inspiring to cook with local produce. In order to see what a household might do during this season to beat out the rainy season blues I sauntered into a home where I knew some radical foodies resided.The Red House

Stepping in through the front door of the Red House I was glad to be out of the rain. It was that kind of rainy that only a Vancouver November could bring. I was welcomed into the cozy home and greeted by the smell of roasting squash and the faint sent of fermenting. The Red House is a communal house in Strathcona. All five housemates have agreed to cook weekly for each other and tonight is Alicia’s turn to make dinner. Alicia Gladman is a local food activist and foody at heart. When I asked her what kind of treat we were in for this evening, she replied. “I made a Roasted Butternut Squash with wild rice instead of the farro that the recipe called for and I added some rosemary too ‘cause who doesn’t like rosemary!?” She was cooking for the house and a few other guests so it was a real feast.

I asked Alicia to tell me about the meal we were going to eat. “I bought the squash at the winter farmers market. The wild rice we have [the house shares] came from the Maritimes, which is interesting that it’s even from this continent. And I used this rosemary that was given to me by the man at Union market [a local market that has fueled the neighbourhood for years]. He heard that I was making squash for dinner and went back into the garden and got me some rosemary!”

It is interesting that she spoke about where she acquired the main ingredients first. It says something about the thought process and politic that goes into her cooking. She then showed me the website that she often uses for inspiration. 101 Cookbooks is an aesthetically pleasing website and offers a search option to find recipes by ingredients, which is quite handy when attempting to keep it seasonal.

Alicia always attempts to cook with seasonal food and does her own canning. Having spent most of her youth in the Okanagan, Alicia has been surrounded by seasonal growers. “I grew up canning peaches and various other seasonal fruits and enjoy putting labour into canning in the summer and enjoying it in the winter.” She showed me cans of salsas, jams and chutneys made from tomatoes, plums, grapes and other produce and herbs from The Red House’s garden and other friend’s yards.

She then pointed out the two batches of home brew that were sitting in big buckets in the corner. “I’m brewing a winter ale and a pale ale right now.” We had time before dinner and I was able to help Alicia transfer the winter ale from the ‘primary’ bucket to the ‘secondary’ glass carboy. We added cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to give it that winter spicy goodness. Unfortunately we forgot that stirring in the spices would not be the best idea and lost a cup or two of brew to the foam that spewed out the top!

Finally sitting down to eat, I wanted to ask Alicia more specifically about her food purchasing politics. When posed with the question of buying local or organic Alicia responded, “I would choose local because I feel that there is more importance in localizing and developing relations within a local economy than buying organic, as organic can be green washing of the currently awful capitalist market. Buying local is a part of a greater revolution away from the current economic system and more directly addressed the problems within our food system.”

She continued, “If we actually want to change the relationship with our food and with each other there are systemic issues we have to address in our economic systems. Aside from being monetarily based, there are also larger social and political problems within our food system. By focusing locally in a food system, other things get considered such as the social wellbeing of the community, the local environment.”

Unfortunately the avocados and chickpeas of our kale salad had enormous food miles, and the spices we put in the beer were not from around here, but there is something to be said for the appreciation of ones own labour. The do it yourself (DIY) culture around homebrew, communal cooking and share houses seems to be a part of a larger localizing movement focusing around appreciating the labour that goes into the commodities we consume. Alicia’s efforts in supporting the winters farmers market, building relationships within her neighbourhood, sharing food and sharing the workload of maintaining her home are all small political acts that help to keep her food conscious mind at ease during this rainy season.

Rain jacket and boots back on, I trekked back through the cold wet to my own cozy home only to find movie-watching roomies taking another approach in dealing with this November lull.

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