Boris Mann’s Personal Blog

Aug 2011

Local Food Challenge Profile

The team at Growing Chefs asked me to answer a few questions about why I'm participating. I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and turn it into a full blog post.

Why did you decide to take the local challenge?

I decided to take the local food challenge because food is one of my main life passions. The local challenge is really just an excuse to spend slightly more time documenting what I'm eating and drinking this week.

Foodtree is a company that I advise which is trying to help people know more about their food (they have an iPhone app -- go download it). Getting involved with Foodtree and its founder Anthony Nicalo really opened my eyes another level. Once you start thinking about where food is from, who grew it, whether it's filled with pesticides or hormones … you can't unthink all of that.

You've turned the corner, and you start asking more and more questions about food. This can lead into all sorts of depressing realizations, but I prefer to think of it as heading into delicious realizations. It becomes a challenge in the sense that a long mountain hike is a challenge - it's the journey along the way that's most interesting, and reaching the summit is just sort of the bonus.

Now, my bigger challenge is to think about how we can encourage masses of people to think about their food, to try and make lasting changes to our food systems. And we can't do it by making people feel bad - we need to make them feel powerful, inspired, and hopeful!

What will be the hardest part for you to do this challenge?

Well, probably a toss up between finding the time and finding the ingredients. The week is busy with a conference and various activities, so we have to fit in more time for cooking or selecting what we're going to eat.

For instance, I actually forgot that we were starting today (we just got back from a short vacation), so I had to figure out what to get for lunch. Luckily, the Fresh Local Wild food truck is not far from my office, so I had some delicious cod & chips. Now, I happen to know that his potatoes aren't local, because the wet weather has been terrible. But they did the next best thing and sourced some potatoes from Washington state. 

But finding local ingredients is always hard. Heck, finding BC ingredients is hard. And it shouldn't be. But just this evening shopping at Donald's Market, the majority of the conventional fruits & vegetables were unlabeled (but many of them likely local), and virtually all of the organic ones were from far away (because organic labeling & pricing demands a level of "proof").

Finding the time is probably a common excuse. I do the majority of cooking at home, and I tend to cook everything from scratch - that is, limited use of processed foods or prepared ingredients. It doesn't take significantly more time to do this than for prepared foods. But, like a diet, it's easy to "slip" when you get crunched for time. Because of where we shop, even the prepared food is often local and/or tends to be made of good for you ingredients.

One last answer here pertains to how you define "local". Since I know how hard something like the 100 mile diet is, I don't get sticky about things like "if you buy bread, the wheat should also be local" (although I do have some Flour Peddler flour in my cupboards). Similarily, dried pasta that is local is going to be next to impossible - splurge on fresh pasta this week, Duso's on Granville Island is a good start.

Food memories

Salmon berries in Maple Ridge

I think my memories from my childhood are all about food! I grew up on Bowen Island, which has lots of things for a kid growing up to forage. Salmon berries and huckle berries are something that you don't tend to see in stores at all - you need to stop and pick them when you see them.

My heritage is German, so most of my other childhood memories are various German meat dishes and cakes. And jam. My mom still makes massive amounts of jam every year - she just posted her recipe for currant jelly.

Shopping locally

It's been 2 years since I put up a post on Foodists about shopping in Vancouver, which has a huge list of some of the more interesting/ethnic/novel places to shop around Vancouver.

Today, we get a weekly order from, visit the farmers market a couple of times a week (Wednesdays on Main, weekends at Trout Lake), buy most of our meat from Big Lous Butcher Shop, and round out the list with various stores along Commercial Drive (East End Coop, Daily Catch), and around Nanaimo at Hastings (Donald's Market, Ugo and Joe's). Famous Foods is a long time family favourite that should definitely be mentioned.

I decided to call this section "shopping locally" rather than where to shop for local food, because that's how you should think about it. Find a butcher shop, a sausage maker, and a bakery. Find a farmer's market. All of these places have local food by default, for the most part.

I confess that I find "traditional" grocery stores strange these days. I never go to them, and when I do happen to find myself in one, I just find all the packaged items disturbing. Whole Foods is a slightly better experience, but you just can't afford to shop there regularly, and even they aren't great in the fruits & veggies department (that is, lots of things from California, Mexico, etc.).

Favourite recipes

Recipes are tough for me. I tend to improvise a lot of the time, so a lot of my recipes tend to be documenting something that I've made once. And a lot of the very best tasting foods are very simple - asparagus broiled with olive oil, steak with salt and pepper, in season tomatoes popped straight in your mouth, and so on.

I'll leave you with a basic ingredient list for spaghetti alla carbonara that I made the other day and Kim Werker ended up using for a post on Vancouver is Awesome: guanciale from Oyama Sausage on Granville Island, Rabbit River eggs, and parmesan from Ugo & Joe's. 

Read the original post and updated gallery about #eatlocal, and you can follow along on my Twitter account where I'm using an #eatlocal hashtag.

Donate to my Eating Local pledge »