Farm to Table

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We have all heard complains about the price of produce – it’s been even in the news for crying out loud. The infamous price of cauliflower has been making rounds over and over. Now, granted there are some valid stories about prices of food in the rural areas of the north – I won’t dispute them. However, if you live in the metro area of St. John’s, Newfoundland there is no reason that you should complain about the price of produce, its availability or quality – you just have to know where to find it and not settle for less.

It’s been a tradition of ours to drive up and down Route 60 to visit local farmers to get the best quality of produce at fraction of the cost our local grocery store sells it. May I just add that the local Sobeys and Dominion are proudly sourcing a section of their produce from those same farmers and charging the client sometimes twice the price of what you pay to the farmer. I digress, I will instead show you how farmer’s produce is better than the regular store bought stuff .

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There it is, the Butler’s farm located just west of Legion Road on Route 60 – go visit next time you run out of your vegetables and you won’t be disappointed. If you drive down Route 60, you will find many more stands selling their goods.

So let me show you what I bought last weekend from our local farmers and compare it to the regular stuff you would usually get at Dominion and how the prices compare:

Vegetable Farm price Dominion price
Zucchini $2.50 $8.04
Onions $2.00 $2.00
Parsnips $2.00 $3.49
Beets $2.50 $3.99
Carrots $2.50 $2.99

Total Farmer’s price : $11.50
Total Dominion’s price : $20.51

Shopping for these at Dominion you will pay 78% more than at the Farmer’s stand! Some items are comparable, but the total speaks for itself. Even if you take away the most expensive item, which is zucchini, you are still going to pay 38.5% more at Dominion. So, the choice is yours – go in and out of Dominion in 30 minutes flat and pay through the roof, or make a date out of it with your spouse and go visit your local farmers along Route 60. To me the choice is simple: not only am I getting quality, non-certified organic produce from the farmer at a great price, I am also supporting local economy and to top that off I’m spending quality time with a loved one. What could be better than that?

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How beautiful are these? Way more beautiful and more nutritious than the GMO stuff your Dominion is selling you!
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This is why it’s so difficult to figure out the healthy eating game these days

These days you don’t need to go to the library to seek information, you simply open up your computer’s browser and head to Google. You’ll get thousands if not millions of results on any given subject. Health and healthy eating being probably at the top in terms of how much we Google them. In a way it’s great, because the information is quick to find and very abundant. But on the other hand, there is a lot of misinformation floating in the virtual world, because everybody and I mean EVERYBODY can express themselves on the Internet. So you have to be extra cautious and use own common sense to discern what’s good and what’s bad. Some people prefer to seek the information on government regulated websites of various government agencies, like the FDA. In my humble opinion (and I can’t stress it enough that this is just my opinion and is not based on any research or study) this is not so good either. Let me elaborate.

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You might have heard of the big crackdown on a popular energy bar by the name of KIND by the FDA. Or maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell FDA expressed their disapproval for the KIND company using the word healthy to promote their energy bars. You can find those bars in the Organic / Health section of your store, so by default they are recognized by the consumer as a healthier version of a candy bar. Mind you, I would not touch the KIND bar with a 10 foot pole, but that’s not the point here.  The point is that FDA has it all wrong when they define what is healthy and what is not. They regulate what can be promoted as healthy and here are their criteria:

  • Have less than 2g of saturated fat (aka be low fat).
  • Contain no more than 480mg of sodium (aka be low salt).
  • Contain at least 10% of the DRV of Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Iron, Protein or Fibre.

To an average consumer this sounds about right. Fat is bad, so a healthy product should be low in fat. Salt in your diet is bad too, so it’s a no brainer that if a company promotes a product as healthy there should be minimal salt in it. That’s what we’ve been fed (excuse the pun) by organizations such as the FDA! Notice though, that in their criteria for healthy labelling they don’t include the content of sugar and its derivatives. So, by that logic, if a Snickers bar was low in fat and sodium and we pumped in some Vit A and C, Calcium, Iron and sprinkled it with some protein powder, it could potentially have a healthy claim written on it’s wrapper?!  Yet, a KIND bar that contains healthy nuts, hence making its fat content slightly elevated can’t be promoted as healthy. Like I said, I’m the last person to pick up a KIND bar in the Organic Isle of my grocery store – unless of course I’m going for a hike *wink, wink* – but I can clearly recognize the backwardness of the FDA’s definition of healthy. Healthy is what grows in the ground, period. You don’t need to measure its health claims, because you know that a carrot, a tomato, a green bean, an apple, a potato etc. are all good for you.   

Are you still puzzled with the whole FDA’s “healthy” criteria issue? Let me go on then. Fat is not the problem and neither is salt. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I highly recommend reading :

  • Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig,  
  • Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes,  
  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz,
  • Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.

Or watch That Sugar Film that I have blogged about before. 

And the list can go on of authors and scientists showing us that it’s not the fat or salt that are the villains here, but the sugar! 

 

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Is it a deal or is it a potentially dangerous scam?

I like a good deal as much as the next guy! Heck, I like it even more! That’s why I linger so much around Winners these days – everybody knows you got to be on the look out for those deals. Yes, I’m digressing and there is more about Winners that I could tell you to make you laugh, but back to the main point. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I walk into a grocery store I’m looking for those discount stickers and labels. You know, the “50% off – cook it tonight” kind of stickers or the “buy one, get one free” labels. Like anybody who has to pay their own way in life, I want to stretch my buck and make it go as far as I can. Am I frugal? No, not if you ask my other half. Yes, if you ask me. But that doesn’t mean that if I really want something I’m not going to pay the price. However that something has to be very special and this rule would generally not apply to buying food. When buying food we will drive 20-30 minutes to get the deal. Yes, we’re probably burning the difference in gas, but the satisfaction I get when I see somebody at one grocery store paying 100% more than what I just paid for the same product at another store is… well, it makes me want to shake the person paying more and let them know they should go to such and such and save money! But are they always such good deals?

It turns out that you have to be extremely careful and sometimes you only find out at home that your deal is not such a good deal after all and can be dangerous to your health. Let me explain.

We do our groceries on a weekly basis, on Saturdays, first thing in the morning we start our rounds by visiting the stores closest to us to eventually make our way into town. But last week my other half was out and around on a Friday by himself and spotted “a deal” on salmon. He texted me a picture and I gave him a go to buy it (I deemed it a good enough deal and a good enough piece of salmon). I did notice (which you probably can’t tell in this picture) that there were multiple labels on the product. In the wake of the most recent food related article on cbc about bakeries tempering with best before dates I felt that I would need to investigate this multiple sticker thing once the salmon got home. However, the piece of salmon looked decent so I figured I am getting a deal. And you must admit, 12$ for this size of Atlantic Salmon is a deal any way you slice it! Or is it?

salmon good dealI never did inspect the stickers right away. I put the piece of salmon in the fridge and only looked at it Monday when I was ready to divide it into portions and cook the first meal out of it. So, I took the stickers off one by one to reveal the mystery. There were 3 of them and here is what I found:

Salmon

So, here is a timeframe in a more reader friendly format: 
Packed on Nov. 3 with a Best Before date of Nov. 7 for $16.67
Repackaged on Nov. 5 with a Best Before date of  Nov. 9 for $26.12
Repackaged again on Nov. 5 with a Best Before date of Nov. 9 for $11.85

You could give the store the benefit of the doubt and say, well the second sticker was an honest mistake and they corrected it right away. True. But you could be suspicious because you don’t know how long it was sitting there with that sticker waiting for a sucker to pay that much. It is also not reassuring knowing that a piece of fish, a perishable food item, got a best before date of Nov. 7 and then got that date extended to Nov. 9 two days later. So, you mean to tell me that two days later this piece of fish got fresher and now it’s good to eat until Nov. 9? Say what?! 

When I did unpack it on Nov. 9 (Remember that’s the best before date, so I should be fine, right? Wrong!) I did notice quite a discolouration on the end piece of the fish that I had to completely discard: salmon yuck

So, the moral of the story? Not all that glitters is gold or in this case not all that appears to be a deal is one. You have to be very vigilant and look out for yourself, because apparently the grocery store will not. Which is sad if you ask me, because it only proves to show that they are not any better than the makers of the pseudo food that the grocery stores are packed with. They are in it to make money. On Nov. 7 instead of cutting their losses for an unsold product, they decided to extend its life by 2 days hoping they may sell it for more than the original sticker, and when they didn’t, at least for less. I was the sucker who ended up with the fish. But could have I prevented being taken? Not really. Unless I got the buyer to peel off the stickers in the store, which I don’t think would go over very well. Buyers beware! 

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The Frills

There is a joke in my household about me being too fancy for discount stores or deals which BTW is totally untrue, but I play along. If you live in Newfoundland (preferably close to Paradise) you would certainly have passed by a grocery store known to the locals as “No Frills” ( and I just found out by googling the name that they also exist in other provinces, yay to Google). As the name implies the store has just basics, the food is the same as what the local Dominion stores carry, but at No Frills it’s presented in a simple, “no frill” way. The place is very small compared to “regular” grocery stores, you have to be very quick on your feet at the checkout and you’d better bring somebody along who will bag the food while you pay, because nobody is babying anybody in there. In short, it’s no frills, just food. Now, as I have mentioned above, the food is exactly the same as what’s displayed at Dominion, all the same President’s Choice brand products and other more fancy brand names such as Liberty Yogurts. Why would you go there and feel like a sardine in a tin? Well, it’s all the same but cheaper! So, the joke is that since I’m so fancy and only go to a select few stores that are approved by my high standards, we had to rename No Frills as The Frills!! That’s the only way that Princess Angelika would step her foot in such an establishment as No Frills! And of course, as stated above, I vehemently disagree with such simplifications! Not only do I like to get a good deal, but I also enjoy the quiet that you get, if you go to No Frills at 8AM on a Saturday morning.

Our trips to No Frills are quick and dirty. We know what we are looking for and it’s pretty much the same deals that we usually get. Once our cart is filled with all the produce that we need we know we are pretty much done. Very rarely do we venture in the other isles of the store, unless it’s for Dylan’s snacks, cleaning products or some condiments. However, last Saturday we ended up at No Frills quite late in the day, it was maybe 11 or 12. We were moving swiftly, but not swiftly enough, because at that time of day there were quite a bit of people. We were nearing the of the produce isle, heading towards the meat section when I spotted my favourite discounted produce shelf! It’s not always there, but when it is, oh boy, you can get a bunch of asparagus for 99c and there is nothing wrong with it, as long as you are planing to eat it fairly soon. There was a crowd already circling the discounted produce shelf so I had to wait my turn. And when it was finally my turn I took some items and returned to my cart. Then I decided to go back for more Egg Plant (after all I needed more than one). I grabbed 2-3 more Egg Plants and proceeded to return to my cart when I heard somebody say in my direction “Excuse me”. I turned my head and I saw a woman staring right back at me and pointing to the Egg Plant. She said: “I often want to get one of these but don’t know what to do with them. How do YOU prepare them?” I felt right at home with this enquiry! Mind you, I often don’t like people asking me questions at the grocery stores, because usually it’s the person at the checkout asking me 10 questions about points cards, redeeming points, using this or using that, signing up for this and that. But this woman just made my day! I started revealing all my culinary secrets to her. Well, not really, but you get the point. I was thrilled that somebody would think that I might know a thing or two about preparing food! When I was finished and returned to my cart I felt enormous pride and joy in helping this woman with a possible food item at her dinner table! Oh yes, she picked one up and put it in her cart! It felt great! All of a sudden I wanted to come up to the next person and tell them what they can do with their veggies in their carts! And I thought to myself: “It’s time to get some business cards ready!” Because I can’t just wait and see what happens, I have to do something! Nothing comes to those who wait! So, it’s going to be simple to start, but it will be a start! It would have been so easy to hand her one of those! But we won’t dwell on what could have been, we’ll focus on what will be!   

So here they are simple and to the point and next time I’ll just whip one out and say with a smile on my face : “I’ve got some recipes for those on my blog, why don’t you have a look and tell your friends about it!”

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Namaste and Bon Appetit! 


 

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