Winter realities in Montreal, Canada
This has been a pretty hard week for me.
You see, I’ve spent the last two or three years getting more acquainted with the environment and sustainable food sources, but I never really felt accountable to anyone but myself — and I was a pretty forgiving person, to myself at least. I tried to do the right thing, but if I strayed, who knew?
Since my first post on this site, I’ve been feeling even more accountable for the things I eat. This is not only because I’m writing about it for all eyes to see, but also because everything I buy or eat (and even things I see other people buy and eat) is making me think about the effects these things are having on me, the people around me, the farmers who grow it, and even the greedy corporation owners and directors who have no regard for anything but their own financial gain.
With these things weighing on my mind, and with a little nudge from an Ethicurean reader, I have contacted my CSA. For the last three years I have only participated in the summers, but I have asked if there is enough produce for me to take advantage of the remainder of the winter baskets. Until I get my answer (please say yes please say yes) I will have to do what I can…so…
Yesterday, my Very Special Ladyfriend and I donned our long johns (do Californians even know what long johns are?) and walked — in minus-20-degree weather — to the Jean-Talon Market. We got eggs, cheese, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and a few other odds and ends.
As for the eggs, they were from my regular egg vendor. I wanted to ask him some questions, but I chickened out. Maybe next time …
My Very Special Ladyfriend loves her cheeses hard and sharp. Her current favorite is a three-year-old Comte, which tastes fantastic but comes from France. I know that the Quebec cheese scene is improving each year, and since most Quebecois are originally from France, they must have figured out how to make some decent cheeses by now. With this train of thought freshly imprinted in my soul, I suggested to my Very Special Ladyfriend that we start buying Quebec cheeses. With the thought of sampling a new world of cheeses, my Lady happily complied.
The young Hamel cheesemonger serving us suggested a Quebec raw-milk cheese called Valbert Vieux. Produced by the Lehman family in Hebertville, Quebec, this is a firm, washed-rind cheese inspired by Swiss Jura, and is aged for six months. It has apparently won all sorts of awards in the last four years, so we decided to give it a try. The sample we tried in the store was pretty good, but we won’t have any hard evidence until we experience this cheese in our natural habitat — which would be sitting comfortably in our dining room sipping wine and listening to music. More to come on Quebec cheese as we sample the gamut over the following weeks
I normally enjoy broccoli, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes, and my other favorite vegetables all year round. No more. To be honest, even if I weren’t trying to eat locally, the produce from California looks pretty bad right now, so I would have probably have passed on it and stuck to canned vegetables. This trip we only looked at local produce and walked away with some lovely local carrots and beets that were probably harvested several weeks ago (I’d say October) but store rather well.
I really miss tomatoes, and had pretty much given up on eating tomatoes in the winter several years ago. In the summer I grow several varieties of tomatoes on my balcony and in my community garden plot, and the taste and freshness cannot be beat. It had nothing to do with the environment — I just didn’t want to eat tomatoes that tasted like soggy cardboard. I noticed that there were tomatoes from Ontario — not too far away — that were grown in greenhouses, so I got three of them.
They are perfectly round and ripe but firm, which both impressed and frightened me at the same time. I will have to do some research into greenhouse tomatoes and more specifically the origins of these particular tomatoes to see what I’m actually eating, and who’s actually getting my hard-earned money. Should I buy organic tomatoes from Mexico or California or do I eat greenhouse tomatoes from Ontario? Or should I just stick to canned tomatoes in the winter? I hope to have some answers soon…
FOLLOW-UP: As a note on last week’s trip to the market, we made smoothies with some of our bounty. These were made with leftover fruit-salad, organic Quebec yogurt, organic soymilk, bee pollen from the market, flax seed and some fresh mint leaves. It was good but a little funky, so we’ll have to work on our bee pollen proportions. The next day we had smoothies made with organic blueberries that we picked in August and froze. Delicious.
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