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Strawberry Fields Forever June 27, 2010

Posted by maggieknight in Une diète pour La Belle Province.
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I spent most of yesterday evening tracking the increasingly violent interactions between police and protestors on the streets of Toronto, and this morning we are seeing more of the same. It seems a strange duality to be happily blogging about the deliciousness of local food when I have disturbing reports from peaceful protesters coming in, but a hopeful story also needs to be told (I will avoid adding “in these dark times” for the sake of avoiding melodrama, but that’s more or less how I feel at this moment). And it will do my soul good to think on happier things for a few minutes.

Yesterday Nat came down with a cold, so I set out to Marché Jean Talon solo. Going to the market is one of my favourite things about living in Montréal. This is my favourite stall, perhaps because it’s cramped and full of a diversity of produce, perhaps because the man I hand my money to has dirt ingrained in his hands and can tell me where exactly most of his produce comes from:

I bought three bunches of young asparagus, brown mushrooms, radishes, and broccoli here, for $9.75, and later came back for a 5lb bag of sweet young carrots ($3.75). A claim often made against locavorism is that it is something only middle class well-off yuppies can afford to do. While both Nat and I have university-educated parents, we’re also living on student budgets and are no longer supported by the Bank of Mom and Dad. So we’ll try to keep track of how much we spend during the course of our diet. We have a niggling suspicion that we’ll at least break even, and possibly save money, in part because we won’t be dropping money on processed food or coffee shop drinks (upon thinking that a change of scene would be helpful for our work, we tried to think what we could actually order in a coffee shop…steamed milk?).

It’s strawberry season in Québec, and, having dutifully refused to buy California-imported strawberries all winter, we are excited to indulge. We’re also feeling a little sad about the lack of beer (I have now hidden away the four bottles of Unibroue Honey Pilsner that were languishing in the bottom of our fridge, having determined that, while brewed near Montréal in Chambly, they use hops from goodness knows where). I did, however, indulge in a $10 bottle of Christian Maele’s Bouqet Printanier Hydromel, a honey-wine based in Mirabel, and a $12 bottle of the William 2008 red from St-Eustache. I bought a panier of strawberries from l’Ile d’Orleans (which I visited in May) and then caved and bought another flat of them when I was about to leave (make jam while the sun shines! Or pie, or cake, …). Here are the luxuries of the day:

Strawberries $16, Honey wine $10, Red wine $12

Of course we also needed the staples. Here’s the bounty of my market findings:

Two 2kg bags of Québec flour from Premiere Moisson ($5 each),  a large bag of spinach ($1.50), a big bunch of mint because I am missing my morning tea and my little mint plant won’t provide enough ($2), a huge bag of rhubarb (mostly hidden; $4), celery ($1.75), and the aforementioned asparagus, mushrooms, radishes, broccoli, and carrots. Ok, that’s not quite it. I goofed and bought my favourite yogurt of all time without checking the label and seeing that it’s produced in St. Eugene, ON (about 10km across the border). Perhaps I’ve been living in Québec for too long (how could something that good possibly come from Ontario? I jest, I jest, …).

So, including the $5 (admittedly somewhat exorbitant and most definitely rule-breaking) yogurt, the total came to $87.75. Considering that when I was in first year university I kept ruthless track of all expenditures and spent $15-25 per week on food (and yes, I was perfectly well nourished, thank you), this seems like a lot. But when you consider that this is for two of us (although of course we will need some other things as well), and that $38 was spent on wine and strawberries that could have been forgone if I hadn’t been in such a revelling-in-the-season sort of mood, it’s not bad. We’ll report further on our expenses as things progress.

Now of course the shopping at the market (and the staggering home heavily laden by metro and bus, explaining in mediocre French that “Mon chum est malade–donc c’est seulement moi aujourd’hui”) isn’t the end of it. After a royal battle attempting to fit in all into the fridge (with general success, although the strawberries are still out… I have since picked through them and made the mushier ones into a thick, jam-like sauce), and a break to catch up on the situation in Toronto and rest my shoulders (which were reminding me that I am not in fact a very large woman and that hefting about large amounts of food is something best done in groups), it was time for dinner.

Having poked about a bit in various recipe books, I decided to heed my mother’s spirit in the kitchen and simply make it up. I am happy to report that this was successful. Here’s the (partially-eaten) asparagus-mushroom soup (with sweet carrots, celery, and, of course, large quantities of onions) and the salad that Nat concocted from lettuce, spinach, and radishes (I made another batch of sunflower oil-apple cidre vinegar-maple syrup-oregano dressing, which I must think up a shorter name for). The only non-local ingredient in this meal was the salt I added to the soup.

Well, that’s it for now. If Nat’s feeling better this evening the plan is to make a pizza, using up a few leftover non-local veggies.

From http://bit.ly/cxMd0r. I think you know what I mean.

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