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Breaking the Diet (Celebrations and A Little Cheating) July 31, 2010

Posted by maggieknight in Une diète pour La Belle Province.
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We figure we’d better come clean: we cheated a little. Well, perhaps we didn’t really cheat, we just gave into our “social life clause” loophole. As I reflected in our “Top Ten Tips for Local Eating in Montréal”, balancing local eating with any kind of normal social life can become difficult (particularly in a city where cafés, restaurants, and bars are such a huge part of the culture). We had hoped to stick to our local diet throughout the month, but left ourselves an escape clause about crossing the social life bridge when it came to it.

Warm veggie salad and aloo gobi from our finale potluck

So, we used the social life clause three times. Firstly, at a friend’s potluck where, in addition to the local cidre, strawberries, and whipped cream we bought and the local sausages she provided, we indulged in some pretzels, stir fry, and a delicious green Thai curry (this spurred into acceptability by the fact we’d originally gone to her old apartment, not realizing that she’d moved, and consequently had walked around in heavy summer rain for quite a while, getting hungrier and hungrier); still, we contributed good local food and all the other food we ate was cooked from scratch, most of it as we sat around the kitchen table. Secondly, we decided that two visiting friends from Victoria needed to experience the True Montréal Experience of a tasty microbrew at Dieu du Ciel followed by a jaunt for fresh, warm bagels from Fairmount Bagels (open 24 hours a day) a few blocks away; still, while some of the ingredients weren’t from Québec, we were enjoying the results of two vibrant local businesses, both of whom produce their goods on site (and we also took both guests on a shopping trip to Marché Jean Talon). Thirdly, after taking one of these guests on a tour of McGill (made longer by running into almost everyone I know who’s in Montréal for the summer), I caved and took her for one of my favourite desserts (brownie and ice cream at Lola Rosa); I don’t have a good excuse for this, except that catching up on three years of girl-talk with an old friend is significantly enhanced by chocolate. And fourthly, some friends-of-friends were in town briefly and we took them to Café Santropol (another True Montréal Experience), another local business which does source many of its ingredients locally; it was a delightful conversation and they ended up coming to our local eating finale potluck the next day.

So there you have it. We cheated, a little. But not too excitingly–sorry, folks, this isn’t a confession of secret midnight runs to Dairy Queen or McDonalds (by midnight we were usually too full of delicious localness to contemplate running anywhere).

Spicy veggie soup (near the end of the night at our local eating potluck)

More excitingly, when our month was up, we had a grand local feast with many of our friends. We made massive amounts of local pizza (some of it vegan), spicy veggie soup (containing all the slightly sad veg left in our fridge) and two strawberry-rhubarb pies. Our guests brought us cheese, bread, a warm veggie salad, aloo gobi, berries, honey wine, and a huge zucchini lasagna. One friend, at our invitation, brought (organic, fair trade) chocolate which we greatly enjoyed when we broke our local diet at midnight. It was all delicious–as one friend remarked as she finished a bite of pie topped with blueberries and whipped cream, “Darn, it’s just such a hard life eating local, isn’t it?”

Yet another delicious local pizza

Strawberry-rhubarb pie topped with berries and whipped cream

In the week since our diet officially ended, we’ve gone back to some of the foods we missed. We  made our favourite spicy peanut butter stirfry (non-local ingredients: peanut butter, soy sauce, spices, rice), a simple pasta (pasta, canned tomatoes), and an impromptu invented green bean garlic stir-fry (bell paper, soy sauce, almonds). We went with a friend to Dairy Queen and also to Juliette et Chocolat, enjoying a Sunday including strawberries and bananas (Nat) and chocolate and raspberry sorbet followed by drinking chocolate (Maggie). And we’ve had a couple produced-in-Québec beers.

Impromptu stirfry

As Nat remarked as he ate a Dairy Queen blizzard, one of the best things about going back to eating non-local is realizing that it’s not as good as you thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighting in my tea, beer, and the house-made chocolate goodies that feed my sweet tooth. But the evening we ate pasta I just felt overly full and stodgy (perhaps not surprising, given that the bulk of food I’d been eating for the past month was made up of fresh vegetables). Nat and a group of friends ordered in pizza and Nat couldn’t help but find it vastly inferior to what we’ve been taking out of our little oven. When I gave in to a junk food craving and bought a package of peanut butter M&Ms, I remembered how a surprisingly small number start to make me feel sick, that the dyes that give them their vibrant colours are linked to worrying compounds, and that with the same money I could have bought a big bunch of delicious rhubarb.

So, I imagine we’ll be going back to eating as locally as we can manage, as we move back into a busy school year and as we need to be careful of our expenses (more on how much this all cost us to come). Last night we made a delicious vegetable pie; the only non-local ingredient was some herbes de Provence we added to the white sauce.

Oh, pie. So tasty.

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