Vancouver’s Real Food Guide
Compiled by: Barbara Schellenberg, chapter leader for Weston A. Price Foundation, Vancouver, BC.
Inspired by: The traditional food ways and wisdoms of the world.
Dedicated to: Our children!
To prepare you for the diverse and convoluted, somewhat confused, foodie scene in Vancouver or anywhere else!
The reason for this guide is to have a comprehensive collection of food resources, sources and contacts to make getting real food in the city easier and thus making optimal nutritional health more easily achievable.
Where necessary I post several options listed in order of preference and quality.
Throughout the guide you will find not only resources but also links to local foodie events, farm activities and viewpoints on food philosophies and traditions; recipes, suggested reading, and hopefully inspiration!
In my experience with food there is a lot more to the relationship than mere ingredients and procedures. There is a whole realm of discovery, magic and spirituality involved in food. In living and working with food every day, i have certain inspirations and thoughts I hope to share with you and hope they may be of value to you.
As a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price foundation, I must take upon myself the responsibility of linking people to healthy food whenever possible. I hope that with this guide I can answer a lot of questions for a lot of people.
Getting really good food in the city
Since I moved to the big city, I have come to realize that the idea of getting really good food here is largely a matter of mind set. I have learned that most people who are health-aware and seek good nutrition spend much time lamenting over how everything is so much better in the countryside, air is cleaner, food is fresher, life must be just altogether better away from the city.
As much as I want to agree with those thoughts, I also have learned that we take so much out of our quality of life and life enjoyment when we are constantly critisizing where we are and wishing to be elsewhere.
So it is with good food too. In truth we have access to more variety and better quality ingredients that most any of these countryside paradises we dream of.
That settled, we can then be thankful and appreciate the blessing of having so much abundance and possibility for health at our fingertips. I look at it as almost a compromise; we do not here have the easygoing lifestyle that the countryside has to offer, but we do have many other things. It is so important to approach food from the angle of being thankful and greatful for what we have; in a time where the trend is to be so discerning when it comes to ingredients that we can lose sight of the blessings we have.
I want to present for you some of the best edible elements of our city and country in a format that encourages gratitude for the goodness and acceptance for that which can use impovement.
The role of the city dweller: cash and conversation . . .
In working with food and those who eat it, every day, I get to have these interesting insights into how the eaters think. What I really love, is to meet people every day who ‘get it’. They understand that it’s the cash that casts the vote; in the case of food, it is the cook with the cash who sets trends, stimulates markets and opens doors for improvement to happen.
I am so glad that we are moving away from the role of being the victims who just cant get good food because no one is growing good food for us!
We are collectively taking charge and beginning to understand that by hanging onto our dollar, we do not change anything. What I mean is this: Sometimes we will come across a product that is pretty good, not amazing, but the producers are definitely on the right track… This type of scenario divides those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. If we choose to hold onto our dollar, not supporting the product because it’s not quite what we see as being ideal, opting not to buy even though there is not a better one within our reach, then we have defined ourselves as one who doesn’t get ‘it’. However if we buy the product, financially stimulating the producer, and are interactive with him, explaining what we would ideally like to have, then we make the possibiity for improvement.
To me, this defines the role of the city dweller in relationship to purchasing food. Cash and conversation get us way closer to what we want than when we withhold support because we are too idealistic.
The magic of local food: from here it can take you anywhere . . .
Being involved in promoting food, it is number one to promote what is local and then what is most nutrient dense. We have the good fortune here in Vancouver to be surrounded by a bounty of local diversity. A selection of foods are grown here that can take you just about anywhere on the globe, like a stove-top international airport! You may need to visit the specialty import store only for a few spices and a recipe book, then with a little creativity you can stir up most of what you desire made predominantly from what our farmers provide for us.
THE BEST OF THE BEST!
Food resources in Vancouver: an introduction
I will lay out the resources in order of what seems to be the biggest concern to consumers based on the questions I am asked on a regular basis. I will include as much information about products and where necessary will include food politics as well. Though I tend toward a pacifist approach myself, I do understand that many people get up in arms about food politics and I will do my best to inform.
Please keep in the forefront of your consiousness always that we are very fortunate in the food we have and that in many spiritual traditions, the act of thankfulness is considered more healing and nourishing than any food:)
HOT TOPIC: DAIRY PRODUCTS…
Here is one resource that has endured a lot of pressure and dispute over the past two years especially. It is a topic that raises a lot of questions about food security, and there are so many factors involved in our local raw milk scene that it is hard to get a clear view at all.
My restaurant was at one time a depot for the raw milk, Depots were shut down in late 2009 and since then we have seen a real milk war.
The milk question is the one I get asked more often than any other and it has become one of the more difficult ones to answer as it is not an easy one.
“What is the best milk I can get in Vanouver?” or “Where can I get raw milk?” are the most common. It is so important for a person to have the correct tools to scrutinize and analize a product and to make their own decision about it. This question has driven me to assess where I stand in food politics and how I can help others get truly the best products. In the end what I am left with is the necesity to lay out what are the components of good milk, what factors constitute a good dairy product.
- Good dairy products start with happy cows, a farmer who understands his trade and his livestock, and with the intention to produce a worthy product.
- I am a firm believer that the cattle should be fed a traditional diet, just as we strive for better ingredients, their feed also should be of good quality. Organic is the least we can expect from our dairy products. Ask your farmers and shopkeepers, is the milk you are getting really organic? I also believe the cattle should be given little or ideally no grain. Grain not only alters the acidity of the milk and its flavor, it is not the natural diet of the bovine and benefits whether their health, our health or that of the environment.
- When available, your grassfed, organic milk from happy cows should be raw, unpasturized and unhomogenized. Raw milk has a lot of health benefits atributed to it and it is a completely different experience than processed milk.
However, I would like to pose that in the phrase “raw milk” should be the addition “unhomogenized”. When we speak of raw milk, we assume that it is unhomogenized. In this assumption I think we are missing half the evil: I would like to pose that homogenization stands for at least half the damage done to our milk and should be blamed for half the associated issues as well. Here is why:
A huge milk drinking population in India is well known for their tradition of boiling cows milk with spices. The act of adding the spices has been shown to break down some of the cooked milk proteins, making them more digestible. The spices also bring into the mix their own health promoting compounds. There is not this huge documented epidemic of lactose intolerance we in the West blame on Pasteurization. Perhaps the benefit of the spices added to the milk and the fact that it is not homogenized are the two biggest factors in the difference between our milk cultures.
I personally have found that the difference between grassfed, organic and unhomogenized milk vs. regular organic milk is greater than the difference between conventional raw milk and processed organic milk.
When it comes to yogurt, kefir and other cultured dairy, I again feel it is far more important for the milk to have come from organic and grassfed cattle than for it to be raw. When I have to make that choice, I opt for the milk product that came from a farm who understands the ruminant animal and its needs, understand that grass is optimal and that their cows deserve organic feed.
Because cultured milk products have so many live probiotic bacteria metabolizing and transforming the milk, even if the milk was once pasteurized, it becomes so biologically alive again that there is little if anything to worrk about.
Cheese is an easy one, there are so many good quality raw milk and other cheeses available to us that this dairy option is the least comnersome. We even have a steadily growing local artisan cheese industry.
choose dairy products that are organic and grassfed wherever possible, that are grown as close to home as possible and that have a good amount of fat in them!
If you find you are sensitive to the milk you have available to you, try culturing it using any o the traditional recipes found in this booklet, this can give you a whole different experience!
And remember, please don’t eat something just because it is supposed to be good for you! Not everyone is designed the same way and if it doesnt feel good in your body, don’t fear, there re so many other ways to benefit from real and cultured foods!
AVOID WHENEVER POSSIBLE
- Conventional dairy products, especially milk
- Low fat or skim dairy products
- Homogenized & UHT products
- Products containing milk powders
- Dairy containing aditives like sweeteners & colorings
*note that by avoiding the conventional dairy products automatically acncells out most of the other concerns, you don’t have to memorize a whole list to go shopping with!
MEAT & ANIMAL FATS: CENTRE OF THE PRIMAL DIET & KEY TO OUR HEALTH
When it comes to good quality meats, there seems to be an all-round unanimous agreement that certain factors are key. Perhaps more than with any other food group, probably because there are animal lives at stake, consumers are beginning to demand that food animals be treated humanely, be raised as close to nature as possible and be harvested in some way that respects them.
The concept that meats from grassfed animals, especially the ruminants, are more in balance and healthier is widely known. Animals also deserve to live their lives freely as nature intended, with the supportive hand of Man to nurture them as it has done for centuries. Organic is certainly on par when it comes to important factors in choosing meats for your family. Grassfed and Organic should be on any package you bring home from the market or grocery.
Luckily for us, we live in a province where the pioneer culture of cattle ranching has deep roots and there is a new trend for producers to strip down their operations to the bare natural bones and start again from the grassy pastures. Although ranching may have started as a very natural process and livestock may have been raised without chemicals many years ago, over time and in attempts to compete in the world market, our local ranchers have caved to the pressures of a whole different kind of consumerism; agricultural consumerism, designed to push drugs and chemicals with promises of high returns on the ranching community.
Over the past ten years or so, a new kind of rancher has sprouted out of the parched economic landscape that became the cattle market. Raising animals with organic principles and harvesting them with due respect has become a long awaited reality.
Before we go on, I would like to point out a frequent concern regarding meat products. Very often, people will point out how expensive grassfed, organic meats are and explain that they cannot afford to feed their family with this on a regular basis.
In response I have to say this: I believe that every family is worthy of the best, I always recommend a vegetarian meal over one containing conventional concentration camp meat products that are packed with imbalanced fatty acids and loaded down with negative potential energy.
One can be very creative when it comes to budgeting with the best ingredients. You will find a whole section coming up, with ideas on managing a tight food budget for optimal health. One important point is to remember that it is better to eat very good meat a couple times a week than to eat very bad meat every day. Also, there are very economical ways to get excellend nutrition from low cost animal products such as soup bones; and a little nutrient dense liver goes a long way!
BC’s BEST MEATS
The meats provided by Pasture to Plate Grassfed Meats is of high quality and takes a very full circle approach to nutrition, quality of life and respectful harvest.
I was raised on the Rafter 25 Ranch in the interior of BC with my three sisters. Over the years we as a family moved into an organic and natural mindset and adjusted the principles of agriculture to fit our new belief system. Today, all three of my sisters have returned to the ranch to start families and businesses. Having the whole family involved in some aspect of the creation of our products is not only rewarding, it is challenging as well and everyone having input keeps driving the products to better standards.
In 2009 my parents opened their long awaited Abattoir, Chilcotin Harvest, designed to cater to Pasture to Plate, but also the surrounding ranching community. With this final piece in place, we are now able to bring full circle, wholistic meat products to the marketplace with the confidence that we know every step in the life of the animals. From the days of birth to their harvest, they remain in our hands.
From beef, pork and lamb to chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys we have an ever diversifying list of pastured and ethically raised organic meats.
Pasture to Plate meats are available throughout BC in various locations and via mail order. Visit www.pasture-to-plate.com for details. Pasture to Plate meats are available at Ethical Kitchen.
EGGS FOR HEALTH, HAPPINESS & CHICKENS FOR FUN!
Getting excellent eggs can be a challenge too. To think how easy it is to raise laying hens, it is hard to believe how so many poor quality eggs make it onto the shelves at groceries!
Yet another food product encumbered by regulations, eggs are in desparate need of some ‘cash and conversation’ encouragement. Go to the market, talk to the local egg producers, support them and give them encouragement to do better. That is all I can really say when it comes to eggs. There aren’t any on the grocery shelves I can confidnetly recommend; actually getting good eggs is almost as hard as finding real milk. So I will just give you the following guideline for points to bring up with the farmers to stimulate them to improve their product:
- Tell them you want to make sure there is no soy in their ORGANIC chicken feed.
- Tell them you want sunny yellow egg yolks rich with choline and cholesterol!
- Encourage them to get the hens out of the run and onto the pasture where they belong, a chicken can get 70% of her energy and nutrition from grass, the remaining 30% she will need either in bugs, or other high protein foods like good quality organic chicken feed that is SOY FREE.
If you have the room and live in the blessed parts of Vancouver where raising chickens is allowed, consider getting a few hens and you can have at least some fresh eggs. We have chckens in our yard in summer and they’re a real attraction. Everyone in the neighborhood comes by to watch them, school classes stop in to inspect them, and the fact that they don’t produce as many eggs as they statistically are supposed to, is not so important after all. Having a few chickens brings a good feeling to a yard, like somethng is a bit closer to how things should be. In winter we send them back to the ranch as it does get really muddy out here in the yard, so it is good to have a farmer friend who can board them in the rainy season. With all the joy the little ones and grownups alike get out of them though, it is absolutely worth having chickens!
A WORD ON FOOD FROM THE SEA
When it comes to seafood, my views may be a bit more radical and unconventional that some of the other topics covered but just to get things clear, I love seafood, all of it. There is nothing like a pot of clams steamed in white wime and shared with a friend, or a good piece of halibut in the prime of its season. My issue with seafood stems from the hard to ignore facts of diminishing stock, depleted and endangered species so high on the food chain that we cant ignore that if they are suffering, what about their food supply… The fact that the halibut, crab, lobster, salmon seasons are not close to what they used to be. I take issue with the health industry still strongly encouraging consumption of seafood over land products. I am disappointed in the lack of effort put forth to challenge the predominantly weak claims that seafood is friendlier, healthier, more sustainable, than land products. So if no one else will, I will come out and counter some of these claims.
First of all, the fishing industry has benefited greatly from the past ten or more years of omeg fat studies. There have been so many publications praising the benefits of good fats and seafood purveyors were quick to get in on the fun! Land based agriculture tends to be slower when it comes to these sorts of things… the advertising budget if small for the ranching industry and lets face it, ranchers arent exactly known for being up to date!
The fact is that grassfed naturally raised meat and egg products are just as good at providing you with those omegas as the seafood is. The difference lies in marketing alone. So, I say, move over fish! Cows are getting on board now!
When we survey the environmental conditions, the footprins as they seem to be called, surrounding the two different industries, some more things come clearer.
First of all, it is important that you look through a very narrow lense for these points. If you try and compare the conventional factory farm to the water products, land based farming will always come out on the bottom. Here we are talking real wholesome traditional agriculture; the only way of growing good quality sustainable products that are feasible for the long term.
When we hear about the oceans and rivers it seems to always be the same message: We have overfished, polluted and destroyed spawning grounds for the food source that has been there through time. Fishermen are not required to give back, so unlike agriculture where something has to be added back into the land if we expect good results again, the fishing industry is built on the premise of ‘take while it lasts’.
If we were to look through this situation through the principle of ‘as within so without’; the concept that what is within us is what we see in the world around us, and vice-versa. It is a concept that seems to be widely accepted, but seldom applied to what we eat. For instance most of us realize the power of inner peace on what we percieve around us, the fact that when we radiate positive, good things will come to us, we know that whatever beauty we see in the world is within us also, or we would not be capable of appreciating it. We know that when we see pain in another, it becomes a part of us as well. We accept that when we take in a negative experience into ourselves, it can have a negative impact on us, even make us sick.
Then why don’t we apply this principle to food as well. The was I see it, if the oceans are suffering and depleted, the water and its inhabitants are becoming increasingly toxic and unwell, there is less and less of a harvest from year to year… Then when we take into ourselves this food that is needing so much rest and healing, we are taking into ourselves the negativity within that industry. By contributing to the depletion of the oceans actively, it seems imposible to me that the fish can still be truly good for us.
The waters and the species need rest, maybe a few generations rest, to regenerate and grow so one day again they can be the wonderful food source they once were.
This leaves us with land based agriculture as our only option for nutrient dense foods. Lets have a look at a healthy situation, the one we hopefully support when we shop locally and at the market. The land is thriving, the farmer is careful to give back to the land each year with compost and perhaps biodynamic preparations, the livestock are healthy and happy, living in natural conditions with a supporting hand from the farmer or rancher. The methods used for grazing and harvesting allow for room for the wildlife to be a part of the equation as well, the cattle are managed well and stimulate the growth of grass in the forested range land rather than stunt it. All these things are possible, all these things are happening today on some of our own BC properties. Here we have a situation where the environment is being impacted positively and growing the food animals is not taking a toll but is healthy for the land. Year after year the herd is managed in a way to keep the balances that are necessary for a healthy land base. Humus is built up on lands that may not have been so lush to begin with. The animals can be monitored and harvested at oportune times, avoiding harvesting pregnant stock which is impossible to avoid when in the fishing industry.
When we put agriculture up to the ‘as within so without’ principle, it measures up really well!
So as much as I love seafood, when I really go to a place of calm inside and look out at the world of food, I have to admit that I would rather contribute to a future for the water specise by letting them rest, than harm them further in the illusion of doing something good for myself.
HOW ‘ORGANIC’ IS YOUR DIET?
I don’t really like the measure of calories when it comes to food and diet, it’s archaic and mostly nonsense, however the calorie offers a great tool to illustrate how ‘organic’ your diet really is.
I find knowing where you are at gives you a better idea of where you want to be. Finding out where you are on the friendly lifestyle scale can be great for improving your health too.
Most people I talk to believe in organic, and most of them make a point to shop ‘mostly organic’. Most of the time this meant they buy organic fruits and vegetables, potatoes and startches. Now this makes sense visually, becasue the bulk of what you eat belongs in these categories. However, there is a huge problem with this way of thinking when it comes to the actual energy you are putting into you body.
Think of a salad for instance, everything but a few tablespoons of dressing is just vegetables, so the bulk is organic. On the other hand and much more importantly for your health, only a tiny fraction of the calories from that salad dish are coming from an organic source. If you are using a conventional oil for your dressing, that is where at least 80% of your calories are coming from. After this meal, you can only really say you have eaten 20% organic.
Besides that, the toxins that pose the most problems for us, the mercury, the hormones… and so on, tend to be carried in fatty substances. So the olive oil that is of poor conventioal quality in your salad brough with it more health hazards that the vegetables would have had they not been organic. Not to encourage at all the buying of non organic vegetables and fruit, but to encourage going all the way. Those fatty foods, nuts, seeds, oils and animal products have so much more impact on our health because of the density of the nutrients and fats they bring us.
There is more impact on your health and on the environment by volume when it comes to fatty foods. So go that extra mile and make sure you are putting the best into your body, in return radiating the best back out into the world!
WHEN TO SET ASIDE YOUR FOOD PRINCIPLES
(or perhaps a new one to add to your list)
A few years back, when I was first getting settled in Vancouver I had the great fortune to be invited to stay with a couple who opened their home and their lives to me. I at the time had very strick ‘food rules’ I did everything to live by. I was dogmatic about ethics and health, to the point where it somehow affected my social life.
My hosts invited me one evening to join them for dinner at her parents house. Before leaving the house to go for dinner however, I was taught the most important lesson in food I have had to this day.
It was pointed out to me that my rigidity and righteousness when it came to food made it hard to take me anywhere! You eat what is served to you, I was told! This resonated so deeply as it is also what I was taught as a child and it rocked my world. My hosts were also borderline fanatic about good food and health, however there was one big difference: They could put aside their day to day values for a more universal value when it was called for. What I mean is that although they, like myself, cared very deeply about how they ate and lived, they knew that there are times when there is something bigger to be considered, the fundamental value of honoring and respecting that which is provided for you by another human being out of their own goodwill.
This lesson transformed the way I saw food. It was no longer just something to take into my body to nourish it, and no longer just a way to make a positive impact on the environment, my biggest passion. Food now took on a very spiritual role. One that once seen, cannot be ignored. So many of my food challenges eased after that lesson; I was able to enjoy an incredible Chinese New Years dinner with 15 or so dishes I had never before tried.
Now I can honor the spiritual element of food as an offering, not only to otherworldly beings in ancient times, but to other humans today. I understood then how the deepest insults can come from the refusal to ‘break bread’ with someone. Refusing food that has been prepared for you with love and goodwill is a sin, in some manner of the word. Not only can you deeply offend another, totally rejecting their efforts, you can also isolate yourself from a whole world of food that is foreign to you.
It cannot be ignored that eating is probably the one biggest defining factor between cultures today, perhaps always. Through studying the diets of people around the world there are very distinct differences, things that are unique only to a select group in a small geographic area. Then there are also likenesses, a foundation that connects us all. The act of eating food is the most frequent thing that most of us do that defines us. Most of us eat more often than we, say, pray, or display any other sort of distinctive cultural behaviour. Therefore I feel it is fair to say that yes, how we eat, defines us ethnically, geographically and socially.
Food as an undeniable vehicle of cultural expression plays such a big role not only in what brings us so much joy in living in places that are made up of people from everywhere; it also takes a (mostly silent) stake in the movement toward sustainable living and eating.
One cannot deny one’s culture, origin, and with that cannot deny one’s traditions in relation to food. As far as history dates back, everywhere people have gone, they have taken food and food ways with them. An obsession with traditional foods is a part of every people. People always brought with them that which they could grow in their new surroundings, other items became a thing to be imported, were usually costly and considered very special, yet essential. Most cannot immagine a life without some tropical foods or spices that can only be found in Thailand, not because we live superficial, materialistic lives; but because food touches the soul. Traditional foods are such a part of who we are that it is impossible to pass on our diverse cultures without connection to our foods. The way people feel about food, whether they can express it or not, is directly related to who we are as people, where we come from and what we need to pass on to the young ones so they can be strong and live healthy as our ancestors did.
How I see it, we can judge the demise of a cultural group by the state of their diet. Modernized traditional peoples seem to be the most neon examples of the loss of connection to culture, loss of their traditional foods and ways, loss of their health. Any group can be put through that same test, the farther we have strayed from our cultural food ways, the poorer our health and the less our understanding of our traditions.