How To Fight Food Waste

Last week, I attended a roundtable discussion on the topic of food waste, one of the great shames of modern life. Every year, 28% of the food produced worldwide is wasted; the land mass needed to grow that amount of food would cover China and Mongolia. Worse still, much of the food we throw away will end up in a landfill rather than as beneficial compost (except in fortunate municipalities where composting is mandated). A whopping 47% of wasted food occurs after purchase, which means we consumers are responsible for the bulk of tossed edible items, some of which are still perfectly safe to eat.

This needs to change.

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How we choose inflammation as a way of life

…A whole lot of “news” is inaccurate, urgently negative, and/or horrific, much like the ingredients in processed food, and many of us feel torn between our desire to remain well-informed about current events and our need to maintain our emotional equilibrium. This is not a selfish impulse—if we are flattened by despair, how can we act to better our world? There’s a reason airline passengers with dependents are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others with theirs, in the event of emergency.

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4 favourite children’s books about food and cold weather

There are some books that seem to provide us with the warmth we need when the temperature drops outside, often in the form of memorable descriptions of food. I often search the bookshelves for them in the winter, especially on snow days, which provide the perfect backdrop for a cozy read-aloud with a child. Here are a few favorites to look for on your own snow-day trip to the library or bookstore:

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How To Make Healthy School Lunches Daily Without Losing Your Mind

When my kid started school this fall, I came face to face with a challenge experienced by all parents of young, school-aged children: what the heck am I supposed to give him/her for lunch every day?

As with many first-world parenting issues, this one should really be no big deal. So why is it many of my parent acquaintances find themselves rummaging through their cupboards at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning, searching for snack crackers through clenched teeth while their offspring whine, “Are you giving me celery sticks AGAIN?”

I remember primary orientation day at school mostly for the terrifying directive given by our son’s friendly and well-organized young teacher: “Please send a healthy lunch and two healthy snacks to school every day in non-disposable containers. We want to reduce waste as much as possible, so no juice boxes or other packaging. And no sweets.”

I quickly realized how spoiled we had become during our kid’s preschool years, with its supplied lunches and snacks; back then, I barely registered what he ate between breakfast and supper since his food needs were being so seamlessly attended to.

It was the dawn of an uncomfortable new era.

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I Wrote A Book!

If you know me, you know that I have a kid who hates public toilets. They’re loud, unpredictable, and ubiquitous; try going on a trip without visiting one (sadly, we have).

With my five-year-old’s aversion showing no signs of abating, I decided to write a children’s book about a public toilet that swallowed a swimming pool, to help us all laugh about his dislike. It’s called The Big Flush, and I get my first look at its printed self next week!

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The Things That Make Christmas

They’re the things we keep carefully wrapped and stored away all year in basements and attics.

They once belonged to our parents, grandparents, or us when we were tiny; though battered and aged, these objects glow with the luminescence of decades’ worth of Christmas memories. They are our time capsules, instantly transporting us back a generation or more to our childhood when we waited breathlessly, sleeplessly for Santa to arrive.

The stories attached to Christmas objects are part of their hold on us. Here are three of mine:

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In Praise of Slow

In my twenties, I was a Master’s student in the University of Toronto’s Medieval Studies program (having realized the intense market demand for medievalists—ha!).

I discovered that I studied at the same library that housed a truly ambitious project, the Dictionary of Old English, which was in the process of documenting every known use of every word in the Old English language for future generations of scholars.  Like medieval monastics, the compilers of the dictionary gathered in their scriptorium atop U of T’s flagship Robarts Library and laboured for hours, sifting through obscure texts that most people have never heard of, in search of words. When I graduated in the spring of 2000, the project, begun nearly twenty years previously, had just published the letter E.

Two weeks ago, a friend sent me a notification that the dictionary committee was pleased to present its latest published letter: H.

Sixteen years; two letters.

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How To Eat Well Without Going To The Grocery Store

Think of your last trip to the grocery store.

Likely you managed to find your way through the labyrinth of ever-migrating foodstuffs, housewares, and promotional sales, only to find yourself stuck in a lengthy line at the checkout with a few vocally disgruntled kids and frazzled parents.

What if you could go for weeks between visits to the grocery store?

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You don’t need to be a locavore or a penny-pincher to appreciate the value of “found” food, that is, food we can find growing in our very own backyard. Eating what comes readily to hand in our home environment has several benefits: we lower our reliance on imported foods and their associated large carbon footprint, and we indirectly develop our resiliency and ingenuity by searching out locally available alternatives. We also save a bit of money in the process.

I’ve made a short list of some delicious alternatives to imported everyday food and drink. I’ve tried them myself and can vouch for no feeling of deprivation afterwards! Here they are…

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Cooking with wood

“I pity the fool who doesn’t have a woodstove,” reads the Facebook status update of a smug friend sitting in front of a roaring fire in the middle of a blizzard last winter.

I’ve often told not-so-lucky friends that they are welcome to come enjoy the warmth of our own woodstove any time there’s a cold snap or power outage; the offer comes along with an invitation to bring over whatever papers they want to see go up in flames–ancient Visa statements and bad teenage poetry come to mind–and to be ready to split kindling!

The beauty of a woodstove is many-fold: that ancient feeling of comfort and security that our ancestors must have felt when they gathered around their fires, the chance to use a (theoretically) renewable local resource, and of course, that warm and fuzzy multitasking feeling of cooking on the same surface that’s heating your house!


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