From Paris to Food Truck

WOW!

It has been a long long time. When I first started this blog I used it as a tool to escape my horrible life in Paris, and remind myself that I would one day get out of that prison. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it really is possible to get bored in Paris, so the blog was a nice way to get me thinking (which really was the issue all along – under-stimulation).

So what has happened since then? Basically, I came home in September and was depressed for the following six months. Blogging or writing anything for that matter took a backseat. BUT, after much hard work, exercise, cooking, healthy-eating habits, vitamins and crying, I have finally come to terms that Calgary is my home, at least for now, and that I should just buck-up and make the best of it. I have even started to make crafts to pass the time while job hunting and job hunting-failing (so that being said, if you are in the market for any DIY stuff, let me know, and I will make something for you).

So to fast-forward a bit, Aman and I have since started a food truck, of which I am particularly excited, and also of which I am in charge of the “social responsibility” initiatives that the business will put forth. This includes making the truck as green as possible (including a few surprises that I have to keep quiet about until we open), picking local charities that we will support every month, and basically trying to set the standard for responsible business in the City of Calgary.

Anyway, the name of the truck is The Naaco Truck, which is basically what happens when naan bread takes the form of a taco, and trust me when I say, it will be delicious. You will never have Indian food like this in your life!

Check us out on Twitter (@TheNaacoTruck) and Facebook (The Naaco Truck) and tell everyone you know!

Image


My (Food) Role Models

Halfway across my world, millions of people are in danger of dying of starvation. To paint a picture for you, a UN food shipment recently delivered to Somalia resulted in gunfire killing seven people. On top of this, Somali militants are blocking civilian access to food.  Knowing this helps me realize how truly lucky I am. Not only do I get to eat, but I get to choose what I want to eat. Don’t take your opportunity to make knowledgeable and healthy food decisions for granted; take control of what you eat, be genuinely grateful. I believe it is extremely important to truly think and analyze what you are putting into your mouth. What you eat affects your city, your country, and your whole world.

I love food. If you know me, you know that. I won’t even claim to be a foodie. I know a lot about food but the imperative thing is that I have an unconditional love for it. I love the culture surrounding food. I love the role of food in culture. I will travel the world looking for the most delicious food (so far, front runner is the fresh, garlicky, lemony, olive oil drenched cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean).

Anyway, this post is more about the chefs that I admire. I have become extremely passionate about eating right – local, sustainable, ethical, healthy, and green – and have turned to some amazing resources to help me learn more about it.

First and foremost is my absolute favourite, Jamie Oliver. Not only has he established an organization that teaches young underprivileged people to cook, but he has tried valiantly to revolutionize the way British and American people eat (Google: Jamie’s Food Revolution). He shows people how to keep a garden, and how to use it to cook the most delicious looking food in the world.

Second is another great chef from the UK, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His shows, the River Cottage series, attempt to teach people sustainability and self-reliance, and how to source local eggs, dairy, and meat. Most recently, he has highlighted the problems with our current fishing methods, and has created a campaign to promote sustainable and ethical fishing – Hugh’s Fish Fight.

Last but not least is a chef that resides in New York named Dan Barber. Dan demonstrates perfectly that food tastes better when it is produced in a sustainable and ethical way. He shows that it is in everyone’s self interest (especially chefs) to source ingredients that are grown locally, grown organically, raised properly, and slaughtered properly, because they taste better. The quality is higher. There is integrity in how they are produced and therefore, also in how they taste. His approach is an educational one – his farm shows the link between a local consciousness and an amazing dining experience.

If you love food as much as I do, why not do some exploring of your own? There are some brilliant and inspiring people out there to teach you.

Here are some more links if you find the topic of any interest:

Blue Hill
Sustainable Eating – Scientific American
Chez Panisse – Alice Waters
Slow Food Canada
Hugh’s Chicken Run

Drought in Somalia - http://jubbalandnews.com/?p=596

Drought in Somalia - http://bit.ly/pPCckl


Smiles.

What a great talk – perfect for those days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed!


Rant! The Generalization of Africa

I would like to start out by saying that I have been found guilty of it in the past, and that this isn’t directed to anyone in particular, but is directed to almost every person I meet and talk to, and often in most of the things I read…so take that for what it is worth!

I have noticed, since going to “Africa” that this is the most common way to refer to the 62 different countries and territories of the African continent. Why do people refer to every African country as “Africa?” Why if someone is going to Mozambique are they going to “Africa?” Why do people say “I want to go to Africa” instead of “I would love to go to Kenya?” I am not actually sure if there is an answer. It could be inherently racist, or ignorance, or just plain laziness.

Africa is a vast place. It covers (according to Wikipedia) 6% of the Earth’s total surface, and 20.4% of it’s total land area. To put things into perspective, the areas of India, China, the United States, Argentina, and Western Europe would all fit inside, with room to spare (http://bigthink.com/ideas/21084). Big right? Being a large collective area, many countries on the African continent obviously share a similar collection of traits. Some may share a history of imperialism and injustice, or others may share diseases that know no border, but have devastated them all the same.

Anyway, the point here is that, grouping together African countries, based on their similarities, into one large “Africa,” takes away from all the differences that make them distinct and wonderful countries on their own. There are 62 different territories and countries, countless languages (over 1000), from Arabic to Igbo, and some of the most interesting and oldest cultural traditions, religions, and beliefs. Not to mention each has a unique history, present, and future. Their governments are different, their landscapes are different, and although many African countries share similar issues, each has its own set of individual problems.

Now, as we see a shift away from large-scale government aid to a more individual and humanistic approach to development, I think it is extremely important to value each culture and person for the differences that make them beautiful. After spending time in Tanzania, I wouldn’t dare call it anything else. How could I? I didn’t get to see Egypt, or Ghana, or Mauritania. I saw Tanzania. I met Tanzanians. I ate Tanzanian food and laughed (or not laughed) at Tanzanian jokes. I heard Swahili and Hehe, I saw churches and mosques, and witnessed an exciting Tanzanian presidential election. Now, imagine this happening in the 61 other distinct countries and territories of Africa.

To relate it to my own life, I know most Canadians (sorry to my American friends) dislike or even hate being grouped together in the “America” category. I mean, we are Canadians right? In order to foster a global world where cultures are respected and recognized, I think that it is worth the time and effort to familiarize yourself with different African states, cultures, and histories. Or for that matter, add the countries of South America, the countries of Asia, and even the countries of Europe to that list. Instead of treating “Africa” as a faraway tourist destination where you can volunteer and plant trees, treat it as a real place with real people, that aren’t forgotten when you leave. Those animals you are paying big bucks to see today might not be there tomorrow. Those kids you played with at the orphanage might not be there tomorrow either. Give them the attention they deserve. All it is..a simple mindset change.

Maybe I was inspired by the world’s newest country becoming it’s own after years of civil war and a fight for autonomy. I am sure if you were to ask someone from South Sudan where they come from, they wouldn’t say “Africa.”

Tunis, Tunisia

Togolese Women, Togo

Okavango Delta, Botswana


How many times can I learn the same lesson?

Let me begin this by saying before this particular year-long adventure, I had never had anything stolen, lost, misplaced, or vanished from my possession (at home, or in my travels).

Our trip just beginning, Aman and I were admittedly not in the right frame of mind. Having spent three months apart things were a bit exciting, strange, and at times a bit tense. I had been in Tanzania for those three months and Aman having just arrived …well if anyone knows the two of us, we aren’t the portrait of agreeable couple. In any case, our passports were left in a taxi one evening (it was dark, it had been a long day, blah blah) but no matter how you slice it, it was human error on my part. The worst part about the entire debacle was that the taxi driver did a car check when we got out – light on and everything – and decided that we hadn’t forgot anything in the backseat. Yeah right. Anyway, what followed suit was an awful five days of tracking said taxi driver down and confronting him, missing flights, expired visas, bribing police officers, two-day Canadian consulate visits, phoning home and waking mom up at 3 AM, and the beginnings of the worst bacterial infection this girl has ever had the pleasure of having. Just trust me when I say, it was terrible. I am however so thankful and lucky that we managed to get things sorted out, eventually, and finish our amazing East Africa trip without many more problems.

Fast forward to our first month in Paris. Things are going great. Until, of course, I am pick-pocketed on the metro and two BlackBerrys are stolen. Really, the only important part of this story you need to know is a few weeks prior, my lovely and forgiving boyfriend told me (with much enthusiasm) that if he EVER lost his phone, he would be “f*cked.”

So at this point you think I would have learned all there is to know about watching one’s belongings. You think wrong. I had to leave Aman’s notebook in the airplane seat pocket before I finally learned.

I must say, quite honestly, that I was so incredibly careful after these three incidents. I locked all my stuff up when sharing hostel rooms, I never went out with more cash than I needed, I left my passport at home in a safe place, I carried a different bag that nobody could steal from, and I kept it close on the metro and in public places. However, even when someone is as careful as can be, shit happens. On our most recent trip to Italy I had the fabulous privilege of having my wallet stolen! I was trying a dress on, and in 10 seconds it took for me to show Aman, someone managed to go into my fitting room and steal my wallet right out of my purse. They even zipped my purse back up so I had no idea until I left (and they too). So bye-bye brand new wallet from Florence and my credit card, debit card, SIN card, etc. you get the point.

This was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back. Or maybe it was when the store employee said “well, look at it this way, now you know.”…

It is the principle people. I have never stolen anything in my entire life! Why do people do this? Do you think after they took my wallet and looked at its contents that they felt bad they had stole from  a traveler? A visitor? That now she might be really effed? I’d like to think they would, but, probably not.

Oh well, I guess it’s time to rock the money belt my parents always push on me.

Sexy.


WWOOF – an interactive travel experience

I had gone my whole life without ever hearing about “WWOOFing” until I met one girl who had – after her, every person I met seemed to have tried it. It made me very curious. As a self-proclaimed go-green gal it seemed like a natural thing to try. For those of you who don’t know, WWOOF stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” and is a network of organic farms (in a simple sense) and people interested in helping out. With an expanded definition it can include everything from organic vineyards and olive groves, to boutique hotels and goat farms that make their own cheese. Basically, you help out in whatever way is needed in exchange from room and board. Sounds great, no? It is. And let me say, there are farms almost everywhere you’d like to travel.

Awhile ago I planned on going to Morocco to help out with a small hotel but with the recent problems in north Africa I decided on a much more laid-back and relaxed place, Ireland. I had always wanted to see Ireland, I had some free time (a girl can only do so much shopping and eating pastries in Paris), and I have been very interested and curious about sustainable living in the truest sense of the term. I found two great hosts through a very easy-to-use and simple website (small fee required) and was off to the Emerald Isle.

First impressions of Dublin were: grey, a bit hokey, and expensive. Maybe it’s because I was tired and sad I had left France, but all I was thinking was “Oh Steph, you really need to stop doing things on a whim.” However, my pessimism was quickly erased when I boarded a bus and traveled eight hours across the country to (what must be) one of the most beautiful places in the world – West Cork. I was tired and I was grumpy, but, a wonderful lady Julia was there to pick me up when I stepped off the bus and was extremely welcoming and friendly. I spent three weeks with Mike and Julia at their beautiful bed and breakfast on the Sheepshead Peninsula in West Cork and couldn’t have had a better time. I got to hang out in Irish pubs, hone my Guinness drinking skills, and get my butt bit my a crazy goose on the daily.  I met great people who made me feel like I had been a long time friend and were very quick to show me around, take me out, and include me in their lives.

Fast forward past another eight hour bus ride to Dublin, and back again to West Cork (poor planning on my part), and I was arriving at my second host’s place. But, not before getting on the wrong ferry and having to run off 10 seconds before the one I was supposed to be on took off. Welcome to Sherkin Island. The quietest and quaintest place in the world. I am talking Lord of the Rings style. Picture this: 25 degrees, Stephanie dressed in four layers, wearing boots, wheeling a suitcase, a duffel-bag, and a purse, walking up a dirt-road hill. Half of these people only ever leave the Island to buy groceries (but you can also get them delivered on the ferry), so you can imagine how out of place I looked. Why did I think dressing like a Parisian would be a good thing when you are going to be working in a garden? Don’t worry, I redeemed myself by wearing the same blue fleece and grey sweatpants for three weeks straight. Joe and Fiona had a lovely place, right on the bay, a sailboat, and a very eclectic and interesting life story. I learned about Homeopathy, how to grow zucchinis, how to shovel manure for growing zucchinis, and how to run from bulls (practice for Pamplona?).  Combine this with some very unexpectedly enjoyable evenings at the pub, 34 shades of green everywhere you look, and beautiful walks with the dog to the beach, and we have what is called a great experience.

At the end of the day, the greatest thing about wwoofing is the chance you have to meet some very affecting and enthusiastic people. It is not easy to be an organic farmer, not easy to live in a truly sustainable way, but it is nice to see honest people giving it an honest shot. Inspiring. I can’t wait until I can WOOF again!

Sherkin Island


Anchovies on my pizza please.

I must say, after arriving in Ireland two weeks ago, what a beautiful, green and relaxing place to be. I came here two weeks ago in an attempt to try “wwoofing,” but to be honest, have had a much different experience that I expected. That being said, I am having a great time and I have met some interesting and lovely people.

Seeing the ocean from my room has inspired much reading and research and conversation about fishing, more specifically, sustainable fishing. Small seaside villages  inevitably rely on fishing as food and clean water for leisure and tourism, so, being surrounded by small seaside villages at the moment has allowed me to learn a lot about what the oceans mean in the simplest of ways.

If I were to cut to the chase, I recently read a report published by the University of British Columbia’s Fishery Centre saying that by 2050 there is a good chance that many of the ocean’s large fish species could be extinct. These fishes include some of our favourites – tuna and cod – as well as some sharks and grouper. When large predatory fish such as these are removed from an environment, it allows smaller fish species such as anchovies and sardines to flourish. Unfortunately when there are many small animals in the absence of predators, these populations are much more prone to collapse by disease and massive die-offs; these conditions are then optimal for algae blooms or bacterial growth, resulting in deoxygenated water that is unable to support much life at all. These are called “dead zones.”

The problem is, in the simplest terms, over-fishing and improper use of the oceans resources. Basically, when a large fish population is found, all adults are fished, leaving nothing by way of reproductive individuals to replenish the population successfully. Combined with this is the fact that most of the fishing methods employed are extremely environmentally destructive. One problem, bycatch, is  the unintentional catching of fish not necessarily used for anything which by definition exceeds the amount of target species caught in the process. For example, shrimp trawling results in 20kg of other fish species killed for one kg of shrimp. Well, not even just fish species, but also turtles, sea horses, dolphins, whales, you name it, it somehow makes its way in there.

Farmed fish also comes with its fair share of problems. Animal welfare is just one, but there are also large issues with contamination and damage to local natural ecosystems and habitats. To learn more about fish farms, read here: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/aquaculture/ .

But as with most bad, there is  good. There is always a way the average person can help. In Canada, http://www.seachoice.org/ is an organization that promotes sustainable fishing and seafood consumption. There is a published list of the best seafood choices – what it is, and how it’s caught. But it might also be worth it to try out the little guys that nobody likes! Anchovies, sardines, mackerel are all really delicious and deserve the same attention as your tuna sandwich.

Unfortunately, fishing is an extremely complicated topic and one that I am in no way 100% informed about. However, I am learning, and I think that it is worth my attention. I hope that more people become aware of just how fragile our oceans are. Think about how by the time the next generation grows to be adults they might never even get to try all the delicious things we enjoy today because we are enjoying them too much.

 

My view!

Tuna