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

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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