The Processed Way of Eating

Despite my plan to avoid social media while working on my book, I’ve spent the earlier part of this afternoon over on FaceBook discussing meat glue (why yes, I am procrastinating, how did you guess?), and its implications in the greater food service industry, aside from its use in molecular gastronomy. Because it seems that there are a few restaurants and food supply companies that are taking chunks of stewing beef and mushing them together with meat glue to make what looks like a reasonable facsimile of a filet mignon.

These filet mignon, so far, seem to exist within the realm of large-scale lower-end food service – school cafeterias and catered weddings were two such examples given. I wouldn’t expect to see them at high-end steak houses or places that are known for the authenticity or terroir of their beef, but it’s reasonable to assume that they will eventually show up (unannounced, no doubt) on the menu of low- to mid-range restaurants across both the US and Canada.

(Note that the meat glue itself is perfectly safe. The concern comes from creating a “steak” out of various cuts of beef and then cooking it to less than medium well-done because of possible bacteria that may have been on the surfaces of the various pieces of meat that are now in the centre of the steak and might not be cooked to the appropriate temperature to kill said bacteria. A standard steak has no such problem since the centre is untainted and could not have come in contact with any kind of contamination.)

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In Toronto:

Campagnolo (832 Dundas Street West)  has finally gotten approval for a sidewalk patio.

The empty restaurant space next to The Horseshoe (372 Queen Street West; formerly Gorilla Monsoon) is sporting signage of the A&W variety. Post-concert root beers for all!

It’s Wednesday, which means kids eat free tonight at The Sister (1554 Queen Street West).

Leslieville gets a new cafe called The Commissary (889 Queen Street East).

Is the raw food movement taking over Toronto? It could be – Rawlicious just opened another new location, this time in Markham (116 Main St. North, Markham).

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Backs Against the Wal

I would be surprised if anyone, let alone anyone in the “foodie bubble” hasn’t heard the news of Wal-Mart‘s new commitment to selling healthy food. I’ve got a list of links below, but some points to remember on the new program:

  • it will be officially rolled out in the US only – Wal-Mart Canada will be affected only in terms of house-brand products, and any influence to other corporately-produced foods
  • the goal is to reduce added sugars, salt and industrial trans fats in Wal-Mart’s own branded products and to pressure corporate food processors to do the same  – this is really just making unhealthy processed foods *slightly* less bad, it is NOT a concerted effort to add healthy foods, or brands with health as part of their MO to the shelves
  • junk food, particularly soda, will remain unaffected, leaving the “choice” up to consumers

However, we cannot overlook Wal-Mart’s huge buying power – it is the only corporation in the world that can get away with dictating to producers how their product must be made, right down to the packaging. (Wal-Mart is in the process of implementing sustainability ratings for all products it sells, which will include disposal of said product and its packaging.)

The new program also vows to bring food to food deserts, support smaller farms, bring back staple crops to areas that have been hard hit by competition from California and Florida, and shorten travel distances for the food it sells.

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The Market Basket – Coming to a Supermarket Near You

market5Chalk one up for all the folks who whined and complained advocated for more local produce in supermarkets. It seems the big chains have been listening.

One July 28th, Loblaws rolled out a programme called Ontario Grown – Picked at its Peak in which they are featuring special displays at Loblaws, Zehrs, Fortinos, Valu-Mart and Your Independent Grocer stores in Ontario that focus on local produce.

Loblaw works closely with farmers in maintaining high standards of excellence to ensure consumers get the freshest and most flavourful fruits and vegetables possible. “Ontario Grown – Picked at its Peak” produce program will have a positive impact on local economies and help revive and support Ontario’s family farms. Loblaws Companies is committed to this relationship – to consumers and to farmers!

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Is Something Fishy?

This article is from last week, but I’ve had it bookmarked because I really wanted to talk about it. It needed some thinking first though, some pondering. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I stopped eating imported shrimp many years ago after reading one of the many books by Dr. Vandana Shiva in which she details how shrimp farms in India and Thailand are destroying the local ecosystems.

To operate effectively, shrimp farmers destroy mangrove swamps to create a flat, shallow area underwater – conditions in which shrimp thrive. This allows them to harvest the shrimp by trawling.

However, the mangrove swaps are home to many sea creatures whose habitats are destroyed and trawling is indiscriminate – anything in the way of the trawler – including thousands of sea turtles – gets scooped up.

The removal of the mangrove swamps also removes a layer of protection against tidal waves caused by tsunamis. It is widely believed that the Tsunami of 2004 would have done considerably less damage were it not for the shrimp farms that lined the coast of Thailand. Shrimp farms also cause seawater to leach into nearby groundwater, ruining other crops, such as rice.

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Manic Organic – Part 1

A few months back I read something in one of the newspaper food columns about how relatively easy it was to get organic produce at local supermarkets. The article specifically mentioned the No Frills in Dufferin Mall, and it left me scratching my head. See, I shop at that No Frills and I can’t really recall seeing a whole lot of organic produce there.

This provoked the desire to start exploring. Maybe there were hidden gems in my local shops that I wasn’t even aware of. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been wandering the supermarkets of the west end of downtown to see exactly what there was out there in terms of organics.

You’ll notice that I stuck to supermarkets and chain grocery stores, as this is where most people shop. My own grocery shopping excursions take me regularly to St. Lawrence and Kensington Markets, Whole Foods and Pusateri’s, as well as a variety of farmer’s markets, shops in ethnic neighbourhoods and small health food stores, in addition to frequenting the stores listed below.

In my travels for this article, I looked for specific items such as milk and soy milk, eggs, produce and prepared foods.

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