Monday, August 10, 2009

09/08/10: Eureka moment!?!?!

So I think I've come up with the most concise summary of my thesis so far...

"a metaphoric study of material selection"


09/07/24: "Picking" meal

Sunday, August 2, 2009

09/08/02: Inspiration

So I've hidden myself away to write my thesis this long weekend. So far, so good. Over 5000 words and still counting...

Oh, and my "desk" location certainly helps ease the pain of writing... though it certainly contributed to a painful sunburn...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

09/07/08: Test Meals

So I think that as part of the "HOW" of my thesis, I'd like to perform a series of test meals - meals that provoke thoughts about different aspects food/cooking and about what I think it means to "savour" a place...

These are a few of my first ideas...

EARTH (baking, cooking, fire) - a meal cooked and served inside one of the old colonial-era kilns on the Niagara Escarpment near my parents' house
  • below grade, embedded into escarpment - in tall cylindrical volume made of bricks, open to air above
  • clay-cooking, need hammer to break open vessels after cooked.
  • potery vessels to eat from
  • root vegetables
  • candle lighting

ENERGY (fuel, sunlight) - a meal cooked on the hood of a car on a hot summer day

  • in parking lot by the beach
  • no shade around - people to endure heat of sun (either fry themselves or put on protection)
  • eggs, bacon, tea, etc.

CONSUMPTION (biting, chewing, swallowing)

  • eating typical meal, but with rhythm in background - each minor beat signifying a chew (25-50 times per mouthful) and each major beat signifying a bite
  • awareness of one's own chewing rhythm, one's lack of appropriate disintegration of food prior to swallowing, comparative speeds of eating

TRAVEL DISTANCE (curiosities)

  • meal with dishes of food located at separate tables at distances away from dining table in accordance to relative distance of source of the ingredients.
  • people have to get up from table to get food - how far will they go?
  • what role does convenience take?
  • what role does curiousity take?

09/07/08: Eating Designer link...

Monday, July 6, 2009

09/07/06: the HOW...

… the methods for discerning and appreciating a place’s resources and assets …

Formal Education/ Book (Factual) Knowledge
What is unique about the physiographic conditions?
What are the governing economic conditions of the area?
What is unique about the cultural background of the residents?

Stories/ Inherited Knowledge
What are the ideals residents hold particularly dear?
What are the family values?
What are the celebrated traditions?
What are some of the prized family recipes?
What are local “favourites” when it comes to foods, restaurants, vendors and general places to visit?
How does one know when a food is ready to be eaten?

Experience/ Empirical Knowledge
What does the food taste like?
What is the flavour similar to?
How is the flavour different from other similar foods?
What does the food look like?
Is the colour and/or shape different from "the norm"?
What is the visual texture like?
What does the food smell like?
What are the nuances - the hints of other known scents?
What does the food feel like in your mouth?
What does the food feel like in your hands?
What sounds are associated with eating the food?

Practice/ Working Knowledge
What are the techniques - the "tricks of the trade" - that bring out the best in a food? – the cutting/prepping/frying/cooking/baking/assembling, etc…
What flavour combinations work well together?
What colour combinations/proportions make the food more appealing to the eye?
What visual texture combinations make the food more appealing to the eye?
What physical texture combinations make the food more appealing to the mouth?

09/07/06: the WHAT...

... the resources and assets of a place ...

Physiography/ Geography
What can we grow here?
What are the geological and climatic conditions?
What foods are indigenous?
What is cultivated now versus when the area was first settled?
What do the geological and climatic conditions produce particularly well?
What grows there easiest and results in the best quality product?
What is in season?
What are the seasonal patterns of growing/harvesting/producing that need to be considered?

Economy/ Industry
What are the current agricultural practices and where are they heading?
What processed foods have historically been produced in the area?
What is currently being manufactured in the area and what is the future of those industries?
What can be bought at the road-side stands, the market, and the grocery store?
What are the economic demographics of the residents?

What were (are) the settlement patterns and how have they affected food production?
What significant (shared) past experiences have shaped the ideals and memories of the residents?
What are some of the personal memories that shape the residents ideal and memories?

What is the heritage/ethnic origin of the residents?
What are the traditions of those cultures?
What are the ideals of those cultures?
What sets of skills were brought to the area by settlers?

09/07/06: The WHAT, the HOW, and the WHY . . .

OK, so I may have to alter the three main sections of my thesis from "Availability, Discernment and Advocation" to the 1. WHAT, 2. HOW, 3. WHY
... but perhaps it should be ordered the 1. WHY, 2. WHAT, 3. HOW...

WHAT... are the material resources and cultural assets?

HOW... can one gain understanding and appreciation?

WHY... should one learn to savour the seemingly insignificant qualities in people, places and things?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

09/06/24: The 3 parts in the middle

  • What can we grow here? What are the geological and climatic conditions? What is indigenous? What is cultivated?
  • What is in season? What are the patterns of growing/harvesting/producing that need to be considered?
  • What can be bought here? What is at the road-side stands, the market, the grocery store?
  • What sets of skills can be drawn upon? What is the history of the location – the origin(s) of it’s settlers, their settlement patterns, agricultural practices and manufacturing developments?


  • What do the geological and climatic conditions produce particularly well? What grows there easiest and results in the best quality product?
  • What is in prime season? What products taste better at a specific time of year than at any other time?
  • Who is selling the best produce? What determines what is considered “best”?
  • What has the longest, richest history of refinement? What skills were brought to the area with settlers? What skills were required for settling the area? What, currently, are the main exports from the area?


  • How can one educate the local population on available resources – the products, skills, and cultural history?
  • How can one encourage awareness of and careful attention to detail?
  • How can one promote the prioritization of local products?
  • What are the potential benefits and detriments of promoting local specialty products?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

09/05/21: Fiddlehead Scans

Fiddleheads bought at the Cambridge Market on Saturday May 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

09/04/29: Experiments with Food Photography

My meal at Pan on Tuesday March 31 . . . sitting by the window on a sunny afternoon . . . with the most flavour-filled Cobb salad I've ever had.

Friday, April 24, 2009

09/04/24: Shallot Scans

Shallots bought at the Food Basics in St. Catharines,
April 11, 2009.

09/04/24: Golden Beet Scans

Golden Beets bought at the St. Catharines market,
same day as sprouts (below)

Friday, April 17, 2009

09/04/17: Sprout Scans

Crunchy Mixed Sprouts from the St. Catharines Market.
Bought April 11, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

09/04/11: Sidenotes

Finally breaking down, I bought a new scanner yesterday. I will therefore be scanning and posting new pictures in the next few days - no excuses this time!

I went to the St. Catharines market early this afternoon and bought a few more interesting food items that should appear even more interesting when scanned and zoomed . . . I'm looking forward to it!

09/04/09: Interview with a cheesemaker.

The Millbank building was originally owned by Parmalat, but was sold to a group of Mennonite families (for $475000) when the company went under in ____. The group put another $400000 into it and the leased it out, first to another group of Mennonite families (Mornington Dairy, sold 95% of their goat milk to Liberte, but recently lost the contract) and then also to Montforte Dairy, in 2004.

All of Montforte’s milk starts at the farm, goes to Guelph to a milk grader for testing, and then is transported by truck to the Dairy in Millbank. They drive into the giant garage-style doors into a fully enclosed concrete dock where they are hooked up the hoses that pump the milk through pipes to the pasteurizer (HTST – High Temperature, Short Time – 15 seconds at 163C). The receiving bays for the trucks have to be carefully designed to prevent exposing the milk to contaminants from outdoors. They cost about $150000 to install – a lot of money for a small, artisanal cheese company – so, in Montforte’s new building in Stratford, they have adopted a new way of receiving and pumping out the milk trucks: the trucks back up to the building and are carefully sealed off before pumping. This keeps the contaminants from even entering the building, saves them from having to pay for the giant doors, and takes up much less interior space otherwise used to house the trucks.

The milk is processed and kept at 22C until ready to go into storage. French cheeses typically need to go into a drying room. The milk is stored at 0C, while the cut/packed/fresh cheeses are stored at 4C. There is a lot of wasted product when the cheese has to be cut into specific weights to be packed and sold at stores. The ends, though they could easily be grated and sold as a prepared product, are usually throw away. Other cheeses are aged at a carefully monitored 10C with 90% humidity, with a complete change of air in the room three times per day to ensure that the ammonia in the environment does not sit at the ground.

Ruth Klahsen grew up in a Russian Mennonite family with a doctor for a father. At eh age of 19, she was shunned and after leaving home, promptly got herself pregnant. Her son is now 30 years old. She had another child a couple of years later and moved to Woodstock, Ontario, but still hadn’t decided what she wanted to do for a career. There was very little work in the early 1980s and unemployment in that town was at 50%. She joined WINTO (___) and got work in London. Having no money for a car, she hitchhiked to and from work every day.

She decided that she wanted to become a cook, inspired by her Oma’s skills in the kitchen) and enrolled in the Stratford Chef school in 1983, its inaugural year. She trained and worked as a top chef in Stratford for the next 20 years, and was employed as the chef at the Stratford Festival for much of that time.

In 2003, Ruth decided she needed a change from cooking. She joined forces with a man by the name of Sebastien Montforte, who had 27 years experience in the cheese industry. They had worked together for less than a year when Sebastien, voicing his frustrations and spewing derogatory names at Ruth, left the business. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that all of the cheese they had made that first year had been contaminated by raw milk, and they lost $160000 worth of product – much of the $250000 Ruth had raised to start up the company.

Thankfully, fortunes have changed considerably since that first year: sales have doubled every year. Last year Montforte sold a million dollars worth of cheese with a 15% profit share. Their reputation has spread mostly by word of mouth, and sales are expected to continue to grow – hence the new building in Stratford. Montforte’s business model will see their sales capped at $5 million to ensure that they stick to their roots as a quality-based, small-scale operation.

They will continue to expand, however, the types of products they craft, now using four kinds of milk (cow, sheep, goat, and water buffalo) and soon selling a selection of charcuterie.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

09/04/07: Link to UW thesis layout regulations

09/04/07: Montforte - Interview!

This morning I ventured out to the former location of Montforte Dairy in Millbank, Ontario. They will be moving into a new facility by the end of this year, and so are not presently making cheese at the Millbank building. Though I couldn't take any pictures of the cheese-making process, I did have the opportunity to speak with the owner /head cheesemaker, Ruth Klahsen. Her enthusiasm and deep-rooted passion for her art, as well as her future-focussed, genuine concern for the farming community shone brightly even in the dank, semi-dismantled factory. She is a true gem of a woman and I feel priviledged to have had the opportunity to talk with her.

09/04/05: Prepping for Montforte Interview

as quoted from their website:


In a world gone mad for innovation and change, it’s the small pleasures that keep us sane. And in the constellation of small pleasures that salve the mind and nourish the body, what trumps the sheer sensual deliciousness of a well-crafted cheese?

At Monforte, we’re convinced the small things do indeed make a difference, that agriculture is best practiced on a human scale, and that our cheeses, each in its own quiet way, reflect something a little deeper than the technology behind mass manufactured food – a little of the poetry and passion of life itself.

We believe quality is as much our creative capital as the astonishingly good milk our shepherds bring us. Our sheperds are our chief collaborators in building a sustainable sheep dairy industry and in assuring the welfare of the sheep whose milk we use.

We think our band of artisanal cheese lovers – chefs and sommeliers and retailers and enthusiasts alike – believe in sustainability and impeccable quality too. It’s a shared passion, in short. What could be better?

We launched our dairy in the spring of 2004, growing [pardon the pun] organically, slowly, with a steady eye on deepening our knowledge of the art and craft of cheesemaking even as we reached more and more taste buds.

It’s been challenging, painful, beautiful, exhilarating and a kind of wonder we’ve made it this far.

But we have, indeed. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

09/04/01: Ode To Squash

Squash, my dear foul-weather friend
Thick-skinned and hearty, biting breezes are kept at bay
Protected, the flesh is sweet - is tender, like a sleeping babe at peace with the world.
At peace and creating peace - amidst the turmoil of changing seasons
Pureed it coats the mouth of the menace
The silk mask tempering ferocity.
Roasted its intensity combats even the most bitter bitter greens
Arousing tenacity in trial by fire.
My comfort in the cold, you warm my heart with memories of meals spent with family.
A staple for centuries, a delight in my lifetime, you satisfy my hungry body
Asking nothing in return but to be appreciated and seen as somehow special in the eyes of it’s eater.

Monday, March 30, 2009

09/03/30: Possible Intro

I have an innate desire to delve deep into the soil that bears the fruit that has nourished me since the time of my birth...

I need to understand where exactly I’ve come from – the land, the people, the practices – and examine its origin, its fabric, and its nuances in detail...

I want to know how this land had shaped its inhabitants, and how inhabitants have shaped this land...

I want to know why I should love the region that has become a part of my identity and why I should be proud of it...

I feel like celebrating all that makes this location unique in the world, so that I, by association, feel my uniqueness...

Ultimately, I want to savour this place.

09/03/30: Recipe - Maple Roasted Squash Soup

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large (3 medium) onions, rough chopped
  • 2 large apples, cored and rough chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and rough chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1½ cups maple syrup
  • ¼ - ½ cup grape seed oil
  • Water
  • 1½ cup 10% cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare squash, onions, apples, carrots and garlic and put into two large roasting pans.
  2. Drizzle with the maple syrup and grape seed oil and toss.
  3. Roast in preheated oven (350F) for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are fully cooked and tender.
  4. Remove veggies from oven and let cool
  5. Put all veggies (and their juice) in large pot and add enough water to cover. (seems strange, but it’s the best way to approximate the right amount of water.)
  6. Transfer - batch at a time - into blender, and puree until smooth. Pour into separate bowl until large pot is emptied. Pour all pureed soup back into pot.
  7. Add cream and milk.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Reheat soup, stirring frequently to prevent boiling.

09/03/29: Recipe Matrix

I've been struggling a bit, trying to decide on the best way to organize and choose recipes to include in my thesis.
Originally, I chose recipes that I could see each of the "guest personas" preparing, that would explore a different aspect of the meaning of "local," and that could be organized by time required for preparation (and thus the time in the day when one would have to start making each dish). Since my first pass at a motif, I have decided to write about only personal experiences creating "local" dishes, and thus eliminate the need for creating characters/caricatures out of my own cooking styles and moods. This change has made my former time-based organization rather inappropriate. Instead, I have sketched out an alternative, month-based mode of organization. Though I may not speak directly about the month in which each recipe is set, I hope it would be implicate and would allow me to talk about a variety of products and influences.
The only problem I foresee, is that I may, similar to when I was using chapters, feel obliged to write equal amounts on each month, and focus less on times during the year (eg. harvest) that perhaps deserve more attention. I've attached the Matrix above.