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Table scrapes

Farming out new shopping

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By Nicole Fitzgerald

Normally, my grocery shopping is a two-question process: what am I going to cook and what product is available?

I used to sigh and roll my eyes at empty bins where Roma tomatoes should be at the local market. I’d reshuffle my menu for the week on discovering organic, free-range chicken was out of stock at the meat counter, again.

But what I really needed to reshuffle was my two-step shopping routine.

Weekly visits to the Whistler Farmer’s Market re-choreographed my shopping routine, switching up the order and adding one more crucial phase: look for local seasonal product then figure out a fitting recipe followed by the most important step, Googling to solve the mystery of how to prepare it. Good luck trying to say portulaca oleracea five times fast, let alone knowing what to do with the twiggy, leafy vegetable.

  “So what are we going to have for dinner this week?” I asked my shopping buddy.

We weren’t looking at a recipe book. We weren’t making a shopping list. Instead we were looking at the 50-something stalls at the Whistler Farmer’s Market open every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Upper Village until Thanksgiving weekend.

This reshuffle grew at a pedal pace.

When participating in this year’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday event – an organized bicycle tour of Pemberton farms and local food artisans in August – I talked with authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon about their new book The 100 Mile Diet (Random House Canada, 2007).

The book sprouted from a dinner one night where the two foraged, fished and mulled from local lakes, forests and farmlands to create a meal where every ingredient had a story and identity. Could they eat like this everyday? Almost a year of no pancakes and bread followed (they couldn’t find a wheat producer on Vancouver Island) and The 100-Mile Diet was born. The book’s premise is eating product only available within a 100 miles of where you live.

I thought back to my dinner the evening before. I couldn’t put one farmer’s name to anything on my plate. But more than vegetables and meat gathered in my dinner round; little nuances you often take for granted.

I couldn’t imagine tracking down something as simple as a local peppercorn farm or olive oil producer. And even if you can find the product close to the 100-mile gauge, a basket full of goat cheese from Salt Spring Island, Lower Mainland Terra bread and Denman Island organic chocolate can tax a grocery budget.

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