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From Farm to Plate

March 6th, 2011     by Emily Van Halem     Comments

If you shamelessly frequent this blog, then you might notice that my name is a new addition to the roster of Shameless contributors. I am indeed new to the team and I am really excited to be writing about all aspects of food both here on the blog, as well as for Shameless in print.

While my Shameless blog debut occurred earlier with a post on my recent food-themed bike tour, I thought I’d make my second post more of a personal introduction to you all.

Where to start? Oh, I know, food!

I love food. A lot. Not only do I eat it, but I also manage to sleep it and breathe it, without feeling claustrophobic. For me, good food isn’t only about taste – it’s about the people who grew it, the resources that went into it, and the environmental impact it had before ending up on my fork.

I might be considered a verifiable foodie but with a more DIY flare. I spend more time conducting kitchen experiments than I do eating out, while staying committed to eating healthy, local, and sustainably grown foods on a budget. I believe an easy first step in creating change in the world is through our food –- it’s like an ongoing democracy where we, as eaters, get to vote three times a day every day of the year. Weather we know it or not, eating is an inherently political act. It says a lot about our values and sends a message to the world of what we as consumers do or do not support. Buying local food could communicate that we want to support our local economy, to preserve farmland, or that we want to eat fresh and flavourful food. Even avoiding the grocery store altogether (by growing your own food or even dumpster diving) speaks volumes about our values and similarly sends a message to businesses, government and our community alike.

What I eat from day to day always changes, but what remains the same is my commitment to eating consciously: being aware of where my food is coming from, how it got to me, the environmental impact it had, and how all the people along the way were treated. And let me tell you, finding all this out is no easy task! I’ve devoted much of my life over the past four years to learning how to navigate the food system and make informed choices for myself. Here on the blog, I’ll attempt to help Shameless readers navigate the food system for themselves, and would be more than happy to field any questions you have in your own journeys.

Aside from muttering to myself in supermarkets about how many ingredients a box of Cheerios has, or how the layout of the store makes shoppers buy more stuff they don’t need, I do spend a lot of my time celebrating food – real, wholesome, and often homegrown. I’ve spent countless months working on organic farms, experiencing the wonder of soil teeming with healthy microbes; I regularly bond over food with friends at potlucks and dinner parties (a favourite pastime); and I spend what is probably an inordinate amount of time baking vegan treats for myself and others. And since an onslaught of food sensitivities hit me in the past few years, I’ve become a bit of a kitchen- creative, constantly trying ways to make my favourite dishes “Emily-friendly”. So if you want food that’s vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and/or sugar-free, I’m your gal.

For those rare moments when I realize that there is more to life than food, I can be found riding my bike around Toronto (or further afield like I did this summer, gardening on my rooftop patio, getting in over my head with craft projects, buying books I’ll never have time to read, drinking tea and generally planning my next bold move.

If you’re hungry for more food for thought, then check out my blog, Feel Good Food: Ethical Eating in a Moral Minefield. Here you’ll find personal stories, political and philosophical quandaries, and of course, recipes of the Emily-friendly kind. Feel free to send me your own thoughts and questions about food – emily feelgoodfood net.

I look forward to our many adventures together. I’ve got a gut feeling it’s going to be fun.


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