Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 24 - 25 & 26 - 100-mile diet : Lots to do and lots to think about...

On Day 24 (Thursday), a friend of mine sent me a recipe for home made fresh cheese. Our first thought was “amazing! A money saving idea!” Turns out it may not replace the sharp cheddar we love so much, but it will replace ricotta in a home made stuffed pasta!

Now, I think that I may have squeezed too much of the whey out which is why it became so dry. By the time I was done with it and it had cooled. It had the crumbly texture of extra firm tofu.

BUT! I was able to crumble it up with a fork and we made frittata which was wonderful. We accompanied the whole thing with Brussel sprouts in cream and caramelized onions and had a wonderful meal.

Day 25 (Friday) was a day of gifts and discoveries. A lady I work with told me a while back that she would bring me her left over curly parsley. She grows it as a perennial in her landscaping and simply cuts it down every year. When she found out about our challenge, she offered to bring it to me so I could dry and use. Of course I said yes and I’m glad I did: She walked in with a garbage bag full for me to go through and hang. Although it was further along in the season than it should have been and parts of it had yellowed, we were able to get a decent bit washed prepped and hung. It should keep us in parsley for quite some time. We also kept a bit of it fresh in the fridge for the next few days.

The other wonderful thing that happened was that we stopped at a little organic farmer stand at our local farmer’s market that had… drum roll… THAI CHILIS! I’ve never before seen Thai chilies here other than at the supermarket. We have a lot of mild and medium peppers, but to find real hot peppers is quite a venture. I think I took him by surprise when I picked up the little box of them and asked him “How much?”. He looked at me and said “50 cents”. I looked at my husband thinking it was a steal until I realized what he was saying and then asked again “No, how much for the whole box?”. He started laughing and said “Wow! Okay, 5$”. Got home and had 18 Thai chilies. I hung half of them to dry and froze the others. This made my day!

Day 26 (Saturday) was a wonderful day and a hard day all at once.

We started out early in the morning with one mission: Pick a road, set the trip-odmeter at zero and drive until we hit our circle limit. We decided to head North East along the south shore of the Saint-Lawrence River and headed to the county of Kamouraska, 155 kilometers away (96 miles).

What a beautiful drive it was!

Along the way, we bought quite a few things thinking that if we were to put in the miles, than at least make it count. We got:

Flour at the mill we had found earlier in the summer. La Seigneurie des Aulnaies, it is the only mill we found that is not only Eco-Cert organic certified, but also uses grains that are exclusively grown in the Kamouraska region. We came back with a 10 kg (22 pounds) bag on white flour for pasta and trying our hand at a sour starter again and a 2 kg (4.4 pounds) bag of wheat pastry flour for apple pies and a possible future pound cake attempt.

We stopped at a local smoke house called Les Pêcheries Ouellet and my husband got maple smoked sturgeon and eel, both caught by the man behind the counter that pointed out the window to the exact spot where he did. It was hard to get much more local than that. He was also very proud to say that the maple planks used came from his land across the street!

Our last stop was at la Fromagerie du Mouton Blanc where they make one of my favorite cheeses of all time: Le Tomme de Kamouraska! Made from raw sheep’s milk, the Tomme is almost as hard as parmesan but much milder, which makes great to just eat or in food. Not only that, but the company follows Kyoto protocol practices by having built manure recycling vats that transform the methane gas into the electricity that is used for the farm.

Here is what the owners, Rachel and Pascal-André, have to say:

“Innovation, leadership and know-how… “Our business does its part for the planet by saving energy and respecting the environment. Over the years, we have planted windbreaks on our land to ensure the comfort of the animals at pasture. In addition to creating natural habitats for wildlife, these windbreaks help prevent soil erosion. They also limit the sheep’s access to bodies of water for their protection. What is more, the farm harnesses solar energy for its activities.

We are especially proud to be part of the 15 dairy businesses recognized as energy innovators within Canada’s dairy industry. This recognition, which the farm received for building its cheese making facilities according to the Kyoto Protocol in 2003, is a first in North America.” (Source)

So we got home pretty happy with ourselves… until we sat down and added up the receipts.

What there is to think about?

Unfortunately, reality struck when we got home and realized, once again, that we were broke. This has been a reoccurrence ever since we have started.

One aspect of this I’ve been keeping out of my blog in fears of scaring people off from trying local eating is the money side of it. The reality is that our grocery budget has tripled since we have started and we are starting to run out of funds. The sad thing is that, the reason WHY everything local cost so much for people like us that are trying to take such a challenge is that no one buys local. The more people would buy local, the less things would cost… but you need a handful of people to start actively buying local, which everyone finds too expensive and can’t afford. Catch 22 really, and it is stretching us thin.

What to do?

We sat at home depressed for hours at the idea of having to stop before our time was done. The simple idea of it was unbearable. The feeling of being failures because of money was too much to handle so we had to find something else.

We thought of doing it partially. 3 days a week for longer lets say. But that would be even harder: The farmer’s markets all closing in 3 weeks would mean living on nothing but reserves for months on end and for better parts of the months, in Quebec’s harsh winters, which just can’t happen. And it would mean making MORE reserves now, which would only increase our grocery bill that much more which defeats the purpose.

After hours upon hours of quiet sulking, we came to a decision: Tough it out.

One of the problems I think has been that we tried to make this too “fantastic” and it’s not the point I think. So back to basics… Cooking simple foods and staples, keeping the fancy stuff for the week-end and special occasions.

New challenge: Living within our NEW means and making this a real challenge…