Stimulating Saturdays: Food culture in a food desert

The value of turning land in the middle of a city into a garden is amazing. People who do the gardening and nurture the plants and the land find great joy in the activity, the people passing by and interacting with the garden are affected by their experience with nature, and slowly, food deserts disappear.

Take a (Jane’s) Walk

The weather is looking great for this upcoming weekend and besides the start of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, you can check out Jane’s Walks happening around Ottawa on Saturday and Sunday. These are free walking (and cycling) tours led by locals where you can learn about the history, geography, environment, and social aspects of a neighbourhood. There are a number of walks given in French but there is better selection for English walks.

Click here for the schedule of Ottawa Jane’s Walks.

A film fest, a food market and some permaculture

A few interesting things happening around town over the next 2 weeks:

The biannual Reel Food Film Fest is happening on Thursday March 14 starting at 6:30pm at the Main Ottawa Public Library. This time, they will be screening a short on Tim Baker’s Visit to Honduras and a feature-length film called Tapped. I’ve been to the Reel Food Film Fest for the past 3 offerings (see here, for example) and have really enjoyed seeing different films on various aspects of food.


After a bit of a dead time in markets, there will be a Westboro Easter Food Market (@taste_of_ottawa) on Saturday March 23 from 10am to 3:30pm in Westboro. Admission is free and there will be a number of local vendors, including some of my faves Hummingbird Chocolate and Koko Chocolates. Relish, the food truck, will also be on-site…a great warm-up for what will prove to be an exciting summer of food truck fare in Ottawa. We’re also about two months away from the farmers’ markets opening around town!

Lastly, if you’ve been curious about permaculture or an urban food forest, there is a two-day event happening on March 23 to 24 from 9:15am to 4:30pm in central Ottawa. It’s called the Eastern Ontario Permaculture Convergence and they have multiple workshops on what permaculture is and how it can be applied to food production. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 per day.

Stimulating Saturdays: Big picture on health

A lot of attention is always on health care and, in particular, health care costs. This is particularly true in this time of so-called fiscal restraint. However, health care shouldn’t be limited to diagnostic and reactive care. Preventative health care is crucial.

Downtown Toronto in a few images

With a 4 day weekend getaway to Toronto and this being my first time truly spending time in the heart of the downtown area, I knew I wouldn’t see everything this trip…but here are some places I did visit:

Negitoro and spicy scallops rolls at Nami on Adelaide E.
Negitoro and spicy scallops rolls at Nami on Adelaide E.
Amazing little coffee shop, Fahrenheit Coffee, at Lombard and Jarvis.
Amazing little coffee shop, Fahrenheit Coffee, at Lombard and Jarvis.
St.Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturdays, Front at Jarvis/Lower Jarvis.
St.Lawrence Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, Front at Jarvis/Lower Jarvis.
Gentrified Distillery District
Gentrified Distillery District
Izumi distillery (also known as the Ontario Spring Water Sake Co.) in the Distillery District. Tours and tastings available.
Izumi distillery (also known as the Ontario Spring Water Sake Co.) in the Distillery District. Tours and tastings available.
Mill St. brew pub in the Distillery District. Tours available.
Mill St. brew pub in the Distillery District. Tours available.
SoMa chocolate shop in the Distillery. Tried their drinking chocolates. Not bad at all!
SoMa chocolate shop in the Distillery. Tried their drinking chocolates. Not bad at all!
Warehouse converted in some shops. In the foreground is a manual metal-bending machine.
Warehouse converted in some shops. In the foreground is a manual metal-bending machine.
Gigantic billboard at the edge of the Distillery District...just look at the scale of that thing.
Gigantic billboard at the edge of the Distillery District…just look at the scale of that thing.
Kensington Market area just west of Chinatown
Kensington Market area just west of Chinatown
Kensington Market on Augusta Ave. Very cute shop/bookstore called the Good Egg.
Kensington Market on Augusta Ave. Very cute shop/bookstore called the Good Egg.

Stimulating Saturdays: Fighting hunger with policy

How do you feed the world’s population while protecting ecosystems, cultures, people’s livelihoods and dignity? How do you democratize food, making fresh, delicious, wholesome foods available to all? How do you address hunger and inequalities? Food policy deals with all of these questions and more. This short video describes how food policy can fight hunger and was produced by the Interational Food Policy Research Institute.

If you’re interested in learning more about the policy direction for food in Ottawa, the organization Just Food, which champions a just and sustainable food system in Ottawa, features the discussion and learning forum, Food for All. The City of Ottawa also publishes the Nutritious Food Basket Survey on an annual basis and commented on the price of eating well in Ottawa in 2011.

Love documentaries?

I am increasingly finding that I enjoy documentaries and was quite excited when a friend told me about Top Documentary Films, a website where you can watch documentaries for free. There are a variety of genres (health, art, sexuality, politics, history, etc.) to suit whatever mood or interest you may have.

I’ve been slowly trying to declutter my life and my living spaces (work and home). This means really evaluating what something means to me in my life at the moment and assessing whether it should stay in my life or not. Of course, it only makes sense that at the same time, I’m also trying to be very conscious about things that I bring into my life. It isn’t about getting rid of things just because they’re old or ratty or unwanted anymore and replacing them with new, shiny things. Rather, it’s about keeping the things that matter and acknowledging things that may have meant something at one point but don’t anymore. I donate what I think is acceptable for donating, recycle as much of the remainder, and throw any leftover things away (really trying to avoid this last option).

What this has to do with documentaries is the concept of living in a tiny space and focusing on good design coupled with conscientious living. I watched the film, We the Tiny House People, and felt pretty inspired to have less material things in my life. More space means more opportunity for accumulation of stuff, which means more cleaning and more resources spent maintaining the stuff, not to mention all the stuff that doesn’t get used because you have so much stuff! I don’t think I’d want to live in a 100sq ft house but I think I’d be happy in a 900sq ft house (typical 1950’s home), which is a bit smaller than what I currently live in. I certainly don’t want a 2200sq ft house, which I’ve heard is the typical desirable size home at the moment.

Shaping the future Ottawa: Open House Jan 29

If you’re interested in city and community planning, the City of Ottawa has an open house and presentation in the evening on Tuesday January 29 for its Building a Liveable Ottawa Plan. This is the start of their strategic review of planning, development, and transportation policies and priorities. Straight from their website, the city has identified 12 planning issues:

  1. Intensification: smart development
  2. Urban Land Issues: building in or building out
  3. Rural Components: protecting and preserving Ottawa’s countryside – most of the city of Ottawa is actual rural land use
  4. Urban Design: creating people-friendly environments
  5. Transit Oriented Development: living and working around transit stations
  6. Employment Land Review: protecting and diversifying the economy
  7. Infrastructure Needs: providing the services required for growth
  8. Public Transit: moving people when and where they need to go
  9. Complete Streets: making room for all transportation choices
  10. Active Transportation: promoting healthy lifestyles
  11. Sustainable Transportation: developing travel options to reduce car dependency
  12. Affordability: realizing development within our financial means

I like what I’m seeing so far, with a decreasing emphasis on cars and more thought being put to how to make it easier for people on foot, bikes, and public transportation to get from point A to B in an efficient, safe manner. So far, so good.

Stimulating Saturdays: Lemonade stand 2.0

Following up with my first Stimulating Saturdays post, here is the next short video I’d like to share.

I think a lot about conscious capitalism but I’ve recently heard about connected capitalism, where you really think about how one can leverage interactions and connections with the surrounding community (local or global) to make the most positive impact possible. I randomly found a short animated film produced by the Changers of Commerce to illustrate connected capitalism. I call it, the Lemonade Stand 2.0.

As a side note, the Attawapiskat First Nation has been mentioned fairly often by the media since Member of Parliament Charlie Angus presented the state of this remote reserve last year (or the year before?). I wanted to mention a documentary that I recently watched on this First Nation community, the National Film Board’s The People of the Kattawapiskak River; it gives a good visual of some of the conditions within which the people live. Because I don’t have an intimate understanding of the First Nation issues, I find myself unsure of how to appropriately assess the information that is presented by the mass media. What is truth, what is sensationalism, what is being twisted, what is being omitted, and what is being misrepresented? I found myself watching the documentary and thinking, “so that’s what Charlie Angus looks like” (remember I only listen to the news, I don’t watch it). I appreciated seeing a completely different angle of the reserve from what mass media has told me and thinking more about the challenges that they face in trying to maintain quite a remote community. Definitely an interesting film.

Stimulating Saturdays: Story of Change

Remember spending a leisurely Saturday morning watching some cartoons on TV? I definitely don’t find myself sitting in front of a TV anymore (helps that we don’t own one) but it was kinda fun having something to watch on Saturday mornings. Now, on weekends, we cook, share nice long delicious meals with family and friends, and on occasion, we go to parties and events where we interact with new and familiar people. Talking about the weather and your job and your family starts to get boring quickly, so you need a conversation topic that’ll get people talking.

Thus, on Saturdays, I’m going to start sharing things that I’ve come across or that have been shared with me. Things that’ll hopefully provoke thoughts and stimulate conversations…hence stimulating Saturdays. Think of it as a less zoned-out adult-version of Saturday morning cartoons. Plus, it’s something to stimulate the juices while preparing breakfast.

The first video I want to share is part of The Story of Stuff Project. The Project was started by Annie Leonard, critic of excessive consumerism and environment supporter, and has released numerous short films and a book on key issues that have an impact on the environment. There are critiques of her and her films (e.g., leftist, anti-capitalist, indoctrinator) but that’s because her animated films and the concepts that she champions are meant to facilitate critical thinking and start conversations on some complicated issues. Her latest film is called The Story of Change.

If you’re interested in the Project, you can read more on their blog.