Category Archives: Food Matters

Eat Alberta 2014

This past weekend we held the fourth annual Eat Alberta conference at NAIT here in Edmonton.  Eat Alberta is a one-day conference designed to teach Albertans how to find and prepare local food.  We do this with hands-on kitchen sessions, classroom presentations, and critical tasting sessions, all of which are led by local farmers, chefs, and other food experts.

At the end of the day guests are given a tasting board that features some notable regional products.  I’ve prepared these boards for the last three years, and this year I promised to reveal the details of how each component was made.  Over the next week I’ll be posting recipes and procedures for each of the following:

  • Bison Jerky – Medicine
Continue reading.

On Recipes and Cookbooks

There are always mysteries in old cookbooks, because even the most unpoetical depend on the existence of a living tradition for the cook to know when the result is correct.

-Charles Perry, from In Taste: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery


A stack o' cookbooksI think this post is particularly appropriate to the Christmas season, as in the next couple days thousands of cookbooks will be purchased and given as gifts, and even more recipes will be searched out online and acted out in home kitchens.

I myself already have an Alexandrian hoard of cookbooks.  Some of them are completely useless.  Others have changed the trajectory of my career and home-life.  I also record recipes very meticulously, and oftentimes … Continue reading.

On Units of Measure

This is possibly the dorkiest thing I’ve ever written.

Measuring cups and spoons

In some respects Canadian culture is a grab-bag of European and American attributes.  Nowhere is this mash-up more complicated than the blend of metric and US units that every Canadian uses in daily life.

I estimate that every day at work I do about 57 unit conversions in my head.  I know, for instance, that 8 fluid ounces is a good portion of soup for an individual, and if I need to make soup for 10 people, I’ll need 80 oz.  But the can of tomatoes that I will turn into soup is labelled 2.84 L.  80 oz is 10 cups, which is 2 1/2 quarts, which is roughly 2.5 L, … Continue reading.

Breaking the Fast

In grade eight we studied Japan.  I remember learning that they eat cold rice and pickles for breakfast.  I was revolted.

Many years later, in the summer of 2010, Lisa and I hosted an Austrian student named Dominik.  He was staying in Edmonton to work at some of the hotel kitchens in the downtown core.  He usually started work late enough that I had time to cook him breakfast before he left.  We went through a few days of yogurt and granola and toast and the like.  One day he started work even later than usual, so I made scrambled eggs and hash browns.

The expression that I had made when I first heard about a breakfast of cold rice … Continue reading.

Pig Kill in Sangudo, Alberta

It takes a village to kill a pig.

-Jeffrey Steingarten


The drip cooler at Sangudo Custom MeatsThis happened ages ago, back in September, and Kevin has long since posted a fantastic video about it, but I want to write about a pork butchery workshop that took place out in Sangudo, Alberta.  The workshop was put together by Kevin Kossowan, and hosted by Jeff Senger of Sangudo Custom Meats.  The day started with the killing and processing of one of Jeff’s own pigs.  Since it was Saturday and there were no inspectors present, the kill took place on Jeff’s farm, then the pig was processed at Sangudo Meats.  The day continued with a hands-on meat-cutting class, and finally some demonstrations of sausage-making and other charcuterie preparations.  … Continue reading.

On Curing Salts (and Fearmongering)

Have you seen this commercial for McCain’s frozen pizza?

“What do other companies put in their pizzas? Something called sodium nitrite…” Those last two words are pronounced with a blend of confusion and self-righteous disgust. The molecular diagram of the compound is flashed across the screen for further effect.

The food industry is quick to pick up on trends.  My generation was taught to read labels, and to mistrust “chemical” ingredients, including curing salt. However:

The resistance to… ‘scientific’ ingredients has always seemed to me misguided. In the objector’s mind a line is drawn between science and cookery, which usually turns out to be entirely arbitrary. No one objects to table salt (sodium chloride) or table sugar (sucrose) in Continue reading.

The Story of the Buffalo

How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?

-Ernesto Geuvara, in The Motorcycle Diaries

Eating the Buffalo

The poster-beast for the nose-to-tail movement is the pig, and I have devoted the last few years of my life to learning some of the near-countless preparations of that animal. I’ve cured hocks, bellies, and hams, stuffed intestines (“casings”), boiled trotters, skin, and bones to make stock, rendered fatback to make lard, made black pudding with pig’s blood, and tried my hand at making headcheese.

For some reason I only recently related the bison meat at the market to the buffalo I learned about in history class. Only recently did I recall a teacher telling us that the … Continue reading.

Food Legislation

Public health food regulations, and all other laws regarding food in Canada, are well-intentioned, and drafted to protect consumers. Most make perfect sense within the context of the industrialized food system, where people do not, and cannot, know everything about the food they eat.

When cooking, eating, and drinking outside the industrial system, food legislation often conflicts with food culture and individuals’ rights. Here are some examples.

Alberta Public Health Food Regulations

The provincial public health food regulations apply to operations such as restaurants, food stands, farmers’ markets, bake sales and the like. While I consider the restaurant scene only a peripheral component of our food culture, some of the restrictions put on restaurants clearly reflect how we think of … Continue reading.

Language and Food

A big ol' pork hock from K&K FoodlinerThe precision of the French language in describing the actions, equipment, and raw materials of the kitchen is unmatched, and it reflects their strong appreciation and understanding of food.

Consider the diagrams of pigs that show where the different cuts of pork come from on the animal.  The British, North Americans, and French all have traditional ways to divide the animal.  You’ll notice that, on the French diagram, not only are more parts of the animal used, but where the British and North Americans discern only one cut of meat, the French often have many.  The part of the animal that we call the shoulder, or butt, forms at least three cuts in French cuisine, each with their own name: … Continue reading.

Fat is Flavour (A short tirade)

Fat is perhaps the main source of flavor [sic] in meat.

-Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs, Sixth Edition


Nothing in particular inspired this post, but it could have very easily been a piece of low-fat cheese, or the pastry icing at a health bakery, or maybe just a dry pork chop. I want to write a bit about the judicious use of fat to make eating more pleasurable.

Fat content in specific cuts of meat

The most common cut of pork in the supermarket is the boneless loin centre chop. This steak is the leanest part of a very lean muscle. It also happens to be the driest, and least flavourful cut of pork. This is not a coincidence. … Continue reading.