Recently, I was presented with a pretty awesome opportunity: A day off in the country courtesy Canola Eat Well, touring a farm, talking and learning about good food, and enjoying lunch made by one of my favourite chefs, Victor Barry of Piano Piano restaurant. So obviously, I was totally ok with that idea. I also was lucky enough to invite people to come with me on this awesome day. One morning after one of my son's very early wake-ups (he's 18 months, so it happens quite a bit) while drinking a rather large coffee, I realized that no one needs a little vacation quite as much as mamas do. So naturally I reached out to some of the coolest mamas I know to join me on this little adventure.
On a rather summer-like day in October, we all set out to Link Greenhouses near Bowmanville for the day. We were joined by Ellen Pruden of Manitoba Canola Growers, and Jeannette Andrashewski, a Canola Farmer from Alberta. On our way to the farm, we had the opportunity to talk to them about the health benefits of Canola oil, as well as the process of farming in Canada. As I have worked as a weather specialist for almost a decade, much of that time covering weather in the Prairies, I have a good understanding of just how complicated life as a farmer can be. As Western Canada has already had snow so early this year, it very likely means a huge challenge for farmers. It was an enlightening conversation, and we appreciated getting to know some of the people that bring food to us on a daily basis. Once we arrived at the farm, owner Lisa Mulders took us on a tour of the facility, where we could see the process of growing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and more in their greenhouses. As with Jeanette, I was impressed by her knowledge and passion for farming.
We also had the opportunity to do a little learning experiment known as the canola crush: the process by which the value of a canola seed crop is determined. By crushing a number of seeds and looking for the right colour (yellow, not green) and the amount of oil expressed, we could tell if the seeds were mature enough for harvest or not.
There are a lot of reasons why taking this little day trip appealed to me. I love food, and I love good food even more. I want to be connected to where my food comes from, and understand the process by which it is grown. I love cooking and baking, and since becoming a parent, I love it even more. In fact, my relationship with food and interest in health has continued to evolve for the better since becoming a parent, and I think the other mamas that joined me on the trip all felt the same. The stakes are even higher, now that we are responsible for the well-being of our little ones.
I did also mention that Victor Barry was making us lunch though, right? So there is also that.
Before we ate, we had the chance to hear a little more about the health benefits of Canola oil from Registered Dietician Erin MacGregor of HowToEat.ca. For example:
Then I had the pleasure of introducing Chef Victor Barry to the group. I've worked with him for the past three years at Taste of Toronto and I have a great deal of respect for him. He's an incredibly talented chef and like me, loves to talk about food and dining. It's so obvious that he loves what he does. It was great to hear why he uses canola oil in his restaurant, and at home when cooking for his family.
Then it was time for lunch. You pretty much know that's what I was looking forward to the most, right? (Back to that whole "I love good food" thing, etc. etc.) Not just any lunch - pizza, which is one of the most beloved things on the menu at his Piano Piano (and we had four to choose from!) , plus two of the best salads I have ever had, wine, and one seriously indulgent 77% Cacao Barry Chocolate Cake for dessert. All of the menu items - including the pizza dough, the flavourful salad dressings - were made using canola oil, which showcased its versatility for cooking.
Needless to say, it was a delicious meal, and we had a great time chatting about our families, food, and pretty much everything else. I feel lucky to have shared this day with a great group of friends (old and new) and have taken away with me a renewed appreciation for Canadian Farmers and food producers. They have an incredibly important job, and a very difficult one. It's important that we support what they do.
If you'd like to make a delicious pizza dough and sauce at home, here's a link to great recipes for both on the Canola Eat Well website. Have a glass of wine, make some pizza, and don't forget to invite me!
All photos by Jeffrey Chan courtesy Canola Eat Well.
Note: This post is sponsored as I was the host for the event, however all opinions and views are my own.