Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Three Mistakes Not to Make When Crossing the Border

I wasn’t long back from my month-long sojourn out of province and country when I had to cross the border yet again into the United States on a mailing errand. I thought nothing of it, as I grabbed my passport and the package I was taking across the border to send to a bookstore in the United States because I was strapped for time and I knew it would take a bazillion days to get across the border via the traditional carriers. Well, I should have known better. My Karmic relationship with borders verges on dangerous at best. That day, I foolishly wore my new tie-dye t-shirt, donned my pilot sunglasses and had the New Age music blaring loud as I neared the border crossing. What was I thinking? I went on to make three fatal errors, which I pass onto you for your vicarious learning experience—at my expense, of course… LOL! Go ahead and laugh… I did… after…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Speed of Life: Slow Down and Taste Life

Europeans really know how to eat. More to the point—they know how to slow down so they can enjoy what they are eating. When I was in Paris last year, I witnessed the bustle and rush of working Parisians in the Metros and the crowded streets; but I also saw those same people settled to a long lunch where they savored a quality meal over compelling discussion. When it comes to eating, Parisians do it with superb style.

However, it wasn’t in France but in Italy where the “Slow Food” movement was created in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, in a reaction to the invasion of fast food giant McDonald’s in Rome. Seen as the antithesis of the North American “fast food” phenomenon, the Slow Food philosophy embraces the belief that “the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.” Slow food proponent author and activist Eric Schlosser contends that it is the opposite of fast food, which represents “blandness, uniformity, conformity, [and] the blind worship of science and technology.”

This is how they describe themselves and their mission statement: “Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”

Petrini’s Slow Food organization created the worldwide Ark of Taste to protect culinary diversity. One of the things they did was establish a catalogue of endangered flavors, foods and beverages. In order for a food to be Ark-worthy it had to be made from local plants and animals, with artisanal production (small scale using traditional methods, environmentally friendly and free of biotechnology methods). Ark-worthy foods in Canada include: stinging nettle, miner’s lettuce, Saskatoon berries, nodding onion, Tamworth pigs, the Canadienne cow, Red Fife wheat, herring spawn on kelp, Nova Scotia’s Gravenstein apple, Great Plains bison and Montreal melon.

“Words such as promote, develop, safeguard and educate are the cornerstones of Slow Food,” reports Jennifer Danter in an article in “Taste” magazine. The Slow Food organization established regional chapters—called Convivia—in most countries to address environmental concerns and local food issues. The Convivia organize tastings and special dinners in addition to running educational programs for their community. Here are some cool suggestions for slowing down this fall and winter:

• Shop at a local market
• Cook with seasonal items (available at your local market)
• Visit www.slowfood.com for information on slow food places near you and their events and tastings
• Walk in the woods and smell the fresh air
• Find a slow food recipe, an ideal wine to go with it along with some appreciative friends and have yourself a feast!

Here’s one I filched off “Taste” magazine:

Wild Mushroom Risotto (paired with Firesteed Pinot Noir, described as greeting you with cherry and sweet spice aromas and a mingling of vibrant bold raspberry and strawberry nuance. This is a complex and well-structured wine for serious entertaining!)

Serves 4

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, broken
¼ oz dried morel mushrooms, broken, OR
2 cups fresh morels, cleaned and cut into ½ in pieces
4 cups boiling chicken stock
5 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves, garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
½ cup red wine
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, fresh grated

Put mushrooms in a saucepan and add the boiling chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until dark. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms. Heat 4 tbsp of butter in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Add onion, shallots and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. If using fresh morels, add and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and red wine and let simmer until wine is nearly evaporated. Add 1 cup of reserved stock and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. Add more stock at intervals until all liquid is used and absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in the reserved mushrooms, parmesan and remaining butter. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Tada! Delicimo!

1. gourmet display
2. a Paris cafe in Montmartre
3. A Parisian boulangerie
4. Toulouse enjoys a Napa Valley sparkling Pinot Noir

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In Search of a New Paradigm—Part 2: Pixar’s “Collective Creativity”

The view that good ideas are rarer and more valuable than good people is rooted in a misconception of creativity—Ed Catmull, Pixar

Recently, Piet Voute, my neighbor and a cool animator (you may have read my interview with him here) passed me an article on Pixar in the September 2008 Harvard Business Review. It was a timely sharing, given that Pixar’s business model follows an alternative to the traditional parochial Capitalism model discussed in my previous post. It is a model and culture based not on a hierarchy of closed-minded greed and secrecy but on “collective creativity”. Here’s their story and their model:

In the 1990s Pixar was the leading technological pioneer in the field of computer animation with Toy Story, released in 1995, being the world’s first computer-animated feature film. They released eight other films in the following 13 years. Cofounder and president of Pixar Ed Catmull describes one of the qualities promoted by George Lucas that Pixar embraced. “George didn’t try to lock up the technology for himself and allowed us to continue to publish and maintain strong academic contacts. This made it possible to attract some of the best people in the industry.”

Catmull describes three operating principles that underpin the structure and operation of Pixar’s creative organization.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Search of a New Paradigm—Part 1: Is Our Love Affair with Capitalism Over?...An Ecologist’s Perspective

Do you remember when you first fell in love? Nothing beat the exalting thrill of that first scintillating kiss. The kiss never lies. You just knew you were both in love and that it would be forever. Then followed the exciting romance…. But when the romance fell from grace there followed panic and hysteria, a devastated ego, soulful hurt and then deep grief of a terrible loss … like a piece of you had been lost. What followed the loss of wholeness and naiveté was a great skepticism in the whole relationship thing, along with a reluctance to open your heart again to anyone. You ended up not trusting in people’s intentions in order to protect your soul and your wounded heart. Some of you may have decided to never give yourself totally to love like that again. Blame love itself and never suffer the fool to it again. Welcome to the cynical world.