The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 06.09.04


Eat right from your back lawn and save

We've been griping a lot lately about the price of gas at the pump, and rightly so.

As prices skyrocket we adjust driving habits, tighten the proverbial belt and consider trading in the sedan for a mini. What's not immediately apparent is, that the price at the pump dictates a lot more than what and how you drive. It also influences how and what we eat.

Every item for consumption is destined to rise in cost as the price of crude oil increases. Whether shipped by rail, air, sea or road, the foods we buy will come in at higher prices. From farms that already bear intolerable costs of production and stringent quota and price limits for corporate giants to transporters of frozen delicacies we are about to be hit by a downstream flood.

No matter how you slice it, the price of gas will even impact the price of pizza as outlets download increased costs for delivery.

The impact of gas prices has not resulted in rampant fluctuations in food costs yet, but be warned. Grocers, transporters, producers and restaurateurs will not be able to absorb cost increases for much longer, if at all.

Sure, a few less toppings on a pizza or a slice or two less of sandwich meat on a sub can be tolerated in an effort to curb costs, but how long can everyone who must make a living keep up the absorption?

There are no immediate solutions to our dependence on foods that are impacted by increased fuel prices. We have grown reliant on pre-packaged goods and convenience. We have gone from growing our own and shopping local to buying at big-box stores that import produce from faraway islands and countries. We will now pay the price for our insistence on exotic and imported goods.

We have become the victims of our own gluttony and laziness. While we weren't looking, local producers suffered as we drove our gas-guzzlers to the nearest super store. Small service-friendly neighbourhood grocers quietly disappeared as we perpetuated our fate through disillusioned concepts of bigger is better.

Perhaps there is a small solution and a potential reversal of fortunes for all. Would it not be appropriate to begin buying local products that are not subject to higher transport costs related to distance? Would it not be better to support local growers who produce quality rather than quantity?

What if we all focused on fresh versus boxed and frozen products? What if we began canning and preserving our own produce? How about the novel idea of planting an extra row of vegetables in our gardens for a neighbor in need or a local food bank?

In these small ways we can support local economies and communities. If we can support and shop locally we can truly eat and live better in my opinion. Heck, we may even save a few bucks along the way. Call me an optimist.

Get thee to the local market and buy some good locally produced food or better yet, go out into your yard and pick some. This recipe will do your lawn and your wallet a favour.

Wilted dandelion salad with feta cheese

1/2 lb bacon
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
8 cups young dandelion greens, rinsed and patted dry dandelion flowers

1. Fry bacon in skillet until crisp, drain on paper towels, crumble.
2. Pour off bacon fat leaving behind 1/3 cup in the skillet.
3. Put vinegar, mustard and honey in the skillet mixing with a whisk.
4. Add the olive oil.
5. Add salt and pepper, keep this dressing warm.
6. Toss the greens with bacon, olives, onions and cheese in a bowl.
7. Pour the warm dressing over greens and serve.
8. Garnish with flowers.