In defence of LuLulemon

yogaLove.  Friends are more important than money. Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment. For all of us who have ever even purchased a sweat band from the iconic Canadian apparel store Lululemon, you know  these inspiring and simple phrases. You know them because they are printed  on the bag you receive your purchase in and you carry that bag as proudly as you wear your scuba hoodie. Lululemon is not just a clothing store; they are in and of themselves a culture. A culture of “yogis” who invite you to practice with them during their free yoga classes on Sunday mornings and a culture who understands that by getting a little uncomfortable, great change can occur.

For any of you who know me, you know I practice yoga, albeit, less often than I would like. And for those of you who know me, you will know that I have recently decided to forgo my Honda Civic and take the lovely ttc, an hour and a half, every day to work. I made this decision partly for financial, partly for safety and partly just because I wanted a change from the drone of GTA traffic. One of the joys however, of taking the subway is that occasionally,  I grab a copy of the Metro News. This evening, when I hopped onto the Bloor line, I picked up the paper which undoubtedly had been sneezed on, coughed on and probably farted on several times today. Today’s issue features an article with a headline that reads “Lulu plays blame game, expert says.”  The columnist Emily Jackson, who ironically is from Vancouver, describes how one university Professor from the University of Western, Christine Lavrence,  believes that  “making customers feel bad about their mediocre lives may be the secret to Lululemon’s success at squeezing thousands into stretchy pants.” She goes on to say that the messages that appear on their bags such as “stress is related to 99 per cent of illness” are deeply unfair because they suggest that it is the consumers fault if they are ill and their lives are not fabulous. I truly feel sorry for the students at UoW if this is the type of material and forward thinking they are being exposed to.

Not only has this message been taken out of completely out of context by Professor Lavrence, but one only needs to do a Google search for “stress” and “illness” to uncover the myriad of diseases that stress has been linked to. Heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, headaches, depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s, have all been associated with high stress levels. Stress can either be triggers for these aliments or it can worsen a current situation. Stress doesn’t just manifest itself in your head; it cripples the immune system, threatens the blood pressure and throws the hormonal system way out of balance.

So, for all those students at UoW who are stressing out over midterms, exams and life away from home, you might want to pick up a yoga map and just breathe. Breathe into your mat and let your body sink into the ground. Relax your mind and connect with the environment that surrounds you and allow yourself to receive the positive energy that is being passed along in the studio. Enjoy the benefits that practicing yoga will provide and settle into your body;  listen to what it’s telling you.

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G is for Goat. That’s good enough for me!

ImageFor some people it’s pickles, for others it’s eggs and for others still its tomatoes, brussel sprouts, or peas. For me, it was goat cheese. As a teen, I could sniff out even the smallest crumble of goat cheese a mile away. To me, it smelt like gym socks; old, sweaty, dirty socks that my brother had sweated up during a 6am morning hockey practice. It revolted me. I vowed that I would never eat goat cheese. Ever. 

Now, you have to understand.  I was not a sheltered child. I was allowed to eat dog bones that my mom would feed to our family pet, Zara, when I was 3. I would eat raw ground beef when I would “help” my mom would make her legendary Berta Burgers. And you can be damn sure I was there to lick the spoon, the spatula and the bowl when we were baking a Betty Crocker cherry chip cake. When I grew up, my adventurous vein kicked in and I began travelling to far and away countries, where I was introduced to the flavours of the world. But still, I maintained that goat cheese smelt like gym socks. And then I turned 24.

I was in the test kitchen at Maple Leaf Foods and was surrounded by my co workers who were all preparing their lunches. One of my closest colleagues began crafting what looked like a beautifully fresh bounty that was transported from a perfect summer garden, right to her plate. Just when I was about to ask her to share her lunch with me, out came the piece de resistance,  the cheese. Aneta was shocked and horrified to learn that I would no longer be interested in sharing her lunch as it now made my spine tingle. But Aneta was insistent. As were the 10 other people with whom I was dining with. So, not being one to succumb to social pressures, I dug in. And I loved it. What had happened to me? What had I become? I was a hypocrite! I was a trader! But I did not care. I was a new woman.

I now “put that shit on everything.” A meal can only be made better by its addition and my fridge is incomplete without it. But why did this happen? The funny thing is, the science is still fuzzy. Was it just peer pressure that made me overcome the nauseating smell? Did my taste buds change and mature as I had? Turns out it’s likely both. As kids, many tend to experience neophobia- a fear of anything new. This is why parents are told to reintroduce foods, at least 5 times, before giving up on their kids’ proclamations of hate towards beans!

Adults similarly experience food aversions, but likely for different reasons. One hypothesis is that, back in our hunting and gathering days, our ancestors would have relied on their sense of smell as an indicator to identify if something was covered is poisonous bacteria. Their noses were most likely picking up on sulfur compounds, the same sulfur compounds found in broccoli, onions and cauliflower. No wonder I am still not a fan! Just the Macgyver in me, out to save myself!

Recent research into the psychology of tastes and smells has discovered that the population is divided in their abilities to taste and smell. Some of us are super tasters while others are non tasters. This means that if you are a super taster you will be able to recognize a bitter compound at a much lower level then a non taster or even a regular taster. This may make the eating experience unbearable. Now, I’m sure the science behind the reason as to why I can’t keep my hands off goat cheese makes sense, but sometimes the less you know about these things the better. After all, it was a wiseman (but likely a woman) who said that “ignorance is bliss.”

In Toronto, there are so many great cheese mongers. The Fromagerie, located at College and Ossington is one of my favorites.

The lovely staff will break you off a block of their Chevre Noir; a piece of Quebec black gold. Chevre Noir a pasteurized goats milk cheese, produced in the style of a firm cheddar, wrapped in a silky smooth, black wax coating. Reminds me of black patent. It is certainly one of my guiltiest of pleasures. Call me crazy but in my opinion, Chevre Noir is best enjoyed on a freshly baked French baguette with a few slices of a sour dill pickle. Dubious? Don’t be. And no, I’m not pregnant. 

Remember the offal

st.lawrenceI have never truly considered myself a picky eater. Born into a Portuguese/Canadian family, I was surrounded with a great variety of delicious dishes that satisfied my adventurous taste buds. I spent countless hours watching my mother tirelessly prepare meal after meal. Making “dinner and lunches” was her job, and she was a workoholic.
I can not recall my favorite meals as a kid, partly due to disorder I have acquired, which I refer to as gold fish syndrome; basically meaning that I have a very bad memory. But also, I had so many meals that I associate with growing up because then, like now, I live to eat. I actually do. I’m a recipe and product developer so creating and tasting food is not only a necessity to live, it’s a necessity to pay my rent.
There is one ingredient however, that stands out to me today, and it brings me right back to my mothers’ kitchen table every time I smell it. Liverwurst. Not exactly a common ingredient found on urban menus today, in 2014, but was certainly considered quite in vogue back in 1988. I used to demolish my liverwurst sandwich on white bread, while crunching on a pickle and watching the Flintstones during my lunch break. Surely, when I returned to school, the other kids would have appreciated my smelly garlic breath, but that is beside the point! And then, all of a sudden, the year 1992 arrived and to my dismay, the liverwurst sandwich was a thing of the past!

As an adult, my diet is very different than that of my 5 year old self. I have sworn off basically all forms of meat besides chicken and fish, for nutritional, environmental and pity related reasons, tbh . And though I am a fairly fearless chef in the kitchen, after a while, no matter what you do with chicken, it all tends to taste the same. I found myself losing faith and becoming lacklustre when preparing my lunches for the coming day, until one afternoon when I visited the St.Lawrence market in downtown Toronto and stumbled upon chicken liver pate. Mind you, the display was not huge, tucked somewhere between the plethora of cheeses. The small fridge that contained various liverwurst sausages could have comfortably fit into the back seat of my civic, but I saw great opportunity. As someone who is limited when it comes to iron and vitamin B12 sources, liverwurst is a great option. A quarter cup of liverwurst contains about 1/3rd of my daily requirement of iron, which is used in the body to make red blood cells and transport oxygen to the muscles. This promotes a healthy immune system and keeps me awake, all afternoon, which is typically my preferred nap time. Of course, there are many different kinds of liverwurst, but most are made from the livers of pigs, cows, chicken or fowl. Though, on this afternoon at the market, I did spy a caribou fig offering. Not being one for game however, I chose the chicken which was pleasantly spiced with black peppercorns, garlic, thyme and allspice. Finally, liverwurst is really easy to prepared, simply spread it on a Carr’s water cracker or dress it up with a ginger and red pepper jelly, if you like a little heat. Liverwurst is fairly high in cholesterol, so even though it is a great source of protein and makes a quick snack, it is recommended that you don’t consume it on the daily. Unless of course, you want to!