FFWD – Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version

Chicken in a pot

It never occurred to me in October of 2010 what joining a weekly online cooking group would come to mean to me. I thought that I was setting up a routine to help keep me writing regularly on my new blog, but it’s been so much more.

Along the way, bloggers have come and gone, but there have been connections – no, friendships – built that have persisted through the whole of our journey through this book.

Our community has shared our cooking experiences, but we’ve also come to share our lives, at least a little, with each other. Many of us have met in person. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cher and Mardi. And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Dorie when she visited Vancouver on her Baking Chez Moi book tour. But even for those far away, our weekly posts have felt like visits more often than stories.

And now, as Trevor pointed out, four years, seven months, and twenty-one days after we began, the group has reached the final recipe. It’s fitting that we saved the cover recipe for last, as we’ve all looked at that image so many times over these years. It seems like a celebration in itself to finally make the dish.

It’s a whole chicken braised with garlic, lemon, white wine, herbs, and vegetables. The pot is sealed with a simple bread dough that’s broken dramatically when the chicken is ready to serve. It felt a little like popping a champagne cork on New Year’s Eve – the end of the better part of five years spent cooking together.

My chicken needed a bit more than the hour that was specified in the recipe, but when it was finally done, it was perfect. And there was enough wine left over to toast the group before we settled down to eat. I purposely waited until now to try this dish, but I won’t wait that long again – it made a wonderful meal.

We’re not quite done, yet. There will be a month of celebratory posts as the group wraps up, so I’m (trying) to save my tears.

And here is the link to the very last round up of posts for a French Fridays recipe: Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version.


2012 – the International Year of Co-operatives

International Year of Co-ops sticker

I write about community-building here, well, when I’m not showing you photos of my dinner.

When you live in a city, even one that’s the size of Vancouver, community can be elusive. Your social circle emerges from the web of your identity and affiliations, but connecting across these lines can be challenging. Co-operatives can be a great way of making these connections. Co-ops can be specific or broad-based, economically-focused or centred around information and education. Most have a sense of social justice built into their structure and when they connect with each other, there’s potential for a movement that supports community-building across interests, identities, and status.

In practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Housing co-ops in popular neighbourhoods can become dominated by white, middle-class people; some small co-operatives can become cliques of like-minded hobbyists. But, at its best, the co-operative movement stands as an alternative to the atomized consumer-culture that many of us find so alienating.

As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a housing co-operative, which gives us a sense of connection across our neighbourhood, and more broadly, our region. We belong to a number of other co-ops, too. They enrich our lives and have the benefit of also being easy on our pocketbooks.

The United Nations has declared 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives. Throughout 2012, there are going to be events across the world to celebrate the co-operative movement. Here’s a link to the official page and another that’s specifically for Canada:

IYC International

IYC Canada

And here’s a list of some of the co-operatives operating in Vancouver. It’s amazing how many needs the co-operative model can serve, isn’t it? There’s even a motorcycle repair co-op in Vancouver now.


The Vancouver Tool Library

modo – the car co-op

Vancouver Media Co-op

Co-op Radio

People’s Co-op Bookstore


East End Food Co-op

I’d love to hear about your experience with co-operatives. I’d also encourage you to check out co-ops in your area. You might be surprised at how many you find.

Activate that Citizenry

Remember Town Hall meetings? They still exist in their original form, but community consultation is increasingly moving to the internet. This seems like a natural evolution – most people spend at least some time each day in front of their computers, while public meetings conjure up images of drafty gymnasiums, sparse crowds and cold coffee. Physical meetings do have their advantages, though. Internet consultation can have difficulty replicating the exchange of ideas that happens face-to-face and it’s also easier to disengage from online conversations than it is to walk out of a roundtable discussion. Different strategies attract different participants and given the low level of community engagement with most consultation processes, it’s smart to make use of more than one.

The City of Vancouver’s Transportation Plan is doing just that, with a series of public meetings set for neighbourhoods throughout the city and a Facebook-based discussion group process. I’ve been participating in one of the online discussion groups and so far, there hasn’t been much participation. I’m curious to see how well-attended the public meetings will be. Transportation can cause heated debate, but it seems that this is mostly reactive, as when the downtown bike lanes were put in place. Planning doesn’t get people as worked up, unfortunately.

Even if participation isn’t high, it’s encouraging to see government making an effort to include public consultation earlier in its planning processes. The Ministry of Agriculture’s survey on the Agricultural Land Reserve is another example of consultation with a potential for getting a wide cross-section of opinion. The preservation of farmland is an issue that’s finally starting to get widespread attention. Allowing people across British Columbia to weigh in on at least part of the decision-making seems like a step toward direct democracy; focus groups and opinion polls can’t compare.

I’m always for a diversity of strategies and making it easy for people to get involved. Having a number of ways for people to engage makes active citizenry accessible.

Tales From Terminal City

I take this city for granted, sometimes. I know that I often write about my neighbourhood and its amenities, but I don’t explore the rest of Vancouver enough. Sometimes, I even forget to look up.

So it’s good to get a reminder of all that this city has to offer, along with a call to become more involved in its evolution. This past Saturday, I went to Granville Island to take part in Tales From Terminal City: 125 Years of Vancouver, presented by SFU’s Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue. The students developed a program of three workshops – a walking tour of Granville Island, a collaborative public art project and an urban agriculture presentation. Participation was open to anyone and each participant could choose two of the three workshops to attend. I chose the walking tour and the gardening presentation, feeling that art was better left in the hands of, well, people who are not me.

Each of the workshops was framed around a model of storytelling. For the walking tour our guides, Breanna Kato and Ryan Stewart, told us stories from the history of Granville Island, while pointing out places where new stories are being created. During the gardening workshop, each participant told stories of their connection to gardening and growing food and discussed the possibilities for food production in the city. Those who chose the art project worked together to create a visual story of their connections to Vancouver.

The entire group convened before and between the workshops and we listened to the students from the Dialogue program, as they told their stories of Vancouver. At the end of the afternoon, we broke out into groups for open discussion around questions posed by the students. They were interested in our connections to Vancouver, but were also gathering our thoughts around how to become more engaged citizens of this place. We came together one last time, to listen to one of the semester’s mentors, storyteller Naomi Steinberg, talk about the role of listening and storytelling in creating, as she put it, community awareness, individual validation, collective support and civic engagement.

It was a stimulating day, full of listening to people’s experiences and thinking about our city in a number of different ways. It’s exciting to see youth who are so engaged and articulate. I encourage you to go visit the program’s web page at the link above. The concept is fascinating and I can only imagine how rewarding the experience must be for the students who participate.

More, not Less

When we think of community, it’s usually in the context of what the members of a community have in common. It can be more difficult to remember that none of the communities we belong to are monolithic.

How do we make our communities accessible, whether they are communities of interest, identity or geography? What makes a neighbourhood/event/discussion safe and accessible?

Defensiveness is often the response to these questions. But this defensiveness only serves to break down community. Being open to critique and change can only strengthen it.

Curb cuts and bike lanes are hard-won concessions that increase everyone’s ability to get around a neighbourhood. Providing precise accessibility information for events lets people know if it’s possible to attend and also leads to the awareness needed to plan more inclusively in the future. Identifying our areas of privilege can help us to stop erasing or ignoring the experiences and contributions of others. Stepping back when asked to by people whose experience of privilege is different from your own doesn’t diminish community; it widens it.

FFWD – Speculoos

At Christmas time, I invariably end up on Main Street. It’s my favourite street for gift-shopping. If truth be told, it’s also my favourite street for breaks and meals pre, mid and post gift-shopping. On Saturday, I had an extra incentive for heading out that way. The Winter Farmers’ Market had their first-ever baking exchange and I had the perfect recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Speculoos.

I started the recipe Friday night, making the dough and chilling it overnight. The dough was a little crumbly when I was rolling it out, but by morning it was easy to handle. I worked quickly to cut out shapes and get them onto the pan, before the dough softened too much. When the cookies came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with sanding sugar. The best part, though, was testing one. I was so surprised at the crispness of the cookie. I never really expected it to measure up to the crunch of its commercial cousins. Other recipes I’ve tried were never more than crisp-ish. These would be perfect with coffee, especially if you indulged in a little dipping. I can also see the appeal of turning them into sandwich cookies with nutella or dulce de leche filling.

I only needed two dozen cookies for the swap, so I packaged them quickly (using an image I’d found online for the tags) and headed for the Market. I dropped off my cookies and did some shopping while I waited for the swap to begin. Cleverly, the organizer had set up paper bags with participants’ names on them and put our cookies inside. Since we’d all brought two packages of a dozen cookies, we couldn’t have a sample of each kind. Instead, we were invited to pick two bags, making sure they didn’t have our own names on them. I love the grab bag concept. I was pleased to find myself in possession of Roberta LaQuaglia’s Cherry Cornmeal Cookies and Jennifer Zuk’s Chocolate Oatmeal Maraschino Cookies. I’ve tasted them both and can attest that they are delicious. The rest are earmarked for holiday celebrations. Thanks to Robyn Carlson of the Market for organizing the swap – I’m already looking forward to next year’s!

On Tuesday, I’ll let you know what I got up to after the swap as I headed down Main Street.

We’re doing things a little differently again for the month of December. We’re still posting weekly, but people are free to post this month’s recipes in any order. You can find many other blogged descriptions of this month’s FFWD recipes here: LYL: December 17

Swapping Soup and Building Community

Making soup can be a long, slow process, best done on a day when you want to stay home all morning or afternoon. The good thing about soup-making is that you’re generally not tied to the stove continuously, so you can use the time it’s cooking to do other things. This changes when you quadruple the recipe, turning your kitchen into an assembly line of sorts.

That’s not something I’d usually do, as I have a very small freezer. But, our housing co-op had a soup swap this past Saturday, so quadruple I did. I made Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Eggplant Soup, which caused me to fill the kitchen counters with smashed garlic cloves and halved eggplants, tomatoes and onions. Thank goodness the recipe didn’t call for any chopping. I roasted the vegetables in shifts, then worked the roasted eggplant free of its skin and plucked off the leaves of the tomatoes. I split the ingredients into two pots, added the stock and the seasonings and then was finally able to let the soup cook itself down. While I started on the dishes.

At the end of the day, I had eight litres of soup, six of those ear-marked for the swap. I gave the extra soup to my parents and left the rest in my fridge overnight, so that the flavours could meld a little.

We met on Saturday afternoon, exchanged stories and snacked before we distributed the soup. Kids ran around while the adults chatted. There were exactly six households that could make it, so we all went home with a litre of our own soup, along with a litre from each of the other participants.

We live in a scattered co-op, which means that we have smaller properties around the neighbourhood, rather than one property with larger buildings and townhouses. Our smaller properties have more character than an apartment complex or concentrations of townhouses would, but it means that we have to work a little harder at building cohesiveness in our community. Events like this one bring us together as a co-op.

Holding events that involve sharing food also reinforces the idea that food security starts within our social circles and immediate communities. Once we start sharing food, skills and produce with our family, friends and neighbours, we’re on a path that has the potential to mitigate our reliance on industrial food streams. It’s also a path that creates the kind of networks that can support individuals and families through difficult times.

The larger issues aside, we’ll be having another soup swap in the new year and I’m hoping to organize a canning workshop for next summer. Maybe along with a community picnic.