Let’s talk about Snacks (and a giveaway).

Your next must-read book came out last month and I meant to tell you all about it … last month. And now it’s November. Maybe it’s better I tell you about it now, because the book is Snacks, and I think you should buy it for your snackiest friends and family this holiday season (which we can fret about later, at this rate my household will be celebrating Christmas on January 25).

Snacks: A Canadian Food History, by Janis Thiessen, explores the history and context for Canadian snack foods and it’s absolutely fascinating. Thiessen’s writing is engaging throughout, weaving the history of our national love of chips and candies with stories of the workers behind the brands and tales of corporate intrigue. I read the book over a month ago and am still a little miffed that Old Dutch Foods isn’t even really Canadian (or Dutch, for that matter – some guy named Carl Marx called the company Old Dutch Foods because he associated Dutchness with cleanliness).

Thiessen is an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, where she lectures on Canadian, food, and business history, and brings a unique perspective to the topic of snack foods in Canada. The thing that spoke to me the most about this book was Thiessen’s critical look at how we vilify some foods as junk, and why we do that. I, for one, am very bored with hearing about how best to eat and live, as usually that kind of information is aspirational at best (at least for me as a lady professional out in the world having it all and then falling over from exhaustion).

Whole foods are good and fine, but sometimes I want to eat sour cream and onion chips and Hawkin’s Cheezies, and I want to enjoy them for what they are. Thiessen quotes food historian Sara Davis: “There’s a lot of unacknowledged privilege at work when food activists insist that the endgame should be more people cooking more meals at home,” explaining that disdain for snacking has its roots in gender bias – which is to say, if more people (women) stayed at home and prepared more meals from scratch, we wouldn’t need snacks, and we wouldn’t snack so much.

I like working and I like snacking. Thiessen makes a solid case for the benefits of a food system which, though it could be vastly improved, allows us to enjoy the occasional bag of chips we needn’t fry for ourselves. (Her favourite are dill pickle flavoured.) While the book was centred around snacks, the stories are what makes this so interesting – Thiessen incorporates oral histories from workers, business owners, and other academics to create a complex picture of the Canadian food landscape. Canadians are an idiosyncratic people, and I enjoyed learning more about our national quirks and odd preferences (ketchup chips are our passion, whether I am okay with that or not).

You should absolutely give this book to your best foodie friend for Christmas this year (ideally with a box of Ganong chicken bones). And because I love this book so very much and want you to have your own copy, I’m doing a little giveaway.

Comment below or follow me on Instagram and tell me there: what is your favourite Canadian snack food? (It is totally fair, by the way, if your faves are this entire list of PC chips from Superstore, from which I cannot choose just one. Maybe the sriracha ones. Maybe the jerk chicken ones.) You do not have to be Canadian to enter, but liking Canadians in general is preferred. Anyway, let me know by Wednesday, November 22 and I’ll pick a winner from Nick’s old hat and drop your copy into the mail before I head off to Winnipeg.

Also, because this is my site and I do what I want, I want to state for the record that All-Dressed chips, a uniquely Canadian thing, are trash and Serious Eats is wrong.

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SHARE, for hunger.

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When I am hungry, I am a little bit mean – a rule of thumb around here is that if I don’t have anything nice to say, someone should hand me a granola bar. When Nick is hungry, he is dumb and stumbles, the effect worse in him because low-blood sugar and its consequences are a hazard of diabetes. When our little minion is hungry, he whines and drapes himself over furniture and tells us he is very upset right now, and that he is dying of not having any treats. We’re looking into drama programs for Kindergartners. He’s going to be a star.

For people for whom there isn’t a simple fix – a trip to the pantry to restore moods and blood glucose and rumbling tummies – hunger can be consuming, reducing our ability to learn and retain information, to manage our behaviour and emotional responses, and to make rational decisions. In children, prolonged periods of malnutrition or hunger contribute to developmental delays and missed milestones – the stress and effects of hunger on a child can have lifelong cognitive and physical consequences.

And while many of us spend a lot of time moaning and complaining about the cost of living in Vancouver, the reality is that the entire Metro Vancouver region – 21 distinct municipalities occupying 2,877 square kilometers, and home to more than 2.5 million people – is a place where the basic necessities of daily life – housing, childcare, transportation, groceries – are increasingly difficult to cover on incomes that have not kept pace with rising costs.

This is how it is in a lot of places. I know. It’s hard out there right now. (Side note: eastern Canada, if you’re hiring, I’m interested.)

Food banks, and food insecurity and affordability in general, are the issues that matter most to me, which is why I’m delighted to be participating in another initiative that’s helping to get nutritious, wholesome food to the people and families who need it.

SHARE-Imagine-2016-Logo-I was recently invited to participate in a fundraising event from the SHARE Family and Community Services Society, the largest social service provider in the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody). Their annual fundraising event, IMAGINE, takes place Saturday, March 5, and I’ll be participating as a judge in The Hamper Challenge. The Hamper Challenge is a Master Chef-inspired cooking competition in which local chefs will be paired with local mayors to prepare two-course meals from SHARE food bank hampers.

SHARE facts

  • Distributing out of three locations, the SHARE Food Bank serves over 5,000 people each year.
  • 35 per cent of SHARE Food Bank users are under the age of 19.
  • Food Banks receive no government funding so, SHARE relies entirely on the generosity of the community: individuals, businesses, associations, sports teams, churches, and community granting agencies, among others.
  • Last year, SHARE distributed close to 19,000 food bank hampers and 650,000 pounds of food with a retail value of more than $1.6 million.
  • Food Bank clients can use SHARE services twice per month and the food they
    receive is of supplementary assistance. It would last a family three or four days and
    enable them to save money they can put towards rent, gas, or other life expenses.

Why am I telling you this?

Because if you’re local to Metro Vancouver, you can participate too.

Come out to the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver Theatre in Coquitlam on March 5, from 7:00 p.m. on, and enjoy an evening filled with great food, fun people (and me!), live entertainment, auctions, raffle prizes, and more! Tickets are $85 each, which includes the opportunity to sample the best sweets and savouries on offer from the region’s best restaurants – be sure to vote for your favourites!

Last year, IMAGINE raised over $105,000, enabling SHARE to deliver vital programs and services to over 56,000 Tri-Cities community residents.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit sharesociety.ca/imagine. I also have tickets to give away – enter the raffle below to win two tickets to the event, which will be available at will call on March 5. The raffle closes on March 3.

Click here to enter the giveaway

If you can’t attend, but still want to support IMAGINE 2016, you can donate online. I hope to see you there!

A request and a winner.

At the risk of alienating breakfast mush enthusiasts … I’m kind of over oatmeal. I need a break on the whole slop for breakfast routine.

To be honest, I don’t want to do much about breakfast, because I am someone who can live quite happily from 6:30 am until almost noon on a single fat-free latte. My stomach doesn’t even notice this neglect until it’s time for lunch, and then it is an angry beast who demands carbs and cheese and I reward it handsomely for its patience. Unfortunately, Stomach and Metabolism aren’t on speaking terms so while Stomach is fine on a little bit of tea and frothy milk, Metabolism is like “Oh, really? Don’t you know about six small meals a day to maintain a healthy weight? HERE’S AN EXTRA FORTY POUNDS, SMUGGY.” So, breakfast. Jump-starting the day, and all of that.

I tried smoothies – both with yogurt and vegan-styles – but those are worse than eating nothing. It’s like that little bit of fruit and yogurt and flaxseed reminds my metabolism that I am awake and doing stuff in a way that a latte does not, and my stomach gets pretty angry about it. I have found myself eating broken, linty teething cookies from the dregs of my purse in fits of famished panic. I’ve swallowed gum. In trying to do something healthy, what I’ve done is turned myself into the kind of person who angrily eats beef jerky from a vending machine at 9:30 in the morning.

Bacon, eggs and toast are good, but they’re hard to eat when you’re trying to evenly apply mascara with one hand while fighting off a cat and a baby while the two of them battle over who gets to be the one to unroll all the toilet paper directly into the toilet. Cold cereal leaves me starving immediately after I eat it. I hate bananas so much. But I need options.

I’ve put my question out into the ether (the Googles) and it’s too much. I can’t read 80,000 blog posts and forum discussions about 80,000 slightly different recipes for green smoothies – it’s overwhelming, and I distract easily. Also my kale has wilted in the crisper. So, why not try a smaller sample group?

What do you eat for breakfast on your weekday mornings, and does it keep you from starving? Can you recommend a smoothie recipe, a breakfast sandwich, or some other magical, convenient (homemade) weekday-morning-friendly thing that will leave me full  until lunch(ish)? I suppose it could even be oatmeal, but maybe something new and different to do with it.

I should also announce the winner to that little photo giveaway we talked about last week. I was supposed to do it at 5:00 and then I set my oven on fire, as you do, and as a result lost track of time.

Winner!

The winner is Aim Harder, who wants to prove to her new little person that it’s not so scary out there in front of the camera. Congrats, Aim, and all the best! Shoot me an email at emily.wight@gmail.com and I’ll put you in touch with Bethany so you can schedule your session.

A sick day, a giveaway

Despite all of us having gotten our flu shots this year, the flu hit all three of us pretty hard this weekend, and we are only just now starting to recover. Well, Nick and I are starting to recover – the baby became energetic and noisy again just as we started to fall ill. It was the worst of times.

I had intended to share a recipe, but to be honest all we ate this weekend was take-out pho. Today we might leave the apartment and get some matzo ball soup, but at this point the tremendous effort required to put on something other than fleece footie pajamas is so daunting. I’m currently simmering a chicken and some veggies for broth, so that may be all that sustains us until I declare us ALL BETTER! and decide to move on.

Side note: If you’re ever not feeling very well, the best thing in the world is chicken soup made from a stock with a whole chicken as its base; simmer – don’t boil – the chicken with carrots and parsnips and celery and onion, plus whole cloves of garlic cut in half, a lemon halved, and a handful of dill pickles, and a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and parsley bundled and tied in cheesecloth. Fill your stock pot with water to about ten quarts, and let it go for four hours. I learned that from Ina Garten, who is the person I’d most like to be when I grow up. I’m strongly considering painting WWID (What Would Ina Do?) in glitter across my hood fan lest I ever forget.

Baby and friend

Anyway. I had meant to give you a recipe, but today is not the day. Today is the day for a giveaway though; I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. If you’re in Vancouver or the surrounding area, I’d like to give you a professional photo shoot from Images by Bethany, a really, really talented local photographer who I met through VancouverMom.ca and who is also friends with my friend Jenna. She made me look like a normal person, which is no small feat – most of the time when I get my picture taken I do this weird thing I bare my fangs in an attempt to smile and tilt my head down, tripling the number of chins I have while also accentuating my grey under-eye bags.

Baby and Squishy Lion

I’m pretty lucky to have this sparkling personality to fall back on.

Baby and friend ... making out.

Right. Anyway, Bethany is amazing, and she has graciously offered to give one lucky local family a one-hour professional photo-shoot at Bethany’s studio in Gastown or at the location of your choice, followed by a viewing session and an 8×10 print of your favourite photo from the day. Your photos will be available for viewing online for three months; you can purchase additional photos if you love a whole bunch of them, but no purchase will be necessary. The thing I liked most about our session is that it was totally relaxed – it was very casual, and since everyone was comfortable the photos look natural. Better than natural, even – we look like better versions of ourselves … which is surprising because our shoot was at 8:00 am on a Saturday and we have a hard enough time looking normal at peak hours.

Me looking like a normal person, kind of, plus baby.

And don’t let the word “family” deter you here – I think family can be any combination of the people you like; whether that’s you and your little ones and that person you married or live with, or you and your parents, or you and your special someone, or you and your furry four-legged companion. If you roll solo, that’s okay too. Can you imagine blowing up an enormous photo of you and your cat looking regal and windswept – maybe on a cliff over the ocean – to hang in your dining room? I totally want to do that.

To enter, leave a comment below or on the photo on my Facebook page telling me who you’d like to be photographed with, or how you cope with having a camera pointed in your direction. The contest will run until January 14; when I get home from work that day, I’ll put all the names in Nick’s grimy old hat and pick a winner. I’ll pass your name and contact info along to Bethany, and she’ll contact you to set up your session, anytime between January and April. This contest is open to Metro Vancouver residents.

None of us looks weird here. AMAZING. You have no idea.