March 6, 2011 • In web :: From Farm to Fork
From Farm to Plate
Shameless writer Emily Van Halem looks at all aspects of food, from production to business to when it finally lands on your plate and everything in between.
If you shamelessly frequent this blog, then you might notice that my name is a new
addition to the roster of Shameless contributors. I am indeed new to the team and I
am really excited to be writing about all aspects of food both here on the blog, as well as
for Shameless in print.
While my Shameless blog debut occurred earlier with a post on my recent food-themed
bike tour, I thought I’d make my second post more of a personal introduction to you all.
Where to start? Oh, I know, food!
I love food. A lot. Not only do I eat it, but I also manage to sleep it and breathe it, without
feeling claustrophobic. For me, good food isn’t only about taste – it’s about the people who
grew it, the resources that went into it, and the environmental impact it had before ending
up on my fork.
I might be considered a verifiable foodie but with a more DIY flare. I spend more time
conducting kitchen experiments than I do eating out, while staying committed to eating
healthy, local, and sustainably grown foods on a budget. I believe an easy first step in
creating change in the world is through our food –- it’s like an ongoing democracy where
we, as eaters, get to vote three times a day every day of the year. Weather we know
it or not, eating is an inherently political act. It says a lot about our values and sends a
message to the world of what we as consumers do or do not support. Buying local food
could communicate that we want to support our local economy, to preserve farmland, or
that we want to eat fresh and flavourful food. Even avoiding the grocery store altogether
(by growing your own food or even dumpster diving) speaks volumes about our values and
similarly sends a message to businesses, government and our community alike.
What I eat from day to day always changes, but what remains the same is my commitment
to eating consciously: being aware of where my food is coming from, how it got to me,
the environmental impact it had, and how all the people along the way were treated. And
let me tell you, finding all this out is no easy task! I’ve devoted much of my life over the
past four years to learning how to navigate the food system and make informed choices for
myself. Here on the blog, I’ll attempt to help Shameless readers navigate the food system
for themselves, and would be more than happy to field any questions you have in your own
Aside from muttering to myself in supermarkets about how many ingredients a box
of Cheerios has, or how the layout of the store makes shoppers buy more stuff they
don’t need, I do spend a lot of my time celebrating food -- real, wholesome, and often
homegrown. I’ve spent countless months working on organic farms, experiencing the
wonder of soil teeming with healthy microbes; I regularly bond over food with friends
at potlucks and dinner parties (a favourite pastime); and I spend what is probably an
inordinate amount of time baking vegan treats for myself and others. And since an
onslaught of food sensitivities hit me in the past few years, I’ve become a bit of a kitchen-
creative, constantly trying ways to make my favourite dishes “Emily-friendly”. So if you
want food that’s vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and/or sugar-free, I’m your gal.
For those rare moments when I realize that there is more to life than food, I can be found
riding my bike around Toronto (or further afield like I did this summer,
gardening on my rooftop patio, getting in over my head with craft projects, buying books I’ll
never have time to read, drinking tea and generally planning my next bold move.
If you’re hungry for more food for thought, then check out my blog, Feel Good Food: Ethical Eating in a Moral Minefield. Here you’ll find personal stories, political and philosophical quandaries, and of course, recipes of the Emily-friendly kind. Feel free to send me your own thoughts and questions about food – emily
I look forward to our many adventures together. I’ve got a gut feeling it’s going to be fun.