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For this dose of creative vision, we begin the week with a favorite summer treat (or, a year round treat when you live 3 blocks from Mario’s Gelato like we do): strawberry ice cream. But don’t be fooled, this is not the edible kind. Well, technically it is edible, but I don’t think it would taste very good and I’m certain it would give you a week-long stomach ache. What you’re looking at here is fake ice cream, and it’s what is used most of the time when food photographers are shooting ice cream, unless it’s an ad for the product itself, then their job gets a whole lot harder as it has to be the real thing.

Vision here was simple, and fully inspired by the vintage green glass sundae dishes: old school ice cream parlour. Back-lit with natural light was a must to highlight the top of the scoop and shine through the glass dishes, and reflectors were needed to bounce that backlight onto the front of the set-up (one large white reflector camera left, another camera right, basically forming a 90 degree angle, with my camera poking in between). And selective focus was used to give the front dish prominence, and knock the second dish out of focus, becoming background interest. As you’ll see below, I tried out different things with the strawberry garnish and cookie props on the table surface, but settled on 2 round jelly-centered cookies with a strawberry fan for garnish.

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© 2008 Jackie Connelly

The beauty of the fake stuff is that (a) it doesn’t melt, (b) with the right scoop it ‘barks’ better than the real thing ~ I’ll get to that in a minute, and (c) it keeps in your cupboard forever.

Here is the recipe that I use for fake ice cream:

• 1/2 cup corn syrup (such as Karo or White Lily)

• 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)

• lots and lots of icing sugar, at least a 1lb bag

*for colour: fruit (here I used frozen strawberries to get the little seeds in my final shot), cocoa or food colouring (just remember, a little goes a long way).

To make: First, in a mixer or with a hand blender (or even by hand) mix your corn syrup and vegetable shortening together. Then slowly add your icing sugar in small doses and continue stirring. You’ll know you’ve added enough icing sugar when the consistency is dry and fairly stiff, but too much will make it crumbly. You’ll know it’s just right because those cracks the scoop of ice cream gets when you scoop it out is called ‘barking’, and is key to making fake ice cream look great. Fill the contents of your bowl into sealed ziploc bags and stash in the freezer overnight. In the morning you should have a rather hard ziploc bag of fake ice cream. Stores well in fridge. * I will also suggest a stainless steel ice cream scoop with the release lever, I like mine made by Good Grips.

Have you got a different recipe? Did you use something else that worked well? Leave a comment and share it with everyone.

Happy scooping!

~ j

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Our travels through the city’s food world for Urban Diner continued over the past 2 weeks capturing Vancouver’s bartenders and their cocktails. Some of the tasty drinks (yes, I had to sample a few) were brand new, only to be found on cocktail programs as of this week, while others are tried and true. My editor, Paul, titled the column “The Rebirth of Cocktail Cool” and these bartenders didn’t disappoint.

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above (L to R): Nick Devine (Habit Lounge), Chris Brown (Beyond Restaurant), Lori Poppe (Voya in the Loden Hotel)

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above (L to R): Steve da Cruz and Justin Tisdall (Gastropod), Jordan Moore (Yew in the Four Seasons Hotel), Jim Shelton (Sanafir)

Some of the shots are above; you can see more photos and Part 1 of the column on Urban Diner here, and Part 2 here. And if you feel so inclined after trying one of the yummy beverages featured, head down to the according bar (being sure to say hello to the cocktail’s creator) and leave a comment below the column to tell everyone about it!

Happy drinking!

~ j

I thought I would continue an earlier post, divided up into part 1 and part 2, on recent books surrounding food issues that seem to be so very prevalent in our society, as there are some new interesting sounding books I’ve seen around. There was also a request from one of these earlier posts to include a short description of each book, so I’ll do that from now on too. Here goes…

•Food Security for the Faint of Heart written by Robin Wheeler, published by New Society Publishers, 2008. Wheeler, a BC resident, permaculture activist, author, teacher and founder of the Sustainable Living Arts School, writes about the trip to the grocery store we all so often take for granted. What would we do if there was no grocery store? Where would we get our food? She tries to empower her readers into re-gaining control over their food and where it comes from with chapters such as “Preserving garden food” and “Saving freezer food during a power outage”.

• The Omnivores’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is written by Michael Pollan, published in 2007 by Penguin Press. Simply put, Pollan as a self-proclaimed omnivore, writes a narrative work in which he evaluates where his dinner could come from; specifically from fast-food/industrial, organic, or self-gathered.  Pollan also wrote In Defense of Food which I mentioned in part 1, and Botany of Desire in 2002.

• The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply and What You Can Do About It by Thomas F. Pawlick. I like the look of the table of contents of this book because though it starts off with chapters titled “The End of Food”, “Collateral Damage” and “The X Files” and a little tale about a tomato that won’t ripen and bounces like a red tennis ball, which all sounds pretty grim (necessary to read, but grim just the same) he follows these with chapters of solutions, called “Think Locally, Fight Locally”  and “Being Human”. I like it already. BONUS: there is an interesting interview of the author by Malcolm Jolley on Gremolata.

• Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini, with Forward by Alice Waters, published in 2007. Petrini has written a stack of other books on the slow food movement, is the founder and driving force of Slow Food and was recently acclaimed as a great innovator in Time Magazine’s list of European Heroes.  Slow Food Nation teaches it’s readers about the ways in which they can re-gain control of what they’re eating. BONUS: see a little youtube clip of Petrini.

And if you want to ponder the world of food in a different way, you can check out Food by John Knechtel, Editor, and Director of Alphabet City Media in Toronto, Canada. This book puts together a variety of both visual artist and writers examinations of food: healthy food, unhealthy food, new food, old food, food with emotional ties, food as it’s told from different peoples points of view. What a novel concept; this will most certainly be my next purchase. Knechtel has also edited books on the topics and appropriately titled Trash, Fuel and Suspect.

Happy reading!

~ j

If you have ever been out to the farm at UBC, or attended the Feast of Fields event held in early September at the UBC farm for the past 14 years, or even if you don’t make it out to that neck of the woods but you are supportive of local farming and the people who grow, tend, and provide us with healthy, fresh food options on a regular basis your help is needed now.

The UBC Farm is a 24 hectare student-driven learning and research farm located on the University of British Columbia’s campus, and integrated with the wider community and is the only working farmland within the city of Vancouver. It hosted over 2000 students and 100 sustainable food systems related research projects in 2007 alone. Many campus social events, educational programs for children, community outreach programs and a weekly farmers’ market run here. The ultimate goal of the farm is to retain and re-create existing farm and forest lands at the University of British Columbia into an internationally significant centre for sustainable agriculture, forestry and food systems.

However, the farm is slated as a ‘future housing reserve’, which leaves this valuable resource threatened. Please visit the petition here and join myself and over 2,700 others to sign your name as a supporter to keep the UBC farmland untouched by housing development.

Their last 2008 market is scheduled for Saturday, October 18th, and this is just another way you can help support the farm. To receive updates on the farms progress, you can sign up for their email list on this web page, or check their blog or website for updates.

When we left Vancouver on our impromptu trip to China (yes, what a place to take an impromptu trip to, I know) it was gray and raining. The day we arrived home it was just as gray and even more rainy. Apparently it had been gorgeous, hot and not-a-cloud-in-the-beautiful-blue-sky kindof weather while we were away. So, along with our vacation and traveling things we also packed away tank tops, shorts, hats, and the like in preparation for September and Autumn that seemed, at that time, to be so imminent. Light summer jackets also got moved upstairs, warmer coats and scarves brought downstairs in the main closet. I even was getting excited for things like apples, grapes and tomatoes, and was considering how I could give squash another try this year.

But this first week of September, the weather has been hot, the sun has been shining (first sunburn of the year on September 7th!), and I am completely confused as to how to dress: t-shirts? Or sweaters? And what to eat: should I continue to relish my childhood summers through peaches and blueberries from my local farmers markets, or move onto potatoes, parsnips and home-made soups? Really, I consider myself an intelligent, on-the-ball type of person but it’s these in-between, change of seasons times of year that seem to throw me off my game.

Or maybe I just need to do a better job at enjoying these in-between times of year that are defined by a mix of weather and seasonal foods, letting go of summer for another year and welcoming what will soon beckon Autumn’s brisk walks and fuzzy sweaters. I’ll keep you posted…

One of our readers was kind enough to not only compliment the photo that accompanied our recent Books for Thought post, but also asked:

“Could you also post some books/cookbooks that would be helpful to someone with multiple food allergies – cheese, canned vegetables, prepared meats, etc.? A friend of mine contends with this issue…”

Well what a nice friend you are, and I’m happy to help where I can. I don’t recall seeing any multiple food allergy books when I was at Duthie Books on my original visit, but from a quick internet search there are definitely some out there.

This is what I found that may apply to your friends situation, and may be of interest to others:

The Gluten-Free Vegan: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free, Animal-Free Recipes by Susan O’Brien (Marlowe & Company, December 2007) She has also written Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Cooking.

Cooking Without: Recipes Free from Added Gluten, Sugar, Dairy Products, Yeast, Salt, and Saturated Fat by Barbara Cousins (HarperCollins Canada / Thorsons (August 2000). Wow, this sounds nearly perfect!

Table for Two: Meat and Dairy-Free Recipes for Two by Joanne Stepaniak (Book Publishing Company January 1996)

Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko (Raw Family Publishing September 2005). You may like to check out their website (not full of content quite yet).

Raw Foods for Busy People 1 (2004) and 2 (2007) by Jordan Maerin (Lulu Press). Seems to be self-explanatory, but maybe the raw regime would suit your friends situation?

Good luck, and keep us posted…J

I was in Duthie Books on 4th Avenue yesterday shopping for a new book, and was amazed at the number of non-fiction (and even a few fiction) food related books out in print. It seems our eating local, sugar-less, carb-less, gluten-less and raw eating regimes that have recently reached the mainstream have also exploded a wide array of books on various related topics. They seem to range from informative, to provocative, to even somewhat accusatory.

© 2008 Jackie Connelly

I fully subscribe to the importance and relevance of all of these eating plans, and doing the research to discover what is right for your body; as a woman I am constantly striving to curb my sugar cravings and eat more naturally sweetened foods; I discovered I was lactose intolerant at age 16 so am constantly aware of dairy-alternatives; and at age 24 developed a wheat sensitivity deduced from 6 sinus infections in one year plus stomach issues so I have gone through the trials of spelt, kamut, and other non-wheat carbs. Plus a client recently lent me The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel following which I eradicated the many, many soy products I was eating on a daily basis. So, if anyone is open and wiling to promote the mainstreaming of knowledge as it relates to food and choosing an eating plan that works for your individual health and your individual beliefs, I’m all for it.

I thought I’d hunker down and read a few of these new books (a long 13hour flight in the summer travel plans coming up soon…a post in the coming weeks will share more) , but I wanted to see if anyone has reviews, thoughts, even friends thoughts, on any of them? Here’s a few that I’ve seen…

The 100 Mile Diet: A year of local eating by Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon (Random House Canada, 2007). (The US edition is titled Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally). From keeping current on the local food & farmers market scene here in Vancouver and on the web, I am familiar with this pairs quest. The 100 Mile Diet is an experiment that these two authors went through: for one year they would eat only food produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver home. And then they put pen to paper.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada by Adria Vasil (Random House Canada, 2007). Though this book isn’t solely food-based, there are interesting sections including: ‘The Most Helpful Services’ noting several green general stores and local, organic food delivery; and ‘The Most Current Information’ which includes sub-sections on sustainable seafood, meat and veggie choices, and buying pesticide- free food.

Formula for Health by Paul Nison. My food stylist Scot Roger recently reviewed this book for The Epoch Times (July issue), and after having listed to Mr. Nison speak at the Raw Food Health Lecture, was surprised to hear him say that it’s not just about the food. Scot explains “In his latest book Formula for Health Nison shows us that the beginning signs of disease are laziness and constipation, while the leading causes of disease are overeating and under sleeping…The key to health is to make the body work less to get more…this is where the raw food lifestyle comes in. Eating high quality food that is raw, ripe,
fresh, organic and alive is the key to unlocking the power inside all of us.”

In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press, 2008). This book caught me just by the cover photo: a crisp, obviously local head of lettuce (from the yellow ‘organic’ twist-tie), wet leaves with a perfect white to green gradient, with deep purple ends. This book is essentially Part 2 of Pollan’s work, picking up where his previous The Omnivore’s Dilemma left off. Pollan writes about the relation between the industrialization of our food supply and the degradation of the environment; the question of what to eat from the perspective of health; what the giant markeing machine has to do with it all, and comes to a seemingly simple conclusion: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. From what I’ve read about it Pollan seems to write less about his opinion surrouding these food issues, but more to let the facts speak for themselves.

And there are so many more…An Apple a Day by Joe Schwartz, Slow Food Nation by Alice Waters, The End of Food by Thomas F. Pawlick, Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel, Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe…and the list goes on. (Fabulous titles I might add.)

Have you read any of these? Or any others you can tell us about? What are your thoughts?

Happy eating and happy reading…J