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Food Category

Maple Treats

bc-maple-nixon-100714.jpgI was quite pleased earlier this year when I learned that British Columbia has a fledgling maple syrup industry, mostly around Duncan on Vancouver Island.  But unfortunately, by the time I learned it existed the spring sap flow had ended for the year.  So that story will have to wait. 

The idea of hammering spigots into trees and turning them into taps for a delicious liquid has fascinatinated me, and no doubt you too.  Yet, being a Westerner, I've had almost no opportunity to see the maple farmers in action as they're concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.  A major part of Canada's heritage is missing from my soul, sob, sob. 

How pleased I was, then, to come upon a bit of that heritage as I wandered about the Wednesday afternoon farmer's market just outside Via Train station on Main Street in Vancouver.   Not only did I avoid doing a story about rutabagas, a part of my life became more complete.  Sugaring Off icon_video.gif

Mall Art

bc-art-nixon-100704.jpgIt is hard not to stop short when you walk by the Nestor's Coffee bar in Vancouver's Arbutus Mall.  Some people might do so when they smell the java, or see the Nestor's sign that tells them the business was established in 1929.  That makes it the second oldest coffee shop in Vancouver, behind the much more famous Murchie's.  There was a time when four Nestor's shops dotted the city, but now there is just one left.  But most people would not stop to reflect on how this business got overtaken by big franchise operations.

No, what makes them stop is the owner, who sits quietly painting a portrait while waiting for customers to arrive.  He's being doing it for years - and his abilities grow whenever his business gets slow.  Coffee Studio icon_video.gif

Restaurant Tax

bc-hst-nixon-100701.jpgFew things grab your attention in life more than a price increase, particularly in these so called low inflation days.  There you are, going along from day to day knowing that that morning cinnamon bun costs exactly $3.14 when suddenly - WITHOUT WARNING (aside from months and months of Bill Vander Zalm mysteriously reappearing on our TV screens but you always quickly clicked away) - that bun costs $3.40.  Oh, the saturated fats coursing through the veins just burble with outrage.  The HST, you learn, is to blame.  But death and taxes, what can you do, aside from signing a petition and recalling the government? 

Armed with the knowledge that anti-HST fervour is sweeping the province, I decided to sample the righteous anger as patrons partook of their first meal that included the new tax.  They were strangely philosophical about the higher price, but perhaps that's because they love the owner of the place.  Eating the HST icon_video.gif

Summer Solstice

bc-summer-nixon-100621.jpgIs it summer already?  Don't you feel slightly cheated that this glorious season has arrived with almost no warning?  Spring was decidedly spring-like and during those 92 days between March 21 and June 21 temperatures rose above 20 degrees on just five days.  Last year, amid much fretting about global warming, we hit 20 degrees on 18 of the first 21 days of June alone.  Friends, we have reason to feel miffed.

But nature makes little adjustments to whatever the weather throws at it.  Fish gotta swim, plants gotta grow and U-pick berry fanatics still gotta head to their Strawberry Fields icon_video.gif

Seeing Sweets

bc-cake-nixon-100620.jpgI know anything is possible in this world and nothing should surprise us.  But I am still somewhat shocked when one of the biggest retailers of computers in the city is a drug store.  For no good reason this offends my sense of the way retail commerce should be conducted.  It harkens back to a time when flower shops sold flowers, hardware stores sold hardware, and drug stores sold drugs, 'notions' and candy.  My past has damaged me psychologically, made me unfit to appreciate the new realities of commerce. 

The only way to fight against this flaw is to confront it head on.  That's why, for years, I have promised myself that I would one day make a story about a shop that could be considered the embodiment of the new business mentality.  The charm of the people who run this store has finally cured me. Cakes and Glasses icon_video.gif

Bicycle Delivery

bc-bicycle-nixon-100614.jpgFor decades, we've seen bicycle couriers scramble about downtown streets, weaving in and out of traffic as they speed from office to office.  Though some might suggest (to put it mildly) that they put themselves and others in danger - few could quarrel with the proposition that theirs is the fastest delivery method availble to their customers. 

As Vancouver becomes more of a bike friendly city, it is inevitable that someone takes the bicycle courier model and extends it to products other than architects drawings and legal contracts.   But Martin Gunst also has drawn on other elements of the 'sustainable city' concept as he attempts to create his business.  If you want to know more head to his website after you see the video.   Pedal Purveyor icon_video.gif 

Craft Beer Week

bc-beer-nixon-100511.jpgBack before I gave up the demon rum in all its forms, I used to make my own beer.  I read a book extolling its virtues with a line I'll always remember.  "Beer, wine, bread and cheese - the very first processed foods.  When I drink homemade beer, I commune with the ancients."  Considering my connection to the makers of pyramids almost made the awful swill I produced drinkable, but after a while I gave up. 

Others have not, and B.C. now leads the nation in so-called craft beer production, small breweries and brew pubs that oftentimes grew out of some ambitious home-brewers basement operation.  It appears a growing number of people prefer craft beer to the stuff major breweries produce, even though it costs more.  Witness the proclamation in Vancouver of 'Craft Beer Week'.  That was the subject of my story and all I can say is that - like beer - it packs a punch at the end.  Kegger icon_video.gif

Spring Treat

bc-nettles-nixon-100321.jpgI remember the day like it was yesterday.  Imagine me, a poor, defenceless 11 year old minding his business in the park when suddenly a chance encounter with a malicious plant sent me into paroxysms of pain.  Never mind that I was trying to capture a feral turtle sunning itself beside a pond at the time.  Never mind that I had to climb a chain link fence to get near the reptile.  No, my friends, no such transgressions ever deserves the punishment of stinging nettles. 

I writhed and jiggled and bopped about like a crazy kid in futile efforts to rid myself of that terrible itch.  Finally it ended when I ran almost a marathon to a water fountain where the cooling waters lessened the pain.  I had learned my lesson, folks.  Forevermore, turtles have been safe from me. 

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered someone actively seeking out that vicious herb.  What an education I was in for. Nettle Madness! icon_video.gif

City Hall Bees

bc-bees-nixon-100319.jpgFull disclosure time now.  I have an interest in this story.  The miracle of honey production has fascinated me ever since I was a kid on the prairies.  Manitoba creamed clover honey sent me into the most wondrous sugar high.  As a teenager, I once spent months poring over a bee catalogue imagining myself as an apiarist (that's fancy for beekeeper).  But I lived in the city, everybody knew you could not raise bees in the city. 

Fast forward 30 years and I discover that cities are changing.  Vancouver ended its ban on backyard beehives.  I called up the head provincial apiarist and took a beginner course.  Got some hives.  My life has been sweet ever since. 

Now Vancouver City Hall has gone one step further.  Not just allowing its citizens to engage in this sometimes stingful hobby, but deciding to put hives at City Hall itself.  Proving you can flight city hall.  (I'm sorry, but you need to be prepared for the painful puns you are about to hear.)  Bee City icon_video.gif

 

Nordic Pals

bc-scandanavian-nixon-100224.jpgEver since my first story about the Norwegian Codfish Club, I have liked the Scandinavian Centre in Burnaby.  The idea of organizing monthly meetings for people to chow down on cod drowning in butter confirms my belief that frivolity is a most worthy human trait. 

When I wandered by the other day and saw banners proclaiming the Centre as the headquarters for all things Scandinavian during the Olympics, I knew I had to head back to see what's up.  This became essential when I noticed Norway - a nation with only a few more people than live in the province of British Columbia - has amassed more medals at these games than Canada. 

But the Scandinavian Centre represents people with roots from five countries that speak five different languages - all of them competing for medals.  How well do fans of one country get along with fans from another?  Scandinavian Fans icon_video.gif

Olympic Berry

bc-cranberries-nixon-net.jpgWho does not want to make a splash at these Olympics?  I am not speaking here of mogul and half pipe skiers up at Cypress Mountain, where melting snow means splashes are possible but not desired.  No I am referring to that Holy Grail of all Olympic activies - marketing.  Even before the games begin, Vancouver is awash with billboards from the Olympic Committee thanking official sponsors for pouring big bucks into these games.  Call them good corporate citizens, but they clearly hope for a payoff in sales somewhere down the road.  There's no sin in that, I suppose.  Even poverty activists are using the games to highlight the ongoing housing, unemployment and social service problems the city faces.  There's no sin in that either.  From a marketing standpoint the Olympics help to focus the mind, offer up a stage that can be seen around the world.  But I ask you, is it a sin to use food to make such a marketing splash?  Not just a little bit, tons and tons of food.  Whatever you think, you have to admit, it's pretty good marketing.  Floating Cranberries icon_video.gif

 

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Hey, an update on this one.  Turned out the current of the Fraser River as it empties half of British Columbia was too strong for the berry structure.  Yeah, I scratched my head on that one too.  But, not to worry, they found a football field that provides a nice green background.   Not quite so impressive, but that's showbiz.  It's big, it's red, it's big red cranberries!!! 

Food Runners

Have you ever gone to a steam tray buffet and wondered what happens to all the leftover food?  It never occurred to me that there's a rather simple means to deal with it.  Send somebody out to pick up such perishable food, take it to where people need it and give it to them.  All because of BC Foodbanks, and a guy named Juan.  icon_video.gif

Giving Back

It's a truism that tough times often bring out the best in people.  That's certainly what happened with a woman I met during my foodbank series.  She went through a tough spell herself, met people whose needs were far greater than her own and decided to help out, and help out and help out.  Deb's Story

School Breakfast

It's foodbank week here at the CBC and I got the pleasure of doing a number of stories about this vital service.  Here's the first - most people know how foodbanks work - people donate food, the food gets collected at the warehouse and then given to needy people.  But as I discovered, that's not all there is to it. 

Pizza Spinning Champ

So here I am, just back from my first trip to Mexico in 20 years and, for my first story, I get to meet a fellow in Vancouver who is from Mexico City.  This is not important to the story I did, except that within two minutes of it running on TV - I got an e-mail from a viewer in Palm Springs, California which I share with you now... 

Quest for Food

You've heard of food banks.  But did you know there's a grocery store in Vancouver that offers food at a fraction of the price that it costs in regular supermarkets?  Now, of course, there's a catch.  Still, it is a remarkable service and one you should know about, especially if you qualify for the discounts.  Discount Dinners icon_video.gif

Let's Raise Sheep!

    These are tough days for farmers.  Cattle ranchers still face lingering problems over BSE, hog producers watch demand dwindle over an apparently misplaced fear about the connection between pork and H1N1. 

    But that's not the case with sheep farmers. 

Fig Picking

You may have noticed fig trees in Vancouver.  Not too many though, I suspect because we live in what gardeners call a hardy growing zone and getting a good crop of figs is never a sure thing.  But this year's fig crop appears to be pretty good, and the picking has begun.  I joined a special group of fig harvesters, who share their bounty with others.  Tree Fruit Project  icon_video.gif 

Barista Championships

I've heard the coffee world has Barista championships each year.  I once interviewed somebody who was going to them.  But when Vancouver hosted the Canadian competition this year, I had to go.  And boy, was I surprised.  Coffee Champs icon_video.gif

Mushroom Hunt

Back in the 90s, I did a story about a group of people who hunt for mushrooms, year round, but mostly in the fall when the forests explode with fungal delights.  They tend to be a furtive, secretive bunch who keep to themselves the location of their favourite 'shrooms.   

Chinese Food Awards

I've used to live in Beijing and Hong Kong for a couple of years back in the 80s and 90s, and my love affair with Chinese food remains as strong today as it has always been.  So when I got invited to an event promoting Vancouver's Chinese Restaurant awards - there was no saying no.

Lobster Feed

You may have heard that when the stock market collapsed last year, New York restaurants noticed that stockbrokers were no longer buying 'what the hell' wines at lunch.  These are wines that cost hundreds of dollars a bottle.  In fat times, financial folks would look the price and say 'ohhhh, what the hell' before ordering one. 

Big Barbecue

Follow along as we join Tara McAteer's mission to provide thousands of free meals to people in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

U-Brew Boom

Hey, you want a good news story in all this economic doom and gloom? Well, chug on this one. 

Too Many Strawberries

Beautiful sunny, warm weather is just great for strawberries.  Too great, it seems.  I got a near panicky letter from BC strawberry growers asking me to help them deal with their bounty.