Grande opening of the Victoria Public Market - why you need to be there. · 11.09.13 by colin newell
Victoria has a colorful and wildly uneven history of farmers and public markets – In fact, there is a pretty comprehensive journal from local historian and journalist Ross Crockford over here. It is a great read and I will borrow a bit from that article here – and the bulk of the sentiment.
Some thoughts in point form. Which I will expand upon…
- Victoria’s downtown needs a year round farmers market
- Why hasn’t there been a year round market all along?
- Even in the 21st Century we need to think about food security
- Buying from the chains is not always cheaper or better for the community
- By all means continue to support satellite, weekend markets and local businesses.
Why a market? So Victoria has the Moss Street market – one of the most notable and recognizable markets in the Victoria area – and it is well traveled – their website is over here – and for a small neighborhood market, it has stood the test of time. The MSM has been open 14 years or so now – and that (to date) is somewhat more stable than initial iterations of the first Victoria Public Market (which according to Ross Crockford) only lasted a few months.
…the owners blamed its failure on public indifference, and competition from Chinese farmers who peddled vegetables door-to-door. In 1878, white farmers successfully petitioned the city to build another indoor market, but the construction was so shoddy that the farmers stayed away.
At the time, Victoria was still something of a wild west and by some of the descriptions from historical references, much of the bureaucracy around the city administering a market was very much like it is today for most business people – difficult.
Even in the late 1800’s many farmers and producers sold their wares directly to retailers, negating the need for a public gathering place for food, services and entertainment.
Moving forward to the 20th Century, Victoria’s market struggled with progress but was re-energized by the
advent of World War (both of them) with issues of food security and patriotism being bandied about.
In the 50’s the final nails in the coffin of the Victoria Public Market was the arrival of chain stores, indifference to what was considered a quaint method of food gathering and a general neglect of the infrastructure.
As Ross Crockford points out in his historic observations, the downtown cores layout of real estate was coveted and public markets seemed contrary to progress – particularly with the advent of the automobile and decline of the street car as the predominant mode of transportation.
Why now? So why haven’t we (as Victoria residents) seen a surviving market through the years? Many European and American cities have had farmers markets that are upwards of a hundred (or in the case of Europe) hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Simple. Victoria never had a downtown population. Until more recently. I can remember scooting around Victoria in the mid seventies (as a young teen) noting that there were no Apartments in the downtown core – and many of the upper “flats” that used to exist in historic buildings on Government, Yates, Pandora and Fisgard avenues (for example) were boarded up or left fallow because of fire regulations.
In 2013, there are condos sprouting up in every corner of the city AND there are no downtown grocery stores (apart from the somewhat distant Yates Market at Quadra and Yates [which serves the area well thank you very much…]).
In the late 50’s and and until the mid sixties, downtown Victoria had an Eaton’s food floor and a Safeway (near the corner of Fort and Douglas) serving the needs of James Bay and Fairfield residents. I can remember as a young child in the 60’s popping into the Eaton’s Food Fair for some groceries (it was a real deal full service grocery then – much like the Woodward’s Food experience at Town and Country) and then hitting the soda fountain nearby for a Coke float. Additionally, the downtown had numerous general stores, like David Spencer Limited (commonly known as Spencer’s) who operated a department store chain – with a location in Victoria that lasted up until demolition to make way for the Eaton Center in the mid-eighties.
Anyway – staying on topic!
Food Security Anyone that says that we needn’t worry about our Island food supply has an agenda that it is not in the best interests of our local communities and neighborhoods. It was an issue in the 20th Century and it is an issue now. Why sell off our farm land for development while at the same time increasing our demand on an imported food supply? We are only one Earthquake or calamity away from pinching off a staggering dependency on food that is trucked and flown in on a scale that should give us pause.
According to food journalist, Don Genova, we produce around 6% of the food stuffs that we consume on Vancouver Island. And when you consider how arable this region is and how much we can actually grow if we put our minds (and shovels) to it… well, it’s shocking.
Chef, farmer and educator, Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm is one of our Island food professionals leading and raising awareness of Island food trends and the need to be cognizant of our fragile food supply – His educational curriculum and food learning program is a great example of how one person (and friends) can educate a lot of people about regional and local food production… and the fun of foraging!
One of my favorite rants on subject (of Island grown food management) was the practice of a very large Island grown food chain that was shipping Island grown produce to Vancouver for sorting… before it shipped it back to the Island… the excuse being “Our Island storage facilities are not big enough…” Give me a break. And people wonder why locally produced fruits and vegetables cost so much at the chains. To their credit, I think they have built a warehouse on Vancouver Island for sorting and storage of Island produce.
Want to contrast food pricing with the Chains? Try this exercise: Head out to one of the small satellite markets or farm vendors like the Root Cellar on McKenzie and Blenkinsop – and tell me their prices are not refreshingly cheaper than Thrifty Foods or Safeway.
Why support local? Why buy local? Creates jobs. Creates an incentive to produce locally. Instills a sense of community. Brings people together. And I am not just talking about farmers – but bakers, brewers, crafts people of all kinds. In a city the size of Victoria, you would think we would have dozens of great bakeries – we don’t but that could change if we stop buying unhealthy factory produced breads from afar.
I should stress that if you live in a neighborhood (or within a km or two of a neighborhood) that features cafes, bakers, brewers or meat markets – by all means support those ahead of your regional or local market! The idea is not to take away business – but to get people to walk to their markets or local businesses and artisans – to mingle and learn and be part of the community.
Historically, markets were built to serve an urban population – As stated, Victoria has not had an urban population (with the necessary density to support a full time public market) until the 21st Century. The time is now.
So we seem to be on the right track. In the last ten years I have seen the arrival of better choices locally, a raised awareness of the importance of a stable local food supply and a passion for “getting it done locally” that simple did not exist in the latter part of the 20th Century. We have come a ways – but we have further to go.
Let’s keep doing what we are doing Victoria has markets, day markets, summer markets, street markets and night markets. We are in the right track. By all means, keep supporting these initiatives – seek them out. Support them.
And by all means come out to the grande opening of the new Victoria Public Market this Saturday and Sunday!
I will be there – and so should you! Here is the link for finding your way to the Victoria Public Market opening on Saturday –
Mike Russell and Cops for Cancer - Vancouver Island · 16.08.13 by colin newell
My name is Mike Russell and I became a cop in 2005 with the Edmonton Police Service. My sole goal since joining as an officer was to make a difference in my community.
Since moving with my family (now consisting of my lovely wife and three kiddo’s) to Victoria in 2008 I’ve been completely overwhelmed at how this community bands together to overcome obstacles.
This in part inspired me to ride the Canadian Cancer Societies Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock this year. I’ve not been affected by Cancer personally, but the strength I’ve witnessed from children and their families who have battled this terrible disease is truly inspiring.
I want to do everything in my power to ensure a cancer free future for all kids, parents, families and communities. We can do it, but I’ll need your help.
You can help in a number of ways:
1. Come on out to one of our great events!
We’ve got an upcoming Mayfair Mall Drive in and Carnival on Wednesday, August 21st where we are showing Grease. You can win lots of prizes, eat cotton candy and even win a chance to see the movie in our historic Car 40 (cop not included).
On Thursday, August 22nd, we’re at Glo Resturant and Lounge. The awesome folks at Glo are putting on an amazing show this year with a fantastic dinner (and drink) included in the ticket prices. There will be some amazing prizes, live band, DJ and Live and silent auctions…and of course, lots of cool people.
2. You can also donate directly to the Tour de Rock through a few means.
You can text to donate at 20222 and enter code TOUR 19 for an immediate $10 donation.
Hope to see many of you at our events. Thanks as always for the support.
Mike Russell, 2013 Tour de Rock Team ride and VicPD Media Spokesperson and Social Media Officer.
Talking Thermomix with Don Genova · 4.07.13 by colin newell
Listen to the Podcast |
As most of my readers know, I have been playing with coffee machines for a decade and a half – and in some of my in between times I do take the opportunity of horsing around with related gadgets that are used in the kitchen (that could also have a coffee connection…) and some not so much.
And it was with great delight that Andrea and I managed to arrange a loan of a Thermomix “food appliance” from Island food journalist and author, Don Genova – locally of Cobble Hill, B.C. and a regular on CBC Radio “Food Matters”. We had seen the Thermomix in use at one of Don’s popular cooking classes – on the subject of pasta. And guess what, Don had the Thermomix handy for not only making the pasta but also making the sauce for the pasta! And for this reason and a few others, I do not call the Thermomix a food processor – because (much to my surprise), it is much more than that.
The Thermomix is a powered blender, chopper, stirrer, mixer, digital scale and labor saver – Designed in Germany and manufactured in France, the Thermomix is more industrial grade multi-purpose tool than the kind of single use device that many people would spend almost as much on.
Many folks, in fact, often pick a Vita-Mix over the Thermomix as a cost saving measure – and as awesome as the Vita-Mix is (I have a lighter duty Cuisinart version of it…) – because it does what it is supposed to do really well, it cannot cook anything. And where the Thermomix really, really shines – is that it can prep a dish and then cook it… or steam it. Or do both at the same time for goodness sakes!
In the video below, Don tackles a recipe we tackled a couple of times… with awesome results!
Andrea and I gave the Thermomix a work out with a couple of variations of a popular and relatively challenging recipe: Risotto. For those who have made Risotto, it is labor intensive and requires your attention for the duration of the process.
Apart from getting the ingredients together and getting them into the Thermomix in the right order, the bulk of the work was done by the Thermomix with little interaction from me – the primary thing with Risotto is, of course, the stirring – often 10 to 15 minutes of stirring… which the Thermomix does gently and steadily. We ended up with a restaurant grade Risotto that we would have proudly served any chef in the city… or any of our friends.
We chatted with Don Genova on the subject of the Thermomix this afternoon at Victoria’s Cafe Roaster 2% Jazz at the Hudson – and future home of the Victoria Public Market. When asked, Don pointed out in the audio recording above, that all kinds of people buy the Thermomix and they buy it for a variety of reasons – the main thing for us was labour saving, streamlining processes in the kitchen and making food better – and maybe even saving some money in the journey and eliminating some waste – because the Thermomix measures everything very precisely, the end results are exactly the same every time.
The Thermomix is clearly well made (designed and built in Europe) with heavy duty components for years and years of service. Interestingly, you cannot buy the Thermomix online or in a store – it is sold by a network of dealers in Canada that are particularly hands on when it comes to training and initiation of new users to this very useful tool.
I had the Thermomix for around a week – and I think I may need to borrow one again for another couple of tests (my main loan this month was interrupted by a trip to Hawaii!). In the meantime, if you need any information on where you can find one in B.C. (or anywhere else in Canada…) just drop me a line!
For more information on what Don Genova is up to and where you can see/hear him, pop on over to his Blog
Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.
Bed and Breakfast in the Cowichan Bay - The Damali · 6.05.13 by colin newell
Andrea and I did a wine and cheese pairing in Cowichan Bay a few weekend ago – and in the name of safety and enjoyment we decided to spring for a good Bed and Breakfast in the Cobble Hill – Cowichan Bay area. And it was on very short notice that I did a quick Google of B&B’s in the area. Some very attractive places jumped out and one of the most attractive was the Damali B&B Lavender Farm and Winery. Inasmuch as that is quite the mouthful, the website was very compelling and attractive.
The Damali B&B is a purpose built building that feels somewhat more like a spa-lodge for its spacious layout, awesome great room and cozy kitchen area. The folks that run the place really loving presenting this multipurpose facility and it shows – with a wide variety of loving touches, impeccable cleanliness, thoughtful extras and all that passion that you really need to engage strangers (like Andrea and I) on a regular basis.
And good for us as we literally phoned in less than 48 hours earlier looking for a place to sleep – luck would have it, all 2 rooms were available.
Damali, as I mentioned above, has a lot on the go – from a functional lavender farm to a winery. So, depending on the time of the year there are a lot of neat things to do there.
As we were attending a special event that night (At the Cow Bay Conference Center) hosted by Hilary’s’ Cheese of Victoria and Cow Bay, we had the good fortune of hanging out with two of the partners from the Damali Farm; Dave and Marsha – great folks who love their job.
The Damali B&B Winery and Lavender Farm are on 13 Acres on Telegraph Bay Rd. (on the left 50 yards before the Hutchinson Rd Junction — pay attention for the sign, you might miss it!)
By and large it is a great location, whisper quiet apart from the occasional dog bark and the evening air is filled with the sounds of crickets.
Check in is pretty informal – a quick orientation, and introduction to Chevy Chase, the sweet Jack Russell Terrier and a discussion of how and when we would like our breakfast and we are off to the events of the evening.
Sleep came super-easy in the comfortable and well-appointed rooms — the bonus being the quiet and darkness and the fresh air – knocks you out in minutes!
Breakfast was a brilliantly presented combo of fresh fruit in Yogurt, and a set of proteins; an nice egg dish with some thick cut bacon and artisan whole grain bread – tasty and perfectly portioned for a weekend morning.
Overall, a great experience – the only regret was leaving after one night! I could have stayed a week.
You can contact the Damali at:
3500 Telegraph Road, Cobble Hill,
British Columbia, Canada V0R 1L4
For BED & BREAKFAST Requests & Bookings
Email: [email protected] Phone: 250 743-4100 Fax: 250 743-4170
Toll Free: 1 877 743-5170
Waiting on the farmers and public market chapter one · 6.05.13 by colin newell
Hey everyone! Thank you for your patience. It has been a while since I have blogged regularly – no excuse at this point… and it is not like there isn’t a lot going on to report on… because there is. So let’s dig in already!
Living in the urban environment of Victoria B.C. comes with a dynamic and ever changing set of variables when it comes to hunting and gathering – because let’s face it folks: Food and drink is the one thing that you spend the most time thinking about – go ahead, deny it. It is likely true.
For instance, when I am making breakfast, I am probably thinking about lunch and dinner (the latter more likely) and I am often looking forward a couple of days. Our weeks (lucky us) almost always include a date night. And date night means a dinner out – generally on Thursdays. We cook in virtually all the other nights and this is our reward. It is also a good habit to get into – it is good for the economy and it is great for a relationship.
And for those people that know Andrea and I, I might just be a little guilty of frequenting favorite places to the exclusion of a little variety and risk taking. But that is OK too – because becoming a regular at one or more local joints has it advantages.
Back to the gathering for a moment. One of my bad habits, locally, is not making much effort to do fully sensible shopping – and that would include going to farmers markets, local markets, even corner stores or natural food stores that go that extra mile to bring you local produce and products. I will not name any names but I shop at a local “Canadian owned” mega-mart that used to (they probably still do…) sends Island grown products to Vancouver for sorting – and then ships them back to Victoria – which is utterly and inexcusably bad on so many levels.
Anyway – just around the corner is the June opening of the Hudson’s Public Market in the old Hudson’s Bay building on Douglas, Blanshard, Herald and Fisgard blocks. I am so ready for this – and yes, I know there are markets like the “Moss” that is closer that I do not currently take advantage of. My bad. Baby steps right.
Victoria’s last year round Public market closed in the late 50’s – so technically, I have been waiting that entire time for a public market in Victoria. There have been a few sad attempts in Victoria… but clearly, they never succeeded. So. It’s coming. I am excited. And I really hope that the city of Victoria embraces this market – because we need it – for Oh so many reasons.
On one hand, there are great food products around us – which is awesome. On the other hand, there are some fabulous products and foods being produced on the Island that are not readily available – maybe until now – and yes, I get that there are various neighborhood markets… but they are only open on the weekend.
So expect to see me in the front of the line on opening day!
This is the first in a series of hunting and gathering on southern Vancouver Island – how important it is to better understand our food supply – and to embrace and preserve natural, healthy and holistic food production on Vancouver Island.
Another rare Christmas medley from the Hans Steffan Singers. · 17.12.12 by colin newell
The Hans Steffan Choir Live
Still picking through my recordings from a Zoom H4 -
Enjoy and Season Greetings! I am somewhere down in the mix of these talented “older” guys!
If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.