Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wash those fruits and veggies

We've probably all heard about the food poisoning scare with vegetables in parts of Europe, and since the source has not actually been determined, this got me wondering about precautions we can take. Summer is upon us here in Canada, and so, hopefully, we're all eating more raw fruits and vegetables, but I wonder how many of us are being mindful of proper cleaning and handling? We all get educated somewhere along the line about food safety in handling meats, but when is the last time you heard anything about food-borne illness in produce, or something about proper cleaning of fruits and vegetables.

After doing a bit of reading, it seems that raw fruits and vegetables are in fact a serious potential source of food poisoning, especially in countries like Canada where much of our produce is imported from far off places, for much of the year. It also seems that washing them does not necessarily prevent food poisoning because some bacteria can make their way through the skins and leaves. That being said, there is evidence to suggest that washing does reduce the incidence, and this article on About.com makes the icky point that by the time your produce gets to you, it's been handled by many pairs of hands.

So, wash those fruits and veggies, and then wash them again. I am a firm believer in soaking, actually. I have a very big stainless steel bowl that I use for this purpose only. I fill the bowl with cold water and a few drops of vinegar, and then I add the produce. I especially love using this method for spinach, lettuce and all kinds of greens, because while the leaves float, the dirt and grime sinks to the bottom. I soak some things like berries for up to an hour, but most things are soaked for a 5-10 minutes, rinsed in my colander under cold water, and either left in the colander to dry, or dried with paper towel. If you do this with your lettuce, wrap it in paper towel (or keep a dish towel for this purpose only which you wash in hot water and bleach after each use), your lettuce will stay fresh and crisp for over a week. I learned this from Nik Manojlovich on Savoir Faire years ago.

By the way, enjoy local produce while we've got it. Buy lots, buy often, and if you need some inspiration, Foodland Ontario has a wonderful of selection of recipes.

Happy summer!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hot Docs

The Hot Docs festival took place earlier this year, and I haven't had a chance to write about it until now. This year we finally made a point to attend; we loved both films, and we're actually thinking of getting a pass next year.

First, we saw Foreign Parts, which was an unexpectedly engrossing and emotional view into the community of Willets Point, a small area behind the New York Mets stadium, where people make a living stripping broken down cars and reselling the parts. It is interesting to see how a community has formed in a geographically unfriendly space, and the residents care for their own.

Second, we saw Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which didn't do so well in the reviews, but I feel like it was put under a microscope due to the subject matter. There was some criticism which suggested that the film was cold and that the footage didn't feel exclusive. To me, that's partly the point of the film, which was fully intended to be a montage of lost footage, taken 30 years ago by Swedish journalists, who are known for their detailed, factual approach to the subjects they explore. Anyway, we loved it. It was visually stunning and had a great soundtrack. I can't confirm the "exclusivity" of the content, but I have been inspired by Angela Davis all my life, and have seen a great deal of video featuring her speaking, and I have never seen the piece that is included in this film. If you watch this movie for no other reason, you've got to hear Angela Davis answer the question "do you advocate violence?" It takes her a good 10 minutes of verbal brilliance to give the simplest of answers: "you're asking ME about violence?" Anyway, there's a decent review of the movie here: .The Documentary Blog » Sundance Review: Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975