If you follow me on this blog or on Facebook, you know I have a sweet tooth. And a bread tooth. And a cheese tooth. And a vegetable, fruit, and meat tooth. I focus on preserves and baked goods, but I'm also highly skilled (toot toot) in other culinary arts as well (duck legs are currently curing as I type for duck confit). Always having a fondness for pastry (both eating and preparing), the reason I decided to focus on the dessert side of the menu was because our area was/is severely lacking in high-quality desserts.
Restaurants are ordering their frozen cheesecakes and butter tarts from food distributors shipping out of Toronto. They also purchase buckets of ready-to-bake mixes that take the pesky hassle of actually making their desserts with carefully selected ingredients. As a bonus, diners get wonderful doses of unnecessary additives like artificial food dyes, artificial flavourings, three or four different sugars, hydrogenated vegetable fats derived from genetically modified corn or soy, and environmentally damaging products like palm oils. The carbon footprint left behind from the use of mostly imported ingredients (whatever is the cheapest!), and transportation costs are staggering. Often times they just taste awful.
The imported desserts do nothing positive for a local sustainable food system. Using 0% local and the lack of pride taken in preparing and serving high quality food is what really sours my mouth.
Keeping with the thought "be the change you want to see in the world", I've spent several years, and way more money than I can afford, to push the importance of supporting local. Yes, there are local businesses, and they need support, but
I'm talking about the local businesses that actually use local ingredients in their products. Those businesses have more challenges facing them in an already challenging industry. It frequently costs more because farmers' deserve to be paid a fair price for their work, but so do the tradesmen and women who turn them into value added products.
I've attended a few meetings in the past few weeks centered around local foods. Although I was surprised to find see the number of food-related groups and associations within Elgin County, a few gaps were apparent to me from my chef point of view. First, lack of culinary education. Second, kitchens to work from. Third, Elgin culinary history. Fourth, a formal analysis of Elgin's food cultures. Fifth, good bread.
In this post I want to focus on two particular gaps: kitchens to work from and good bread (desserts are still an issue but not the point in this discussion).
Flour, water, salt, yeast. That's it.
That's all you need to make good bread. You don't need artificial flavours and colours nor dough conditioners, extenders, or chemical foaming agents (FYI the hoopla about Subway using yoga mats in their bread? It's an additive, azodicarbonamide, used in most breads in fast food places. Yes, Subway is fast food. And McDonald's uses the additive in their buns as well. It's actually very common in North America - but banned in many other countries around the world. Is it in Tim Horton's? Probably, although I haven't checked.)
Bringing the topic back home again, I would like to make bread and other food items to sell to the public. I want to focus the breads on using as many local whole grain flours as possible and use natural leavens (sourdough starters). As usual, I want to use local and sell local. A wood-fired bread oven and mill nearby would also be a slice of heaven but I'd be happy with an oven, a few sinks, and space for dough and pantry items. The health department requires any food served to the public must be prepared in an inspected kitchen, which are expensive to rent. The food court in the Elgin Mall (the EMPTY mall), is asking $2000 per month, plus taxes and utilities to rent a 400 sq. ft. space. Without equipment. Oh, I should mention they will give the first six months free with a three year lease though. Ha! I'm willing to guess this is why the mall fails to thrive - no one can afford it.
For now, I just want to find out if there is a need for good bread in our area, or is it just me? I know there are a few great bakers that bring their wares to the St. Thomas market, but that is seasonal. Western Fair has a fantastic bread baker, but what happens if I don't have a car or I want bread on a Tuesday?
In one final attempt to find a way to contribute to a healthy sustainable food culture in Elgin County, I've created a survey to find out if there is a need for good bread. The link to the short 10 question survey is listed below. Would you please take a few minutes to give your opinion? Your feed back is appreciated.
Feb. 27, 2014 - 12:56 pm
An article was just published on the Environmental Working Group webpage that reports over 500 foods in the USA are prepared using the chemical foaming agent azodicarbonamide. As I mentioned above, many companies in Canada also use the additive in their process foods. Tim Horton's does not list their ingredients on their website; instead they ask you to phone or write to find out.
The link to the website is here which contains a link to the full list.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.