Natural and Organic in Montreal

My friend H visited us recently. She stayed with M and me while R was traveling. She noticed that I had some strange (to her) products and asked where I buy them. She specifically wanted to know about the toothpaste. Luckily, I bought a few last time and had one to give her to take home. As well, she got to take her bar soap home, like from any good B&B :-). Although she went to work from here, she said that she felt like she was on a holiday, which I was very happy to hear. Hope we meet more often, H!

I intended to send her an email listing where I buy various products. I do get asked this questions by other Montrealers too. So, here goes. This post goes out to all of my dear friends here. To you! And to yours! A description of various stores. I am thrifty. Walk as much as possible to avoid unnecessary spending. (For the record, R thinks that I am crazy. Why not just take public transport if I think driving or taking a cab when not needed is environmentally unfriendly? Bah, who wants to wait for the bus or go down multiple escalators to get to the metro system!) But I do spend a lot on things that go on or in my family.

Now for the stores…I’ll write about what I find in each store in a later post. I want to make an easy-to-refer-to table of sorts. Maybe make my savvy husband fix one up. He’s really good at that. They look a lot better than what I can get PowerPoint to do for me.

Le Frigo Vert, Centre Ville.

My first destination when I want to buy anything for personal care or for food is this Concordia University student co-op. Almost fully organic. All Concordia students are automatically members but one can also buy membership for C$20 per year. More than worth it. Non-members pay a 20% premium on products. Plenty of bulk bins for beans, flours, etc. Vegetables come in on Tuesdays. Vegetable selection is small. Local handmade snack items are available. It is open Monday-Thursday, 12-7 pm. Not open this week for some reason. Annual vacation, I suppose? Didn’t ask. Was busy buying the store out :-). Has some baby products and also organic and eco-friendly feminine products.

L’Autre Choix Mini Marche, Westmount.

The other choice.

Clara, the owner, is very friendly and knowledgeable about her products. Very helpful. She tries to bring in as many local products as possible. Almost fully organic. I believe the store is open 7 days a week. The store is a drop-off point for a few CSAs. The best part? She used to tell me not to waste anything upon seeing how much I buy. She once told me that she’d rather I buy less and use it all than that I buy a lot and waste anything. That is one kind of an ethical store I can get on board with. She stopped saying this to me now that she knows my eating habits :-). Which reminds me that I forgot to call in an order for milk. BRB. I am back. Where were we? Yeah. Milk. No. Eating habits. She has figured out that I am crazy like that. I think she is on board with that too :-). Doesn’t have products specifically intended for babies but has frozen organic fruits and vegetables. I don’t currently buy anything for a baby.

Ecollegey, NDG. New store in Plateau too. Not visited it yet.

Also mostly organic. Delivers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It isn’t very convenient for me to go there on a bus. But I do like this store too. Delivery is free if you spend >C$80. Cost comparison with the one above? I am not a comparison shopper when it comes to food. I prefer to find something healthy and convenient. That I can sustain week after week or month after month, as the case may be. When I want/need things delivered and if I can get the total above 80, I go for this. I lean more towards the store above however, as I like to encourage a relatively new, small, and good business. Ecollegey has baby-specific products like cereals, wipes, natural and organic body wash…

Couffin Bio, Centre Ville.

Quite a selection of organic and natural products. I was told that all of their produce is organic 2 years ago. I used to go there more before I discovered Clara’s store above. Clara has a much bigger selection of fruits and vegetables, I think. Couffin Bio carries organic baby supplies. Definitely explore it if you get a chance.

Boutique Bummis, Plateau.

Baby supplies and mama supplies. I used their organic cotton prefold-PUL cover diapering kits on M. Excellent customer service. Hosts various meetings like baby wearing support groups. I don’t know what other classes they have. They are very helpful. So, a phone call will tell you what other sessions they host. Focuses on Canadian-made products.

Update: The store is now, closed. But their products are available online at bummis.com

Melons & Clementines, NDG.

Nursing and other mama supplies, baby supplies. Also rents rooms out for various parenting classes and even a baby music class. Much more. I took their Infant and Child CPR class. Also, great customer service. Has a cafe and a play area for children. Parents or sitters have to watch over the little ones. No babysitting service from the store, as far as I know.

PA Supermarche, Centre Ville. More stores elsewhere. See links.

PA does not need introduction for downtowners. Mostly not organic. Has organic milk and eggs, Inewa organic sourdough bread, organic L’Ancetre hard cheeses and butter, sprouted grain or other organic cereals, Bob’s Red Mill or other gluten-free foods which were handy when M had wheat intolerance as a baby. Best part? Willing to order new products and see if there is sufficient interest among their clientele. Lowest prices of all super markets. Many employees milling around to get help finding products, especially during the day. Very busy store. When M had a dairy intolerance, they ordered calcium-fortified coconut milk drink when I requested it. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well. They pulled it out. They do have other products from the same company. Can’t say that I myself liked the coconut milk too much but I religiously bought and used it as long as they had it in stock. Calcium-fortified drinks make me feel like I have arthritis. No. Not exaggerating but that is a topic for perhaps a future post.

Provigo, all over the city.

Has some organic fruits and dairy. Dairy is more expensive than at PA.

Marche Victoria, near Plamondon Metro Station. On Victoria.

Indian (South Asian) store with best selection of Indian vegetables in town. Gets vegetable supply in on every Thursday, mid-morning. Has most Indian food basics. Con. Narrow aisles. Difficult to maneuver with stroller or even walking toddler. I don’t attempt to go there alone with M. Very difficult to keep her out of the way of other shoppers. Pro. Inexpensive food.

Marche Jolee, near Cote Sainte Catherine Metro Station, also on Victoria.

Indian (South Asian) store. Also has vegetables. Smaller selection of Indian vegetables, I feel. Easier to find South Indian foods there. Biggest positive surprise. They have frozen mango leaves. What for? If you don’t already know, you don’t need to know. Really. Trust me on this. What other surprises do they have in store (pun intended)? I wonder.

“I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why I wonder. 
 I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why I wonder.”

A joke from farewell party to the graduating class during my second year of undergrad study. Apparently, I used the phrase “I wonder” a lot, at one point. SD wrote this… couplet(?) for me. I think we had to guess whom the couplet referred to.

Pharmacie Jean Coutu, everywhere in the city.

Has several organic personal care products. Prices tend to be cheaper than Pharmaprix. Somehow has a better selection of products too. Both stores have Dora and Diego toothbrushes. Very important for M er… Me :-).

I think that is about it. This is not to imply that if I am in the vicinity of a store from which I can find something I need in a hurry, I won’t buy it. But I don’t look around. I have looked around enough, don’t you think?

There are other stores and businesses that offer similar services to ones I name above. But I am only focusing on stores with food and personal care products. Other services I mention are incidental to the focus of this post.

Disclaimer: These are strictly my opinions and impressions. No business asked me to write this, much less paid me for it. I am writing this for my friends and anyone else who is interested.

Vegetables – Villains or Vilified?

In Enid Blyton’s universe, the children buy food from farms owned by kind people whenever they’re off on their adventures. They eat tomatoes, they drink fresh, creamy milk, all the while enjoying some jolly fat ices. Reading Famous Five always sent me scampering to the refrigerator. Munch went the tomatoes. Crunch went the carrots. Many were the tomatoes that “went” with Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Huckleberry Finn.

Imagine my surprise when I read in some parenting book or email or blog that I should hide the vegetables in seemingly unhealthy concoctions so that my child will lap it up. This is not even an isolated statement. I read it everywhere, it seems to me. What? But why? They taste so good! As I remember it, my siblings and I always tried to ascertain that we got at least as much of a vegetable as the other, and if it looked like we got at least one piece more than the other, even better.

 

Why this difference? It got me wondering. And the answers came to me, all wrapped up in my Eastern heritage. It is the way we package them. They aren’t just cut up, steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, if that. We cut them up and transform them into dishes with a variety of spices, styles of cooking, even different oils used for cooking.

 

What about raw vegetables, you ask?

 

My mother bought the vegetables from a small vendor who bought the vegetables the same morning from farmers around the city. Local, always in season, and fresh. Mangoes came only in the summers. Lemons were plentiful in the winter. Not having been told to eat his spinach by pop-eye, my husband doesn’t like it very much. Yet, when July rolls around, he’ll be buying 2 bags a week from the market. Of his own accord. Local, fresh, at its peak flavour. We’ll eat each vegetable for its own distinctive taste.

 

And the Case of the Disappearing Tomatoes and Carrots should be proof enough.

“Blog and thou shalt receive” – Moi.

On the way back from breakfast and Mother Goose, I steered M’s stroller through the slush and snow and ice that adorned the sidewalks and crosswalks towards the corner grocery store. Ostensibly to buy organic bananas for M, that R and I forgot to get from Les 5 Saisons yesterday (doesn’t the name have a lovely sound to it? It sounds even better when pronounced the French way). They didn’t have any. But I did see some Anjou pears and decided to get them for my salt-chilli powder explosion of tastes craving. I was walking around, trying to see if they had any hidden away in some corner, when I noticed that many shelves were empty. I was getting quite discouraged when I noticed…a green fruit, labeled Goyava. Can this, could this… be… a guava???????? I quickly picked 2 up and rushed home to taste. And what do you know??!!!!!!! A guava!!!!! Happy to report that I’ve eaten both! R isn’t a fan, he said! But he was just being nice because he knows how crazy I am about those!

Seeing Guava in Bartlett Pear

When I was growing up, there was a guava tree behind our house. We could literally reach out of our window and pluck one out to eat. Of course, being that these guavas grew so close to our impatient childish hands, they never saw maturity. Nevertheless, guavas on branches that were out of reach of our marauding hands did ripen and give children of the neighbourhood a wonderful time. They were eaten washed, unwashed (children plucking and eating them? That’s what happens), cut, whole. But none reaches out to me across the years as clearly as eating a guava at just the right ripeness – not too ripe, not too raw – quartered, salt and red chilli powder smeared on the insides.

 

In my continuing quest to find a pear that M will eat, I bought Bartlett pears. No go. I was admiring this beautiful green fruit with white interiors and marvelling at how anyone can refuse to eat it. Suddenly, the years fell away. I was about 8. I was looking at a guava, trying to find salt and red chilli powder to dip it in. And sit down to savour it. Back to the present, I wondered if I could do the same with the pear. I did, and turns out, a Bartlett pear has just the right texture. If you’ve eaten guava whole, you know that with each bite, there is the smooth white flesh, and the hard seeds. Likewise, this pear has a grainy texture to it.

 

It worked! I re-created part of the magic. Guava still remains my favourite fruit and whenever and wherever I found it during my pregnancy, I ate it. I found out very recently that a Middle Eastern store very close to where I live stocks them. Too late for this academic year. But perhaps next year…

 

If you think that any green fruit with white insides will do, you’d be wrong, as I was. I just ate a Granny Smith apple the same way. It was good, in a green apple kind of way, but not in the magical way that tingles my taste buds at the mere thought.

 

Disclaimer: This is an opinion post, your results may vary.

Jamming with Pears

Yummy, yummy, we’ve got fruits in our tummy. Surprisingly though, M doesn’t like anything sweet. Banana? Too ripe? No, thank you. Bosc pears – blech.

 

Organic pears come by the bag in our corner grocery store and after eating almost the entire pear every time I cut one up for M, I was at my wit’s end as to what to do with the rest. Eating them one by one was slowly fading away as an option because the pears are very ripe and I don’t want them to rot away in my frig. Mustn’t waste food, and they’re far too expensive to throw down the drain if I can only make something with them.

 

I turned to the trusty internet but I couldn’t turn up anything that met all of my criteria – I am not willing to grate or bake, or nuke, oops, sorry, I meant zap in the microwave. What to do? What to do? I have put the pears en masse on different shelves in the frig., left them out on the countertop, returned them to the frig., hunting for inspiration. Got it! Jam!

 

Only after paring and coring and dicing after M went to sleep did I realize – I don’t yet know HOW. Somehow, some ‘how’ emerged and it tastes amazing, if I say so myself.

 

Ingredients:

 

Ghee 2 tsp

 

Bosc pears 6 peeled, deseeded, chopped

 

(super-ripe, they were, but they don’t have to be so ripe, I think; that’s just a side effect of my procrastination, oh no! have to be politically correct even when speaking of myself – meticulous search for inspiration, wink wink)

 

Raw sugar – roughly half the volume of cut pears + 2 tbsp

 

OR honey 4-5 squirts (Health Canada does not recommend giving honey to infants under 1 year of age)

 

Dash of cinnamon

 

Method:

 

Heat a saucepan on medium heat and pour 2 tbsp of ghee when it is hot.

 

As soon as ghee melts, add pears to it. Pears turn brown on exposure to air, but I found that it didn’t affect the taste.

 

Saute for a couple of minutes and add the the remaining ingredients, less the 2 tbsp sugar, in and let it cook until most of the water evaporates, occasionally stirring, occasionally mashing the pears with a potato masher or the back of a wide spoon.

 

The 2tbsp sugar is for the case of the munchies that develops when the tantalizing aroma of those melting flavours fills the kitchen but you have to wait.

 

Note: I have made jam in the past with a similar procedure but I have cooked it for much longer and gotten a lot more. The jam remained good in the frig. for at least a month. But this one? Pears have so much water!! I am not sure. I ate a small ice cream cup-ful, R, likewise, and I have stored small amounts for my friends B and N, to be delivered tomorrow, in time for breakfast. Which reminds me, if I want to get it to them before their breakfast, I should sleep now. The case of the grumps who ignores the yawns. Not something I want to face.

 

I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I did. So long!

On the Subject of Motherhood and Food…

…my life as a graduate student has taught me many things in life. What I never imagined it taught me, however, is how to eat cardboard. Or food that tastes like it.

Back in the days when I was learning to cook, my idea of a dinner was rice and/or lentils cooked together with frozen vegetables in a pressure cooker and either eaten as is, or with a dollop of store-bought yogurt. And perhaps some pickle. My then roommate knew how to cook real food unlike me, but continued eating this fare anyway. I knew not why. Was it because she truly has no taste buds, as she used to proclaim? I didn’t quite understand it.
I have since learned how to cook and can cook quite elaborate meals too. I even truly enjoy good food as much as the next person. But on days like today when my daughter thinks that my feet are her new best friends and my trouser legs are her chew toys, it becomes a tad hard to cook. Especially lunch. Guess what I eat! You could call it “ditto” a la Aunt Martha’s in “Rainbow Valley” by Lucy Maud Montgomery. But it doesn’t bother me in the least. As long as it is comparatively healthy and doesn’t taste worse than cardboard, it doesn’t matter. My cooperative roommate who didn’t disparage my first attempts at cooking (she has since tasted increasingly complicated dishes by me and even has her personal favorites among them) and my acquired ability to eat poor victuals are standing me in good stead.
And, have given me an uh huh! moment now. R’s mother points out a very good quality in me (she calls it that, so if you want to contest it, take it up with her), that I can eat anything and everything with necessary dietary restrictions of course, as long as it doesn’t overpower the taste buds in a negative way. Hmm…
Menu:
Breakfast: Gogo quinoa’s Muesli with Rice milk
Lunch: Errrr…. Rice with mung and red lentils, cooked with peas, and homemade yogurt (only kind of dairy that I can eat these days; long story)
Dinner: My husband, not ever having eaten such poor fare before (if he had to cook for himself, he chose eating out), turns his nose up at food like that. So…
Remember my post about capsicum fried rice? I made potato with red and yellow peppers and added the ground seasoning from that recipe. Spaghetti(?) squash stew. Rice. And afternoon’s “leftovers”.

Rule of Thirds

In mothering, as in photography, the rule of thirds applies. Let me explain what it is in photography, before I launch into my own version of the rule. When a snapshot is divided into a 3 by 3 grid, the person/object of interest should be either at a grid point or along a grid line, depending on the shape.

 

I find it difficult to follow it, however, because all of that unused space gets to me.

 

The mothering rule of thirds walked into my head this afternoon, all formulated. At lunch time. We’ve graduated to biting into a banana like we’ve seen mom do. Bolstered by this (perhaps evanescent) success, I quite naively let M continue squishing food that she snatched out of her spoon. Right after I had been teaching her to raise her hands above her head on request. She has been clapping on request lately. So, I thought the time was ripe to explore what else can be done by clapping hands. Big mistake, combining it with lunch time. She unflinchingly proceeded to grab more food and smear it, where else, on her hair. The harder I tried to wipe it off with a wet washcloth before it congealed, the more food got into her hair, as she was trying to knock my intruding hands off her precious hair that she was valiantly trying to feed. End result, a third of the food got into her. A third got onto her and/or dropped to the floor. A third remained in the bowl because I gave it up as a lost cause.

 

Rule: As the quest for independence continues, getting a third of the food on offer into her is all I can aspire for. For now, for today, for lunch, the rule applies in its current form. As time goes on, I may have to settle with an increasing denominator. I am just going to have to make my peace with that. And have extra wet washcloths ready.

 

PS: Did I say that all of that unused space gets to me and that is why I cannot follow the rule of thirds in photography? I am no expert at either mothering or photography, but I get the feeling that one will help with the other.