Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Deryn

My growing dilemma - a Nova Scotian food 'desert'

Recommended Posts

Does anyone who still posts on eGullet, other than me, live in Nova Scotia right now?

 

I have been a bit depressed lately about where I chose to buy a house, despite the fact that this area is beautiful, I am very close to the ocean from whence all manner of wonderful seafood is supposed to come, and I have a large house with good bones (and got it for a steal compared to what I might have paid for it located anywhere else in Canada), with a large kitchen - in which I store way too much food considering my household consists of only me and my dog now but I rarely cook any more (on the stove - the IP and my electric wok have seen a lot of use recently however). I eat what I like somehow despite all but it is a lonely feeling to think I may be the only one here with whom I can discuss culinary topics of regional interest with any success!

 

The truth of the matter is that, while I think Peter the Eater (whose posts I have been re-reading lately and drooling over) and my childhood travels in this area, convinced me that Nova Scotia was full of interesting and delicious food havens, the place I chose to move to in Nova Scotia is definitely not even close to where those may be. I should have known that a place sometimes referred to as 'the end of the world' may indeed actually deserve that description, at least when it comes to food choices.

 

Canso (which includes the small enclave of houses where I live, called Hazel Hill, just a mile down the road from Canso) was once a bustling fishing port but has seen very sad times of late. This is now a town of very old (and constantly dying) people, all of whom have (or had, in the case of those who have passed on now) magical stories of the 'olden days' but who have lost heart. One can find music occasionally but little laughter here any more. There are still fishermen here but most go away to fish or only fish to feed their own families it seems. There is still some 'fish packing' done locally too but I gather only for seafood to be shipped elsewhere - and there isn't much of it from what I can tell.

 

When I bought my house here a few years ago, I had visions of throwing large dinner parties, replete with fresh looking/tasting colourful foods followed by fun, laughter filled, musical evenings with people dancing and singing and playing their instruments - 'kitchen party' or ceilidh-style in my dreams. I can see now though that that dream will never come to fruition unfortunately.

 

I have lived in quite a few small towns in my life - the first being in the Yukon, far from the madding crowd and definitely far from a known purveyor of 'fresh' foods, and Frobisher Bay/Iqaluit where one fresh orange was hard to find and 10 times the price of that which was bountiful down south. I know what the food drawbacks may be in such places, but this one takes the cake. Somehow we managed up north to prepare foods that, even if a bit different from what the 'locals' ate regularly, was accepted and eagerly tried and enjoyed. I was always able to find others wherever I lived who appreciated colourful, fresh foods presented in an appetizing manner - except here it seems. They may be here (or nearby) here too but so far I have yet to unearth them - and I find the local cuisine is definitely not to my tastes - current or prospective.

 

The local co-op grocery store where, especially in winter, I am often forced to shop has recently changed 'distributors' and the shelves have been 're-lined', supposedly to make things easier to find but, from my perspective, they just showcased what the locals are eating even more sharply than ever before - and it is not good. Just about everything, on every aisle, is ultra-processed (and mostly 'junk') food, full of chemical components that one cannot even pronounce. The 'fish/seafood' products, even those labelled as fresh, are mostly, according to the 'meat guy', shipped in from everywhere else and defrosted/relabelled. The laws now say that is ok I gather. There IS local fishing but the laws there, for some reason I cannot yet fathom, also mean that it cannot be sold in the local store or from the local docks (legally). Rarely do I see any product still made or produced in Nova Scotia or even Canada in this local shop. There is hamburger - but it comes in a tube and is repackaged in house. I am getting very picky in my old age I guess but I won't touch it because I have no idea where it comes from or what may be 'in' it. Much of the 'meat' actually seems to come in plastic tubs labelled 'riblets' - they sit on shelves and the floor away from the refrigerated section. Apparently those are a big seller. For me, that is so unappetizing that I cannot bring myself to buy them to try. And it seems no one here uses fresh herbs at all. Even the local pizza parlor uses only canned and jarred toppings, nothing fresh. And this is definitely a white Wonder bread, bologna and margarine town. At any rate, I buy chickens for my dog at the local grocery but very little else lately since it so depresses me. 10 minutes walking around and reading labels there takes my appetite completely away - but I am sure that is helping me lose a bit of weight and saves me money (except on the $15 chickens) though so there is always a silver lining I guess. :) 

 

I have tried, very carefully, to talk to locals about what foods they like to eat - but, frankly, what they like to eat these days, is what that store carries. I can survive fine but it makes me sad that I cannot see a way to invite any of them for those dinners I pictured because, though I know they would be polite, I am now fairly certain that the food I like to make is so far removed from what their traditional local tastes are they would either not eat much or they would not like it. I just cannot cook according to their tastes - I would get it wrong given my now longstanding love of 'fresh' foods with colour and a lot of 'taste' but not drowned in gravy any more or coated with fat and accompanied by one carb after another. I don't want to do that to them. They like their fish and seafood mostly deep-fried - a technique I never really liked but definitely cannot handle these days. I like my seafood much more 'nekkid' so to speak. They like their food overcooked and much of it sweet - sweet meat, sweet salads, sweet coated vegetables and heavy sweet desserts - as I discovered when I was once invited next door for dinner - where frankly I did what I would expect those same neighbours to do if they came here - I ate a bit and was polite but went home hungry. Unless I prepared something very safe in summer like perhaps a well done plain steak on the grill and offered sweet steak sauce to go with - I might chance that sometime - I just don't think I can accommodate them - and as a hostess that would be, as it always has been, my primary aim. So, as a good neighbour, I give them groceries once in a while (a few steaks I have found far afield, some freeze-dried treats - which they accept politely but honestly look horrified at) and I have received the odd bit of lobster or shrimp back on occasion which I accept with delight - but they do not divulge their secrets as to where they get them.

 

I am certain that other areas of the province are culinary heavens - there is amazing food to be found in places like Halifax I know, and in the valley (Annapolis) but here ... not much that I can see unfortunately.

 

I am ok personally when it comes to the food I like to eat. I am getting a bit bored but what I like is often quick to prepare which is good. I eat a lot of Asian primarily - heavy on the veg and light on the meat, with a zing to it all - (thank you, sriracha! - which I cannot buy here either) though some of the ingredients can be difficult to obtain within a day's drive of here. In essence though I have found that this place is just not the fresh food and seafood haven I had hoped it might be and I fear it will be years before I can move again, if ever - so I better get used to it!

 

I can 'garden' and someday I will set up my indoor garden fully and I have my freeze-dryer (something that no one here has a clue about) but what I am missing most I think is the companionship of 'foodies' (hate that term but you know what I mean) in some proximity, especially those who may have or who still live in the north/northeastern area of the mainland, who have 'tips' for me on where to go to find the true jewels when it comes to foodstuffs - including the secret hideaways for buying really fresh local seafood, the 'grass fed' animals and free range eggs and 'organic' veggie farms. Summer is better when I can roam a bit but even that is iffy since I don't quite know where to roam (and roaming these days with an aging large dog isn't the easiest either). There are farmer's markets in summer (though again one needs to drive at least 70 miles each way and get there early morning - not something I am good at doing) but if there are other secret places to get things like that closer by, I don't know about them.

 

I am not related to anyone here - and the network of 'related' folks is very tight - they keep their secrets well apparently or they just don't have any of that sort more probably. Funeral fare (I haven't yet seen a wedding - there are few young people left here any more I gather) is like what I remember from childhood - white bread egg/cheese/lunchmeat sandwiches and 'butter tart' rich, sweet squares. This is the standard served at all social and business meeting functions from what I can gather. I generally offer my condolences and depart fairly quickly when that part of the ritual is ushered out of the kitchen. I feel badly at those times (even though I know I won't be much missed) but I think it better to leave than to sit with an instant coffee and an empty plastic plate in front of me when these very friendly and genuinely nice people feel it is their responsibility to make me eat something - and I know I just can't bring myself to do so. My bad. I now have a personally trained palate and aesthetic sense that no longer seems to fit in a small town of this type (non-transient). It is not their fault.

 

If I had a million dollars, I would start a restaurant here and take the massive losses that I would be certain to incur as I tried to 'educate' the locals (at a price they can afford to pay - this is a poor area now) about anything other than what I call 'junk food'. But, I don't and I am realizing I am too old to take on that crusade, even if Jamie Oliver were to visit my establishment on a weekly basis to help promote it all. I asked about what kind of a restaurant might work here and was bluntly told that unless one sold hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and (crappy) ice cream (and little else) to forget even trying. Not even good pizza with fresh and different toppings (i.e beyond pepperoni and cheese) would fly here. I thought about offering to give cooking demos at the grocery store but a) there is no room in those crowded junk food aisles to set up a station and b) after numerous conversations with the locals I have determined they are just not open to real 'change' in their diets no matter what I might convince them to taste under those circumstances and c) it would probably devolve into me inserting frozen breaded highly processed chicken bits into a Cuisinart oven and trying to make some kind of sauce that replicates the taste of the sweet commercially produced stuff they like to dip that sort of thing into around these parts.

 

It just makes me sad that the locals see no other option but to eat a massive amount of junk food. I am no 'angel' but I don't eat processed foods if I can help it and I am still chunky, but, it is sad to see so many Canadians, especially around these parts, who must be now composed primarily of chips and candy, boxed and frozen pizza, and fake 'side dishes' out of a package - since there is little else they can buy in the store. In larger, less remote places, they at least have options so it is more their fault than those of the stores - here, I can only blame the 'distributors', an evolving tradition based on foods probably best eaten if one is working outdoors under harsh circumstances year round, and governments who have stopped even locals from buying their own fishing 'products' in favour of importing shrimp and other seafood from polluted warm waters in far east countries, or, even though more local, 'farmed' fish raised under circumspect conditions off our own coast.

 

I should mention that, if I can describe or preferably show a package of a product I would like to see stocked, the store will try (not always successfully) to bring it in but then I am the only one who buys it and the rest may go bad if I don't buy it all which makes me feed badly so I don't do that much any more. I have also toyed with the idea that someone (me, if I had that million bucks) should just start a store that would stock all the things I think people (especially me) should be eating/using/etc. but which are unavailable here currently - but again that would be a real losing proposition here.

 

Ok .. I am going back to being upbeat and doing most of my posting about the marvels the rest of you get to experience from the fresh foods around you in warmer or more western climes. :) And then in a few weeks I will drive back down south and enjoy what I can along the way and during my stay there so that I don't feel so sorry that I cannot find the same in this area - because the locals are not interested in that sort of fare and what they demand IS eventually what the store will/would stock - which I believe would be better for everyone. Ah well - can't fight city hall it is said.

 

Having dumped all that (with which I have no doubt unfortunately discouraged anyone new from ever moving to or visiting this area of a very beautiful province :( - sorry about that), I will reiterate my first question ... does anyone on eGullet still reside in (any part of) Nova Scotia, other than me? I know Darienne has some family in Halifax but I don't think they post here, do they? Anyone else? 

 

 


Edited by Deryn minor correction (log)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife and I have often fantasized about purchasing a second home and spending months in  particular place that we visit with some frequency but the thing, other than money, that puts a damper on our fantasy is a situation similar to what you are describing (though not quite as dire, I think).  The area is three hours from a first-rate grocery and more than an hour from a small, but plucky one which will attempt to obtain anything we want if we notify them well in advance.  The climate is not conducive to growing anything other than cool weather vegetables. Growing fresh fruit is out of the question.  Farmers market?  Nope.  The coastal scenery is stunning but seafood isn't easy to come by and the only local restaurant that prepared somewhat interesting food stopped serving evening meals a few years ago.  An artisan bakery came and went in a blink of an eye. 

 

We love the place and will continue to visit as long as we are able but living there would cause psychological challenges because, like you, food variety and quality is important to us, as is being able to enjoy that food with others.  You may be in luck, however.  Depending on how the U.S. presidential election goes, Canada may have a small flood of immigrants from south of the border and, surely, some of them will share your desire for good, fresh food.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am 'close to' Cape Breton but not close enough to benefit from those people who may be lured here due to what they perceive as a problem if the American election does not go as they would like it to (not that I truly believe many will actually emigrate anyway - though they may visit the island at least due to all the recent publicity). If they do come though I would definitely consider setting a much higher price for my house than I paid (up as far as the new market might bear) and selling it! :)

 

The views here are nice but the town itself is not exactly 'picturesque' like some further down the coast (local apathy being what it is). Canso is also is a bit off the beaten track and will be passed by by many trekking to the island since one has to divert over an hour on a 2 lane (paved) windy/hilly road to get here. There is one draw here for some in the summer - the Stan Rogers Music Festival - but even it no longer brings out the crowds (who stay only a few days at best and seem happy with hot dogs and ice cream while here) it used to.

 

Thanks though for understanding what I was trying to say. You are smarter than I was in just deciding, however much you like the town you like to visit, that moving there even semi-permanently would be a mistake. I will cope here but it is not as ideal as I had once hoped it might be. I would love to put it all down to just a touch of 'cabin fever' which can be easily assuaged with warm breezes and sunshine, but, I have realized that much more would be needed to cure what ails in this case.

 

I would love to delight in local foods as the locals apparently do, but, what they are now eating just makes me sad. And yes, I would like people to share good food with too. I 'get' the concept of 'food deserts' in large urban centers but frankly didn't expect to find that sort of thing in the boondocks here for some reason. Though the reasons for that being so are not quite the same as they are in large cities ... a 'food desert' it is nonetheless. 

 

I am sure that, if there was the will to make this a culinary destination (such as PEI as a whole has tried to do with some success) for tourists, it could be done ... but there is just no heart or interest here and that is frustrating. One 'edging into elderly' person cannot move this mountain. But, feel free to come visit - I will be happy to feed you and yours! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am sorry to hear this. More and more people in North America are living single, and it creates situations like this.

 

The upside of your situation is that it probably would be an inexpensive area to open some kind of restaurant. El Bulli was in a similar area. When the restaurant lost its Michelin star in the 80s when the chef left, they were no longer in the guidebooks, and tourism dried up to practically nothing.

 

You might not need a million dollars. You could always do an underground 'experience' type popup in people's homes. Other options might be a food truck, a small stand/shack type place, or a hole-in-the wall. There's always the option to open a B&B -some have breakfast cafes where anyone can eat, not just the lodgers.

 

Maybe you could try starting a gourmet 'club'? There are online resources to help you now, meetup.com, FaceBook, craigslist, etc. At first, just have meetings in public areas, when the weather improves, like a potluck in a park. Start with simple things, a theme to cook and talk about, (say, a region, or a dish) and see how it evolves.

 

Hopefully, you'll see some signs of Spring in a few weeks!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the food truck idea (I'm sure that's what keeps a local middle eastern restaurant afloat in a sea of pachinko parlors nearby), and I really like the food club idea. A food club can be flexible - anything from gardening to fast food reviews, and encouraging people to take pride in their food heritage by sharing their family favorites and heritage special occasion items might lead to change from the inside out.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Deryn, I'm sorry you're in such a discouraging situation. While we wait to see whether there are other eGer's still active in your province, let's keep brainstorming.  I really like Lisa's food club idea and helenjp's expansion on it.  Does Canso have a library?  If so, and if it's as moribund as the libraries in many small U.S. towns, the librarian(s) might welcome some sort of culinary explorations idea.  Pick a country or culture, feature a book or three about said area, bring some relevant food.  Does Canso have a school?  If so, teacher(s) might appreciate the opportunity to liven up geography or social studies classes with some culinary examples of other cultures. This is hardly your original vision of throwing big dinner parties, then clearing the floor for a ceilidh (I have friends who grew up on that tradition, but they aren't in your area) but maybe, just maybe you'll find a few other outliers in your population. If you can hook up with younger folks you'll all get that intergenerational boost as well.

  • Like 3

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a kind of a mixed bag I think. When it comes to me personally, I can and will continue to eat what I want to eat where ever I am so that is ok, even if ingredients are difficult to get easily around here. When it comes to the town and the locals themselves, I doubt that just one complete outsider can make much of a dent in how they think about food or eat, no matter how energetic, resourceful or enthusiastic that person may be. I think it is sad that they choose to eat so poorly (in my humble estimation) and not seek to change what foods are available to them but I can see why that has happened and I doubt it is within my power to fix that either.

 

So it is fun to dream about the kitchen parties, the supper clubs, the quirky food trucks, the catering establishment etc. but after doing some preliminary investigation locally I have determined that those just aren't a good fit here, especially at this time.

 

Thanks for all your ideas - they are all excellent and believe me have all crossed my mind at some time. I don't give up easily if I think any idea has merit and is even possibly achievable - but, I am not yet certain that I should even try to 'change the world' here for others, sad though I think it is that their world appears to me to be so limited food-wise. Having previously taken on the challenge of trying to educate elderly people in a retirement home about tantalizing their palates with new and different tastes, and enjoying the experience but seeing that they just viewed me as entertainment for the most part, perhaps I am a bit once bitten twice shy about all this now. It was a very tiring (though enjoyable most of the time) and expensive venture - a good experience but I am sure I was not successful in my original aim unfortunately.

 

I offered to help at the school last year - a volunteer group prepares breakfasts for all the kids - till I found out that that consists of opening a box of cereal, pouring the milk and wiping up the tables. Sorry .. I may sound horrible but I am not getting up at 6 am to do that any more without the prospect of a bit of culinary fun which does not seem to be on any local agenda I can find. I gather there are about 30 students - from kindergarten to grade 12. It isn't even called a 'school' - but an 'education center' (we are very socialist here!). Since I don't have small kids any more though I don't know what the school might want/need in the way of extra help (other than for this breakfast thing) ... they do employ some 'assistant' type locals to help I think with basic skills, etc. Over time I may investigate that idea, Smithy - sounds like fun to me but I am not sure it will fit with the school curriculum and I don't have much pull here ... but we will see.

 

Smithy - yes, there is a very tiny library ... and indeed there is a 'book club' too. I was invited to go to their meetings - and wanted to but missed quite a few for a variety of reasons beyond anyone's control and let that go for the time being. Your idea is a good one though I would have to see if there is any interest there. The books that small book club (about 6 members I think - all female) generally reads are along the 'trash novel' line primarily from what I can tell from their emails. I wonder how I could get them to read a cookbook they have never even heard of before? Maybe 'Ideas in Food' would intrigue! :) Or Grant Achatz's accounting of his life. Probably too serious for around here ... perhaps Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh or Willy Wonka would be better to suggest. Or Charles Dickens near the holidays. So off I go on another flight of fancy since I know there ARE many books which are not explicitly cookbooks but from which one can glean 'menu' ideas. Indeed, I have given dinner parties based on books myself in the past.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Deryn,

I took a look at Canso on google maps. At first it was a puzzle that much of the area didn’t appear to have any roads. Then I realized that probably half of the land is a designated wilderness area. Clearly there will never be a big population cluster there, not enough to sustain any kind of business.  I like the ideas of a popup or meetup, though, which don’t require a risky financial investment on your part, as a food truck or B&B would.

 

I noticed on the map that there is a hospital.  Perhaps they’d be interested in partnering with you on some informal community events that promote healthy food and nutrition. Maybe with you doing some cooking demos at the co-op with local ingredients and items that the co-op could try selling. I see on the LearningCenter’s website that they have a youth health program--maybe you could offer an after-school cooking class for the kids. Keep it simple. Help build demand for the kinds of food you’d like to be available, hopefully find a few kindred spirits along the way.

 

As far as a pop-up or meetup, I’d reach out the businesses in town like the hospital and the bank, who might have an interest in letting their employees know about an event like that.  I also see a seasonal campground and cottage rental site nearly.  Visitors might be interested if you do it during the summer.


Edited by LindaK formatting and spelling troubles (log)
  • Like 2


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about a B&B as others have suggested, but keep it very small, renting rooms for a few weeks, focusing on folks for whom the solitude would be a plus - a retreat for artists, writers, photographers, hikers, etc.  Market toward single women like yourself.  And require them to show up with a few bags of foodstuffs and recipes. 

 

Advertise in publications like Writer's Weekly, AARP.  It would require minimal initial investment - not much more than if a friend or two were coming for a visit (although you might need a business license/permit of some sort and insurance).

 

I've visited Nova Scotia and Cape Breton and that sounds like absolute heaven to me.

 

Maybe, if the price is right, I'll be your first customer. 

 

And I feel the need to add here that I'm dead serious.


Edited by Jaymes (log)
  • Like 6

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The hospital has 6 beds but apparently they also have a dietitian - who I believe lives next door to me but I have not met her yet. I gather she came from around these parts originally but I think she just moved back after some time away. She may also work with the school - I don't know. But, hospital diets have never actually made too many I know jump with joy, even where there are many dietitians in larger facilities. :( There is always a doctor in town but we don't 'own' one. They rotate in for a week at a time from other places. My understanding is that the hospital more often houses hospice patients so they can be close to home when they pass, retirement home overflow and a basic lab than anything else. Anyone with any significant medical problem is shipped out or sent to Guysborough or Antigonish or New Glasgow depending on what it is, etc. There is also a small retirement home as well. There is one bank but I don't bank there so I don't know their staff. 

 

To my mind, one of the biggest issues here may be that not enough people grow a(n edible) garden any more (if they ever did). Once I get my property down south sold (heaven knows when that will be) I may be able to start getting people to realize the benefit of growing of herbs, edible flowers, etc. Right now I am not here during the spring (or fall) so getting my own in outside is iffy at best.

 

There are 3 'sort of restaurants' - the pizza joint, a small lunch café, and, just outside of town, a small motel which has a dining room. The owner died a while back but someone still appears to be running it. He was German and his food wasn't bad but I imagine the menu is now standard 'working man's 'fare' (since most of the motel visitors seem to be driving electrical or construction trucks of some kind). There is an empty building in town that the motel owner apparently once used to own and had as a second restaurant. I enquired about whether it was still equipped but was told no, it had been stripped. Too bad. I had thought that if it had any equipment, I might be able to make it work to house a tea house or something simple like that for fun. Nice location near the docks but I wasn't here when it was still open so I don't know what kind of food they used to serve.

 

It would not do me any good 'politically' to open a place that directly competed with any of these - so forget the designer pizzas, paninis or any kinds of interesting sandwiches/soups/even salads, or a fine dining establishment. They would not 'get' my concept for Asian food (they are used to what I call 'brown, over-sauced, heavy on the soy, sweet, almost tasteless Chinese-Canadian fare'). 'Tea' might fly but probably mostly with the women - and tourists in the summer. The guys would want hamburgers and heavier stuff I know so they wouldn't just drop in for lunch. Donair might be saleable too but that is not a specialty of mine. If I ever did open something here, just supplying it would be an issue since this place is not exactly on a main supply route for anyone. That is kind of why I really want to learn more about whatever hidden gems of farms, etc. there might be within a reasonable distance - for myself but also just in case I see some opportunity I can handle to do more down the line. Even lobster rolls are problematic here in the season most would want to eat them, because the lobster season here doesn't coincide with tourist season. You can always get lobster somewhere around the province on the coast but the seasons move from one place to another - and the larger tourist draw areas seem to have the best seasons. Not to mention, as I said, that I am not sure I can really legally buy it locally for resale purposes (much less for eating at home).

 

Not making excuses here - this is fun to think about and I thank you all for contributing your thoughts - but, when it comes to helping the town itself with developing a different perspective on food, etc., as a real outsider, I don't think I will be able to make much headway - at least for some time. That might be different if I was hired officially for a role of that kind by the government or had a real chef's background/reputation that I could throw around but neither is the case. Would be nice to help improve their lives in any one of the excellent ways you have all suggested (and I have thought about too) but I am really not going to focus on that for now ... if it is meant to be, it will happen somehow in due course I think. I think though that the key (if I decide to pursue it sometime) may be through the library.

 

On the other hand, how much would you charge me if you come to visit, Jaymes? :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

May be a silly idea but maybe you could interest the book club readers in some of the popular books that combine cooking and mysteries?  There are several series or stand alones that were popular when I was still the "Library Lady."  Diane Mott Davidson is an author that was probably one of the most popular  The recipes aren't all that complicated or exotic but may at least spark some food conversations among the group.  The genre is a big one and growing quickly.  Might be fun to cook or bake something from each book to share at the next meeting!   I know from experience how hard it can be moving and not fitting in.  Five years after moving here I was invited to appear on  a panel to represent a newcomer.  Yikes.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm envisioning having your book club meet on a lovely summer evening, reading Bourdain's Typhoid Mary book, and you serving a lovely variety of ice creams and sorbets...

 

One of my neighbors is a dietitian for a dialysis clinic, we've been collaborating for a few years now on recipes for specific patients with dietary restrictions. You may be able to forge some sort of friendship over foods your neighbor recommends for people to make at home, rather than the on-site cafeteria situation.

 

Anyway, until you start a club (gourmet supper club, literary comestible salon, etc.) you won't know who is lurking out there just waiting to participate. If no one shows up, well, at least you'll have a better knowledge of the community.

 

For copyright reasons the library probably won't let you screen films or TV shows, but, if you can meet privately, you could have screening nights. There are some good food films out there, and some tv shows, too. (we have threads here on eG about them) (I think IowaDee would like 'Pie in the Sky'.)

 

I mean honestly, even those of us living in big cities don't have it much better. Sure, here in Phoenix I have great markets selling foods from around the world, and some interesting restaurants and food trucks, etc. But, the number of hardcore food enthusiasts in relation to the general population is pretty small. People are just plain cooking less. I joined a gourmet supper club I found on meetup.com and attended an 'all appetizers' event. People brought: pigs in a blanket made with canned vienna sausage and crescent rolls from a tube, krab salad from the grocery deli on Ritz crackers, Ro-Tel queso dip and Doritos, a crudites platter from the supermarket, 'French onion' dip (sour cream and Lipton soup mix) with Ruffles, pre-sliced pepperoni on a plate, and a few other delicacies. The drinks were jello shots and bottled wine coolers. I was tasked with bringing dessert, so, I brought several flavors of mousse and three kinds of cookies. I had to explain to people that they should try small servings of mousse, and tried to show them to scoop it into juice glasses. They didn't listen, they took it upon themselves to load cereal bowls of it, ate some, got full and left a lot behind -which then gave me the reputation with the event hostess that I made desserts that no one liked. I did not return.

 

I am not trying to discourage you, honestly if you can manage to have a better event than that, then you'll really have something. Someone there must at least watch Food Network.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting - I would technically qualify - my nearest supermarket is 13 miles away although the nearest place I can go for bread and milk and basics is 6 miles away. They do have some fresh fruit and veg but it's fairly minimal although the non perishable stuff they try hard to keep an OK range. They are well used by the small town they are in.

 

I actually do most of my shopping online and comes from a store 40 miles away, because it's a better store for the products I want. I am at the edge of their range but clearly there are enough people in the valley ordering that it's still profitable. They do tell you when the van is in the area to encourage less driving and the drivers occasionally phone if they are in the area to see if it is convenient to deliver.

 

Is online grocery shopping basically not a thing in the US? I get the sense from that report probably not?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'Just desserts' for a 'foodie' who inadvertently moved to a 'food desert'? :) 

 

There are a fair number of parallels between how a rural food desert is defined in the US (according to that study you linked, helen) vs here - though I also think there are some differences too, not that that changes much except perhaps in the solution area. The local store here is 'fed' by the larger one in the town 70 miles away (or at least their distributor). Add on the costs of transportation and our prices out here, for older produce, etc. (I swear we get what they were about to throw away much of the time) are higher than they are for the larger town. On the other hand, they are lower than it would cost to travel to buy one's foods - if you figure in gas and time, etc. to drive the longer distance for more selection and perhaps a fresher product. But, yes, the population demographics for a 'food desert' to develop and persist appear right on the money when it comes to this place as well.

 

I see that where I spend time in NC is absolutely NOT classified as a food desert - and I am pretty sure Ottawa in Ontario where I have spent a fair bit of time as well wouldn't be either these days, by anyone's definition, so it is possible that the deprivation I am feeling also is somewhat heightened by the fact of that contrast between those places I am used to and here in the wasteland.

 

This is definitely a complex problem and the solutions, should anyone actually be interested in even trying to find them, are equally as difficult. As I said, a single old lady is probably not going to move that mountain in this instance, especially when, from what I can see, the local people don't even realize there is a problem.

 

Lisa ... horrible as it may sound, your experience with the 'gourmet club' doesn't surprise me these days either - but I am sorry to hear about it. I certainly would not have returned either. I am fairly sure that would also happen here - or worse - which does influence my thoughts on whether I should even try to start such a group or not here. Sad commentary on western society today.

 

I am almost willing to bet that people in poor areas of many eastern countries eat a lot better balanced, healthier and more interesting diets than most of us in North America (and much of Europe as well I suspect) today - and it is our own fault. And yet we persist in trying to get those 'poor underprivileged people' overseas to eat what we eat as though it was better for them, while they pull truly fresh vegetables, herbs and other staples from their fields and landscape on a daily basis. Not all 'progress' is good.

 

Rachael Ray, The Chew, along with a few excellent and several decent (and less decent programmatically but not bad in terms of what foods they promote) Canadian food shows are easily found on what little tv we have available to most here. Food Network costs extra so it may not be as watched here, but, the rest are on network television. PBS was also good on Saturdays - though right now suddenly they seem to have mostly 'paid programming' instead of Jacques Pepin, Ming, Lydia, etc. for some reason ... not sure if that change is permanent .. hope not. I doubt many are watching though even if they can. Wish I knew about that - haven't been in many people's houses but the few I have were tuned elsewhere if the tv was on.

 

While the grocery store here is technically a 'co-op' (belongs to and is controlled by the locals all of whom, including me, paid a small amount to 'join'), the fact is that we are really 'owned' when it comes to the food on the shelves (what the store here can even order) and the placement of those foods, by a much larger firm - Sobey's - who now own the right to 'distribute' here. And people here just accept that is what it is .. don't seem concerned at all with the junk and highly processed foods taking up 2/3rds, if not more, of the store (which also carries a smattering of hardware goods and lumber).

 

Tere - I don't know about US and larger Canadian cities when it comes to 'online shopping' but the costs to order foods delivered from even Halifax to here would probably be prohibitive in Canada. Canadians do like online shopping but I don't think they do much grocery shopping online. Costco for instance - which is big with Canadians (nearest store to me is at least a 5 hour drive and because of that generally requires an overnight stay and for me to board my dog to get there) - doesn't offer any fresh food online.

 

The internet, to me, is a fascinating thing in that it can bring together people with common interests who, in 'olden days' would never have found each other - and makes us feel as though we are part of a much larger group, but, it can also be isolating as well when one realizes those people with those shared interests are not just down the street and there will not be any face to face contact that can renew the spirit - and in this case, the palate. When one reads eGullet daily one can come to believe that most people actually would be interested in 'good food' - since food sustains life ... how much more basic can it be? - but, in this fast paced world it seems that too many are just living on what they think is 'fast food' but it is really junk.

 

I doubt we will find a solution here for the 'food desert' issue (here or wherever you are either) but I want to thank you all for contributing and warming up this dull, cold March week for me at least. You all helped me sort through something that was, I admit, getting me down a bit. I greatly appreciate that effort. I am going to ponder a bit about what 'I' personally can do (if anything) to help, in any way, enlighten the locals here over time. But, in any event, I will just keep on keeping on when it comes to what I prepare and eat - and hope to someday find a kindred soul or two to share it with me here at the 'end of the world' - there must be some who think similarly out here somewhere! :) 

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting, Costco does do fresh food online here, I was looking for a raclette wheel a few weeks ago and it showed up as one of the cheaper places. I guess in part it's easier for online food delivery to flourish as overnight delivery is feasible to most parts of the U.K.

 

our most deserty place would probably be up in the Scottish Highlands, there certainly are areas there where it's hard to get hold of fresh fruit and veg unless you grow your own.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Deryn - I am so sorry your retirement dreams seem to have gone off the tracks. I don't know anything about Nova Scotia but I have always lived in relatively poor, rural areas, including some time in Grand Isle county Vermont (3 sides Lake Champlain, one side Canada. The border was less than a mile north of the town where I taught.) One thing I can say for sure - in areas like these it takes time and effort to be accepted as part of the community and until that happens any attempts to alter the status quo will probably be seen as interference. Part time residence makes that even more difficult. I would suggest getting to know your neighbors - maybe over tea and some really good nibbles - and doing a lot of listening. Even here in Virgil, NY - only 15 miles or so from the very sophisticated small city of Ithaca, recent transplants (especially from Ithaca!) are looked at with skepticism. (I married a native so I am border line ok).  If you can find a common interest of any sort (gardens? genealogy? Downton Abbey? ) and connect with one person you may find the community opening up to you - then you can start some means of improving the food situation. Maybe a community garden?

And there is the unspoken question - is this a community to which you really want to belong? If not, what are your options?

Good luck, what ever steps you take...

 

 

  • Like 7

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Deryn said:

On the other hand would you....come to visit, Jaymes? :) 

 

So I checked - $500 rt air Houston/Halifax; $500 for car rental.  Perfectly doable. 

 

Can't make it this summer, but probably next.

 

Is it too early to start planning an eGullet Nova Scotia meet-up?

 

 


Edited by Jaymes (log)
  • Like 6

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you a full-time-enough resident to be a constituent of a member of parliament?  Getting your local rep to sit down with you for a half hour to explain the reasoning behind the law that selling fresh seafood off the docks is forbidden would be fascinating... and if it is 75-year-old protectionism that serves no purpose any more, maybe you could get the law rescinded.  Give the fisherfolk a new market, draw people in who think you you did, etc.  Somebody might even appreciate that you did it.

  • Like 5

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reason I am still only part-time here (but at this time, and for the past 2 or so years, it is more here than there) is that I still have property down south and am still, even after years of sort of working on it, trying to sort things out there and pack it all up to the point that I can start to fix it up so I can then sell it. Long story but it has been slow going. At any given time I can only be 'resident' officially in one country but I hold passports for both. I spend winters and summers here - and drive down to NC in the spring and fall since I am not a hot weather person so I find myself totally enervated if the heat and humidity are too high in NC and I get nothing done. Plus the driving weather (and traffic loads) are usually better in those seasons.

 

There are many places in Nova Scotia (further down the coast and also on Cape Breton Island and in Antigonish) where it seems that at least someone is allowed to sell from the docks or close by or from a truck along the road. Not sure why it is that that is not legal here - I believe it has to do with semi-political infighting between towns in this county (which now mostly consists of unincorporated 'towns'). I do know that the Fisheries people however practically live on the docks sometimes to ensure that boats coming in unload directly to trucks that set off for parts unknown and though I know some locals have an 'in' somehow, I don't nor do tourists. I suppose I could phone someone in the Fisheries department and ask them why this is, etc. All I know right now is what locals have told me. Could be that the fishermen themselves don't even mind though if they can sell for more elsewhere - this would be a very small market here.

 

Will I stay here forever? That is a question I ask myself frequently. The situation for someone who is not related to anyone else here - my kids are thousands of miles in either direction and don't or won't travel often (at least to here) - is not as ideal as I once thought it could be, especially as one ages - and that is above and beyond just the food issues I have discussed here. But, one thing I know for sure is that I need all my ducks moved here and/or sold off before I contemplate moving once again. Frankly, I would be happy being a nomad seeking out, like Smithy and her husband do during the winter, all the wonderful little towns and food surprises across the US and Canada ... living in a class B RV ... but I don't think that is practical alone at this time in my life.

 

Jaymes .. I am saving up for your airfare and car rental! Good deal on the airfare - hope that part holds up till next summer! :) Hope you will stay longer than the 2 hours it will take me to show you round this town.


Edited by Deryn spelunking correction (log)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Deryn said:

Jaymes .. I am saving up for your airfare and car rental! Good deal on the airfare - hope that part holds up till next summer! :) Hope you will stay longer than the 2 hours it will take me to show you round this town.

 

No no no, silly girl. I'll pay of course (I edited previous post to remove confusion)!

 

Would come this summer - sounds idyllic - but already obligated elsewhere.  

 

You won't need to spend a lot of time showing me around. You and I have much in common and we'll have tons to talk about. 

 

Not to mention cooking and eating. Doubt I'll be able to import any fresh fruit from the Rio Grande Valley. 

 

But I'm pretty sure I can schlep several dozen hand-made pork tamales from these nice folks: http://www.houstonpress.com/location/alamo-tamale-and-taco-6796427


Edited by Jaymes (log)
  • Like 3

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Laughing my head off, Jaymes. Upthread I switched it up on you when I asked you how much you would charge me for you to come to visit. Wasn't your fault at all. I was sneaky.

 

If you come at the right time, we will find a place 'down on the tickle' as it is termed here (just down the road a mile or so) to pick wild blueberries or walk around and steal apples off the wild trees or pick the rosehips down by the water or raid my rhubarb patch so worry not about fresh fruit, at least the more ordinary types, in summer. Not sold in any store but I like to 'forage'. :) 'Dessert' in the 'desert' to go with those hot tamales! I can't wait!


Edited by Deryn (log)
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Deryn, I have been following along on your thread, but I have been silent only because I can't think of anything to solve your problem. I wanted you to know I feel for you, even though I'm not smart enough to come up with any magical fixes. 

 

I know it can be tough trying to move to a new small community, but when I have done so, I was always a kid. That is an entirely different animal than what you are facing. As one gets older, it gets harder and harder to meet new people and make friends. I think ElainaA's thoughts about looking for places where you can make potential friends first and then working slowly toward focusing on food and cooking are good ones. 

 

Is there a 4-H program active in your area? I remember taking cooking classes at a classmate's mom's house through 4-H in VT. You would be perfect as an instructor for something like that, if you could convince the folks in charge, and this could lead to social contacts with parents interested enough in food to send their kids to your class. They also focus on raising produce and livestock, and even if you're not expert, or even interested in those areas, again it could lead to contacts whereby you might score local produce and meat products. If 4-H isn't active, maybe there's another civic organization there. Small towns tend to have these sorts of things. Grange seems to be American, but I think the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star organizations are pretty widespread. They both have dinners all the time, and many of the Eastern Stars I knew when I worked for them in their head office in NC were phenomenal cooks.

 

I'm just going to briefly mention that churches often focus as the heart of rural social life, and provide a pathway to the newcomer to meet many others, and potentially develop contacts. Many churches are also known for potluck dinners or fundraiser dinners. The quality varies, but it would be a way to quickly meet the good cooks in your community, if their are any. 

 

eGullet will lull you into thinking that it's easy to find people like us anywhere. If you consider that there are only 29 online as I write this, out of all the 300 million Americans, and probably many more than that millions of English-speaking people worldwide, it begins to register that the odds of finding anyone like us in a community as small as yours are not very good. :(

 

The only other thing I might offer is that I would give serious thought to whether hunkering down in the A/C during our brutal summers in NC, but being able to enjoy a better food and social life is really worse to you than a future in Nova Scotia. I'm sure you already have, but it sounds like you may be having serious misgivings, and your decision is not completely written in stone yet.

 

Whatever you decide, I hope it makes you happy. *Hugs* :smile:

  • Like 5

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've lived in small towns like that in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They do tend to be very closed circles, and you'll often be a permanent outsider ("come-from-away") if your grandfather didn't go to kindergarten with the neighbour's grandfather. It's unfortunate, but there you have it (ElaineA was completely correct). 

 

As she also pointed out, taking too activist a stance -- especially before you've built some sort of social position in the community -- will be received poorly. Those who choose to stay and grit it out in these small, hardscrabble communities are very sensitive to condescension (real or perceived) and will tend to bristle at any suggestion that their way of doing things isn't ideal ("it was good enough for my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather and...").

 

CDH, the "selling-from-the-dock" thing isn't protectionism. Fish intended for sale must, by law, pass through a packing plant that's been inspected and certified by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (provides the same kind of oversight the FDA and USDA share in the US). Some skirt the regulations, of course, and enforcement is pretty variable. If you're supplying 20 restaurants "under the table," you -- and they -- can expect something more than a slap on the wrist. If you're selling to tourists from a Coleman in the back of your pickup to help make this month's mortgage payment, the likelihood of serious repercussions is a lot lower. 

 

  • Like 7

"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm so glad we have less regulation here in NC. It makes native seafood and freshwater harvest available to us folks who want it. Sorry to hear this tale of a fishing village and government who make the local fruits of the sea unavailable to the locals.

 

In my local fish monger, we have fresh whole fish available with bright eyes, live mollusks, and everything I have bought there has been great. We are two hours by car from the coast, but not far enough away, I've discovered, to escape being beaten up severely by a Category 3 or 4 hurricane like Fran or Hazel, respectively. Yesterday was the twenty-year anniversary of our visit from Hurricane Fran.

 

I'm sure the Nova Scotian government's intentions are well-meant, but IMO they manage to delay the delivery of an extremely perishable commodity to those who might desire to purchase it. People in larger communities get it when it's not in its prime, and folks in fishing communities get nothing, when if it was allowed, the product would be at its prime in the fishing communities and especially off the boats. Just my opinion.

  • Like 1

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...