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This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

I was talking yesterday about the food choices we face in our daily life.  I don’t know if it is also the case where you live, but in Ireland we have seen a resurgence of farmers’ markets.  Markets and local shops are one of the best ways to know where your food comes from (although you still need to be cautious), but in our societies they are not readily available anymore. 

I remember when growing up in France, going to the market was just a thing people did.  There was a covered one open every day of the week (it still is, I think) in the city centre and, then, each district would have a weekly or bi-weekly market, so it was possible to buy the most part of your shopping from those markets.  Most of our food would come from the market and, when it wasn’t, we would often get it from local specialised shops: la boulangerie, la boucherie, la charcuterie and so on.  However, these shops have increasingly been replaced by supermarkets and going to the market has become a special outing rather than a way to shop.

Supermarkets have killed local production: they import or, when they buy locally, it is at discounted prices, making it difficult for local producers to survive.  As I told you, I spent most of my holidays; for the first thirteen years of my life, on a farm.  This farm was self-sustainable, they used to produce and sell eggs, milk and cereals, but also had their own veg, rabbits and one pig to feed the family.  I went to visit the farm again a few years ago.  It had drastically changed and their production was limited to cereals and gone were all the farm animals; it broke my heart.

Now, farms have become specialised and consequently sell in huge quantity, which, of course, has negative effects as they try to produce more (leading to situations in which they use chemicals or have battery chickens, for instance) to be able to survive when faced with prices that are broken down.  We have replaced quality by quantity.

Some of these farms are struggling but are still alive and this is why I find it so important to support them.  You can find small producers on markets, but also in your local shop where you will be able to buy potatoes (a typical Irish example) from a particular farm, for instance.  Even better, try to visit those farms; it is always nice to know where your food comes from and you will often get it at a cheaper price.

There is something I have remarked though on Irish markets: their prices are fixed and it can be difficult to get a bargain.  In France, markets open at about 7 am (or used to, anyway).  Early risers would get the best products, but late comers would get all the bargains – two for the price of one – as producers would try to get rid of the day’s products in order to welcome fresh ones on the following day.  This is something I also encountered in Ottawa.  I happened to pass the ByWard market just before the stalls were put away and got some lovely red fruits from Quebec at fantastic prices.

ByWard market in Ottawa

Now, there is another choice I am confronted to when I am at the market, or the supermarket for that matter.  Organic or local?  The choice is quite difficult.  Ideally, I would choose both, but this is not always an option.  There are a lot of things to take into consideration and we are not always in a position to make an informed decision. 

Organic stall at Mahon Point market in Cork

Maybe the first thing to be aware of are the laws of your country.  Obtaining the organic label is not always easy.  I know some farmers around here who still do not have the label when they are actually producing organically.  The second thing that strikes me is that the food might be organic but coming from far away: transportation and how it is preserved are elements to be taken into account.  Therefore, I generally prefer local products and I might extend that to European products if those cannot be grown in Ireland.  At least, that way, you help your local economy and you might have more chances to know exactly where your food comes from.

Another thing I love in markets is that you are able to taste and see the food you are about to buy (and it saves on packaging as well).  These are little, often forgotten, pleasures.  I actually like going to the market with my empty egg box and refill it again and see slowly my bag getting filled with products I have been able to carefully choose.

I have found that shopping at markets is actually not as expensive as it might appear at first and I like the idea that the same people might then come to spend their money in the restaurant I work in…

Atwater market in Montreal

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This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

Vegetarianism and veganism are topics that might come up when talking about the environment, and Steph actually mentioned it yesterday in her wonderful post about our love for the planet.  I am neither, yet it has come to my attention that many have become so as a sort of political statement.  I must admit that I am sitting on the fence here and my opinions might appear as not clearly defined.

I understand vegetarianism a lot more than I understand veganism.  If we follow Steph’s thought, vegetarianism comes from a love for our planet and thus its inhabitants.  Therefore, people see eating animals as cruel.  I spent my holidays, in the first 13 years of my life, in a farm and thus have been used to differentiate between pets and animals raised to be eaten.  I ate one of my pet sheep once and have never touched lamb or mutton since, even the smell turns me off.  In my opinion, if the animals are raised to be eaten and treated properly, then it is acceptable to eat them.  Someone pointed out to me that even if they have been treated properly, they will still feel betrayed when faced with death.  To be honest, I do not know what to answer to that.  Since I have heard this argument, I have cut down on my already low meat-eating (although I love cured meat!).  What about fish?  I don’t think I could live without eating fish.  What do you think?

To come back to vegetarianism/veganism as a political statement, the reason behind it is that animals are often badly treated.  I totally agree with this position, but I also think that the way vegetables are produced is not exemplary either.  Foods are genetically modified, pesticides and other chemicals are used to grow more veg at a faster rate.  I therefore think that the problem is not limited to meat/fish, but also includes all other foods we eat.  Consequently, I think we need to take informed decisions about what we eat and take a position against the way foods are produced.

However, this might have an inconvenient: it often cost a little bit more, but as you have been saving on electricity, water, cleaning products, etc. (see previous posts), maybe you can afford to spend a bit more on food?  I agree with you, it is easier said than done.  However, we can progressively makes changes in our food habits, but most importantly make decisions about them (I often have guilt trips, but I know that I can’t afford to eat as I wish I could).

First of all, I think that we eat too much and badly.  We should learn to balance our meals in order to eat sufficiently to keep healthy and productive without over-eating.  I am not a dietician and I do not read about it, but I have learnt to reduce my portions and eat more balanced meals. 

If our meals are balanced, we won’t need to eat as much and we can choose products of better quality.  Choose to eat less meat and, when you do, make sure you know where it comes from.  Eat fresh fish from your local shop (freeze it if you have too much) and give up on those convenient fish fingers.  Try to buy local, fair-trade and organic.  Increasingly, such information is available to you on packages.

For instance, do you know how to recognise where your eggs come from?  On each of them a code is printed indicating its origins and if it is organic, free-range or battery.

I agree, it is not an easy battle.  I know that for those who have tight budgets it can be very difficult (I am one of them).  However, we can make choices and conscious decisions that will improve the way we eat, but also its impact on the planet.  If we all move in that direction, maybe then we will see a global change.

What change are you going to make?  My latest was to give up on ham and pepperoni pizza and replace the toppings with mushrooms I fry myself.  Next, I want to learn to make the base myself and use organic tomato base.  One little step at a time…

Last night, a friend took me out for dinner to celebrate the end of my degree. I hadn’t been to a restaurant for ages (work excluded!), and I had been looking forward to do my first mini-review on this blog. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me! Anyway, I decided to go ahead, but there won’t be any photos for you, sorry!

As it wasn’t planned, we decided to go somewhere close, there are only three restaurants, which include a Chinese, in Cloyne. We picked up Harty’s for its choice of fish: gratin of cod, poached monkfish, pan-fried plaice, pan-fried black sole, and raywing. Cloyne being only a few kilometers from the fishing village of Ballycotton, the chances are the fish is fresh!

The restaurant itself is quite big. It is a long and wide room with a few windows on the side. A couch is sitting at the entrance across from the desk and there’s a fire (fake) at the end of the room. The room is quite rural, unfortunately it looks empty. The walls, painted white and dark red, are bare except for a couple of paintings and some mirrors – too many; the room is big enough as it is! There are a few nice pieces of furniture, but there are empty, why not put some books on the shelves for instance? As a result, the room lacks atmosphere and intimacy, it could be much more cosy with only a few changes. And why, oh why, those white table cloths? I hate them, and they seem to be everywhere around here! It seems to be saying: ‘Look! we have table cloths, we are a high standard restaurant’!

Foodwise, it was good, nothing too fancy, and the prices were reasonable-ish. For starter, I had Shanagarry smoked salmon served with a salad (green leaves, tomatoes, and the usual pickle cucumbers, they seem quite popular around here also!) and a chive crème fraiche. I must say, as smoked salmon goes, it was very tasty. For main course, my friend ordered the poached monkfish with a red pepper sauce, and I ordered the pan-fried black sole with a herb butter sauce. We were both a bit disappointed. His sauce was actually the same as mine with a couple of red pepper dice, and my sole was breaded and a tiny bit over-cooked. However, it was still tasty. Both were served with a selection of veg: carrots, broccoli, and mash. I skipped on the dessert, but my friend had a warm apple sponge cake, which was quite nice.

The wine list was extensive enough for a village restaurant, and there was a bit of variety. I only had a glass of the house wine, French, and it was quite decent for a house wine, fresh and crispy.

The restaurant was quiet enough, and there was only one waitress, but she gave us an excellent service. The only major irritation was that we were under the speakers that churned out the same album three times in a row, and it wasn’t the best choice of music for us, it was like a wedding gig rather than restaurant music…

Overall, it was good but not impressive. I would go back because I live close, but wouldn’t go out of my way for it. It wasn’t that cheap that you could say ‘let’s go for some good value grub at Harty’s!’.

 

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