100% Canadian Chicken, Wendy’s boasts at American drive through

While slightly outside my usual areas of interest, this struck me as comment-worthy last week. I noticed this ad at a Wendy’s hamburger chain drive up kiosk. The rotating range of ads was displayed on the video screen that now accompanies the microphone and speaker.

Wendy's Canadian chicken - 1.jpg

All White Meat Chicken Strips, Made with 100% Canadian Chicken!

Never mind that the calorie count alone should send a wise person running, and no need to chide me for giving in to the temptation of fast food on a busy afternoon. It’s a rare indulgence, and I didn’t order chicken strips anyway.

But, isn’t “100% Canadian Chicken” an odd boast for an American chain restaurant?

The first Wendy’s opened in Columbus, Ohio in 1969.

I’m all for food products containing 100% of whatever they are purported to be. Actually, I believe it is my right as a consumer to get what the label claims is inside. I’m also more inclined to feel good about a Canadian farm animal as food product than, say, a Chinese or Brazilian one, but that could just be my cultural bias expressing itself.

Here’s some proof that Canadians care about their fast food chicken.

Admittedly, I’m in a position to act on my values and purchase higher quality food grown closer to home and via sustainable methods. For years, our family has purchased via the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model as well as relying upon Farmers to You for access to 80+ farms in our local food system.

The odd visit to Wendy’s aside, I care about the origin of the food I eat and what I feed my family. Is that the heartstring the Wendy’s ad was trying to pluck?

I’m wildly curious: does anyone else wonder what the marketing department was trying to say with this ad? How do you respond to the promise of 100% Canadian Chicken?

Thanksgiving lessons learned: one mom’s (grateful) battle to enjoy labor-intensive holidays

I love that Thanksgiving reminds me to take stock and be thankful for the abundance of blessings in my life. I am blessed. I am thankful. I’m grateful for a holiday devoted to that awareness.

Thanksgiving give thanks - 1But then there is the reality of celebrating Thanksgiving in America as a mom. It involves a lot of cooking, a lot of shopping, and a lot of stress.

Let’s all keep in mind that I’m not a great cook. I can produce reasonably healthy and palatable food for my family; I don’t enjoy cooking.

Shopping the gauntlet

I start shopping right after Halloween. I buy the wine as early as possible for obvious reasons. I pick up our family celiac’s favorite gluten free stuffing mix from Trader Joe’s as soon as it arrives for the season.

Pantry goods are easy to buy ahead of the rush, and doing so helps spread out over multiple weeks the costs of a sit down dinner for 20.

I’m grateful for Amazon Fresh delivering my last minute, fresh foods on the day before Thanksgiving. Grocery stores are hellish just before this holiday! Having the items I want dropped off right to my door is a Really Wonderful Thing.

We enjoy seasonal, local bounty direct from family-owned farms in New England via Farmers To You. This year ’round service is especially gratifying as the autumn harvest rolls in. I’ve posted before about my commitment to support our regional food shed with my grocery dollars.

A humanely raised turkey from Misty Knoll Farms as the centerpiece of our feast is something I’m proud to feed my family and friends.

Cleaning the house

As we catalogue my faults, let’s remember that I’m not much of a housekeeper, either. Hosting a large meal raises certain expectations for minimizing the usual daily clutter. Having out of town relatives to stay means prepping the guest room and the downstairs bathroom, too.

I have to confess: this year, I didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked to prepare for houseguests. I struggled to forgive myself for that, but I used up every iota of energy that I had prepping for Thanksgiving in other ways, choosing to prioritize the feeding of 20 people from seven households over the immediate comforts of close relatives.

I’m grateful that I’ve gotten better at acknowledging my limits; I’ll keep working on accepting those limitations with grace.

Planning on the level of a precision strike

The only way a less-than-stellar cook is going to get a meal for twenty on the table in something resembling good time is to create a plan that incorporates all the prep and cooking times for multiple recipes and integrate them temporally. Continue reading

Farmers to You gives my New England family direct access to regionally grown food

Let me tell you about my farmers.

Tragically, no, I don’t control my own fiefdom. The farmers in question are producers for, and partners of, Farmers to You, a farm-to-table direct grocer experiment in which we participate.

I call it an experiment because they are still tweaking their business model. I’m bringing it up today because our farmers are asking for our help.

We’ve been buying what we can from Farmers To You for several years. Essentially, I see it as an online version of the farmers’ market. Unlike a CSA, which we tried before but found too prescriptive, Farmers to You doesn’t dictate what we buy. Instead, each member family makes an agreement to spend a certain amount of money every week. This relatively constant level of spending is insurance for 83 partner farmers that there will be a market for their produce.

Most of my friends who participate in CSAs are health-conscious eaters or foodies. Without a doubt, buying local food means buying fresher food; buying heirloom varietals means eating better tasting fruits and vegetables. I’m pleased about these qualities in my food, but I’m also buying from the regional New England foodshed because I care about food security.

New England currently has 4 million acres of farmland; feeding New England’s population would require 16 million acres. Preserving farmland in every region of America serves as a buffer against catastrophic events elsewhere disrupting our food supply. It protects jobs and a traditional way of life that benefits local families and generates tourism. Farms also preserve green spaces and—especially in the case of farms managed with organic or integrated pest management methods—provide habitat for native species driven out of crowded urban and suburban areas.

Being a partner family with Farmers to You is easy. You can sign up online. There’s no fee. You only pay for the food you choose.

Update your order online over the weekend. If you don’t log on and make changes, you’ll get available products you ordered the week before. Orders are delivered to set locations—schools, churches, and other community spaces—on either Wednesday or Thursday at a set time. (The site you choose determines your day and time of pick up.) You go to your chosen site during the assigned hours and pick up a shopping bag already filled with the food you selected online. Unless you care to socialize, you can be in and out in just a few minutes. You might want to linger, though. The site hosts tend to be friendly and interesting people.

Oh yeah, and they have home and office delivery available in most close-in areas around Boston. You can be busy and still eat fresh, local food. It will be delivered by human-powered bicycle/truck in partnership with Metro Pedal Power.

Yes, sometimes in the dead of winter, I find it less enticing to fill my cart. We eat apples, but not as many of the storage vegetables like potatoes. That’s when I add a bag of dried beans, a bottle of 100% pure cranberry juice, or some real maple syrup to meet my minimum. I’ve never found it hard to find something my family would eat with this system. We used to throw away some of the mandatory vegetables when we were members of a CSA; we got stuff we just wouldn’t eat, and occasionally didn’t get around to giving it away before it wilted.

As I said, precisely what you put in your online shopping cart is up to you. Farmers to You offers the obvious fruits and vegetables, but also locally sourced meats, dairy, eggs, baked goods, and pantry items. They’ve added some not-quite-local extras like coffee (regionally roasted) and nuts (regionally packaged) to meet the desires of member families. Farmers to You doesn’t replace my regular grocery run, but it does prevent needing a mid-week trip to stock up on fresh vegetables and bread.

And speaking of bread… Having a loaf of Red Hen Baking Co. Whole Wheat bread arrive in our kitchen on Wednesday evening is our favorite treat. This is the slow-risen, naturally leavened staff of life Michael Pollan was talking about in Cooked. I’m not likely to make a bakery run on a school night, but an infusion of fresh food mid-week is well-timed and much appreciated.

In order to keep this model sustainable, Farmers to You is looking to expand the number of enrolled families, increase the size of the average order, and raise additional capital from investors. They’re asking all of us—the member families—to spread the word.

If you’d like to learn more about our experience with Farmers to You, let me know in the comments. Do you shop your local farmers’ market? Are you a member of a CSA? How and why do you buy locally produced food?