Last week I was invited to Be Well Connect, an event to learn and connect with other food loving characters of all sorts. There were chefs, bloggers, farmers, home economists, and even some cook book authors. Of course, they spoiled us with delicious food and drinks, but what I got most of out of it was information about the food we were eating from the farmers, chefs, and the hilarious Mairlyn Smith.
It was held at Benjamin’s Gourmet Foods in Selkirk which is owned by Chef MJ. We were greeted with limoncello-infused iced tea, refreshing even on that balmy night.
The evening consisted of us going around to stations in a speed-dating style format. We were given a dish paired with wine at each station. Each station had a host who educated us on various topics. My group was made up of Rebecca, Kimberly and Sarah. We started off with Canola Growers Vice President Brian Chorney, a farmer from the area. He demonstrated how to do a canola crush, which is how canola farmers test their seeds. He showed us what the green bad seeds look like and explained how that affects how their canola gets graded.
Local farmer, Curtis McRae gave us a quick tour of his farm through a powerpoint made up of memorable shots from his farm; he also debunked some stereo types people have about farms, in particular those about “corporate farms”. A truly passionate farmer, and a little bit of a stand up comic, he won me over. (His best line of the night was “picking up a hoe meant something different in my day”.)
This “date” was accompanied by a potato pancake wrapped around asparagus and served with a pumpkin puree.
Canola Growers past board director, Bruce Dalgarno talked to us about the international markets. It was fascinating to learn how far Manitoba’s crops, such as canola are in such demand in the world, and how Manitoba farmers are responsible for the supply. It was quite interesting and I learned a lot as we tried a dish of roast pork, couscous and stuffed baby turnips.
Next, we got a lesson in gastronomy by Chef MJ herself. We made our own dressing and balsamic “caviar” before adding it to a salad we composed ourselves at a mixed greens buffet (seriously)! We took a spoonful of rhubarb puree and placed it into a bowl of water with agar in it, this would make a perfect portion of dressing for our salad. Then we picked up a some balsamic vinegar and dropped it into cold canola oil. This created tiny caviar-like little balls we placed on our salads too. We ate our salads and had a lovely discussion on weddings and divorces over a concoction of Alexander Keith’s, 7-up, and caribou syrup.
Last but certainly not least was our speed date with Mairlyn Smith who was in town for the Farm Women’s Conference. She gave us her top 10 list of super foods. I’ve done a lot of my own research on super foods, but Mairlyn has a comedic way of explaining things and making it memorable. I know we all took something away from it. We were served a barley risotto. Mairlyn talked about how barley and other insoluble fibres slow down the chemical breakdown of starchy foods and delay absorption of glucose. Barley in particular, is beta-glucan and the consumption of beta-glucan from barley grain products reduces blood cholesterol.
The evening ended with everyone gathered around a large table with tea, cheese, and petit fours and cupcakes for dessert. The cupcakes were made by Kimberly of Chocolatier Constance Popp (Kimberly was in my group and works for Constance who was also there that night). I indulged because I had been craving cupcakes for about a week!
The Be Well team Ellen, Jenn and Leanne had promised an evening of making meaningful connections, passion, partnership and heart and as usual, they delivered.