That’s right: I visited a distillery and learned something about masonry.
Making a living as a writer isn’t a good fit for those who crave the stability of a regular paycheque or certainty of retirement. However, it has some gloriously awesome days – like today, when I visited soon-to-open Dubh Glas Distillery on assignment for EAT Magazine (article coming soon). While I did taste two excellent examples of whisky (nothing yet available from Dubh Glas), I was surprised to find myself happily slathering mortar on a rock.
Grant Stevely is the force behind Dubh Glas, whose sign I’ve read countless times in anticipation of a distillery opening within a seven minute drive of my house. Living in BC wine country is pretty fabulous, but diversity of beverages is alluring.
Stevely – as he’s known – spent time learning about construction after leaving his former ski resort life and prior to jumping into the distillery world. He also learned a bit about masonry so he’s putting his skills to work on his own building. I’m not the first visitor to affix a rock to the wall and I’m sure I won’t be the last.
Thanks for the lesson, Stevely. I look forward to sipping some cask strength whisky with you soon.
In a world of fast, slow is what we covet. Or should. Go through (if you dare) a fast-food drive-thru and look for the clock/timer near the window; it’s monitoring the entire interaction from the disembodied speaker voice to the person handing over whatever passes for food.
The fast-growing backlash to large scale unsustainable food production is the slow food movement and Terra Madre: a network of food communities focused on responsibly and sustainably producing quality food – translated, terra madre means ‘mother earth.’
It asks that we get out of our cars and take the time to live responsibly, which isn’t a big ask considering that’s exactly what we say we want to do.
On December 10th I joined 60 people at a Terra Madre dinner hosted by Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek. It was part fundraiser for our local Slow Food chapter and part playtime for some of the Okanagan’s most rad chefs involved in the slow food movement and sustainable food sourcing: Jeff Van Geest (host), Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith (Joy Road Catering), Natasha Schooten (Terrafina Restaurant), Chris Van Hooydonk (Artisan Culinary Concepts), Brock Bowes (The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl), and Derek Uhlemann (Covert Farms). Hell yes, that’s a lineup.
We can talk about being sustainable, eco-friendly, farmers’ markets, foraging, and <insert media buzz word here>. Whether we cansupport a sustainable food system comes down to how we choose to live and despite what you’ve heard it might not be possible to have it all – if what you want to have isn’t, underneath, sustainable.
It took a team of 7 chefs and I have no idea how many others to bring this culinary feast to our table. They spent valuable hours preparing what we consumed. In the type of life that many of us have constructed, that’s not sustainable with our heavy schedules – the work, kids, commuting, home repairs, caring for aging families, and <insert other obligations here>. Or is it?
We need to cultivate a new definition of success, one that goes beyond acquisition of X. It’s an entire infrastructure that needs supporting – from how we reward work to what we offer as opportunities to succeed. If we can retrofit a more mindful way of how we live our lives, everyone wins – including what we rely on to sustain us.
On a personal note, a hearty and heartfeltthank you to everyone involved in making the Terra Madre day celebration the remarkable experience it was. Each of you rock my world, regularly.
Hello, my name is Jeannette and I’m a writer. <insert chorus of “Hi, Jeannette”>
Writers have a sweet gig – it’s a tough slog most of the time, but it’s also pretty rad. I work harder at this than at any other job I’ve had and earn the least amount of money I’ve ever made (if I sit down and calculate the hourly wage, which I try hard to avoid), but generally we get to be at / experience / talk to / investigate / research the coolest events / places / people / subject matter you can think of. And when we’re the person who came up with the idea, it’s magical.
Increasingly often in the digital realm, freelance writers are asked to provide photographs to accompany an article or story. With digital SLRs and pre-programmed shutter speeds, it’s getting easier for us to accommodate those requests. But does that make it right? Are we taking a piece of the photographer’s market? Probably. For that, I’m sorry.
Here’s the thing: writers largely remain underpaid – if paid at all – for online content. It takes no less time to craft a story for a digital platform than it does for print, yet it doesn’t command the same compensation – and many writers are contributing online content for free (or really cheap). So when we’re asked to provide passable images, we will – because we want to keep the gig.
To my photographer friends and friends-to-be, please accept my apologies. I don’t pretend to be one of you and I never will. I’m somewhere between a hobbyist and an enthusiast, and I struggle with the technical aspects of photography that you learned at school because I didn’t study photography like you did. Your time is worth money, and I totally get it.
When I can encourage a publication – online or print – to spring for a photographer, I do. Yet the demand for photographs has forced me to practice and (I think) improve my picture-taking abilities. Will any of my images win awards, receive notoriety, or make anyone other than my publisher/editor and me happy? Probably not. Okay, maybe my mom – but she’s supposed to like everything I do. I’ve been fortunate to find a photographer whose style of photography is similar to how I write: the talented Melissa Voth McHugh and I have worked together for a few years, and I’m grateful to learn from her as we grow together.
Writers try to paint pictures with words – and sometimes, we get it right. But the same rule applies for photography as it does for writing: you get what you pay for. So when I’m asked to provide images, my photographs won’t be in the same stratosphere as those of a professional photographer. Hopefully my readers understand this and can forgive my photographic indiscretions.
Research for my latest writing involves hanging out with chefs Cam and Dana of Joy Road Catering (see? rad). As I tried to remain unobtrusive yet ready to snap a photo of culinary awesomeness, I realized that writers see things differently than photographers. I happily shelved my photographer-to-be and snapped away. Thank you Cam & Dana, for trusting me enough to allow me to sneak into the kitchen while you prepared for a marathon catering weekend.
Here’s a glimpse of how a writer thinks while she’s playing photographer-wannabe.
** want more? watch for my article with EAT Magazine – online as of Aug/Sept.
I live in BC wine country, and I drink wine. That means I’m asked OODLES of questions about wine touring: when people should tour, where they should go, how they should deal with the hot-car syndrome…you name it, I’m asked it.
Like anyone, I have favourites and biases. Of course I’ll steer you where I know the product/people. That’s why you asked me instead of doing Le Google search. (or perhaps as well as)
This isn’t a suggested wine tour. This is a “what should I do when <insert random thing here> happens?” list. Because there are just some questions that don’t get asked but should – and some that are asked over and over again. That’s okay. It’s why I’m writing this.
So, here it is: Summer Wine Touring FAQ – what you didn’t know and/or think to ask (and really should).
Will the hot trunk of my car be a good place to keep the wine I’m buying?
Goodness, no. There’s a reason it’s a tad chilly in tasting rooms / winery cellars / anywhere wine is stored – and it’s not because this is the Okanagan. TIP: take a cooler (or three) to keep bottles in while you schlep your way around in the heat. Buying a case? Pay, then politely ask the winery to keep it while you complete your route. (be sure to check on closing hours)
Awww, come on – do I really have to pay a tasting fee?
Yes, you do. Why? Because the winery pours dozens of bottles of wine a week in high season – and that’s not cheap. Some wineries ask for a donation to a charity of their choice. But if the winery chooses to charge a tasting fee, don’t bitch about it. Chances are they’ll waive it if you buy a bottle. This is not about getting your drunk on as cheaply as possible. Understand that it’s a business, and grow up.
Should we bring our children with us?
Um, likely not. I’m sure in paying gigs I’ve mentioned that taking kids with you is okay, but wine touring is an adult experience. You’re probably on vacation. But I am, too. So if you must have the kidlets with you, make sure you’ve provided them with something interesting to do that doesn’t involve me. Not everyone thinks the apple of your eye is the most adorable thing ever.
Can we taste every wine that’s for sale?
Probably not, but if the winery does have every bottle open consider it a treat. Remember the point about the tasting fees? Yeah, that.
What if I wear perfume/cologne?
You’ll ruin the experience for yourself and those around you. This isn’t anything new. I get that there are people on their first wine tour, but for the love of Pete please Google “wine tasting etiquette” before you aroma-crash a tasting room.
Why can’t my kid sit on the tasting bar?
When I worked at a winery, this actually happened to me. I was pouring for a couple with two children and the father sat the 2-year-old on the tasting bar. You don’t want to know what happened next.
You’re wine touring. Have fun. But remember: you’re buying something that’s consumable, and you’re not doing it alone. Be mindful, and everything will be just ducky.
For many, the bulk of our food shopping is done in fluorescent-lit grocery store aisles with a weekly foray to the coveted local farmers market – if we’re lucky. We live anywhere from 4 to 8 process steps away from that vegetable in the ground or fruit on the tree. (don’t get me started on meat – read my thoughts about it here)
There are fewer chances to interact with food in the way we’re meant to – how we’ve been doing so for generations, until the last century. Not everyone can reside close to where our food comes from; and let’s face it, most of our food no longer comes from the farmer down the road.
With the growth of the Okanagan wine industry comes a rise in agri-food tourism. This is a good thing. It gives area farmers a chance to get their wares in front of folks who have substantial buying power – and therefore, consumer influence.
There are some folks doing it right. The Coverts are an Okanagan farm family going back several generations. Today, Gene and Shelly Covert operate the now organic farm and own Covert Family Estate winery. They get it: farmers markets, accessible and good food, mindful farming… you name it. They’re also helping change the face of wine, and I’ll bet they don’t even realize it. For consumer purposes, we’ve romanticized wine production – in the real world, farming isn’t all that pretty.
Gene’s just as likely to be out fixing irrigation as he is to be in the lab testing wine, and the last time I was at the farm Shelly was in a homeschooling session with their two boys. There’s paperwork and payroll, especially in the busy summer season when farm workers multiply exponentially, and their organic home delivery program doesn’t run itself.
So where does the winemaker dinner fit? Instead of adding to the facade perpetuated by so many, this is where the Covert family brings us in – all in – to their real world. (dressed up, yes – but farm glam, not city glam)
Weathered picnic tables line the patio, no linens required. Simple place settings reflect the afternoon sun and illuminate the dinner table. A fish is in the outdoor smoker, and a pig is roasting on the spit. Farm-fresh carrots and potatoes accompany the meal with no fanfare – just great taste.
We sit shoulder-to-shoulder and are served family-style on large sharing plates. Wine is poured, but not glorified. Guests are encouraged to sip and indulge at our own speed. The fish and pig are dressed table-side, right in front of us.
Dusk falls, and voices rise. We celebrate the miracle of pig fat – as a seasoning on vegetables or in the chewy goodness of ‘crackling’. We’re sated, and leave feeling like we’ve just enjoyed a lovely family meal. If Gene or Shelly were to ask any of us for help on the farm the next day, the answer would have been a resounding yes because that’s what family does.
As we invent new ways to remove ourselves from the mess of nature, it’s people like the Coverts who remind us why that might not be what we need. The farm dinner could be one solution to a problem we haven’t even begun to realize is staring us in the face, every day.