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Cochrane's Tasting Pleasures: How the pandemic helped us rediscover home cooking

“Eating out” was not an option in my youth. My family could not afford it. Hot dogs, Jello and Twinkies were the only glimpses of the glamorous cuisine of big-city lifestyles - at least what I imagined they offered.
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“Eating out” was not an option in my youth. My family could not afford it. Hot dogs, Jello and Twinkies were the only glimpses of the glamorous cuisine of big-city lifestyles— At least what I imagined they offered. In contrast, I thought we had an “unsophisticated” cuisine. We lived off the land. We butchered our own animals, drank raw milk, and ate fresh eggs. We also cared for a garden the size of a professional hockey rink and, as children, we would pick wild berries in the woods. Much of my mother’s life, and ours, as daughters, were spent harvesting, preserving and cooking food. We lived according to the seasons feeding a family of eleven. I could not wait to get on with my life, away from the farm’s chores and finally enjoy the bliss of urban living.

Fast forward some 45 years later, and after a stint of urban living, I feel privileged to be living in the countryside again, this time on my own terms.

The impact COVID-19 has had on our food and eating habits is nothing short of extraordinary and, in many ways, it brought us back to simpler times. Who could have imagined that we would be cut off from our favourite restaurants, bakeries and delis? Forced overnight into isolation, quarantine or at best, social distancing, we had to adapt. And just like that, a modern home cooking renaissance has begun, and along with it, a new generation of foodies focused on pragmatic, health-conscious food preparation using mostly quality local products.

We are discovering our local farmers of plant and meat-based products. They may be more expensive than the generic stuff, but they have undeniable health and taste benefits. Buying local gives us a chance to connect with the farmers and or their staff who love to share their passion for what they do.

Where to find local food products

Large grocery stores carry some local products (try Calgary Co-op). Organic and specialty stores such as The Butchery Block in Cochrane, the Community Health Food and Blush Lane are good sources of local products along with the farmers’ markets.

Feeling a bit more adventurous? Several local producers sell directly to customers. While some are easy to find, others require a bit of research. Ranchers such as LJ Ranch and Wine Glass Ranch raise their own animals and process their meat. They tend to sell in packs or boxes ready for your freezer. You have to order and often wait a few days. You may have to drive to pick up the food, though some may deliver. Farms such as Panik Nuna grow berries and vegetables. Each producer is different. Go on their websites, teaming up with neighbours or friends and buy larger quantities at a discount.

Lastly, many small food producers' sales on local Facebook Market Pages. Check them out.

To get you started visit:  rockyview.ca/Agriculture/Agri-Environmental/LocallyGrown.aspx or the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association albertafarmfresh.com/