Made with Pigeon Pea lentils, Daal Chawal (lentils with rice) is as basic a wholesome meal as it can get. Affordable by the poorest household in India, this meal is served daily in schools, on street side stands and upscale restaurants, in humble slums and Bollywood mansions; to a South Asian, Daal can nourishes you like no other – the warm, earthy flavours with turmeric, ginger and garlic is comfort food. It warms you up from the inside out and leaves you full and satisfied.
As you know, I am a lover of pulses – one of the most special organisms in the world. Pulses are the edible seeds of legumes – also known as lentils. These plants have the ability to absorb free solar energy from the sun to make nitrogen to grow. Any excess nitrogen they produce is infused back into the soil, enriching it so other plants may also grow there. If there is a “Mother of all Plants”, pulses are it.
Pulses sit at the beginning of a sustainable food chain; they are a source of protein with the lowest carbon footprint on the planet. It is through pulses that humanity will be able to feed our burgeoning population of seven billion souls.
When I think of all of that goodness and possibility packed within my bowl of Daal, I get overwhelmed and the meal becomes that much more special.
Pulses were always a part of mixed crop farming in South Asia. In the era before GMO seeds were developed to facilitate massive agricultural and in the days before farmers were forced to purchase fertilizers and pesticides custom designed for these seeds, i.e. in the era before our food system broke, generations of pulse cultivators in South Asia came to understand the different varieties of pulses required for their crop rotation cycles to maintain soil health. All those pulses went into the food chain as the main source of protein for the region. This holds true even today – South Asian families continue to cook with pulses in all kinds of dishes. Soups, stews, breads, batters, chips, crackers and trail mixes are made daily using pulses.
In agro terms, pulses require the least amount of inputs to obtain the highest nutrition value. The United Nations knows this – 2016 was declared to be the International Year of the Pulse to build awareness for dedicating farmland towards pulse production across the planet. And Ontario Farmers will grow them, IF WE BUY THEM.
In North America, our main source of protein comes from unsustainable animal factory farms. Replacing those meats with sustainable meats can be expensive when on a budget. And that is precisely why including pulses in your diet, even once a week, can be an affordable, accessible and nutritionally viable solution.
You simply require a paradigm change with a dash of willingness to learn how to cook with them. If you were ever wondering how you – on your own – can fight climate change, THIS IS IT.
I was overjoyed when asked to bring our beloved Daal recipe to the Stone Soup Event this year at Withrow Park Farmers Market.
This feature annual fundraiser will be held on Saturday, September 24th in the park, right at the farmer’s market.
Our Daal will be precooked and we will add your donated cooking greens to the pot on-site.
In exchange for your donation, you will receive a bowl of delicious Daal.
Other donated vegetables are very welcome, especially root vegetables which can store well over the winter. They are in full season right now and all these donated veggies and any cash will go directly to Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre nearby.
Having Tiffinday’s Daal connected with the story of Stone Soup this year at Withrow Park is a big deal, indeed.
It is an honour and a pleasure to bring you this dish while being able to raise awareness about our food system.
It’s that time of year. I have had enough of this winter and spring is dragging its heels. I can smell the farmers market season and I cannot wait for all the haulin’ and peddlin’ to start. We return to Leslieville Farmers Market on Sundays, starting May 29th 2016!
The preparation in our kitchen has begun with vigour and Timpa Wheels are being made as I write this blog. After 5 years of being entrenched in the farmers market scene across town, I consider myself a veteran; I proudly bear the war wounds of a shoulder injury to prove it…..Reflecting back on where it all started, I would like to share some words of wisdom with all the “baby vendors” entering the scene.
If you are considering selling your lemon meringue pies because your family praises them for being the best in the world, please know that it is not legal to sell food made in a home kitchen. At the minimum, get your Toronto Public Health Food Handler Certificate first. You will be inspected at least once at each market and this course will set you up with all the right information about food safety.
Do not skimp on buying cheap canopy tents like I did. A good quality new tent can cost $200 – $300 and it will last you 5 years. Those that come with rain guards will be a blessing – trust me. Look for second hand ones on Kijiji.
Tent weights are also important. Many markets do not allow you to stake nails into the ground to secure your tent. I have spent too many unpleasant moments trying to keep my tent from flying off while elegantly trying to complete my sale!
Tables and equipment will depend on your merchandising. Most prepared food vendors require a display table for the front and a prep table at the back.
Coolers for food storage need to be temperature controlled with a thermometer. Food inspectors will check for this. A vendor once gave me the most useful tip of all, which I am happy to pass on – avoid losing your thermometer by tying it with a string to the cooler – simple!
If you serve your food warm, try as hard as you can to sign up with markets that offer electricity. Open flame gas burners are awful outdoors as are chafing dishes with those tiny commode burners underneath.
Look out for 100′ extension cords when they go on sale. You will be surprised how far electrical plugs are in public parks.
And finally – do not forget your hand washing station. Once again, the Food Handler Certification course will explain why. Without one, you will be shut down by the inspector.
Please do not become a prepared food vendor to make some extra cash on the side. You will only take a valuable spot away from someone who is trying to grow a sustainable food business – one which adds to our local economy with real jobs.
A farmers market is an entry point for individuals starting their journey into food entrepreneurship. Your business plan should be based on revenues that go beyond the farmers market. At markets, you can deduct at least 25% from your projections for bad weather days; around long weekends, revenues are generally lower as families go away to their cottages; weekday markets drive lower revenues than weekend markets; not every day is a good revenue day; the summer market season in Toronto lasts a little over 20 weeks and at the few indoor markets that run all year round, winter traffic as well as revenues are generally 50% of what you could earn in the summer. In the long run, you will discover that the numbers do not work to make your business financially viable on market revenues alone.
Furthermore, market vendors live like carnies. You will enjoy it for the first couple of years but it takes lots of effort and may not be worth the money in the long run.
DO NOT waste your money on those fancy roll up banner signs. They work well for indoor trade shows but not outdoor markets. The wind will leave it teetering dangerously over toddlers who run up to your booth and their parents will only give you dirty looks for it.
There is no need for a fancy big sign at the front of your booth if it forces your customers to fight with your logo to view your merchandise; and you will make few market friends if said fancy sign ends up blocking part of the neighbouring tent.
Your merchandise display must be king and take priority over your sign. There is plenty of real estate in front of your table – dangle a sign there or hang it at the back of your tent. But keep in mind that large signs bungeed up at the back of your tent will act like a sail in heavy winds. Go for something small and elegant. Have it designed so the bottom is slightly weighted and hangs freely. Suspended at the back of your tent, it should not harm anyone when the winds are strong.
Ensure you have good table top signs which are taped down. Describe your products and have the prices marked clearly. You will likely not have a crew of staff helping you sell at the market. Your signs are your sales tools that do the work when you are engaged with one customer while others are browsing around.
And as for those heavy A-Frame chalk board signs – they are great. I spent $125 on mine – but I have had dogs pee on them, kids rub off my beautifully scripted menu and the rain wash out my multicoloured handiwork. Take a deep breath, have a spare set of chalks in your kit and take it all in stride.
How many markets you sell at each week totally depends on you. If you have never done farmers markets before, be prepared for a lot of hard physical work. Starting out with 1 per week would be a good idea. If you are also doing your own production in the early days, keep some time open for that. I would also recommend you allow a day of rest, but when you are starting out, it is quite likely that your so called down time will be spent ordering supplies, paying bills and doing paperwork.
Many of the larger, more established farmers markets may have waiting lists but do not let that discourage you.
Each market has its own groove and niche. Fairmount Park Farmers Market specifically curates NEW vendors, providing them with all kinds of support with a specific goal to help you roll over to bigger and better things within 3 – 5 years. Their customers come to the market expecting to find new things. Smaller markets also have more patient customers – those you can develop a relationships with; they will take the time to speak with you, understand your business and offer you honest feedback.
Do not discount markets outside of the GTA. Kitchener, Hamilton, Bolton, Orangeville, St. Jacobs, Barrie all boast very vibrant farmers markets
Use your time as a market vendor wisely. Actively investigate channels for selling your products beyond the market – as a restaurant owner or caterer, at retail, wholesale to cafes, restaurants and foodservice companies, through home delivery etc. Each one of those business models will add extra costs that you need to figure out.
The first couple of years as a farmers market vendor must be spent on market research – i.e. testing your recipes, pricing elasticity, packaging ideas and your marketing strategy.
Having worked in the private sector for many years, large corporations PAY to have this type of market research done. They would envy the opportunity you have at your disposal to get access to customer opinions WHILE earning revenues. Take full advantage of the opportunity you have been offered by the market.
By the third year, you must venture out and start carving a path for earning revenues outside the farmers market. For example, if yours is a retail product, start out by getting it into 3 – 4 small stores and begin testing your distribution, related costs, as well as scaling up your production for the “real world”.
Over the following couple of years, use the farmers markets to heavily PROMOTE your brand and showcase where else customers can buy your products when the market season ends. Start getting aggressive with signing up more retail stores.
This is where I am at with my business. The world of co-packers, distributors and retailers is a new alternative universe; it is an intimidating place compared to the safety of my beloved farmers market customers.
Toronto does have some wonderful retailers who are willing to take a chance on good small businesses like mine. Local retailers like Hooked, Victoria Whole Foods, Wholesome Market, Fresh From the Farm, Olliffe and Meat on the Beach all carry my curries and promote them in their stores on my behalf.
And off their shoulders, I developed the confidence to enter the world of big box retail, with Whole Food Markets, GTA stores, a U.S. company that enters Canada and welcomes local entrepreneurs more warmly than our own big box stores do.
I do see a sunset for my time at farmers markets. I made the decision to give up my spots at Evergreen Brickworks Market and Fairmount Park Farmers Markets for the 2016 season with a very heavy heart.
I now need to groom my products for the real world. This will be my first summer in five years when I spend more time promoting my products at retail rather than at farmers markets. It is a gambled risk and I will only find out at the end of the season if it was worth it.
There are other reasons why I felt this change in strategy was important. Our food system is broken. Innovation is key for this food economy to find its healing path and this innovation is not coming from the test kitchens of large corporations.
Over the winter, I networked heavily at food entrepreneur events and I chatted with many emerging business owners feeling very discouraged as they discovered “seven year waiting lists” at popular farmers markets in Toronto.
Could the farmers market scene in town be getting stale with the same vendors showing up each year, every day of the week at different markets all across town? If so, how can innovation ever take a foothold to better our industry?
Is it time for products like mine, that saw their birth at farmers markets, to grow up, get out and go mainstream?
If pathways for growth existed for “veteran” vendors like me, these waiting list issues would quickly disappear. But they do not. The barriers for entering the mainstream grocery market are very high. A farmers market vendor, committed to sustainability in the food chain, is not plugged into the manufacturing and distribution pathways that allow large food businesses to operate efficiently.
Our provincial government has laid out some resources to help us along the way and I am on a path of discovery.
The upcoming season is a scary period in my life. l feel like a teenager would, leaving home for the first time, trying to figure it all out without parental guidance. We would never expect a teenager to go out there and carry the full financial burden for his life, with a mortgage and car loan, when they have only just started earning money.
That is what the financial risk feels like for a food entrepreneur at the stage I am at.
The acceleration for food businesses in Ontario should be more robust and similar to what happens in Silicone Valley, where IT giants like FaceBook, Apple, Microsoft and Google put their experience and financial might behind small and unknown apps, transforming them into the the Skypes and WhatsApps we come to use daily.
But our food industry titans appear to be content to sit on their laurels, leaving their customers to lead the agenda for change through social media.
I agree that food is different from the business of a pixillated product. However, their lack of imagination for changing the status quo and our (farmer’s market vendors’) inability to finance alternative pathways to get good food to the masses, simply perpetuates the problem for the entire industry.
It is stupid and it serves no one in the long run.
I do not see national distributors and grocers as the competition. I see them as access points to a market. Their customers are our customers who want products like ours – locally made and sustainable. National grocer house brands are simply products made in a test kitchen. They lack transparency and have zero personality.
We, on the other hand, are building brands of good, real food; products that are grown and made in Ontario. We have authentic ties to farms and farmers, people and lives; our stories are what their customers would fall in love with. I believe the magic glue sits somewhere in there.
Is it finally time for a dialogue between industry leaders and farmers’ market entrepreneurs? The solutions are out there and we both hold the answers to different parts of the same problem.
So, veteran vendors, with war wounds like mine, is this reasonable?
I will still be a vendor on Sundays, where I began my journey at Leslieville Market, and I will still be be present at my beloved Fairmount Market each Wednesday, not as a vendor but as volunteer.
With no Saturday markets, I will now bike to Withrow Park Farmers Market. That’s me, in the picture above on the right hand side, my second year as a vendor at Withrow. I can’t wait to to see old friends like pig farmer, Murray Thunberg . He was my market neighbour and his pig heads never ceased to freak me out as I peddled my vegan samosas in his shadow. I loved him dearly but as life would have it, we have been nothing more than Facebook friends since I moved to Evergreen Brickworks Market when a spot opened up for me there, on Saturdays – and that is another market I could bike to with my son to enjoy a heap full of those JK fries!
I have had a lot of fun as a farmers market vendor and the biggest gains are the life long friendships that have developed there.
No matter where Tiffinday ends up in this journey, the story that can never change is that it all began in the farmers market scene in Toronto.
See you all in a few weeks!
When I heard this announcement in the news last week, I mentioned it to my Mom; she was as perplexed as I was about it. We wondered what the big deal was. Don’t people eat pulses?
On a daily basis, my Mom speaks to the other “aunties” all over the world on FaceTime. News of this quickly spread in my family and by the end of the day, the collective gaggle of aunties concluded that the United Nations had made this declaration so the world could eat like Indians!
A pulse is the edible seed of plants in the legume family – Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. They are a staple in the diet of millions of people all over India.
Like most South Asian vegetarians, my Mom cooks with pulses almost daily. Our pantry has always contained a colourful variety of them in glass jars; not a week goes by that we do not have one or another on the grocery list.
Some are whole and others are split. We make soups out of them and use them as a base for thick vegetable curries. We cook them with rice to make savoury porridge dishes, called Khichdi. Some are ground into flours to make flat breads and others are soaked and then blended into batters to make crepes and savoury cake-like “dhoklas”. We use them in salads, as stuffings in paratha breads and yes, as breakfast cereals and snacks.
In fact, what do you think papadoms are made from?
We have so many different recipes for pulses that cooking with them everyday is not a problem in our household. This has been the all important source of protein in my diet for my whole life, as it has for my Mom and her mother before her.
We are the quintessential family the “bad hunter” joke was made for.
So, it was understandable that we remained unimpressed by this “big” announcement that brought celebrity chefs out in drones on TV and radio, beating the drums to herald in the International Year of the Pulse, an ingredient that is as commonplace in a South Asian kitchen as a can of baked beans (which by the way, is a pulse).
After the Tiffin lunches were delivered, I made myself a cup of tea and went on-line to find out what all the fuss was about.
1) This is multi-billion dollar industry and Canada is a leading producer and exporter of pulses.
2) Nitrogen is the most needed nutrient in crop production; unlike others, pulses are a rare breed of plants that use the sun to generate most of the nitrogen they require for themselves. They require little to no added nitrogen from fossil fuel generated fertilizers . They are one of the cleanest crops to grow.
3) Pulses add Nitrogen to the soil; farmers who use them in crop rotation have healthier soils which are enriched and alive and with a diverse array of soil microbes. Other crops grown on this soil become more nutrient dense because of the pulse.
4) Pulses are gluten free, high in fibre, a great source of protein, low in fat and contain a lot of essential nutrients. They have a low glycemic index, which means they do not cause a fast rise in blood sugar after consumption and studies have shown that they reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This is a superfood – respect the pulse.
So I finally get it. The International year of the Pulse is a very humongous deal, indeed. It is how we will feed a growing population while keeping our carbon footprint in check. Pulses are a fantastic protein source, much more sustainable that meat. We should eat more of it and that is what the Pulse Pledge is all about.
It begs further thought about what the good folks in charge of Canada’s Food Guide will do. If the sign of the times is to eat sustainable food and if we accept that pulses should feature more prominently in our diets for the sake of the planet, then should meat begin its slow exit from this national document?
How about we start by listing meats as “pulse alternatives”?
This is what Indians have been doing for generations.
And with that, I do smugly declare that Tiffinday’s retail curries all contain pulses – they always have. We developed them from traditional recipes well before the United Nations told us it was sexy to do so.
Browsing through my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, a post with the image above caught my eye.
As a small business owner, I could not agree more. Almost all small business owners that I know are like me – few of us have second homes, not sure which one of us can boast a 3rd holiday home.
This time of year, when shopping for gifts hits a frenzied pace, I watch with admiration as many small business owners in my neighborhood bravely stand strong in the face of Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day deals heavily promoted by the big multinational chain stores.
It’s a good time to broadcast the facts about the The Local Multiplier Effect.
In a nutshell:
For every $1.00 spent at a local business, $0.45 is reinvested within your community. Only $0.15 is reinvested locally when you shop at a corporate chain.
I for one, am going to take pause and give consideration to where my hard earn dollars are going during this spending season.
If you live in the east end of Toronto, Leslieville, The Beach, East York, here are some suggestions:
All the business owners listed here are my friends and neighbours. Like me, each one of them is supporting their family through the proceeds of their respective small businesses.
Keep your “gifting” local this year keeps your money circulating within our ‘hood. Any dollar you spend at the corporate chain will likely end up elsewhere, in the coffers of a CEO’s year end bonus.
Do the sensible thing and consider a local small business for your gift giving this year.
Dear Mr. Polman , CEO of Unilever and Mr. Bryant, Chairman of Board and CEO of Kelloggs:
I read with interest your article titled The Case for Business Action on Climate Change in the Huffington Post written in response to Pope Francis’ encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home“. In particular it was heartening to know that within the business community, there is full acknowledgement about the science of climate change and the need to provide economic progress for all on the planet.
Our world is full of challenges on so many fronts. Your article, written on behalf of 93 business leaders, generates hope because large businesses such as yours have the bench strength to enact exactly the type of broad reaching and meaningful change we all want to see in the world.
I have read your article multiple times.
For most of my adult life, I worked for multinational companies. I made a conscious choice to leave my job in 2008. Our values were not aligned and I could not justify spending the largest chunk of my day churning revenues for companies that actively contributed to the problems we face in the world, where profit margins historically trumped any concerns for the environment, for social justice and fair play.
As you have noted, we are in trouble; we no longer have the luxury to continue doing business in the same old way. I started a small food business in 2009. I run it with regard for people and the environment and I balance these with my need to earn a living. My choices are not always easy – in order to purchase sustainable and fair trade ingredients for my food, I have less take-home pay left for myself. However, doing business this way ensures that the people involved in my supply chain can also earn a living wage. In my own small way, through the path of commerce, I keep my carbon footprint as low as possible. It also allows me to look my child and the next generation of human beings in the eye.
“We believe that we have reached a tipping point on climate change and that there is an unstoppable shift to a global economy that is significantly less harmful to the environment. As the world transitions to this new economy, it will be important to provide economic progress and a higher quality of life for all people in all regions of the world.”
I believe this sentence from your article is heartfelt and genuine but it has prompted lots of questions in my mind regarding specifics.
Nestle SA is a one of the signatories to your article. The brand page for Nestle Pure Life lists all the benefits of drinking bottled water along with their policy on environmental sustainability in the last paragraph. The science around the environmental impact of bottled water could not be more clear. 32 million – 54 million barrels of oil was required to generate the energy to produce the amount of bottled water consumed in the United States in 2007. Does Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle SA, acknowledge that bottled water is not required in many parts of North America where good and reliable municipal drinking water is available? By getting rid of these plastic bottles, Nestle could “significantly reduce (its) natural-resource use“, which is another point stated in your article. Can we expect an exit strategy for this line of bottled water in some of Nestle’s biggest markets in the near future?
I also have questions for Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto. Does he accept the findings of the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer about their product RoundUp? If not, why write it off as “junk science” to create more animosity and fear? Would a more prudent approach not be to err on the side of caution and take the time to convince the skeptics, through independent testing, that the product is safe? Also, Mr. Grant has every resource available at his fingertips within Monsanto to bring food production safety to the table. But doing so by polarizing the world population into camps of GMO and non-GMO creates mistrust and this will hinder any progress we wish to make to feed nine billion people.
“No company is perfect but all companies are made up of people who want to leave a higher quality of life and a better world for generations to come.”
You could not be more correct with this phrase. However, the pursuit of wealth is an ugly impulse that leads good people to do very bad things. What precedes you are the past actions of individuals, heads of some of the largest corporations in the world, who have made terrible decisions, profited from them and left behind a world that is a mess for our children. The biggest challenge your group of 93 signatories will face is earning the trust of the people of the world. Here is why:
From The Guardian, an article about individuals at Exxon (not signatory to your article) who knowingly chose a path that is helping to kill our planet.
No corporation has done anything this big or bad”, writes Bill McKibben.
The management team at Exxon knew about the science of climate change in the late 1970’s. They used this information to strategically buy up leases for drilling oil in the North when the polar caps started to melt. They also actively engaged in campaigns which ensured no-one took climate change seriously. All of this was done for profit and with no regard to the consequences. As a direct result of those decisions, many island nations in our world will vanish.
A more recent example of people making bad decisions is the one of Martin Winterkorn and his team at Volkswagon who chose to save $430 per car and rigged the emissions tests of half a million vehicles in North America. This story is still unfolding and we will learn of its environmental impact down the road. I am certain this will be yet another example of corporate profits trumping all else.
I could go on; the fact is, we have lost our innocence and taking your words at face value is difficult.
“A common thread that cuts across all of these efforts is finding new and innovative ways to use technology to achieve these social and environmental commitments.”
This is what goes through my mind when I read the sentence above from your article. “If our business practices cause pollution and rates of cancer continue to increase in the world, we will donate generously to hospitals to build new wings for fighting these diseases. We will fund research that develops innovative ways to use technology for diagnosing and treating these cancers. It is unfortunate that we continue our business practices to remain profitable, but we need to keep our shareholders happy. At least we have acknowledged the problem and are doing something about it.”
Forgive me for my cynicism, but I hope you get my point.
The signatories to your article represent large and very successful corporations. Some continue to produce goods and services that predate common knowledge about global warming and human health. Now that the science is clear, it behooves all of us in the business community to fundamentally change what we offer up for trade in the first place. After looking within, we can look out and proceed to conduct our businesses so they leave a positive impact in the world. Your article addresses a lot of the latter but details are lacking about the former.
I would like to see all parties represented in your article to put your money where your mouths are.
Mr. Polman and Mr. Bryant, the world salutes you for what you have written in your article but along with those declarations come very big expectations. It follows that corporate social responsibility can no longer be used for PR and glowing phrases on your websites. Just as it is obscene for Phillip Morris International to have a “pink cigarette” campaign to fight breast cancer, it is equally not acceptable for corporations to promote the social good they do in order to mask some of the ugly business practices which continue to leave our world polluted and a large segment of our population poor, sick, exploited and vulnerable. The problems need to be fixed at their core.
I write this open letter to you, on behalf of the following concerned people and small businesses in my community.
Thank you for your attention.
Marcella Tomas, Shameless Idealist and Concerned Citizen
Karen Kane, Worker Bee