Stylocycle’s Blog

Pfenning’s Organic
April 21, 2009, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I promised a post about other environmentally conscious efforts that combine with my commitment to cycling. Cycling to and from work, and as part of my everyday life is quite obviously my favourite thing to do, and it’s so much a part of my day to day that I honestly don’t think of it as a special effort; it’s just the way I live. And when I remark on it being an environmentally conscious choice, I do not mean that to sound purely directed toward outward concerns. If I consider myself and my health as part of what is ‘environmentally sound’ then getting my exercise by cycling is a very self-oriented thing to do. The point is that we do not have to serve ourselves at the expense of others, nor, indeed should we. This lesson I learned long ago from de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity wherein she elaborates on the distinction between types of freedom.

… but I digress. (I know: shocking, isn’t it?)

Anyway, my second favourite thing that combines a variety of efforts to live a more environmentally conscious (and conscientious, for that matter) life is to use the services of Pfenning’s Organic. Pfenning’s is owned by a local farming family who started (actually: returned to) organic farming practices in the mid-20th Century because the family worried that new industrial practices were harming soil and food quality. About 15 years ago one of the daughters opened a store out of which to sell their produce and the little store has grown out of the barn and into its own site in a small shop in St. Agatha, about 6 km west of Waterloo.

Among the services that Pfenning’s provides is the weekly delivery of organic produce in boxes that can be local-only, or a combination of local and imported produce. They will also deliver anything they carry in the store.

Every week I order a large ‘blended box’ (because I just can’t bear the thought of living without bananas and citrus fruit, and found that by November the local offerings of apples and cabbages and carrots depressed me). I also receive a dozen eggs every 2 weeks, and a litre of whole milk, from which I make my homemade yogurt.

How much does this service and product set cost me? a little less than $125 a month, and we are a family of 3, including the teen-aged boy who is set to ‘constant feed’. We do buy extra ‘ordinary milk’ for drinking because organic dairy is just so expensive, and we buy the bulk of our other groceries on our monthly trips to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Anyway, my points about Pfenning’s are these:

1. Delivery of food from the store to the client base is far more fuel efficient than for individuals to go shopping themselves. The routes are rationalised, and there is less waste.

2. During the Ontario growing season we are supporting local farms who grow their produce using sustainable practices.

3. The organic produce is more fragrant and more flavourful and more satisfying than industrially farmed, mechanically irrigated produce.

4. The prices are quite moderate even though by the pound organic costs ‘more’. The reasons for this are twofold: first, we have less waste than when we used to shop at the grocery store (because we are more mindful about what we have available to eat), and second, delivery keeps us from making frivolous trips to the store for potatoes or lettuce (that end up luring shoppers, including us, into purchasing all kinds of junk that we don’t need).

5. Staying out of the shops and avoiding stupid purchases of tchochtkis means that we consume/dispose of far less waste than before.

6. Because I receive my deliveries, it feels as though I’m getting a kind of ‘gift’ every week, and I do not feel ‘deprived’ because I haven’t bought item x, y, or z that I passed by in the store.

Some people choose to use CSA boxes for their food deliveries, and some locations have food co-op shops. I’m not into churchy stuff in particular, so I don’t use the CSA options around here (they are run by the local Catholic Diocese). And we don’t have any food co-ops around here.

Finally, Pfenning’s is a pleasant bike ride from my house, and I like to take jaunts out on my bike to their location. I’ll take pictures as soon as I have time to start those rides.

For now, I have to concentrate on grant writing and grading and junk like that.


Sunday Brunch: Salade Niçoise de Thomas Keller et son “French Laundry”
April 19, 2009, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Working to maximize my sense that at the very least Sundays are for puttering, and not for imbibing moreworkahol, I set out this morning to make a salade Niçoise based on Keller’s adaptation in his French Laundry cookbook. I didn’t have fresh herbs or frisé lettuce on hand (and I wanted to do with what I had as much as possible because I don’t like to buy new lettuce when I already have tons of other greens that need eating). Alors, instead of frisé, we have a variety of sprouts with deep-fried capers (the little buds blossom into crunchy, salty flowers!), toast points, olive tapenade, quail eggs with cayenne pepper, and tuna ‘carpaccio’. My favourite cayenne pepper was found, oddly enough, in Dublin while I was on sabbatical and I purchased 2 boxes of it when I was last back. One box I have frozen, and the other I keep in an airtight preserve jar (the kind with the spring-loaded latch). What I like about this cayenne is that it has lots of ‘zip’ without any bitterness or chalky woodiness; it is piquant and sweet. Unfortunately, the purveyor, the Green Cuisine company from the UK does not ship to Canada. I may have to ask my friend to bring me some in May when she comes to visit from Bristol.

I find it endlessly ironic and amusing that I found the best cayenne ever in Dublin! It’s counter intuitive, non?

Anyway, here is a shot of our brunch.

Thomas Keller would cut the tuna on perfect circles, but I didn’t want to waste the edges and had no plans for a tuna tartar dish in the next 5 hours.

Tonight, while I fiddle on my course website for an online course I’m teaching this summer, I will also be simmering a fois-gras in a homemade chicken stock so that I can proceed from there to make a proper torchon for consuming on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, there can be no cycling around town today as we have to go out of town for dinner with the in-laws.

By the way: Brooks Saddle Update.
April 19, 2009, 2:01 am
Filed under: commute by bike

Two weeks in with full use of the new saddle. I have to say that it’s the most comfortable seat I have ever had. I have a policy about shoes: always leather, and with leather soles whenever possible.

I have always spent “too much” on my shoes, and been happy to wear consignment shop clothes, but maintain that I have to be able to use my feet for the rest of my life.

The Bicycle saddle is the same deal. I love the way the leather shapes to each individual person’s anatomy — just a like a good shoes shapes itself to one’s own foot. I am also lovely the gentle spring in the seat — which takes a load off my lower spine. Seeing as I have bad back problems secondary to a car accident when I was a kid, protecting my lower back from undue shock is really important.

I have a fitted saddle cover so that if it ever looks like there may be rain I can cover up the leather, and I do fully expect that many years from now people will be admiring the patina of the very old seat on the ‘old fashioned’ bike.

ps: I noted today that it is the Blue Beauty’s birthday and in the year since I bought her, I have ridden 10 out of the 12 months, only putting her away for December (when I was being a homebody) and January (when we had over a meter of snow on the ground and -30 temps).

Happy riding, everyone!

April 19, 2009, 1:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday was a lovely day! The weather was great, and I biked all the way to the other end of K/W, to Victoria Lake, in the evening to hang out with colleagues at a little pub in an old boathouse, and called, appropriately: The Boathouse.

Evening sun over the little lake was lovely, and my ride down the Iron Horse Trail was swift and gentle at the same time.

It was also a nice day because I learned just as I was heading out for the evening that I had been awarded merit for the previous year. I’m delighted because it had been SO LONG since I’d submitted my annual report that I had begun to despair that no one cared that my book had been published, or that I’d had another major article published, or that I’d been a visiting scholar at UC Dublin… I was feeling rather dejected! And then came the news, and so my morale is on a bit of a high.

Translation: I allowed myself a fabulous new pair of Stuart Weitzman sandals for summer. I can hardly wait to wear them while pedaling around town.

Pics from last evening, and of my new shoes.




Chic cycling hits the NY Times
April 16, 2009, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The popular news is late to the game — again. However there’s a nice little article in the NY Times today about cashmere commuters and the new era of bicycles as practical transportation.

I’ll add the link here and just say that although my cost of $860 for the Old Dutch may seem “hefty”, my Blue Beauty will last about 17 times longer than some yuppie’s new Land Rover (with apologies to my uncle who was in charge of steel production of Ford until the 70’s: isn’t Land Rover a division of Ford now?). And I’ll add the rhetorical question: Why is it so rare for anyone to focus on the price tag on a high-end ‘sport’ oriented bike?

The New York Times article.

EDITED late evening to add:
Today was the first day that I smelled the smell of warm ground/earth with the fragrance of pine needles from last fall’s drop being heated up *just that much* by the sun. Much as I favour public transit, I would not have experienced that lovely first-really-warm-day smell if I’d been on the bus.

Tomorrow I aim to ride the Iron Horse Trail down to Victoria Lake in Kitchener to meet with colleagues for a drink… then it will be back to work for the whole week-end.

Anyway, these are just my little observations about the joys — rather than the sacrifices — of a more environmentally friendly approach to life.

Next week, more long these same lines of little environmental choices we can make for the good that do not result in feelings of deprivation, nor in terrible hits to the pocket-book, I’ll post about my favourite local service/market: Pfenning’s Organic.

A Fine Spring Day
April 16, 2009, 1:13 am
Filed under: around town

While running some errands downtown (picking up an antique bracelet I was having re-strung, getting some farm eggs…) I saw a charming woman riding a pretty (and pretty vintage) bike. I was too shy to ask if I could take her picture, but when she stopped into the same grocery I was going to, I snapped a shot of her bike. It reminds me of the bike in de Beauvoir’s Le Sang des Autres, Clearly the owner has added a new seat and a pretty little basket for upfront. Very nice indeed.

On my way home I noticed in the woods beside the multi-use trail that the crocus flowers had started to peak out from their leafy beds. I adore the little crocus: so tiny and delicate and yet with the temerity to come out when we can still have inches of snow fall on us.*

* I hope my mention of it does not invoke a nasty spring blizzard!

Someone else to see bicycling around town
April 15, 2009, 12:43 am
Filed under: around town, commute by bike

Here is my lovely grad student, L., arriving on her lovely hybrid mixte bike to do her thing on campus today. We both rode in, by the way, in FIERCE winds. We agreed that had we not been pedaling we’d have been blown *backward*!

And here’s a new shot of the Blue Beauty with her new Brooks saddle:


And I stopped to take this giant fellow’s picture on my ride into work this morning:


And tonight’s dinner, a local prosciutto from Niagara-on-the-Lake, with local wild leeks from the woods behind our house, in a fabulous risotto with both Parmesanno Regianno and Pecorino Romarin: dscf1539dscf1538

All in all, a really great day — which is good. I’ve been in need of one of those.