Guest Blogger, Jessie Cuthbert: Sulphites are best saved for wine

Last week I reached out to my childhood friend and neighbour, Jessie Cuthbert, a fabulous Chef based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. This girl has taken her current restaurant, Bellissimo, by storm; fine tuning specials and garnering adoration from clients and food critics alike. When I asked her if there were any topics surrounding food that she’d like to address, I offered her a couple of examples… to which she replied, “Oh no, I already know what I’d like to write about.”

So, with out further pause, Jessie Cuthbert:

The first TV dinner ever was created in the 1960’s by Swanson and sold over 10 million units in their first year. It has since grown and morphed into a wide variety of sulphite, preservative, and saturated fat laden products. Yum. Sure, it’s convenient, cheap, and fast (which I guess is the same as convenient…); but what are the effects it’s having on our culture, our bodies, and our mind set? Ok maybe TV dinners as a threat to society as we know it is a bit extreme, but when it comes to pre-made vs. homemade, are we making the right choice?

As a Chef I like to imagine people have limitless time to cook up these fabulous, and healthy meals for their families every night. As a person who works 45 hours+ a week I understand the need for a quick, easy meal. So, why not reach for that delicious looking turkey dinner in it’s neat little compartments? Glad you asked! A standard “lean” pre-made meal boasts 15% saturated fat per 250 g serving. Now, if that’s not enough to make you put down the box, think of the sulphites (sulfites)! If you are asthmatic, this can be a serious health concern for you; you need to stay away from sulphite-rich foods/drinks. If you are not asthmatic, chances are you would rather do as I do and save your preservative intake for wine.

In the past 10 years a rash of sulphite allergies/sensitivities have sent many to hospital prompting regulations to be put in place to reduce the risk. However, pre-made meals are full of them, and while I personally haven’t felt any adverse issues with them yet, I’d rather limit my intake where possible.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: wouldn’t a meal plan be better?
Planning your meals means that you produce less waste, save money and can better prepare your meals in advance so that they really are as convenient as store bought pre-made foods.

Cook your own food and know what’s going in it. Cooking gives you and your family the opportunity to learn and be creative together. I don’t know about you, but working alongside my mom and my grandma on those day to day meals are how learned to cook.

So, if I were to say anything on the topic of lifestyle and food, I’d say: Get out there and cook! And drink wine!
But, that’s just one person’s opinion.


Pickashoe; I choose you!

Something I find really interesting is that, when ever I go shoe shopping, the salesperson often comments on the shoe that I’ve tried on.

That shoe, and how it stands alone, is not my concern. It looked like a pretty shoe before I put it on my foot. You already knew that it looked like a pretty shoe before I put it on my foot.

My concern is how it makes ME look.
Yes, I’m self centred but, really, if we’re talking about buying new pretty things, that’s really what we’re all going for anyways. No?

When I pick a shoe, my primary concern is what the shoe provides for me.
Do the shoes make my legs look longer? Leaner? Balanced? Top Heavy? Do I look like Big Foot?
Often, especially when people select boots, we are more concerned about the appearance of the shoe than the appearance of ourselves inside of the shoe. I’ve seen shoes take long legged wonder women and cut their legs down to those of a portly, adolescent, male. The shoes were gorgeous, of course.

So, I challenge you. Go take your shoes out of their closet space and get ready for some seriously honest mirror time. Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Wipe off your shoes. These bad boys live on the ground; occasional touch ups and protective coats have been earned by these poor soles.
  • Try on your shoes with something that you think you’d normally pair them with.
  • Ask yourself, outside of colour, how do these shoes contribute to your appearance?
  • Follow up with: Is that what I want them to do?
  • If what your shoes do is different from what you had intended them to do, try pairing them with something else to see if it makes a difference.
  • If these shoes are still faux-amis, donate them.

Keeping shoes around that don’t help you out will just clutter your living space.
You’re a busy person, you don’t need that.


*disclaimer: if your goal is having your legs look like that of a portly, adolescent, male… then you rock those crazy shoes.
**disclaimer: there is clearly nothing innately wrong with portly, adolescent, males.

I’m eating dinner: The process of food selection at restaurants

Somewhere in the middle of my partner and I’s relationship we discovered that we were really different about how we approach eating food at restaurants.

I mean, yeah, I knew that I was a vegetarian and he was not but, it went way beyond that.
When we’d stop for a bite to eat at a pub/ restaurant after a day of hiking I’d eat dinner… and he’d eat at a restaurant.
It sounds a bit funny to phrase it that way but, it’s the best I’ve got.

I would eat something akin to what I would make myself for a meal and he would “splurge” on something that he’d never make at home. I’m not talking technically difficult food here, I’m talking deep fried fries, burgers, deep fried fish, wings/ ribs… things soaked in salts, fats, sauces and what ever else goes into meat things (I confess my ignorance here).

If I made something like that at home, he’d tease me relentlessly about my poor taste in food. 

But somewhere in our brains, I’d maintained what I considered as a stable entity for meal appropriate food and he’d created a subsection for what one eats at a restaurant.
Therefore, I eat like I do at home and he eats restaurant food.
The excess of food consumed, not only because of portion size but, because of the nature of what his brain had categorized as food that is appropriate to eat in a restaurant setting meant, that the different caloric intake between our two meals was huge!

If you’re a super busy person like me who often needs to supplement her packed meals with something purchased, eating out a lot can really add up on your waistline.
When I go to a restaurant, I look at the menu and ask myself, “What do I want for dinner?”
Try it out, see if it helps 🙂

Be Gorgeous: Avoiding Nonsense

Sometimes I like to feel pretty.
… and sometimes my brain buys in to the western culture of beauty and I start thinking about ways to make myself prettier… in the strangest of ways.

I think about buying makeup, going in to see my hairdresser, getting a mani-pedi, going to the spa, buying new clothes or some other form of perceived self betterment.

And then I always remember this:
If I want glowing skin, I can go sweat, shower, wash, exfoliate, moisturize and eat well.
If I want to look pretty for an event, instead of buying something new and figure flattering, I can go for a run, lift some weights and make my figure flattering all on its own.
If I want beautiful no hassle nails, I cut mine short and toss a coat of clear polish on them and moisturize my hands.

If you want to have a special treat day, or need new clothes or want to have fun with colours, experiences and shapes, go play with beauty products! They are a beautiful medium of art and self expression. However, I do not, and cannot, conflate art and self expression with beauty. 

True physical beauty is not expensive.
A beautiful body (on the outside) is often representative of all of the good and beautiful things occurring inside the body.

Sailing is the best.

Your Clothes Should Do Something

I’ve never considered myself a stylish individual, see above sailing picture.
My process for item selection is incredibly simple: Garments and accessories should do something.

Whether they’re keeping me warm, cool, holding my stuff, facilitating movement (yay sports!), helping me get a job, or even making my legs look longer, my wardrobe consists entirely of items that do something.

You know that saying, “Honey, that shirt/dress/pair of trousers do(es) nothing for you.” 
It’s like my inner rationalist took that saying on and beat it up until my mother would approve.

When we select items to represent ourselves to the world, the semiotics are more than I could ever hope to break down… even if I were to write a novel. This confusion over representation is one of the reasons there is a fashion industry and why there are so many fashion bloggers out there. So, Im’ma dodge that bullet (at least for now).

But what I can contribute to the discussion is a somewhat Durkheimian perception of item selection.

Owning clothes or items simply because they appeared appealing does very little for our day to day needs. When we cave and purchase something for purely symbolic value (because it’s pretty), these items often end up living on a hanger or in a closet somewhere (hehm, those painful shoes).

So, I challenge you, walk into your closet and ask yourself, what do your garments and accessories do?

The Realities of Diet

My first three “Journal Jenga” entries hinted at the complexities of what diet is.
The entries covered what you ate, when you ate it and how you ate it.

The goal of the series is not to help you create the perfect meal plan or live off of the “cleanest diet anyone ever did see.” Instead the goal is to help you see how human your food choices are.

When you’re starving after work and just want to collapse onto your magnificent couch and snuggle your dog/cat/child/partner/goldfish… that’s cool, man! Collapse and snuggle away!
Justifying less than optimal food choices based on your levels of fatigue though, that’s not so groovy.

You don’t need to justify those choices; they’re totally legit choices.

What you might care to know though, is if you really do want to replace those foods of which you are so ashamed that you pretend they’re extraneous to your normal choices… you can.

All you need to do is respect that the food choices you make when you’re bagged beyond belief as a part of who you are and what your normal diet looks like.
I’ll repeat: And that’s totally cool.

The choice to reach for comfort foods or our perception of “easy” or “quick” food is super culturally bound and I think that’s a lot of where we struggle. My mama’s go-to quick-prep foods when I was a kid were: Kraft Dinner, Alphaghettis (which I love with my whole heart), pasta and tomato sauce from a jar, and stir fry.

I feel like, for a lot of people, these are the typical “quick ‘n’ easy” foods.

Here’s where that doesn’t stack up:
I can cook butternut squash gnocchi and peas and coat them in homemade Alfredo sauce in under 10 minutes; give me an extra 5 and I can whip up a side salad to go with it. My quick’n’easy is way more nutritionally varied than KD and less likely to destroy my insides.

The food choices you make when you forget your lunch, have an energy crash, stay up late working on a project, order at the restaurant, grab when you’re starving, snack on at the movie theatre, and pick out when you haven’t gone grocery shopping are real.

And, cumulatively, these instances often out number the instances in which everything goes right. These are your real diet choices.

This afternoon when my fingers were cold and I was cranky and I didn’t want to make dinner yet but, I was hungry but, I also wanted something sweet but, didn’t want to walk to the store… so, I made two mugs of hot chocolate. This is an accurate representation of my diet.

Spring has Sprung!

Get out your runners, your hikers or what ever floats your boat!

Hiking is a great way to whittle your waist, define your legs, increase your aerobic capacity and spend time with friends and family…. and puppies. My dog much prefers hiking with me to staying home while I lift weights.

If you’re looking for some great hikes around Calgary this spring, there are heaps!
Remember though… mountain weather, especially in spring, is a little bit bananas. Be safe, check the weather, grab a friend and always tell people where you’re going.

For a light day with friends one of my favourite day trips is out to Lake Louise! 
There are two lovely hikes up to two different tea houses in the mountains where you can rest your legs, grab a snack (cash only, mind you), and enjoy the scenery before you head back down towards the Chateau.

If you love the tea house hikes but find them to be a bit too short (as I do), there’s a little something that Banff/Lake Louise Tourism have dubbed the Tea House Challenge. You get to have TWO snacks while completing a 15km loop that takes approximately 4.5hours… plus snack time. Heads up: Tea doesn’t start until the first of June 🙂
There’s even a website that you can check out for a few more details:

Yamnuska is another popular favourite for local climbers and hikers… and the chimney to the top? Well, it’s just asking to be climbed. This hike has a fair amount of “up” to it and some pretty serious scree so, comfort in a scramble environment is a must. If you don’t know what scree or scrambling is… I’d suggest finding an avid hiking friend to do this one with on your first time up. This hike, although a shorter time and distance than the Lake Louise ones, is much more challenging.

There are so many other hikes that you can tap into… we’re right beside the Rockies!
I solemnly swear that I’ll share pictures and stories about some of the awesome hikes I complete this summer.
… Just make sure you share yours too!