A Passable Interview: Lezlie Lowe Part Two

Lezlie Lowe is a foodie.

She is also, among many things, a teacher, a mom and a journalist.

Those three things play a role in her being a foodie. In our last post, we spoke with Lezlie about the beginnings of her relationship with food, and her family’s relationship with food. Here, Lezlie talks about how her work as a journalist fed into her world as a foodie.

You go to the market every week. Has your relationship with food has changed now that you have a relationship with these farmers?

It’s really gratifying. I find it really, really gratifying to have conversations with people who are growing my food.

Why?

It sounds cliché, but I like to know that I am financially supporting those people. I feel privileged that I can talk to these people and know them and know that I am helping them and that they’re helping me. It’s a reciprocal relationship. Norbert Kungl is doing a new community shared agriculture (CSA) thing where he is asking people for any money you can afford and you can use it throughout the year. He gives you 10% more, so if you give him $500 this Saturday, he gives you $550 tab. And he uses the money at this time of year, since there is a lot of output on the farm in terms of money, and a lot of labour. When he said that, I loved it, yes, bring it on.

More and more people are doing that. For people like you who go every week, it makes sense.

That way I don’t have to get money out of my pocket. My husband and I sat down and figured out, “How much do we spend in a week, just with him?” and we figured it out. It completely makes sense to do this.

What made you want to start writing about food?

The milk story purely came out of being at the market and buying my cheese and yogurt from Rick Rand at Fox Hill and wondering why I could go downstairs at the market and buy goat’s milk. I can buy yougurt, I can buy cheese I can buy ice cream, but I couldn’t get fluid cow’s milk. So I just asked Rick, and he told me why, and I couldn’t’ believe it. The answer is crazy.

In a nutshell, what is the answer?

In a nutshell, decisions about dairy in Nova Scotia are made by the DFNS, which is a producer/processor board. The processors have more power and the processors are Baxter, which has been bought by Saputo, Farmer’s and Scotsburn, which are co-ops in Nova Scotia. Farmer’s and Scotsburn are not organic, but at least the money stays here. I would never buy any products from Baxter. The milk is local, but the money is leaving our province. In a nutshell, the processors don’t want another player, which in this case would be Organic Meadow, which is an Ontario milk processor/co-op.

What’s been the reactions to writing about food?

People really feel strogly about food, and even if they don’t agree with some of my food politics, I really respect that. I think it’s important that people understand that food is political and it’s central to who we are culturally, physically and in many other ways. BUT, I wrote this piece about meat, which is kind of along the same lines as the organic dairy piece that I did which was about…the original question I started out with was, “Is it possible to be an environmentally conscious meat-eater, because really strong left-wing journalism would have you believe that no matter what or where you get your meat – you’re killing the planet if you’re eating a cow. So I wanted to find out if that was true or not. So I interviewed this farmer-woman, Jenniffer Scott, who gave me all these reasons how cows are helpful. Cows are helpful to Nova Scotia’s soil, because of the climate specific to our province. She was very knowledgable, and she gave me lists of all these different kinds of animals and how they benefit soil and how they don’t. But the problem is that you can’t get local beef at Sobey’s and Superstore. So it turned into a story about that. Why can’t you, it’s ridiculous, why can you not get it?

Is it because of inspection policies?

It’s exactly that, it has to be federally inspected, not just provincially. Even if it is a producer in Windsor who raises her cow in Windsor, sends her cow to the closest provincially inspected slaughterhouse, and then say Superstore is 5km away, that meat still has to go to Moncton, before it gets sent back. So that’s why you can’t get atlantic beef. All that to say that after I had written the piece, I was sitting in my editor’s office at The Coast, [I found out] there were angry vegetarians on Spring Garden Road who were taking Coast boxes and filling them with water and flipping them over. ‘Cause they didn’t like the meat story, I had written a pro-meat piece. So people react strongly, and I respect that.

And then I will say, – ’cause this is how awesome my husband is – I came home and I was, “Oh my god, people are going to spraypaint our house, what are we going to do?” And he says, “We will paint a pork chop on our house, it’s all right.”

What about the milk story, did you get a lot of flack about that?

I don’t like having antagonistic relationships with people, even when I have to expose these things. But I did find that basically, DFNS is this crazy monopoly that is catering to multinational corporations, and I had to put that in my piece. And I backed it up, and that was fine, but I still felt like, “Oh, I just exposed this icky awful… and I actually did that piece twice, ‘cause I also did it as a piece for radio, so I had to interview these people twice. So that was kind of weird.

How do you think people perceive your relationship to food? ‘Cause lots of people see you at the market on a weekly basis.

I guess in terms of when you’re going to the market, you’re kind of preaching to the converted, so people have already seen me at the market whill probably think that she, like me, supports these people. And I’m one of those insane early marketers, so we’re all a bit cuckoo. In terms of other people, such as readers, or even my family… my family thinks that my husband and I are crazy. My mom doesn’t understand what we do and the way she internalises is that she thinks that we are low-fat. So she will often offer something, and I will say no, because inevitably it is some high fructose corn syrup, bleached flour thing or other. And I won’t go into the whole, “we drink whole milk and use butter instead of margarine because we like fat”. So that’s how she understands it, and my grandmother just can’t. Like I said just this week, we were on the phone and she said, ” What are you cooking?” and I said “Tofu”, and she’s like, “What’s that?”. And I mean, I have had this conversation a hundred times, “It’s a bean, just bean.” But she also could never -and this gets back to that post-war idea of food – If I told my grandmother how much I spend on a chicken, a fresh chicken, she would lose her mind. Because who the hell would ever pay 27$ for a chicken? Now, I would, and I think it’s important and I know why I do it and it’s awesome.

Another watershed moment in my food consciousness was in reading Nigella Lawson’s “How To Eat” and the first recipe is for roast chicken. She kind of uses that recipe in that book as a catalyst to explain her food philosophy. She explains that in her mother’s day – and she’s maybe 10-15 years older than me – you bought the lowest quality ingredients, and the skill in cooking was in making something amazing out of those crappy ingredients. But today it’s totally changed, it’s the opposite, you buy the highest quality ingredients you can, you buy free range, you buy fresh, and you do as little as possible to bring out the true flavours of those foods. When I read that, it kind of made my whole food life make sense in a way because I had come out of this place where I was like… I should say, I didn’t come out of this place where I was like, “Oh Mother, I can’t believe what you’ve done with these canned mushrooms!” It was like, “Oh shit, these shitty canned mushrooms again!”.

It was more like, I wonder why I didn’t like food as a kid, you know? Oh, now I get it.

  • Keep checking this site for more Passable Interviews, including an interview with food blogger, Ruth Daniels.
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