Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lifestyle - Eating Well on Practically Nothing

by Joni Miller

Exclusive to Commercial Drive – Live!

This column will be about eating fresh, eating simply, eating tasty, and eating SOON. If you are looking for recipes that require a lot of fussing and preparation, fancy tablecloths, the correct fork, expensive ingredients, 20-year-old wine, etc. - go elsewhere.

I will shamelessly promote local stores that provide great produce and good value for your money.

If in doubt, I'll consult outside experts - fellow cheapskates who live well and contribute to society through their eccentricity, cooking, and art.


The greatest influences on my style of cooking include my mother, James Barber (author of the Urban Peasant cookbooks) and a long-haired guy named Michael I knew when I was 19. My mother gets credit for teaching me you can keep your recipes in your head, and make something tasty with whatever you can find in your kitchen; James Barber for the phrase "peasant cooking" and the advice to follow your nose - (when something smells different, it's time to check the stove); Michael for introducing me to the art of the stir fry.

Hint One: If you want to eat well for cheap, live near Commercial Drive!

I've shopped for groceries all over BC, and I've gotta tell you - the freshest and cheapest produce in BC can be found on the Drive. I live part time in the Okanagan - where they GROW the stuff, by the way. Before I head out to the Interior, I regularly go shopping at Santa Barbara, and take a cooler full of vegetables back to where they came from. A bunch of fresh spinach that I can get for $.59 on Commercial Drive will cost me $1.79 in Salmon Arm. Go figure.

My Essential Ingredients

I cannot cook without:



vegetable oil (preferably extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil)

soya sauce

chili peppers

black pepper

Essential Tools

cast iron frying pan

cutting board


knife sharpener

wooden spoons

mixing bowl

various size pots

casserole dish

baking pan


Hint Two: Get the good, thick steel pots. If you're flush, buy them new, if you're not, haunt garage sales, second hand stores, or get them off your grandmother when she moves into the seniors residence. I got mine at a flea market in the West End Community Centre - a 6-piece set in an array of sizes. It cost me $ 40 (and that was the moment when I knew for sure I would never have to get married). The cheaper, thinner pots will burn your dinner the minute you turn away to put on some music or answer the phone. The good pots will be with you for a lifetime.

BTW - don't skimp on the cast iron frying pan. I advise buying a big one - unless you have no friends, of course. Teflon flakes off and ends up in your system, where it will do more damage than trans fats. Aluminum burns your dinner and has been suspected of contributing to Alzheimer's disease. You want to protect your brain at all costs. So - get the cast iron.

Okay, this is lesson one. Go shopping for equipment and I'll be back soon with some mouth watering recipes. While you're out scouring for pots, stop by the Dollar Grocer's at 6th and Commercial, and pick up some of their bulk garlic. At 33 cents per 100 grams, it's the freshest and best deal on garlic the Drive has to offer. Unless someone knows of a better place....

Joni Miller is a writer, musician, graphic designer, fund raiser, mother of two. She is the author of a forthcoming book entitled "The Starving Student’s Guide to Eating Well on Practically Nothing". As a lifetime freelancer, mother and travelling musician, she is well versed in the art of living on nothing.

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