Food in the New Climate

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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About a year ago, I did a blog here on MOTHER about weather preparedness and cooking/baking during times of moderate to severe weather phenomena:tornadoes, thunderstorms, hurricanes, that sort of thing. Here we are now and things have gotten worse.Much worse.A friend of mine in Florida came home from work a few days ago, to find the roof missing from her condo. An F1 tornado went through. Also this week, after a terrible heat wave (Tuesday was the hottest day of the year so far for most of us. In Toronto, it was the hottest day in the past year).We saw severe thunderstorms here that day, and F0 and F1 tornadoes were in the area.

Aside from unpredictable and severe weather, large parts of North America, both US and Canada, are now being faced with drought. While other areas are flooding. Where does all this leave us? For one, there can’t be any doubt now about climate change. This is going to be the new normal. So, what can we do about it? Prepare and cope. Again, I want to reiterate preparedness, have First Aid skills, and definitely always keep an eye on the weather, especially in summer. I can’t stress this strongly enough. Many people get caught off guard by severe weather. Just ask the folks at the Whitby, ON., Ribfest, where 17 were sent to hospital after a lightening strike. As a part time sailor, and part time weather watcher, I know how quickly it can get nasty. In the matter of 15 minutes here last month, a thunderstorm blew up, and an F0 raced through, taking one of our trees. I barely had enough time to pour extra drinking water, batten the hatches, get everyone inside, before all heck broke loose. These are no laughing matters.

As this is a blog about food, how does this chaos affect us? Mightily. Farmers in my area have thrown in the towel, their crops ruined. Ditto for a growing part of Canada, with disaster zones now declared in large parts of the US. Our apple crop here was already destroyed this spring, after record temperatures, followed by freezes. Now it’s corn’s turn, soy’s not far behind. Our food prices will be impacted, maybe not immediately, but it’s a guarantee that they will go up. It’s not clear yet how much they’ll go up. This not only affects corn and soy, the two brothers of modern industrial agriculture, but the downstream products and foods formulated from them.Corn goes into everything, even your paint, linoleum and toothpaste.Not just your edibles.Your beef, pork, and chicken of course will become more dear.Is there anything we can do to hedge against higher prices? Yes.

On certain items, it’s perhaps a good idea to stock up on some items now if you can afford to. If you’re not in a drought area, with a growing season that is getting ever longer, this can work to your advantage. Take up gardening, grow your own. My little plot, while pretty small, sure is mighty. Shakespeare said something to that effect once. If you are in a drought area, if you haven’t already, for next year, get into saving water. As in rain barrels. They won’t last forever, but you can at least get some water put aside for a while. There are whole water diversion systems out there for saving water. You can probably do a lot of this yourself. Some folks have gotten quite creative with their water management.

As things have gotten quite hot, and I’m more of an Arctic animal, I refuse to cook in the house, because I don’t want to heat it up even more. This is where your microwave can be a big help. During this most recent heat wave, I set up on my unheated, un-AC’d porch, a type of summer kitchen. I dug out an old convection oven, set that up, and set up an induction burner that I got for Christmas. It’s enough to reheat something, or as is my passion (or weakness), bake. I opened up the exhaust vents (windows and doors), and turned on the exhaust fan (box fan), and it’s at least bearable. All this I only do in the evening when it’s cooler. And also when your hydro rates are cheaper. In a post-modern way, it’s something our grandparents would have understood:Take the heat out of the house. There are lots of things we can do to cope, and if the last year or so is any indicator, we’d better get good at it.

Photo by Sue Van Slooten