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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Food for a Healing Planet: Julie Daniluk talks to Taodhg Burns of TorontotheBetter

It’s sad, I see it everyday, in Toronto and other cities, Canadian bodies, and the minds within them, struggling to support the weight that has been put on them. Obesity and diabetes are everywhere in 2010, and by the look of it, they won’t be going away quickly. If the idea that we can eat our way out of the crisis seems crazy, listen on. New TorontotheBetter business person Julie Daniluk has something to say about it.

The Ukraine, the birthplace of Julie Daniluk’s grandmother was once known as Europe’s breadbasket, the source of basic foodstuffs for the continent . And sure enough Grannie Daniluk made the cabbage rolls – all ingredients from the backyard – and other meals that fed the family bodies. And in the case of Julie, new TorontotheBetter business creator, author of Meals that Heal, and host of TV programe The Perfect Fit, Grannie fed her spirit too. The idea of food that heals was born in the culture of her childhood, so what Julie is preaching – and it is belief that drives her – is not something new , however trendy natural aka organic/biologique food has become of late.

No, for Julie, food that heals means more than natural food, it means returning to nature in the way we prepare it, to the way meals were made in her Grannie’s day, to what works, and has worked. As an example of what might be, we started talking about donuts, the classical junk food of many’s choice. Images of chain donut guzzling fit well with TV- and DVD- hooked generations for whom watching sport has replaced doing it. But no food, including donuts, is evil, lullabies Julie. It’s how we make it/them. Here’s my donut lesson from the gospel of Julie Daniluk: Although sometimes the wheat that goes into most basic dough donut dough is not always problem-free (wheat ingredients can cause problems for some), it’s when you drop the donut dough in 350 degree deep fat that those potentially nice donuts become, if not evil, then hazardous to your health, releasing carcinogenic free radicals into your bloodstream and posing risks to major organs.

OK, so back to basics must be our mantra. Most of us likely have an instinctive respect for “mother [or grandmother] knew best”, messages, but who now knows what Julie’s Grannie knew? And if they don’t how will they find out? In 2010, bookstores are full of healthy eating and natural growing manuals. but meanwhile the obesity beat goes on.

The good news is, there are hopeful signs. Like TorontotheBetter, where we’ve seen an explosion of healthy food enterprises in the last few years, in her work as cooking adviser, Julie is seeing many newcomers to the world of food preparation eager to learn more and different. Ok, we all have to eat, including lawyers, but law society representatives like the ones Julie’s seen at her classes, now that’s likely new, and a sign of something deeper that’s going on. Even if they’re aging lawyers regretting years of donuts, they’re getting concerned and that’s a pre-determinant of change. Some of us, especially the non-lawyers, might be suspicious of a “legal donut”, i.e. a donut made by lawyers, but for Julie getting the healthy food message out to whoever will listen is her mission. And she’s happy to see them.

With lessons like these, then, maybe we’d all have liked school! A revolution requires masses and many tactics. Whether it is Jamie Oliver dressing up like a chicken nugget, a condo-dweller growing a bean or two on their balcony, or Julie relaying her Grannie’s messages to lawyers , each of these actors is playing an important part that speaks to different audiences, and a whole is emerging greater than the parts added together. Together, educators and entrepreneurs like Julie, and their audiences, are building a healthier Toronto and a healthier Toronto is a better Toronto.
All well and good, we usually end our interviews this way, but… In this case, despite the fact that a healthy meal can be made, as Julie maintains, for $5, how many of the people who have to live on $5 healthy- meals are actually able to eat them? Not enough, obviously, and thereby hangs the tail/tale.

To realize the healthiness benefits of the lessons that Julie and others bear, we need governance changes that will help to get out the knowledge to all, particularly those who most need to know it (as well, of course, as the money to buy the ingredients for the recipes). And that’s pretty much all of us, so separated are we urban-dwellers, from the basics of food and cooking. Right now, the messages that most continuously get to us are the commercially derived and largely unhealthy ones. Each week I walk past a restaurant offering all you can eat Sushi meals. All you can eat Sushi!. Imagine it. It’s no surprise that in a city that publicly values healthiness for its citizens – an economic as well as humanitarian benefit – but is unable, or, in some cases, unwilling, to implant the behaviours that will realize it, the public, particularly the poor, keep getting unhealthier than they have to be.

What can we do, as citizens? Listen to Julie in all her diverse media (print, TV and in person), yes. But then, do what we can to make those lessons realizable for all. Healthy eating is not just about personal choices. Our choices are determined by our social and economic status. That said, being able to make healthy meals from if/when we have healthy options is clearly part of the solution. If we don’t live near farmers’ markets and the cost of getting to them as well as of the food at them, is out of our league, then our ability to take advantage of the lessons of Julie and progressive nutritionists like her will be limited. As TorontotheBetter supporters what are we to do? Fight for the changes that will make healthy food options, and knowledge about healthy meals, like Julie’s, a real option for all, wherever they live in the city.

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