Transition Winnipeg Upskilling Fest

Last month when I was writing about Miss Browns I mentioned that I was connected to Transition Winnipeg. Transition Winnipeg is part of the worldwide Transition movement. The major goal of Transition is to help individuals and more importantly whole communities, reduce their reliance on fossil fuels as the engine of economic life. This is approached in many ways. A large part of the Transition movement is working with governments to help craft policies that encourage the use of less fossil fuel based energy.
Along with this, the Transition movement encourages the recovery of old practices that require less energy. Among these various practices are several related to food and making better use of our green spaces to help provide nourishment to our world.
Unforunately, in only a generation or two, many of these practices have been so neglected that only a small number of people know how to make use of them. So, in addition to working to bring about systemic change, Transition Winnipeg also works to provide opportunities for people to increase the skills they already have, or to learn new skills that will complement their existing skills. This is being done through holding upskilling events a couple of times a year.

Transition Winnipeg Upskills at CMU:

Last Saturday at the Great Hall At Canadian Mennonite University, Transition Winnipeg held its Spring Upskilling Festival. This was the first of the festivals that they hope to hold. There were a variety of workshops available. Jame Magnus-Johnston, co-chair of Transition Winnipeg, led one on developing Social Enterprises. James is currently putting his theory into practice as he gets set, along with his partners to open Fools and Horses Coffee. There were also workshops on lowering home energy costs, building a community commons, and cycling safety.
Naturally, I was more interested in the workshops related to food. I took in three of them over the course of the day. The first was on fermentation. The second was on growing your own Shitake Mushrooms. The third was on basic gardening.
mushroom-kit-part-1 from Tranisition event
plantsAs an apartment dweller, the fermentation workshop was the most interesting for me. I really like the idea of being able to cultivate a crop of gourmet mushrooms in my backyard, but the lack of said yard makes it a little impractical for me at the moment. If you are interested in this idea, you can find out about purchasing a kit from the website of Ken Fosty, who presented the workshop.
The gardening workshop was also quite good. We planted a Blackcherry Tomato plant, Oregano, Basil, and a flower, whose name I’ve forgotten, but which is edible. Not only do these plants serve as complementary flavours, they also work together to fight off each others natural predators. We left this workshop not only with more knowledge of gardening, but each of the plants in soil to take home and try and grow. How I will make this work in my apartment, I’m not sure yet.

Fermentation Workshop:

Although I’m listing it last, the Fermentation Workshop was the first of the day. It was led by Natalie of Edible Alchemy. This is not the first time I’ve been at an event involving Natalie, she created the drinks that were on offer at the Art Show opening I wrote about in November. Below is a video of Natalie and her Edible Alchemy partner talking about fermentation.
For me, the key takeaway from this session was that the chief benefit of fermentation is that while it kills the harmful microbes in our food, it allows the beneficial microbes to flourish. Our modern approach is to kill everything, good, bad, or indifferent. Fermentation also doesn’t fit well into our industrial food production modes, as it doesn’t lend itself to large scale production. However, in home, it’s a great way of helping to ensure a healthy diet.  It’s a case of accentuating the positive, while eliminating the negative as an old song says.

Transition sauerkraut
Finished product. Sauerkraut all sealed up.

While giving an informative presentation on fermentation, Natalie also demonstrated how simple it is to prepare many fermented foods. While talking she made a very simple sauerkraut. This consisted of chopped cabbage, salt and some ground dandelion leaves. Beyond chopping the cabbage the only action she did was work the salt into the cabbage with her hands to produce the brine.
Once the brine had been produced, the mixture was stuffed into a clean mason jar. To make sure that no air can get at the mixture, a cabbage leaf was placed on top. This is important, because it is the lack of air in the process that allows it  to ferment without the risk of bad bacteria developing. Also, it means that it can be done without the use of much energy.
After the presentation we were given the opportunity to try some sauerkraut that had been given the time to ferment. There were two types, a regular one, and a second one that in addition to the ingredients listed in the demo above, featured apple, onion and a thistle, whose name I missed. This was quite simply the best sauerkraut I’ve ever had.

I had to leave the event early, so I didn’t get the full benefit of the day. For a first event, Transition Winnipeg is off to a good start with their upskilling festivals. If you want to keep informed of future events, you can visit the Facebook page linked above. If you want to become involved with Transition Winnipeg you can become a member at their website.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.