Summer Garden Fun Fair Food Demo

Sep 2, 2016Health & Nutrition

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A community services centre asked me to table at one of their local events, helping to increase access and awareness of RDs in the community.

Last Friday I was invited to participate in the Garden Fun Fair at the Centre for Immigrant Community Services (CICS). An annual event in Scarborough, the fair celebrates cultural cuisine, promotes local food, supports community talent and brings people from the community together to enjoy the last summer Friday in August.

As a dietitian, I was invited by the Community Services Worker to come out to promote nutrition and healthy eating at this community event. I was also asked to put on a food demo, to attendees a bit about healthy recipes.

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Presenting my food demonstration. All set up and ready to go!

At this particular immigrant community services centre, the majority (but not all) of the clients are new Chinese immigrants. Fitting for me, because my parents are Chinese immigrants too, who came to Canada some 30-something years ago. My mother was 20 years old she arrived in Toronto from Hong Kong. A few years later, she met my father (also from Hong Kong) in downtown Toronto while taking public transit. It is the ultimate immigrant love story!

As a Toronto native and Canadian-born Chinese (aka CBC), my cooking is often a reflection of my Chinese heritage combined with western influences. I love and eat Chinese food, but I also LOVE pizza, popcorn and chocolate! My cooking often combines rice dishes and stir-frys with sweeter tasting sauces over savoury (like my parents would prefer). I love to eat salad (is this a dietitian requirement?) but I also love cooked gai lan, choi sum and dou miu (types of traditional cooked Chinese greens). I can speak my Cantonese language (awe yeahh!) but reading and writing is pretty much non-existent due to my entire life spent in the Ontario public school system.

Which is also why, I have noticed differences in nutrition and food among Chinese immigrants and Canadians. Growing up, we never really ate much raw vegetables. I noticed that dinner (prepared Chinese, and family-style) never had raw carrots, cucumbers or salad like when I had dinner at my friends’ houses. Raw vegetables are considered “uncooked” food, and would need to be cooked in order to be consumed.

I love cooked Chinese vegetables, but now, as a dietitian my goal is to try to get my Chinese parents (especially my father) and clients to try more raw vegetables. Using the cooking skills and flavours I acquired in a Chinese household, combined with my Canadian environment with salad and raw vegetables, I food demo-ed a Chinese-Style Cucumber Salad!

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Dressing: Seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, sesame seed oil, red pepper flakes, salt.
Using common Chinese and Asian sauces and flavours, I created a dressing. My trick was to put it on top of raw cucumbers so that it feels less strange eating raw cucumber slices. The vinegar would also chemical cook, softening the cucumbers a bit, making them less hard (the complaint my father makes about eating raw vegetables). Cucumbers are also less hard on the jaw than other raw vegetables such as carrots, peppers or celery.

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Green onions and peanuts are also common ingredients in Chinese Cuisine

 I emphasized that although cooked vegetables are healthy and delicious, trying some raw vegetables are also good for our health too, giving us a greater range of nutritional benefits. Overall, the audience was pretty receptive to my recipe and food demonstration. I was surprised when a little Chinese girl came back to my demo table for a second sampling!

Did you grow up in a culture that consumes vegetables or fruit in a different way? Tell me in the comments below!

Meet Michelle

Welcome, I'm Michelle! I'm a TV and digital media registered dietitian and Asian cuisine content creator based out of Hamilton, ON Canada!

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