Monday, July 16, 2012

Playing with Food

In the late 1990s, at the launch of this food warrior's quest for good food, a favourite meal for my toddler daughter was one that included beets. I would let her paint her skin with the beet juice and that just delighted the two of us, each and every time.

So imagine my own fond recollections when I went to a recent Songwriters United Blitz (organized by the talented Russell Leon) this past weekend at the Free Times Cafe here in Toronto and heard the rather sexy song "Beets in the Cellar" performed by Maria Kasstan. I recorded it with my new fancy smart phone (quality is not too bad, reduce volume a bit) and I post it here for you to get a taste of this fantastic songwriter/performer if you haven't already been so lucky.  That night I recorded her two other food themed songs too:  Why do the Bees Buzz? and An Act of Love.  And then a surprising water themed song was performed by musician/water activist Peter J Slack (water makes up to 96% of food content so it is important to connect food to water issues).

Many people in the Toronto food justice scene will recognize Maria.  I have gotten to know her over the last few years and felt a review was in order.  Creating radishly different things is part of our mission here at Lettuce Connect and Ms. Kasstan's work definitely falls into that category.

Ms. Kasstan is a professional busker.  She has been a lifelong musician but only returned to a professional calling to it in the last decade - having raised four children and after being tragically widowed in 2004.  She is also the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to bees or seeds.  She is a founding member of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-ooperative, a long time volunteer with Seeds of Diversity and the Toronto Raging Grannies and she knows a thing or two about mushroom foraging too.  To say I feel privileged to know her would be an understatement. In fact, I went to a Toronto Yonge Street Speaker Series session last November and Josh McManus, a social innovator based out of Chatanooga, Tennessee, mentioned that in this current world we have neglected the importance of elders and he suggested that each of us needs to build our own clan of elders around us.  Maria was the first person that came to mind when I heard that suggestion.

Her best busking nights are Saturday nights so when I asked her if she could perform at an upcoming (very low budget ie no performance fee) second anniversary party for Food Forward (a Toronto food advocacy organization that Lettuce Connect supports) she was a bit disappointed to hear it was on a Saturday night.  When I told her not to worry, that we would find someone else because we here at Lettuce Connect understand that although Food Justice events are fun and important for the greater good, they don't, in and of themselves, put food on the table on a regular basis.

But 'resistence is fertile' so they say and Ms. Kasstan said:  "No, no no...send me the details and I'll let you know."  So with fingers crossed, this food warrior awaits confirmation that yes, you too can hear her perform live and experience the magic that is Maria :)

And by the way, in the interest of supporting food artists, you can download Maria Kasstan's album that contains 11 original pieces for less than $10 CDN at  [scroll down a bit].  They are not all food themed but there is enough on this album to fill you won't walk away hungry after listening.

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