Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Fork in the Road: An important public service announcement—Reading pays off!

Behind everything you eat, there’s a story. Make sure you choose a good one
Stella Harvey, novelist and founder of the Whistler Writers Festival, pictured above lurking around her fridge door, would be the first to tell you to keep reading—in the kitchen and your favourite grocery store.

Ladies and gentlemen... may I have your attention for an important and timely announcement.

What with fall in full swing, that delightful and most book-ish time of year replete with festivals and readings popping up like chanterelles, including Whistler’s ever-growing, ever more popular and all-round wonderful writers’ festival about to kick off (thank you, dear Stella Harvey, mille fois, for starting it all!), there’s no better time to nudge, nudge, nudge you, dear readers, into taking a breath and extending your reading habits for just a wee nanosecond or two to improve your health and well-being, maybe even your happiness, until the end of time.

Yessiree, life is more complicated and time-consuming than ever. The latest etiquette advises us not to simply pick up the phone and yap, but rather text first to set up a time to call, unless it’s to the closest of family or friends. And folks are needing encouragement, and guidance, on how to talk with strangers. (Please do—studies confirm it decreases loneliness and increases happiness. Duh. Besides, who knows? You might even glean new fodder for your latest fiction efforts.)

But I assure you, ladies and gentlemen—if you take half a minute and actually read that label on your so-called cheese, or the box those tempting new crackers come in, you’ll learn any number of things that will help you make the kinds of food choices that will keep you and your loved ones healthier and happier. Now there’s a corny cliché of an ending, but a really good solid one.


I’ve been saying it to hubby, or anyone else within earshot, for years: “I need clean food!”

Not sure what exactly I mean by that, so let me work it out by writing it out.

Admittedly, food isn’t usually dirty, and even if it is, like the carrots we’d steal raiding gardens in Edmonton, a quick wipe on a nice lawn or such usually takes care of everything. Now, by simply reading the label on her lovely rosemary flatbread, I’ve been introduced to a kindred “clean food” spirit, one at Vicky’s Artisan Bakery.

Yes, there really is a “Vicky”—Vicky Min—who’s fluent in Mandarin and Japanese and has been managing her family-run bakery out of Markham, Ont., for years. And the little gold medallion on her product’s packaging proclaiming “Clean & Simple Ingredients” speaks to exactly what I mean. The ingredient label moreso: Eight simple ingredients, most of which you could eat on their own. Durum semolina. Poppy seeds. Sesame seeds. Rosemary. Olive oil, not some dreaded palm oil or hydrogenated shortening. No hidden sugar, or worse, glucose/fructose. No multi-syllabic chemical preservatives. (Remember that old hippie saying? If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.)

Actually, Vicky’s LinkedIn account says it better than I could: “Our ingredients are so simple and clean that each of them can be found in your kitchen.” She also explains her flatbreads and crisps are so good—and they are—she hesitates to tell people they’re vegan. (You get the implication there, right? Sorry, I love the vegan impulse, but have you ever read the ingredient lists for some processed vegan products!?)

Another great example of “go clean or go home” comes straight out of Whistler: Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Glaze. Yummy, and check out the label: Two ingredients: balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, and granulated cane sugar. Period. No added thickeners. No GMOs. No BPA in the bottle itself. No nasty nada.

And, like there really is a Vicky, if you read the label you’ll learn Nonna Pia is real, too. She was founder Chef Norm’s mom (Norm Strim in real life), who was known for her wisdom, nurturing and great cooking. Nonna Pia is what the grandkids called her. You’ll also learn about Norm’s lovely wife, Natasha, for whom he wanted to name his very good products, but she “burns salads” (joke) although they can be rescued by a dash of Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Glaze.


From Pan Ducale’s Crostini box, you’ll learn this product from Abruzzo, located on the east coast of central Italy, is oven-baked, never fried, plus they’re made with only five ingredients.

Even a box of Christie’s HoneyMaid Wafers, better known in my world as graham wafers, tells a story: Another nice, clean ingredient list plus a good recipe and a 1-800 number that’s actually answered by a real person. If you want to clarify something just call the nice folks at Mondelez, like I did to clarify if they ever use palm oil in them. No. And you don’t have to text first.

If you read labels, you can decide if you want Campbell’s chicken noodle soup with the MSG and about 34 per cent of your daily sodium intake in one serving, or Amy’s low-sodium minestrone with about only 12 per cent of your daily sodium. (I know, not quite apples and apples, just comparing two soups.)

The bottom of Que Pasa tortilla chip bags sport all kinds of little quips and sayings, including the best quote from the inimitable author and social commentator, Fran Lebowitz: “Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” (Add winking emoji.) And Coligny Creek egg cartons carry a lovely illustration of their barn along with a little anecdote containing this cheeky remark: their happy hens lay exceptional eggs for people who appreciate “a good egg” with moral standards. Cute.

So you see ladies and gentlemen of the book-ish season? Every day will bring you more and more reasons to keep reading. For fun. For enlightenment. And for good health.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who’s forever grateful to Stella Harvey for her tip to use a dab of olive oil on a paper towel to clean the smudges off stainless steel fridges