Staying nourished and balanced at Cornucopia

A new addition to Whistler’s anticipated Cornucopia festival this year was a series of “Nourish” seminars and yoga/meditation classes. While one may wonder what this has to do with a food and wine festival where indulgence seems to be an upmost priority, it is the balance that it creates that is key.

Last year’s Cornucopia saw me attending ten events in three days – that’s a lot of food, libations and very little down-time. At the end of it,  I was exhausted, sluggish and had a daunting amount of work ahead of me. This year, while I still attended a plethora of events, I ensured that I maintained my energy levels and tended to my well-being by participating in activities that didn’t involve alcohol, high heels or an endless supply of food.

My first “Nourish” seminar was on the topic of fermented beverages. As someone who’s scope of fermentation remains in the beer and wine sector, it was interesting to learn about the health properties of other fermented beverages such as kombucha. Kombucha is not alien to me, or probably anyone in Vancouver, as there is a slew of different flavours lining at least one shelf in Whole Foods, Choices, Capers etc., I generally think that it’s overpriced and often has too high of a sugar content for me to whole-heartedly consider it a health product. However, like any “healthy” product, you have to filter out the bad options in order to find the good ones; or you can just make it at home so that you control the ingredients.

Nourish Seminar - Fermented Drinks

Scoby to the left of the beverages.

Under the instruction of our host Astrid, we learned the process of making kombucha, from the basics on scoby (symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast) aka the “mother culture”, to the variations of beverages in purity and intensity. Astrid brought in her scoby to show us what it looked like and to explain how to take care of it. “Wash it, the scoby likes it; keep it clean, keep it still and keep it covered. You can also talk to it,” explained Astrid. “Bacteria responds to light, air and energy, and the scoby doesn’t like movement or a change of temperature.”

As we sipped on the different kombuchas, some containing spirulina, others containing fruit juices or chia seeds, a few of the attendees claimed that the beverage gives them the sensation of being “drunk”. I found them energizing due to the effervescence, natural sugars and health properties, but didn’t feel the same sensation as they did. I would associate their happy feeling, “fuzzy” state, and acute mental sense with the effects of drugs rather than alcohol anyway. Apparently one’s reaction is often determined by how their body digests the product, which relates to their fitness level, as well as the amount of toxins in their body and their alkaline/acid levels (pH balance).  Whether you’re seeking a beverage that gives you a natural buzz, or you’re looking for one with the most nutritious value, I feel that it ultimately comes down to taste. Is it palatable enough to sip on? Or is it high dosage and drunk as a shot? 

“If you don’t like one fermented food or drink, try another,” advised Astrid. “Not a fan of kombucha? Try kefir.”

My second seminar of the festival was on Paleo cuisine. I’ve never been on a diet before and in the industry that I am in, it would be difficult for me to maintain anything longer than a week. That aside, it doesn’t hurt to learn about the different diets and to hear why people believe them to be the “logical and rational” way of eating.

Kara and Chef Travis, the brains and power behind Caveman Grocer, led the seminar, explaining the different elements of the diet, including what should be eaten and what shouldn’t be eaten. Apparently there are certain elements that are often confused due to incorrect word-of-mouth/blogs, such as using almond flour, despite gluten being “prohibited”. Basically you’re eating like a caveman. Did a caveman have pasta or bread? No. Could a caveman make nanaimo bars? Definitely not.

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We were told that breakfast is often the hardest aspect of maintaining the Paleo diet because many “go-tos” contain gluten, such as cereal, granola, pastries and toast. Kara’s advice? “Don’t be afraid to eat dinner for breakfast. Leftovers are a imperative component of the Paleo Diet because they save you from those moments of utter hunger when the easiest thing to make doesn’t fall within the scope of foods that are allowed.”

While we ate our meal of pork tenderloin with apple sauce, cauliflower mash and sautéed green beans, I didn’t miss the gluten or refined sugars at all. Fortunately, salt and pepper are allowed which was the pork and mash’s saving grace. I also appreciated the fact that we could still have dessert, even if it wasn’t as sweet and decadent as I usually opt for. Kara prepared a platter of lemon coconut butter bites, a recipe that she created that day.

Basic Paleo Diet rules: no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no refined sugar, high fat, high protein, high produce consumption. 

In addition to the seminars that I attended, I took a yoga class, went for a run on the beautiful Valley Trail (before it snowed) and spent an evening at Scandinave Spa, where I amped up my circulation through hot and cold baths, saunas and steam rooms. The latter was a relaxing finish to a long day, and allowed me to sweat out some of the toxins that I had just put into my body. Going on a weeknight was a unique experience because the isolation, solitude and serenity of the spa was emphasized through the surrounding darkness, the illuminated pools, and the lack of tourists that come up for the weekend.

Were you at Cornucopia? How did you balance out the indulgence? 

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