Today marks 1 year since the Canadian Food Experience Project launched, which began with the goal for us as participants to share our collective food experiences and recipes, with the hope of bringing clarity to a Canadian culinary identity. This month marks the end of this journey, and the 8 posts I contributed are below – does this food feel Canadian to you like it does to me?
(You can find hundreds more contributions to the project here.)
So I guess the big question is, did we do what we set out to accomplish? I’m not sure. To me, Canadian food is as much a mosaic as Canadian culture, and narrowing a culinary identity is more accurately done province by province, or region by region, and even then, capturing the full spirit of culinary identity is difficult. Where I live, fresh salmon and berry season are highlights of the culinary year, and there is a growing trend to grow your own food, cook and buy locally and seasonally, and eat homemade. However, just as common are regular, busy individuals and families struggling to eat balanced meals on a budget who couldn’t care less about seasonal, local, free range, or organic.
I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
While I firmly believe in the benefits of mostly homemade food, I also recognize that with (almost) 4 children, and my husband and I having been perpetual students for our eight years of marriage, organic and free range are not a realistic part of the budget. If we eat vegetarian, it’s not because of any grand commitments or ideologies, it’s because meat costs a lot that week and so does fresh produce and I’d rather have the produce.
I love growing my own food in our backyard garden, but I’m not into preserving. I like to eat fresh and in season, and whatever makes it to my freezer is usually not even used up by the next summer because I’ve moved on to different seasonal foods. The advent of high quality, affordable frozen food and the cheap availability of canned goods make home preserving much less necessary and cost effective than it used to be.
What it comes down to is that food is about nourishment, not ideological beliefs. Food is about energy, balance and nutrition. It’s about meeting basic needs. It’s a blessing not to be taken for granted, and something that should never polarize friends or larger groups. The topic of food has become an area that is heavy on judgement, guilt, and condemnation – it should not involve any of those things. It should bring people together, not give them more reasons to look down on each other.
I struggle with this myself, and need to remind myself often that it is not my place to judge. We all make choices every day, multiple times per day, about what to put into our bodies. The one occasion in a day when I see someone eating or feeding their children something that I dislike should in no way cause me to make assumptions about what they’re consuming the rest of the day or week. It’s about recognizing that not everyone lives like you or thinks like you. Food is not a religion or a political position. The only ideological belief regarding food that anyone should force on anyone else is that access to enough healthy food should be a basic human right. Every person needs to be given the ability to access that food, know about that food, and prepare that food for themselves and/or others. More than perhaps anything else, food is about sharing.
The Canadian culinary identity should be identified as inclusive, supportive, understanding, and so incredibly plentiful. We are a richly blessed nation, through no merit of our own, with a vibrant and passionate culinary community. Let’s all keep enjoying food for the right reasons, because it is truly great to enjoy good food.