Monday, March 30, 2009

09/03/30: Possible Intro

I have an innate desire to delve deep into the soil that bears the fruit that has nourished me since the time of my birth...

I need to understand where exactly I’ve come from – the land, the people, the practices – and examine its origin, its fabric, and its nuances in detail...

I want to know how this land had shaped its inhabitants, and how inhabitants have shaped this land...

I want to know why I should love the region that has become a part of my identity and why I should be proud of it...

I feel like celebrating all that makes this location unique in the world, so that I, by association, feel my uniqueness...

Ultimately, I want to savour this place.

09/03/30: Recipe - Maple Roasted Squash Soup

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large (3 medium) onions, rough chopped
  • 2 large apples, cored and rough chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and rough chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1½ cups maple syrup
  • ¼ - ½ cup grape seed oil
  • Water
  • 1½ cup 10% cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare squash, onions, apples, carrots and garlic and put into two large roasting pans.
  2. Drizzle with the maple syrup and grape seed oil and toss.
  3. Roast in preheated oven (350F) for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are fully cooked and tender.
  4. Remove veggies from oven and let cool
  5. Put all veggies (and their juice) in large pot and add enough water to cover. (seems strange, but it’s the best way to approximate the right amount of water.)
  6. Transfer - batch at a time - into blender, and puree until smooth. Pour into separate bowl until large pot is emptied. Pour all pureed soup back into pot.
  7. Add cream and milk.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Reheat soup, stirring frequently to prevent boiling.

09/03/29: Recipe Matrix

I've been struggling a bit, trying to decide on the best way to organize and choose recipes to include in my thesis.
Originally, I chose recipes that I could see each of the "guest personas" preparing, that would explore a different aspect of the meaning of "local," and that could be organized by time required for preparation (and thus the time in the day when one would have to start making each dish). Since my first pass at a motif, I have decided to write about only personal experiences creating "local" dishes, and thus eliminate the need for creating characters/caricatures out of my own cooking styles and moods. This change has made my former time-based organization rather inappropriate. Instead, I have sketched out an alternative, month-based mode of organization. Though I may not speak directly about the month in which each recipe is set, I hope it would be implicate and would allow me to talk about a variety of products and influences.
The only problem I foresee, is that I may, similar to when I was using chapters, feel obliged to write equal amounts on each month, and focus less on times during the year (eg. harvest) that perhaps deserve more attention. I've attached the Matrix above.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

09/03/26: Inspired by these photographers

Image by Karl Blossfeld

Artichoke, by Edward Weston

09/03/26: To savour this playlist

All of the songs on my thesis soundtrack could be considered as 'local' - depending on how you interpret that word. Though they vary stylistically, all songs were sung by Canadian artists, and were written and/or recorded in Canada.

The first track I see as a sort of introduction to my motif - whimsical, creative and, much like my cooking endeavours, all about taking chances. Tracks 2 - 9 reflect the moods I associate with each of the "cooking" scenarios detailed in my Motif Structure. The following two tracks I'd originally intended to reflect the mood of the potluck dinner party - though I've now changed that part of my thesis structure. Perhaps I'll still be able to use these songs as the intro and conclusion to my thesis defence . . . just a thought! The final track is essentially the music playing during the "final credits" (aka. annotated bibliography).
  1. Chances, by Jill Barber
  2. I Can Do Better, by Pat Robitaille
  3. Love This Town, by Joel Plaskett
  4. Peel Me A Grape, by Diana Krall
  5. Sweet City Woman, by Stampeders
  6. Never Quit Loving You, by Jill Barber
  7. Wheat Kings, by The Tragically Hip
  8. Hello City, by Barenaked Ladies
  9. Taking Care Of Business, by Bachman Turner Overdrive
  10. Dance Me To The End Of Love, by Leonard Cohen
  11. Until We Meet Again, by Pat Robitaille
  12. In My Life, by Chantal Kreviazuk

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

09/03/23: 'Local' in the media

I hung up the phone.
“Local,” I repeated to myself. “Huh . . .”
“So what are we supposed to bring tomorrow?” he asked, looking up from his newspaper.
“She wants us to bring a dish that is ‘local.’” I replied, emphasizing her terminology by mimicking quotation marks with my fingers. “Any ideas?”
“’Local,’ you said? That’s quite the craze these days, isn’t it? I think I saw an article about that in the Times the other day.” He got up from his chair, walked over to the recycling bin in the kitchen, and sifted through the flattened cereal boxes and flyers until emerging with the sought-out paper in hand. Paging through the sections, then the leafs, he finally set the paper on the counter opened to the article.
“Here . . .” he ran his finger down the page and began to read aloud.

‘After being largely ignored for years by Washington, advocates of organic and locally grown food have found a receptive ear in the White House, which has vowed to encourage a more nutritious and sustainable food supply.
The most vocal booster so far has been the first lady, Michelle Obama, who has emphasized the need for fresh, unprocessed, locally grown food and, last week, started work on a White House vegetable garden…
…At the heart of the sustainable-food movement is a belief that America has become efficient at producing cheap, abundant food that profits corporations and agribusiness, but is unhealthy and bad for the environment.
The federal government is culpable, the activists say, because it pays farmers billions in subsidies each year for growing grains and soybeans. A result is an abundance of corn and soybeans that provide cheap feed for livestock and inexpensive food ingredients like
high-fructose corn syrup…
…The ideas are hardly new… What is new is that the sustainable-food movement has gained both commercial heft, with the rapid success of organic and natural foods in the last decade, and celebrity cachet, with a growing cast of chefs, authors and even celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow who champion the cause.
It has also been aided by more awareness of the obesity epidemic, particularly among children, and by concerns about food safety amid seemingly continual outbreaks of tainted supplies…
…Ultimately, [Vilsack, the new secretary of agriculture] said, agriculture and food policy should fit into the Obama administration’s planned overhaul of health care, by encouraging nutrition to prevent disease. It should also be part of the effort to combat climate change, by encouraging renewable energy and conservation on farms
…There are already signs that the sustainable-agriculture track is bending farther than before. The conservative pundit George F. Will wrote a column endorsing many of Mr. Pollan’s ideas, and a prominent food industry lobbyist who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters said he was amazed at how many members of Congress were carrying copies of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
I’m not sure how much it’s penetrating the mom shopping at Food Lion,” he says. “I’ve had so many members mention Michael’s
name to me, it’s staggering.’

“Pollan – as in Michael Pollan? Don’t we have his book?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around all of the references made in the article.
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s on the shelf in the office.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Does it have recipes?” I asked, hopeful. I hadn’t gotten around to actually reading the book, but had heard so much about it…
“No, it’s not that type of book. It’s more of a discussion about issues of agriculture, health and the food industry.”
Apparently, I didn’t know as much about the book as I thought. What I needed at that moment was a recipe, not a criticism.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

09/03/24: Recipe - Goat Cheese Torte with Icewine Cream and Strawberries

National Trends - Inspired by media coverage about ‘eating local’
Goat Cheese Torte with Icewine Cream and Strawberries
  • 6 oz (175g) fresh goat cheese
  • 3 Tbsp (45mL) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup (175mL) whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp (25mL) sugar
  • 1 tsp (5mL) finely grated orange zest
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp (25-45mL) icewine
  • 3 cups strawberries, halved
  • Icing sugar for dusting


For goat cheese torte, preheat oven to 350F (180C) and grease and sugar an 8-inch (20 cm) cake pan. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit and place in bottom of pan. Cream goat cheese to soften and beat in sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites with electric beaters until they hold a stiff peak. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the goat cheese until blended, then gently fold in the remaining two-thirds. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake has risen and turned an even golden brown. Let cool to room temperature, but don’t worry when the center of the cake falls – it’s supposed to. It leaves you with a lovely space to fill with cream and berries. Remove cake from pan and peel away parchment.
For icewine cream, whip cream to soft peaks and whisk in sugar, orange zest and icewine. Dollop cream over top of torte.
For strawberries, wash, remove stems and cut into halves. Spoon berries over icewine cream and dust with icing sugar immediately before serving.
Goat cheese torte and cream can be made up to 4 hours in advance. Simply assemble immediately before serving.

Makes one 8-inch (20 cm) torte.

09/03/24: Recipe - Cabbage Borscht

Traditional Family Practices - Inspired by Grandmother’s Recipe
Cabbage Borscht
  • 2 lbs. soup bone
  • 2 qts. Water (cold)
  • 2 carrots cut (optional)
  • 1 medium head cabbage, chopped fine
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ star aniseed (optional)
  • 10 allspice (whole)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1½ tbsp. parsley (chopped)
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 – 1½ cups tomatoes


Boil together for at least 1 ½ hours the soup bone and water. Add more water as it boils away to make 2 quarts before adding vegetables. Add vegetables, except tomatoes, and seasonings and cook until vegetables are done. Then add the tomatoes. Bring just to the boil.

09/03/24: Recipe - Five Spice Poached Pears

Secondary Resources - Inspired by Market
Five Spice Poached Pears
  • 4 lb. small sugar pears
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, if available
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 large strips lemon rind, if available
  • 2 sticks cinnamon, halved
  • 4 slices ginger root
  • ½ tsp. whole cloves
  • ½ tsp. cardamom pods
  • 4 whole star anise
  • ¼ tsp. black peppercorns


Pour 6 cups of water into a large bowl and add lemon juice, f available. Peel pears, adding them to the bowl as you work. Work quickly to prevent excessive browning of pears.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy nonaluminum saucepan, dissolve sugar in wine and 3 cups water. Add ginger and cinnamon and rind, if using. In a small square of cheesecloth, tie up cloves, cardamom, anise and peppercorns. Add to pan and boil for 5 minutes.
Drain pears and add to pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are easily pierced with a knife. Remove pears with slotted spoon and divide between 3 2-cup canning jars.
Boil syrup for 10-12 minutes, skimming the top if necessary, and reduce to about 3 cups of liquid. Strain and divide between the 3 jars. Discard rind and ginger. Untie cheesecloth and divide spices and cinnamon between jars.
Run narrow spatula between pears and jar to release air bubbles. Add more liquid if needed to establish head space. Seal with prepared lids. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool. Makes 6 cups.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thesis Motif and Structure

Prologue – 6 pages, 700-1050 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + 4 Content pages: 2-3 pages of writing (350 words each) + 1-2 images

Chapter 1Setting the Scene – 6 pages, 700-1050 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + 4 Content pages: 2-3 pages of writing (350 words each) + 1-2 images

Song: Sunrise – Norah Jones
  • An old school friend is visiting from out-of-town and I have decided to host a potluck with all of our mutual friends from the area.
  • Inspired by recent cooking shows, I have decided to try to serve a “local” meal to show off the best ingredients from the area and give my friend a real taste of home.
  • I have called 5 or 6 friends and asked them all to bring a “local” dish.

Chapter 2My dish: Secondary Resources – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote, Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by the Market - Recipe: ___________
10:00am - Song: I Can Do Better – Pat Robitaille

  • Wants to prepare the perfect local dish possible so goes to the market first thing in the morning to get the freshest produce
  • Looks around at the market to see what’s in season and for inspiration on what to make
    After deciding on dish, buys best looking ingredients from favourite vendors
  • Prepares dish at home that features ingredients

Chapter 3“Daniel’s” dish: Current Local Practices – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote, Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by a meal had at a Local Restaurant - Recipe: ___________
11:00am - Song: Love This Town – Joel Plaskett

  • Remembers great meal had at local restaurant
  • Looks up recipe that looks similar to dish at restaurant
  • Tries to remember and write down specific ingredients featured at restaurant
  • Goes to get ingredients from market/store
  • Makes dish as combination of similar recipe and alternative ingredients

Chapter 4“Chris’” dish: National Trends – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by a Canadian Television Show about Eating Local - Recipe: ___________
12:00pm - Song: Love At First Sight – Michael Buble

  • Remembers program just seen on the Food Network
  • Looks up episode on internet and copies down recipe
  • Goes to market/store to get ingredients
  • Makes dish, while watching/pausing episode on laptop

Chapter 5“Alice’s” dish: Tertiary Res./Artisanal Practices – 12 pg, 1400-1750 wds

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by the local Cheese Maker - Recipe: ___________
1:00pm - Song: Sweet City Woman - Stampeders

  • Remembers recent trip to local cheese maker and wants to feature it in dish
  • Goes to buy cheese and to ask for suggestions from maker on how to best use it
  • Gets few remaining ingredients from store
  • Prepares dish at home, without recipe, but remembering suggestions

Chapter 6“Christine’s” dish: Traditional Family Practices – 12 pgs, 1400-1750 wds

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by their Grandmother’s Recipe - Recipe: ___________
2:00pm - Song: Dance Me To The End Of Love – Leonard Cohen

  • Remembers back to when grandmother made recipe
  • Knows recipe and required ingredients because she’s made dish so many times
  • Goes to get ingredients from grocery store
  • Makes dish, trying once again, to imitate grandmother’s technique and flavour

Chapter 7“Natalie’s” dish: Primary Resources – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by their Garden - Recipe: ___________
3:00pm - Song: Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip

  • Takes a walk outside to garden to see what is ripe
  • Gathers what ingredients she needs for simple salad
  • Prepares (washes, chops, etc.) ingredients inside and tosses them in bowl
  • Makes simple dressing to toss with salad later

Chapter 8“Rita’s” dish: Availability/Resourcefulness – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by what is already in the Refrigerator/Pantry - Recipe: ___________
4:00pm - Song: Taking Care Of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive

  • Looks in refrigerator and pantry to see what is available
  • Gathers ingredients that she has previously made (preserved, frozen, dried)
  • Assembles ingredients on platter

Chapter 9“Paul’s” dish: Mass-produced Resources – 12 pages, 1400-1750 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + Full-page picture + Recipe + 8 Content pages: 4-5 pages of writing (350 words each) + 3-4 images

Inspired by time restraint and proximity to the Take-out Restaurant - Recipe: __________
5:00pm - Song: Hello City – Barenaked Ladies

  • Looks around while driving to dinner
  • Sees restaurant with excellent reputation around town, that has Take-Out
  • Orders the restaurant’s specialties as take-out

Chapter 10The Dinner – 8 pages, 1050-1400 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + 6 Content pages: 3-4 pages of writing (350 words each) + 2-3 images

What everyone has brought to the Table
6:00pm - Song: Peel Me A Grape – Diana Krall

  • Surprise at the variety of dishes
  • Reactions equally variable: some dishes are clearly favourites amongst guests, some dislike dishes completely because they dislike certain ingredients, some don’t think dishes are “local,” some have different memories associated with dishes
  • Regardless, all enjoy the fellowship of the meal
  • All appreciate the effort put into trying to be “local”
  • The meal makes visiting friend feel at home – not because every ingredient in every dish is from the region, but because the dishes came from her friends.

Epilogue – 6 pages, 700-1050 words

Blank page + Chapter title/poem/quote + 4 Content pages: 2-3 pages of writing (350 words each) + 1-2 images

Song: Ashes to Ashes – Jill Barber

  • I have come to the realization that the term “local” has a more complex, multifaceted meaning than simply the foods that come from producers in one’s geographic proximity.
  • Actually, the most “local” foods are the foods that come out of one’s own unique set of tastes, teachings and memories, and thus reflect the personality of the one that crafted them.
  • Given that the friends I invited were local, it’s only natural that the region’s culinary resources would somehow influence the dishes they make.
  • Perhaps the meal was less of a celebration of the region’s unique bounty, and was more of a celebration of my friends – their cultural identity, their distinctive tastes, and what makes them unique within the context of the region.

In total, 122 pages, 14350-18550 (14000-18000) words, 12 Blank + 12 Chapter title/poem/quote, 8 Recipes, 82 Content (41-53 pages of writing, 350 words each) + 29-41 full-page images

Thursday, March 12, 2009

09/03/02: Deciding on a menu

To decide on a menu is to synthesize ingredients, recipes, and personal preferences . . .

I put away the goods, starting with perishables and ending with preserves – as if three unrefrigerated minutes makes a world of difference to a pork chop. Any ingredients intended for dinner I left on the counter. I needed to take an inventory of my spoils and cross-reference them with potential recipes . . . to be continued . . .

09/03/02: Returning from the market – setting the scene

Using my elbow to close the front door behind me, I slipped off my wet shoes, used my big toe to align them at the edge of the mat, and proceeded into the kitchen. My arms were aching and I set down the bags of groceries on the counter. An involuntary sigh escaped from my lips. My shopping trip had been successful. Having set out that morning on a quest to find the finest, most unique, most characteristically local foods, I’d returned home with a multitude of treasures – as was evidenced by the imprints left on my forearms from the woven handles of the cloth bags I’d filled.

An old friend was visiting the area, and had just confirmed yesterday that she and her husband could make it for dinner tonight. I hadn’t seen her in years, and she had never been to the region before. I was excited to be reacquainted with her, yes, but perhaps just as excited to flaunt what my region has offer.

The new food-fad in Canada, much like the Slow Food movement in Italy, is to “eat local” – to celebrate the seasonal produce and culinary artisans that have come to be characteristic of an area. Tonight’s dinner was going to be the perfect “local” meal.

09/03/01: Sunny Sunday afternoon

The sky was a particularly clear blue and the lampposts cast sharp shadows on the sidewalk. Though the air was quite brisk, the breezes from the night before had quieted themselves and allowed my skin to be warmed by the midday sun. I didn’t HAVE to be anywhere – I could just BE. I could soak in the day and take the time to take notice of wonders it held in store – which at that moment, involved lunch at my favourite restaurant.

I entered the door and was warmly greeted by both the waitress – who, by this point, knew me by name – and by the earthy scents of eggs and roasted beets that were part of the daily frittata special. I took a seat by the window and nodded to the waitress who, with an expectant glance and a raising of the coffee pot in her hand, had inquired if I’d like coffee. As she poured me a cup of the hot fair trade brew, she described the special; though I waivered for a moment, whether or not to order it or a less fattening salad, I was eventually convinced by the ambient aroma to seize the day and seize the potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to order the roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula frittata.

I was already on my second cup of coffee when my lunch arrived a mere fifteen minutes later. Still steaming and bubbling against the plate, the dish assaulted my senses – the heat, the smell, the sizzle and the vibrancy of the purple beets contrasting with yellow egg. These sensations were soon followed by the taste of my first bite – the creaminess of the mouth-coating cheese, the sharpness of the wilted arugula, both heightened by the pinch of salt in the pillowy frittata base. Delicious! The next bite expanded on that palette of flavours and textures to include the earthy sweetness of the still firm slices of roasted beets. I took the lemon wedge that had come with my salad and gave it a healthy squeeze over my entire plate – the aim to use sour to emphasize sweet even more.

Bite after bite I savoured the frittata and before I knew it, thirty minutes had passed by and my plate was clean. The range of flavours was exceptionally satisfying and left me thankful: thankful to the local farmers who’d grown the beets and arugula and raised the chickens who laid the eggs; thankful to the vendors at the market where the restaurant purchases their ingredients; thankful to the chef who’d invented and prepared the meal; and thankful to the waitress whose explanation helped me make my decision to order it.

24/02/09: Eating Jelly Beans

For as long as memory serves me, I remember enjoying jelly beans. I loved their fierce sweetness, their hard, crusty coating and especially their soft, sticky centre that would get stuck in my molars and thus prolong my enjoyment as it continued to dissolve over the following half an hour.

My grandmother used to have a crystal candy dish on the antique coffee table in her living room, and though the candy (or at least the colours of the candy) usually changed seasonally – provided my cousins had been at the house to eat it – the dish was often filled with jelly beans. Perhaps because they were in a crystal bowl, or perhaps because they were significantly unlike the other (typically home-grown) food I ate at my grandparents’, I knew they were a treat, and treated them as such.

As an active child, running about my grandparents’ farm, I never noticed or cared about the effects of eating jelly beans; I simply enjoyed them. As an adult, however, I see them in a new light – as little morsels of refined sugars and artificial flavouring. Now, after eating only about a dozen jelly beans, I can feel my heart start to race, the sucrose surging through my veins and putting my body on edge. The “sugar rush” I used to see as innocent hyperactivity – and often an excuse to act silly – I now see as an unwanted, unsatisfying and short-lived energy boost, and a reason to go to the gym the following day.

The question then arises, do I love or hate jelly beans? I used to like them . . . but my interest in nutrition and healthy living has matured over the last twenty years . . . and though I have fond memories associated with them, my current experiences now seem to overshadow those . . . I find it impossible to derive simple carefree enjoyment from something which I now know has detrimental effects both to my own body as well as the bodies of millions of children who subconsciously rely on sugar rush after sugar rush to get them through the day.

09/02/23: On inspiration, materiality and the feast

The feast . . . where heightened consciousness of specific foods and ingredients leads to heightened consciousness of materials in general and thus inspires architectural responses that celebrate all aspects of materiality . . .

Is this possible without reducing the relationship between food and architecture down to a contrived metaphor? I believe it is possible – provided is seen only as the inspiration for the latter, not as the model. Inspirations encourage exploration and extension of a subject, whereas models encourage imitation and confine thoughts within the predetermined limits of the original form. Inspirations permit free flow between realms of experiences, whereas models force one to keep focus on a specific domain. Inspirations can come to anyone, from anywhere, at any time, and create a 3-dimensional web from which to create and craft a design. Models are based upon predecessors and create lines and patterns of design thinking which, in comparison, lack depth and soul.

The crispness of an apple can surely inspire design, but to simplify its qualities into literal imitation of materiality would be only superficial, and would be quite ineffective in evoking the same emotional response. The surprisingly pleasant burst of sweet juice that sprays the inside of the mouth as one’s teeth break through the taut red skin . . . the satisfyingly firm, white flesh that, when chewed, exposes its granularity to the roof of one’s mouth . . . the noticing of nuances in texture and flavour of different varieties of apples . . . the memories of orchards, of markets, of grandmothers’ apple pies . . . these aspects cannot be experienced through mere physical manifestation. A full appreciation of an apple’s significance and beauty also relies on the emotional associations and triggered responses arising from one’s personal experiences, and an awareness of how, why, where, when and by whom that apple came to be.

09/02/21: William German

A local craftsman in Niagara-on-the-Lake, William German spoke at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts on Saturday, February 21, 2009

Favourite quotes and observations . . .

• “…do a good job today so I’ll have one tomorrow” (in reference to quality craftsmanship)
• “…thirst for wood-working … around 15 years old”
• “Handsome are the hands that work.” (his Grandfather’s saying)
• “… privilege of working it” (in reference to the walnut log grown from 1860)
____ Walnut made into two-board Niagara Peninsula peg top table
____ You could take the top off by removing the pegs (after slaughtering/butchering you’d take it outside to wash it off.)
____ Has a sheep’s wool grain – an undulating finish, like clouds.
• “…wood-working has been neutered by commerce”
• Our responsibility as craftsmen is to produce a piece that will endure as long as it takes to replenish the wood it’s made from (paraphrased)
• “…slaughtering trees…” (in reference to giving trees the respect of a living, breathing organisms and recognizing them as distinct beings with unique character) (the kill)
• “…pursuit of another log…” (in reference to searching out prime pieces of wood to use for furniture-making – seeking for treasure) (the hunt)
• “By splitting wood you get the maximum strength of cross-section because it follows the natural grain …” (in reference to splitting vs. cutting and working with your hands vs. industrial practices)a
• Case hardening – when the outside of the timber dries too quickly (too much heat, too fast) and forms a layer/crust that traps the remaining moisture within the core of the log and keeps it green. – to remedy, you have to rehydrate the log and redry it slowly/properly.
• Niagara Peninsula (Germanic) Chippendale – trademark style of the region??
• “…feeling ebony in your hand on a pull … it’s sensuous.” (in reference to the uniqueness of working with ebony as a material)
• “… ash …bends like a wet noodle.” (in reference to the elliptical arch he and the Willowbank students made for the door jamb at the lower entry. First tried bending pine, which was unsuccessful)

09/02/13: What’s at the market today?

Where: St. Catharines Market Square
When: Saturday, February 14, 2009
Who: Local vendors, semi-local/travelling vendors, local shoppers, visiting shoppers, local transients.

Brussel Sprouts - a heaping, cardboard quart of fresh brussel sprouts, sold by the two elderly eastern European farmers on the north side of the market. Still only the size of a ping-pong ball, and unmarred in transport, the exudingly healthy and perfectly pearl-like sprouts attracted my attention immediately. As the outer leaves relaxed their tight hold on their succulent core, they seemed to be taking in a breath of fresh air and then waiting in anticipation to release it into the bellies of a lucky shopper.

Wildflower Honey - a 500mL jar of sweet aromatic ecstasy, sold by a sweet brown-haired lady with glasses. The luscious amber liquid gently glowed in the scattered sunlight peeking through the glazed garage-style windows behind it. In the busyness and bustle of the market buidling, the honey appeared in contrast as pure, homogenously-coloured jewel that could not be ignored.

Delicata Squash - to be continued . . .

09/01/28: What’s in the frig today?

So what's in the frig today? Apples, grapes, salami, tomatoes, cauliflower, jam . . .

09/01/27: Parts of a meal

Hunger - the recognition of a need, a void, or a problem. In some cases, hunger initiates a trip to one's refrigerator.

What's in the frig? - a question that prompts an inventory of available materials and as assessment of their qualities, deficiencies, and thus, their potentials.

Crafting cuisine - the art of creating foods that accentuate the unique qualities of ingredients and the appreciation of the nuanced processes involved.

Dining - the enjoyment and celebration of food, craft, and culture combined with the satisfaction of one's hunger.

08/11/13: Willowcakes and Pastries

It wasn't a particularly cold day, but it was grey and dreary and raining just enough to keep the regular dog-walkers inside for the morning. It was the type of day that made me especially grateful for a roof over my head, dry socks on my feet and a warm cup of coffee to wrap my hands around - a day to savour being indoors, looking out.

With that in mind, and with a book under my arm, I set out to enjoy a morning inside at a local bakery/coffee shop. Niagara has quite an assortment of coffee shops - elitist spa-like cafes, greasy spoon diners, and everything inbetween. Willow Cakes and Pastries had become a favourite because of its array of homemade baked goods and coffees and its quaint seating area - only a handful of tables and chairs by the windows - but most of all, because of the window at the end of the counter that allowed me to peer into the back kitchen and watch the pastry masters practicing their craft . . .

08/10/31: Niagara-on-the-Lake is old

Niagara-on-the-Lake is old town – not only its buildings, but its average inhabitant as well. The prior, one may say, has led to the latter.

Wealthy retirees from the bustling metropolises of Southern Ontario, Western New York and European locales, with romanticized memories of “pretty”, “nostalgic” weekend escapes made decades before, find themselves drawn back to the historical ambience (or in many cases, the artificial historicism) that, by comparison, makes them feel young, and allows them to live in a fantasy where time stands still. In a world seemingly consumed with progress and newness, they seek to live out their last years in an environment they feel places high value on preserving the past – where “old” things are treasured, not trashed.

First founded in 1781, under the name Newark, the town was a British military base but quickly became a haven for loyalists escaping United States in the tumultuous years after the American Revolution. Later renamed Niagara, it was declared the first capital of Upper Canada in 1792. In 1796, however, the capital was moved to York (later renamed Toronto) across Lake Ontario, to keep a safer distance away from the Americans settling on the east bank of the Niagara River.

A feudal hotspot during the War of 1812, Niagara was burnt to the ground by retreating American soldiers in 1813. But like a phoenix, the town quickly rose from its ashes – this time out of range of enemy canons at Fort Niagara. Within a few years after the war, the intersection of King and Queen had given birth to dozens of new buildings, and the town quickly became a centre of commerce.

Being less than ## km away from Niagara Falls, “One of the 10 Wonders of the World”, it was inevitable that tourism would also play a major role in Niagara’s development. Aided by the newly built stairway down the bank at Table Rock, the cross-river ferry service there, and the hotel development above – now known as Clifton Hill – the tourism industry in Niagara Falls gained momentum from the 1820’s onward. Upper class visitors who’d travelled by boat, could then make their way to Niagara-on-the-Lake by way of the first stagecoach in Upper Canada – which ran from the late 1700’s and1896 along the upper bank of the Niagara River as far south as Chippawa, and is now strangely commemorated by the only “greasy spoon” restaurant in town, the Stagecoach, also affectionately referred to by locals as the “Roach Coach.”

Tourism, in Niagara Region, has now grown into to a ## billion-dollar industry, attracting visitors from all over the world. The population of Niagara-on-the-Lake seemingly quadruples in the summer months when sidewalks are flooded with camera-bearing culturists, whose aim is to savour a bit of old town life, but ironically bring much of the city with them and in doing so, water-down the potential pungency of the town.

08/09/07: The last canning factory

Ontario’s last canning factory closed its doors on June 27, 2008, after 112 years of operation in the Niagara Peninsula.[1] The Del Monte fruit cannery in St.David’s, formerly under the Kraft Foods umbrella[2], was bought out in 2006 by CanGro – a company formed by two U.S.-based corporations, Sun Capital and EG Capital Group.[3] The factory, and its 150 workers, subsequently fell subject to the harsh impartiality of businessmen more interested in share-holder profits than quality produce. Though Niagara’s “prime” farmland is designated in the top 5% of all land in Canada, and Niagara peaches are arguably the best in the world, from now on, Canadians will be eating canned peaches grown and processed in China.[4] The estimated $1 million dollars extra annual “savings” for CanGro[5] was apparently enough to lure them away from helping save Canada’s agricultural industry.

[1] Walkom, Thomas. “Ontario’s neglected cornucopia,” The Star. April 23, 2008.
[2] Walkom, Thomas. “Ontario’s neglected cornucopia,” The Star. April 23, 2008.
[3] Marr. Lisa Grace. “CanGro’s Shock Waves,” Hamilton Spectator. June 28, 2008.
[4] Marr. Lisa Grace. “CanGro’s Shock Waves,” Hamilton Spectator. June 28, 2008.
[5] Estimate calculated by Tompkins Associates, a consulting firm affiliated with Sun Capital.

08/07/30: A mud pie for Grandma

It was a cool, grey day in early October. The air was heavily laden with moisture though it had rained the night before. The ground was dappled with pools of water, some shallow, some much deeper than they appeared, but I had on my pink rubber boots. Wearing my little green jacket with the fur around the hood, I tramped after my grandmother as she set off for the vineyards. I was about 5 years old and was excited to help pick grapes.

As she worked her way down the rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, my interest waned, and I found myself more interested in grape leaves than in the grapes themselves. There veins were so distinct, so numerous, and made such wonderful patterns when stamped into the soft moist earth. I began layering leaves one on another, like paper mache, curling the edges to make a sort of pie crust. I filled I with the sloppiest mud I could find and jiggled it to even out the top – as I had seen my grandmother do the day before when making a quiche. Expectantly, I held up the pie, offering my grandmother a taste. She declined and I, with crushed spirit, went back to making leaf prints in the mud.

08/07/27: Grandma’s farm

My grandmother was raised on her great uncle’s farm west of St. Catharines. Her ancestors had lived in that part of the region for generations, as is evidenced in the roads – Martindale, for example – that bear their names. The vineyards and orchards they’d so proudly cultivated were obliterated in one of the latest bursts of suburban sprawl. The only memory of the family farm is small cenotaph in the neighborhood park, which developers named after my great grandfather Roy Johnson.

Roy Johnson and his wife (born 1896 and 1898 respectively) had 9 children – 4 boys and 5 girls. My grandmother, Kathleen, was the third oldest. From a very young age, she was taught the meaning of work – something she’s carried with her throughout her life.

She married my grandfather, Arthur Murray, in 1950, and, shortly thereafter, convinced him to purchase farmland in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “The weeds were soooo high,” she recalled, explaining how she’d known it was good land to buy.

My grandfather, who had grown up in Merritton, a small city which has since been amalgamated with St. Catharines, knew very little about farming. After receiving electrical training while in the navy, during WWII, he’d taken a job with Ontario Hydro. Though the pay was exceptional, the long stints in the northern parts of the province – away from home, away from his new family – became more and more unbearable. He took a position at the local General Motors plant in 1954 and worked there until his retirement in 1989. Like many men at the factory, however, the work day did not end at the end of his shift, for when he had vowed to love and support my grandmother, he’d also vowed to love and support her farm.

08/07/26: Drinking and driving

Traffic is heaviest along Hwy 55, where many tourists ride bikes along the side of the road as they follow the blue and white signs marking the Wine Route. Hot summer afternoons, however, can prove quite dangerous as the mixture of heat and alcohol make touring wineries by bike a death-defying pursuit. Amateur cyclists and wine connoisseurs, who ironically think the combination “would be fun!” and “good for our health!” can be seen wobbling along the gravel shoulders – enduring, more than enjoying, the day.

08/07/25: The apple lady

I first met “the Apple Lady” when I worked in St. Catharines, for a firm located down the street from the market they designed. Every Tuesday and Thursday – when the market was open during the week – I would take a stroll on my lunch hour to visit the vendors, and to see what was newly in-season or especially intriguing that day. “The Apple Lady”, Sidney Beamer, was always there. The Beamer Family Farm, established 1847, had been bringing their produce to the market since 1921, and she was proudly continuing the tradition.

She always occupied a long table on the south side of the market, and from the first time I spoke with her, I knew she came out to do more than just make money – it was her mission to educate. Her daughters and granddaughters, who often accompanied her, were there to learn about the business – to learn how to set-up, to sell, and to interact with customers. The public, who, like me, stopped by before work or on their breaks, were to learn about apples.

From the end of August until nearly Christmas, Beamer Family Farm sold almost every variety of apple grown in the Niagara Peninsula. They understood the nuances of each one – the taste, texture and suitability for baking – and understood that the best way to sell was to let the apple do the talking. With paring knives in hand, the Beamer women stood ready to slice up tasters for any potential customer.

Though they were best known for their apples, they also grew amazing lettuces, beets, new potatoes, and broccoli florets – during Spring and early Summer, before apple season began. In Winter, they sold apple cider by the cup, hot or cold, and in jugs that came with little packages of mulling spices.

Sidney Beamer
Beamer Family Farm
Established 1847, Vendor since 1921
5th generation farmers
Ridgeville, Ontario

08/07/24: Manifesto key points . . . .

The objectives of Local Architecture are to

1. Protect the region’s diverse natural materials and artisanal building crafts by celebrating their unique textures, colours, details, applications and origins, and by cultivating a consciousness of each as a resource to be treasured.

2. Revive and develop the architectural narrative of the community by preserving and promoting awareness of distinctive and culturally-significant buildings, by espousing sustainable characteristics of indigenous building typologies, and by upholding the legacy of (local) artisan building trades.

3. Explore the potentials in the building process by taking the time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty in its various methods and aesthetic manifestations, by honouring quality craftsmanship over speed of construction, and by educating the community through active involvement.

4. Demonstrate and encourage sustainable building practices through the (didactic) implementation of passive and active technologies to collect and utilize renewable energies, through the efficient use and responsible management of land and material resources, and through the fair treatment and remuneration of workers.

08/06/27: Sugar pears

It was a gloriously warm afternoon in late September that, save the tiredness of the summer sun, could’ve been mistaken for an evening in mid-June. Golden hues shone from each waxy leaf in the orchards giving the impression that, like much of Niagara-on-the-Lake, they had been “antiqued.” The apple trees were just starting to be picked and the All of trees now stood barren, save the. Pear season was nearly over, but with a hopeful heart and a box of empty mason jars awaiting my return, I’d set out to scavenge the last of this year’s yield.

I drove down Hwy 55 scouring signs for roadside fruit stands and pulled over beside the first one I saw that said “PEARS.” The fruit “stand” was actually a converted shed that had been mounted on wheels, painted purple and had an awning over one side. A man was standing at a table by the trailer packing apples into bushels, and as I approached, a woman – obviously his wife – walked over and greeted me with a smile. Her face showed the signs of a life spent outdoors and her matter-of-factness– and earthiness – implied a familiarity with the land that one only acquires after years of working it. Though a farmer for most of her life, she now ran a bed and breakfast out of her home – a change that, though possibly due to the physical limitations of an aging body, was rather indicative of the evolving economic trends in Niagara.

“You’ve got pears?” I inquired as simultaneously noticing a bushel of them off to one corner of their display.

“This is the last of them!” she replied jubilantly, tilting the bushel so I could better see inside. The bushel was only about two-thirds full. “Just finished picking these this afternoon . . . Here . . .” she picked out a small yellow pear and handed it to me to try. It was still warm from the sun. Biting into it, the juices escaped the corners of my mouth and dripped off my chin. The pears were perfectly ripe and juicy.

“These are sugar pears,” she informed me. “Small, but full of flavour.” I asked to purchase a large basket of them. “They’re a little small for eating, but are great for canning,” she added as she picked through the bushel for the best ones.

“Wonderful! I was planning on poaching these in red wine” – a recipe I’d found in a Canadian Living cookbook that, considering the pears I made earlier that season had already disappeared, had proved quite the success.

“Oh that’ll be lovely! Have you ever tried pears with brandy?”

I had, had loved them, and still had a few jars left in the fruit cellar. We traded recipes.

08/06/27: Pan Cafe

It was a warm June morning in downtown St. Catharines – the largest city in the Niagara Region. The sun was bright, the breeze non-existent, and the pavement – still cool beneath my feet – lay bare in anticipation of a steamy afternoon to come. Though most were likely still in bed, enjoying a lazy start to the Saturday, there were a few patrons slowly making their way to the market or trickling into Pan cafe.

Pan is a new bistro on St. Paul Street that features healthy, “all natural,” local and/or organic produce. Owner Alice ___, a rare gem of a woman, opened her doors in Fall 2007, her contagious love of food and community flowing out into the city.

A few times a week, she walks the two blocks to the market to buy whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. She orders the sausages from an old-order Mennonite farmer – The Good Shepherd – that lives west of St. Catharines and can only be contacted via “snail” mail. Monforte, a dairy close to Stratford, supplies many types of cheese, the chevre – the fluffiest I’ve ever seen – being a particular favourite of the “regulars.”

08/06/27: Squash soup

The daily soup featured maple roasted butternut squash. It was a favourite of the employees who, nearly every time it was made, ordered a bowl for themselves. As the chef had the day off, his assistant had prepared the soup and was giving out free samples to staff.

A single white, asymmetrical bowl sat on the table just inside the door leading to front of house. Yolk-coloured squash soup half-filled the bowl, crowned with a glistening swirl of maple syrup. A handful of spoons lay beside the bowl on the table – an invitation for indulgence that was readily accepted.

The mouth became coated in the silky, sweet substance that was more confection than first course. The seamlessly smooth texture of the pureed squash and the lingering aftertaste of maple and cream made the soup irresistible.

Later that day, one of the serving staff emerged from the kitchen with a piece of white paper in hand – the recipe. The assistant chef was sharing his secrets. Before tucking the paper into her purse, she made a stop at the photocopier – deciding to share the fortune that had been bestowed upon her. Doubtlessly, eaters all over Niagara region will profit from that decision as the recipe travels from dinner party to dinner party. To find it, just follow the trail of empty bowls and smacking lips.

08/06/27: Ode to Asparagus

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Oh, most brave and noble asparagus!
So strong and so upright!
Forging forth with your spear,
You emerged from the depths,
Claiming victory for Spring
And rejoicing in the birth of a new heir, Summer.

08/06/27: The duck farmer

Half an hour before the restaurant was to open, its newest supplier arrived to speak with the chef. Eric Willms, a local 20-year old, raises Muscovy ducks. He pulled up in the car he had borrowed from his parents earlier that morning when his mother – Esther, the quintessential farmer’s wife – returned from running errands. His father, Irv, is an engineer by trade but spends much of his time farming his vineyards and making wine at his home in Niagara-on-the Lake. Eric has helped out on the family farm for as long as he can remember and has developed a genuine passion for nurturing nature.

He walked up to the door and timidly stepped into the air conditioned entry vestibule. At a mere 4’11”, and bearing a single Styrofoam box, he was also the restaurant’s smallest supplier. Eric started his duck business 2 years earlier, after cordoning off a corner of his parents’ backyard for himself. Initially, he took orders and raised birds for family and friends of the family. Now he also sells his ducks to a number of high end restaurants in Niagara. He’s expanded his duck cage and has now maxed-out both its capacity and the capacity of his mother to allow further encroachment into her gardens.

Eric had brought in a sample of his Muscovy ducks for the chef to assess. In the past, the best ducks were shipped from Quebec, where French specialties such as Foie Gras and Duck a l’Orange have kept the duck farming business going strong for decades. Now, with increased efforts to keep restaurant suppliers local, and with the growth of the wine and culinary tourism industry, new food markets have opened up in Niagara. Eric is fortunate to be one of the first in the area with rare poultry.

The chef emerged from back of house and beckoned Eric to join him in the kitchen. There they laid the duck on a prep table and the chef proceeded to poke it and prod it as if a child pretending to be a surgeon. Turning it over, he inspected the layer of fat nodding his head in approval. The liver, though likely not as fatty (in this case, a desirable trait) as those available from Quebec, was satisfactory. The fact that the duck was local was of greater importance, and besides, the ethical practices of Quebecois Foie Gras farmers were increasingly being called into question.

07/11/23: Current growth of Slow Food

The Slow Food project, now a multi-national organization, sprouted from humble seeds planted in the hearts of a few Italians. It began with a group of young people from Bra, a city in the Piedmont region, who were connected with ARCI (Associatione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana). Their commitment to culture and intense social activism drew attention to the destructive effects of industrialism in the mid 1970s.[1] In 1980, the group went on to form the Free and Praiseworthy Association of the Friends of Barolo (the famous red wine native to the nearby Langhe region). Their aim was to “create awareness of local products and awaken people’s attention to food and wine and the right way to enjoy them.”[2] The group encouraged a new kind of tourism based on culinary explorations, organized tasting courses and set up networks to distribute specialty goods by mail order.[3] In July of 1986, 62 founding members came together to form an organization called Arcigola, a newly autonomous offshoot of ARCI that would be solely interested in the culture of food and wine. In the next 3 years, membership in Arcigola quickly grew to about 8000 as ardent curiosity was fostered by publications, restaurant and wine reviews, organized tastings and trips.[4] People began to defend their own culinary traditions as well as their right to a relaxed, convivial enjoyment of cuisine. The organization’s name was later changed to “Slow Food”, inspired by the group’s direct opposition to the undesirable spread of fast food in Italy, and the demonstrations against the opening of McDonald’s across from the Spanish Steps in Rome.[5]

The Slow Food movement gained international support when delegates from the original 15 countries met on November 9, 1989 and endorsed the official manifesto (below), written by Folco Portinari.

The Slow Food Manifesto[6]

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.

A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

At the heart of Slow Food is the concept of the territory, “the combination of natural factors (soil, water, slope, height above sea level, vegetation, microclimate) and human ones (tradition and practice of cultivation) that gives a unique character to each small agricultural locality and the food grown, raised, made, and cooked there.”[7] To completely appreciate a food, one must take time to become intimately engaged with its territory, build relationships with its artisans, and enter into a state of “serene conviviality” in which nuances of flavour and texture may reconfirm the food’s special place in the culinary world.[8] The story behind the product must be made equally important as the product itself if society is to grasp its true authenticity and gain a sense of complete satisfaction from eating it. Therefore, when a food, such as mozzarella cheese, is made from generic pasteurized cow’s milk and can be produced in factories all over the world with equal ease and same results, it is unavoidably bland, and utterly unexceptional.[9] The worldwide popularization of such banal products has bankrupted society’s sensory experience of food and lowered expectations to dangerous depths.[10] Fast food culture, which celebrates uniformity, industrialization and brand recognition, is now thankfully being opposed; Slow Food instead celebrates biodiversity, small-scale producers and regional distinctions – essential qualities that are increasingly difficult to find and preserve.

Competitive global markets and demands from major distributors are forcing a general shift from traditional varieties to foreign monocultures and single breeds with higher potential yields. Not only has this practice wiped out 300 000 indigenous species in the last hundred years, but it has left farmers extremely vulnerable to agricultural disaster. [11] Even for those willing to take a risk, however, the initial benefits of using large-scale agricultural industries are short-lived: without maintaining biodiversity and the complexity of ecosystems, it is impossible for the planet to adapt to any long-term environmental changes. [12]

In 1996, in an effort to curb this potential biological crisis, and to prevent the further loss of local heritage, Slow Food held its first Salone del Gusto event to showcase endangered products and promote informed appreciation. This Slow Food festival signalled a shift in the political strategy of such food fairs. As described by Petrini – it “turned its back on the usual kind of exhibition (the tired formula of a wind and food fair, half small retail and half folklore) and focused instead on the territory, its products, and its artisans brought face to face with consumers.”[13] The event educated people through tasting seminars and talks about local heritage and helped cultivate a new interest in low-yield/high-quality foods. Now held every two years, the Salone instils a desire for the public to pay slightly higher (fair) prices for superior flavours, creates new opportunities for marketing, and thus makes the small-scale commercial sale of foodstuffs a financially-viable venture.[14]

The first Salone del Gusto of 1996 also launched the initial discussions of forming “Un’Arca del Gusto per salvare il pianeta dei sapori” (An Ark of Taste to save the planet of flavours).[15] On June 29 of the following year, Slow Food published the following Manifesto dell’Arca:

“To protect the small purveyors of fine food from the deluge of industrial standardization; to ensure the survival of endangered animal breeds, cheeses, cold cuts, edible herbs – both wild and cultivated – cereals, and fruit; to promulgate taste education; to make a stand against obsessive worrying about hygienic matters, which kills the specific character of many kinds of production; to protect the right to pleasure.”[16]

A scientific committee was formed to oversee the selection of foods to be “brought onboard” the Ark. The five requirements were that
1) they must be of excellent quality
2) they must be either indigenous or long-adapted to a particular territory, or else made from local ingredients following traditional practices
3) they must be linked to the environment, socio-economy and history of a territory
4) they must be available only in small quantities, produced by small firms
5) they must be at risk of extinction[17]
The foods that make it onto the Ark then receive a two-level treatment – scientific and social. On the scientific level, researchers, zoologists and historians examine the products and document them thoroughly. On the social level, the list of endangered foods is compiled, circulated and analyzed, and its products are then publically promoted in commercial markets and in restaurants.[18] In other words, the Ark preserves the heritage and memory of foods, makes people aware of what culinary pleasures they are in danger of losing, and gives them the opportunity to savour - and thus save them.

The huge response to the Salone del Gusto opened people’s eyes to the amazing market potential of accessing large numbers of small businesses. Slow Food’s Presidia project, launched in 1999, was built on the idea that “if Ark products can have an economic impact, they can be saved from extinction.”[19] The Presidia are organizations for the protection of biodiversity – essentially, the operational arm of the Ark of Taste.[20] Often funded by regional tourism boards, cooperatives of producers or agricultural councils interested in local promotion, each Presidium sets out to safeguard their assigned product (or issue) by making it known, important and accessible to people.[21] Media coverage and publications are used to spotlight endangered foods, scarce resources and dying cultures – boosting awareness, and in the case of edibles, increasing demand for the products. Networks are then created through which farmers and producers can be connected to the growing population of culturally-aware consumers.[22]

There are currently over 130 active Presidia in Italy and more than 19 working internationally.[23] Confronted with a variety of conditions and obstacles, each Presidium must be adaptable and creative in its approach. In Italy, for example, about 1 300 000 rounds of PDO Asiago cheese are produced each year – a good cheese, and generally well-liked, but not exceptional. Asiago Stravecchio, however, is an extraordinary variety (made only from the milk obtained from the mountain-pasturing Rendena cows and aged for a minimum of 18 months) but only about 10 000 rounds of it are produced yearly.[24] The challenges for that Presidium are to convince people of the superior flavour of the cheese without negating the qualities of the more common Asiago, and to persuade herders to continue their traditional alpine milking practices, continue breeding the traditional Rendena cattle, and commit to amply aging their cheese.[25]

The strategies of Presidia in underdeveloped countries, however, have a markedly different focus. Often involved in community development and facility upgrades, they seek to support the culture and socio-economy from below, rather than merely giving superficial charity donations. The goal and future of such Presidia “will be to recuperate and make known traditional knowledges, so that they become motors of development and prosperity.”[26] Without overexposing and thus depleting the treasuries of culinary heritage in third world countries, Slow Food is actively seeking to enrich the daily lives of their local farmers and producers, as well as to delight enlightened consumers.

[1] Petrini, 1
[2] Petrini, 4
[3] Petrini, 4
[4] Petrini, 7
[5] Petrini, 8
[6] Petrini, xxiii
[7] Petrini, 8
[8] Petrini, 59
[9] Petrini, 89
[10] Petrini, 88
[11] Petrini, 87
[12] Petrini, 87
[13] Pterini, 59
[14] Petrini, 60
[15] Petrini, 85
[16] Petrini, 91
[17] Petrini, 91
[18] Petrini, 91
[22] Petrini, 97
[23] Petrini, 98
[24] Petrini, 94
[25] Petrini, 94
[26] Petrini, 98

07/11/23: Past growth of fast food

Fast food arose out of a change in the transportation systems of American cities and the attitude of their inhabitants – in southern California in particular. In the early part of the twentieth century, Los Angeles experienced immense growth (its population nearly tripled between 1920 and 1940) as people were drawn in by real estate advertisements promising warmth, sunshine, and opportunities for the “good life”.[1] Unlike cities in the East that expanded during the age of the railway, cities in the distant Southwest grew in the age of the automobile.[2] Roads replaced rails and travelers gained a higher sense of independence and control; they were freed from following train schedules and could go wherever their car would take them. More and more middle-class families migrated from the mid-west to California and Los Angeles sprawled in waves of suburbia. “About 80 percent of the population had been born elsewhere,” says Schlosser, and “restlessness, impermanence, and speed were embedded in the culture . . . along with an openness to anything new.”[3]

With this new car culture, arose a new form of eating. “People with cars are so lazy they don’t want to get out of them to eat!” said Jesse G. Kirby, founder of one of the first drive-in restaurant chains.[4] Although drive-in restaurants were open all over America during summer months, they thrived in California where they were able to stay open permanently thanks to the summer-like weather year-round. Their brightly coloured circular buildings and flashy neon signs beckoned motorists passing by, and their friendly, attractive female “carhops” kept many of them coming back for more. Drive-in restaurants fit in especially well with the idealism of the youth –the young males in particular: not only were they something new and different, but they provided a place to see girls, cars and get late-night food.[5]

Richard and Maurice McDonald, who had moved to southern California from New Hampshire during the Depression, opened their first drive-in restaurant in Pasadena in 1937 with hopes of cashing in on the new food fad.[6] They employed only three carhops and sold mainly hotdogs. A few years later, they moved to a new location near a highschool in San Bernardino. The McDonald Brothers Burger Bar Drive-In employed twenty carhops and became extremely successful. In 1948, however, the brothers, who had become increasingly frustrated with the growing shortage of short-order cooks, the high turn-over rate of carhops, and replacing stolen dishes and cutlery, decided to close the restaurant.[7] A change was in order.

The restaurant re-opened three months later with larger grills, fewer staff, and a revolutionary new Speedee Service System “designed to increase the speed, lower the prices, and raise the volume of sales.”[8] They reduced the items on their menu to foods that could be eaten without utensils and used only paper cups, paper bags and paper plates. Foods were made assembly-line style to both increase efficiency in preparation and reduce the need for skilled, higher-paid cooks. [9] The same condiments – ketchup, mustard, onions and two pickles – were put on every burger and cheeseburger and no alterations were allowed. In the McDonald brothers’ new restaurant, customers, for the first time, had to wait for their food in line at a counter. As spelled out by one of their later ads for franchisees, they boasted “No carhops – No Waitresses – No Dishwashers – No Bus Boys – The McDonald’s System is Self-Service!”[10]

The brothers, however, changed more than just how fast food was prepared: they changed who it was prepared for. They hired only male staff to discourage the large groups of young men that typically invaded such restaurants and scared off other potential clientele. So, with a less youth-oriented image, low prices, and the growing reputation for serving good hamburgers, eating at their restaurant became appealing to a larger portion of the population. The most significant change brought on by the McDonalds, as explained by company historian John F. Love, was that “working-class families could finally afford to feed their kids restaurant food.”[11]

Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s Corporation, later refined the company’s advertising strategy to focus even more on kids than on their parents. This shift towards marketing to children coincided with the baby boom after World War II and was perhaps the most brilliant business move (and most socially-destructive move) ever made by a company in the fast food industry. After examining the example set by the Walt Disney Company, Kroc realized two fundamental benefits to such a shift in strategy. First of all, brand-loyalty can be developed at an extremely early age, and as kids grow into teenagers and adults with children of their own, they are more likely to return to the source of many fond childhood memories. Secondly, as Kroc explained, “a child who loves our TV commercials, and brings her grandparents to a McDonald’s gives us two more customers.”[12] It is therefore no surprise that the MacDonald’s franchises have grown and multiplied so rapidly; their target customers have been doing the same.

The explosive increase in demand for fast foods in the last 50 years has necessitated increased efficiency in the way they are prepared. The never-ending quest to decrease labour costs and increase customer turn-over, and the competition between companies to offer more food for less money, has turned the food industry into something resembling the manufacturing of cars. Restaurants have become mere assembly plants making marketable products out of shipped-in, pre-fabricated parts.

French fries factories like the one owned by J.R. Simplot in Aberdeen, Idaho – a relatively small one by industry standards – processes about a million pounds of potatoes per day. Simplot, “America’s great potatoe baron,” was also a pioneer in food processing.[13] Recognizing the potential for new products, he had invested heavily in frozen food technology when, after World War II, the sales of refrigerators, freezers and other kitchen appliances sky-rocketed.[14] French fries in particular, were being eaten more than ever before. Originally popularized by WWI veterans who had eaten them in Europe, and made indispensable by the drive-in restaurants of the 30s and 40s – and Simplot’s flash-freezing method meant that they could be cut and pre-cooked and would take less time to prepare. Though to Ray Kroc, the ritual of making McDonald’s French fries had been “almost sacrosanct,” (all fries were hand-cut at each restaurant until 1966), he was won over by the opportunity to ensure uniform texture and flavour while reducing the cost and required skill of his labour force. Simplot made him a deal and french fries are now the most popular fast food item sold in America. The average person eats more than thirty pounds of them every year.[15]

The 1950’s, which has been called “the Golden Age of Food Processing” also gave birth to many other alimentary innovations intended to simplify the lives of American housewives. [16] Grocery stores were suddenly flooded with everything from frozen juice concentrate, canned soup and TV dinners, to Cheese Whiz, Miracle Whip and Jell-O salad.[17] Pre-packaged, processed foods became stylish and were marketed as better than their fresh equivalents. Fifty years later, the trend hasn’t changed much; few have truly realized how disillusioned society has become.

[1] Schlosser, 15
[2] Schlosser, 15
[3] Schlosser, 16
[4] Schlosser, 17
[5] Schlosser, 17
[6] Schlosser, 19
[7] Schlosser, 19
[8] Schlosser, 19
[9] Schlosser, 20
[10] Schlosser, 20
[11] Schlosser, 20
[12] Schlosser, 41
[13] Schlosser, 111
[14] Schlosser, 113
[15] Schlosser, 115
[16] Schlosser, 113
[17] Schlosser, 113