These days, food matters. In ways both large and small, what we eat matters in more ways than we have previously considered. We have always embraced the saying that “we are what we eat” as a comfortable cliche, but the poignancy and potential of those words is finally coming to the forefront.
The future it seems is ours to create, at least in part, one mouthful at a time. This is the message being delivered on both global and local levels as erstwhile presidential candidates and urban/rural prophets alike are calling for a return to more conscious consumption of the foods we eat.
When the famil-friendly, organic gurus at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. recently hosted a dinner bringing together local growers and media for a healthy fix of British Columbian goodness, it became apparent that even the smallest changes to our dining habits are making an impact. Farmers are fielding far more business and bringing in the greens and greenbacks alike. Whereas in the past a select group of restaurateurs and chefs worked diligently to establish singular relationships with local farms, their successes have laid the groundwork for a far more grassroots’ push for gate to plate goodness.
In the big picture, the threat of a changing planetary climate has many reconsidering the ecological impact of consumer culture en masse. The industrial food complex is experiencing a greater level of scrutiny than any time in the past 50 years and the rash of various food crises over the past decade has made many question the shine of far more than the Golden Arches. A newfound skepticism has crept onto the public palate, along with an ecologically updated vocabulary that weaves words such as ‘carbon footprints’, ‘food miles’ and ‘genetically modified’ into greater numbers of mealtime conversations.
It seems that something strange has happened–our food is biting back. While it holds true that we are now spending less than a third of what we did on food less than five decades ago, a greater truth about hidden costs is becoming apparent both in terms of personal and planetary health. It is a tough mouthful to swallow.
Fortunately, the remedy is delicious…and homemade. The first step is also relatively simple–redefining our relationship with food. While the “100 Mile Diet” might seem too stern a dietary commandment for many, the wisdom it espouses is worth taking to heart and gut alike. So comfortably coddled by the consumer cornucopia found along every aisle of the supermarket, we have forgotten the bounty of our own backyards. In the all consuming effort to save time and money, have we somehow slipped into a processed food future deprived of any real sense of seasonality or substance?
When we want to give ourselves a right proper feed, we often go out to eat. So long as we’re noticing the changes in the menus we’re being handed, this might be exactly what the doctor ordered. On the West Coast at least, it is in our restaurants that the greatest efforts are being made to bring us back into contact with ‘real’ food and the true difference our choices can make.
The Slow Food movement has gained tremendous speed and mass in recent years, thanks largely to the fact that more of us are taking the time to play with our food, feel it out a bit more and get a taste of how good it might be. There is certainly nothing sluggish about the business being done in regionally rooted restaurants recently.
Local not only offers some seriously seasonal taste benefits; it also sells and in a green-minded coastal community with deep tourism pockets, this goes a long way towards shifting the purchasing patterns of operators and customers alike.
We can credit the advent of the OceanWise program with nudging us towards ever more sustainable seafood choices and we can tip our proverbial hats to culinary campaigns such as the 3rd Annual EAT BC! promotion for highlighting local surf, turf and drink alike.
Across the board and inside both professional and our own kitchens, this is not a return to the past so much as a tasteful entree into a better future. This is also the thinking behind the recently launched Get Local! campaign organized by Your Local Farmers Market Society and FarmFolk/CityFolk together with an ever growing business alliance of restaurants, farmers, retailers and producers. You can expect to see the Get Local! stickers popping up everywhere soon, much as did the Buy BC! symbol not so very long ago.
With local, regional and seasonal being promoted from so many angles, we really seem to be on the verge of ‘getting’ what so many older cultures have so long protected–food is a fundament and foundation for any civilization. When our food ceases to be real, so do we. Deep down, we knew we could not survive on fast food alone long before Morgan Spurlock supersized himself and nearly wound up in a culinary coma. Now, with so many forces promoting the ease with which we might segue into more seasonally inspired, local eating patterns, we really do have the world on our plate.
Since we will have the world on our doorstep in 2010, it is nice to know they will leave with a taste of BC they are unlikely to ever forget–and that we will have all contributed towards saving the ‘family’ farm for future generations.
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