Happy 149th birthday, Canada!
As an advocate of home cooking as an alternative to unhealthy, over-salted, sugar-laden processed foods, I also love local fare. There are real advantages to eating food from as close to its source as possible. So I do my best to grow food, pick or buy food that’s in season, and support my local farmers. There is, however, another side to the coin. We’re in Canada.
Being Canadian means that the food growing season is very short. Depending on your location, having a farmer’s market is an option for only a few months, or you had better learn to like cabbage, potatoes, and turnip. Heck, even those quintessentially Canadian winter vegetables are frequently imported by major grocery chains from as far away as Texas and California. And that’s not our only challenge.
We have the great good fortune here in Canada to be what we describe as a mosaic, rather than a melting pot. People flock here from all over the world for an opportunity to live in an accepting, expansive, amazing country. When they get here, we welcome them, and their cultures, and that includes their food. Feta and falafel, tofu and tangerines, wasabi and watermelon have all made appearances on our household menu.
So here’s our compromise: We don’t grow coffee, but I’m not prepared to give it up, so I buy it, and look for fair trade. I’ll lean toward a local roaster over a multinational if I can. Figs, dates, and other foods that are prominent in my neighbourhood because we have a huge population of new Canadians…great. I’m in. I support farmer’s markets where and when I have access. Oranges? Florida’s marginally closer than California, but either way I’ll keep eating oranges. If there is locally-produced couscous, farro, tofu or even feta, I’ll give it a preferential position in my (reusable) grocery bag. Wine, for me, has no boundaries.
I avoid products that should be available year-round in my supermarket (sorry Texas carrots and Washington apples, you’re not coming home with me). Lastly, there’s the budget. As much as possible, I will pay extra for the privilege of eating food that’s grown in my home province, even though that is an unfair result of our grocery chains supporting the industrial food complex. But if push comes to shove and the unprocessed fresh or frozen food I can afford isn’t as local as I’d like, it still beats something from a can, box, or jar. I can live with myself.
Have a happy Canada Day, all, and eat well, wherever you are. We’ll be enjoying a seasonal, local treat homemade with all-Canadian ingredients: strawberry shortcake.