Sunday, October 16, 2011


It’s chilly this evening, as we pass the halfway mark in October. Perhaps I’m feeling the chill a little more because I’m tired this evening. It’s been quite a day.

I woke early, at around five (because I’m still a little jetlagged), then drove out of the city headed north. Foodstock, an event designed to raise money and awareness to help stop the Mega-quarry that is being planned for a huge area of farmland north of Shelburne, in Ontario, took place today. There are many problems with the quarry, among them its scale and also the fact that the quarry is planned to be so deep that it will destroy the water table of an area that is the source of many rivers.

So this is serious. It’s a food issue, an agriculture issue, an environmental health issue. The land has been assembled on behalf of a large US company; those who sold were told the buyer was planning to farm. Now what?

Well some locals, chefs and food people and others, decided to fight the Mega-quarry, and to do that by holding a huge event. They sure succeeded. Latest estimates are that 28,000 people came out to “Foodstock”. It’s an unimaginable number, when you think that they travelled on country roads to get to muddy fields, where they parked, then walked miles in the harsh wind to a forest, where at last they found chefs stationed under trees serving all kinds of different foods, all freely available for the suggested entry fee of ten dollars. The generosity of the chefs and farmers and others is hard to comprehend. The chefs work to make a living, and so do the coffee and tea people and other purveyors who were there, and the farmers who donated produce. And all of them were donating their livelihood to the cause.


Now the next thing is to figure out how to stop the Mega-quarry once and for all. Definitively.

In the meantime the sight of people from near and far eating pulled pork in a freshly made tortilla; or Monforte goat cheese on an artisanal cracker from Evelyn’s Crackers, topped by saskatoon berry jam, or crabapple tkemali; or Hungarian goulash served in freshly boiled cabbage leaves; or black cod on rounds of daikon from Sakura; or buffalo prosciutto (a whole beautiful leg of it) from Buca; or the stunning rillettes from a place in Collingwood (sorry I forget the name, but dazzling, young people of the best kind); or “Ontario Salad” a mix of many ingredients, fresh and lively and local, one of my faves of the day; or chowder served in a carved out bun/roll; or fresh oysters shucked right there by guys with stamina to burn; or sunchoke soup; or warming pasta e fagioli; or Jamie Kennedy’s fries, made with potatoes grown on the farm we were on; and then lots and lots more; was just wonderful, because everyone was so pleased to be there.

In between the cooks there were musicians: singers, guitarists, drummers. It was like a medieval fair on steroids. We were in a hardwood forest, with the scent of fallen leaves perfuming the damp air, and you could see the colour and movement as the crowds walked along paths in the distance, peopling the landscape.

In the middle of all those people queueing for food and eating or serving it, there was Michael Schmidt of raw milk fame, looking a little gaunt in the face. Why? because he’s on the fifteenth day of a hunger strike (he’s on water and lemon juice only). He’s trying to get the government to shift its crazy and destructive stance on unpasteurised milk. Raw milk in Ontario is treated as toxic and dangerous (while processed meats routinely sicken people with no-one criminally charged). There does seem to be something wrong with this picture, no?

In any case, there was Michael, a non-eater surrounded by a horde of people enjoying the best the province has to offer.

Meantime in the City of Toronto the Wall Street protest continues to take shape; and today the Marathon happened, thousands more people not protesting, not out eating, but instead running their hearts out.

Maybe the whole city feels like I do tonight, a little windblown and weary! Time for a hot bath, or a nip of Scotch perhaps? I have bought a new-to-me single pot Irish whisky, 12 years old, called Redbreast. That’s what I’ll start with, followed by a bath.

And in the next few days I’ll write about what I’ve been doing in the more-than-two-weeks since I last wrote here. There are pork pies in the story, and offal, there are double-decker buses, as well as thoughts of change and evolution. At this falling-golden-leaves time of year there’s the exhilaration of colour and dramatic skies, and the pang that they signal the fact that cold weather and shorter days are upon us.

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