Where Are the Chefs?

foodfight

Today marks the beginning of two weeks of fantastic food-oriented television programming. Gordon Ramsay expands his Kitchen Nightmares series to try and get people to eat at local restaurants; Jamie Oliver takes on the pork industry in an effort to get producers to improve their husbandry standards; Heston Blumenthal has a 3-part series on his reinvention of the UK Little Chef chain of roadside diners; and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall revisits last year’s Chicken Out campaign to see if his efforts really did encourage people to choose free-range chicken and think about where their food comes from.

Too bad you don’t get to see any of it.

The Great British Food Fight series is an annual event on Channel 4 in Britain, and generally deals with politically-charged issues having to do with food production – this year’s series also includes a show called The True Cost of Cheap Food hosted by Jay Rayner of the Guardian.

Enterprising Canadians who want to see these shows will likely have no trouble finding them available for download online, but everyone else will have to miss out. Which is too bad because many of these shows are dealing with important issues that should be at the forefront of any conversation about where our food comes from, yet those discussions still aren’t really happening here in North America.

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Food Flicks

We spent Saturday in the darkened confines of Innis Town Hall, a theatre on the U of T campus, watching films from the Planet in Focus film fest. It was a very foodie day with very foodie films.

The morning started off with the organic pancake breakfast prepared by Real Food for Real Kids. For $10 you got two hemp pancakes with organic maple syrup, organic green salad with organic brie, fresh fruit, breads made from the ovens at Dufferin Grove Park, plus a selection of organic jams and hemp spreads. And of course organic fair trade coffee and Happy Planet juice. The price included a free travel coffee mug, and the juices retail for $1.99 each, so it was not only delicious, but a really good deal.

A Fallen Maple
The first film was called A Fallen Maple and looked at one family’s issue with lead content in the maple syrup produced on their farm. Turns out, while the maple syrup industry is highly regulated in Quebec and Vermont, in Ontario, this is not the case, and small family producers using older equipment often have problems with lead in their syrup. The only solution is to replace the entire production system, which, for this family, would have cost in excess of $100,000. The kicker is that the woman running the farm, one of the few women maple syrup producers in Ontario, had voluntarily agree to test the province’s “Best Practices” system, only to discover that they actually caused higher levels of lead in her syrup than she would have had otherwise. The maple syrup production, which had been in the family for generations, had to be shut down because they couldn’t afford to upgrade the equipment.

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