Never let it be said that Toronto does not have its fair share of cooking classes. Any night of the week, the culinarily curious can bake, sauté, flambé or roast at courses that range from “watch and eat” style to professional certifications. But for anyone with an interest in local, sustainable cuisine, they should stop looking at options once they hit Culinarium’s Lovin’ Livin’ Local Cooking School.
For those not in the know, Culinarium (705 Mount Pleasant Road) is a delightful little food shop where all the products are from Ontario. They carry everything from produce and meat to artisanal cheese, Ontario-grown peanuts, jams and preserves, herbal teas and more. Owner Kathleen Mackintosh has curated a wonderfully comprehensive selection of Ontario grown and produced goods and the shop even offers CSAs and meat share programs.
The space itself is designed to look like a country kitchen with shelves full of goodies and a food prep area in the back where small groups can get hands-on experience cooking up local food under the guidance of chefs and experts. With a little bit of rearranging, the shop transforms into space for a class of 8 to 12 people, or a tasting event for up to 16. Culinarium can also accommodate a private tasting – taking over the whole shop – for up to 24 people.
Continue reading “The All Ontario All the Time Cooking School”
Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.
I had a conversation with a colleague recently in which the subject turned to local food. Specifically, how people in the Toronto area are prone to blindly follow and buy anything grown locally despite the quality of the products themselves.
My colleague suggested that most consumers want their farmers’ markets to carry the same things that the grocery stores do (instead of the other way around) – i.e. expecting varieties of fruits and vegetables similar to the bland varieties grown in California that were mostly developed for easy shipping. They also suggested that certain local food producers create products of inferior quality; that many esteemed Toronto chefs who specialize in local food don’t actually offer a good quality meal; and that fans of local food willingly buy these inferior products or meals anyway, because they refuse to acknowledge their own sense of taste, instead deferring to local “experts” or advocates (chefs, food writers, etc.) who tell the food-lovers what to like and what to buy.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of this opinion, thus my “devil’s advocate” disclaimer – please don’t shoot the messenger – but on some levels, my colleague has a point. The argument cooked in my head a bit, because I’ve been wondering for a while – how many local products are we buying are because they’re the best products available, and how much of it is for the ideology of “supporting local”?
Continue reading “Local Yokels”
I was not a fan of the 100-Mile Diet or the philosophy behind it when the book was first published. I thought that the idea of such a narrow criteria in terms of what one chose to eat was a bit beside the point. The concept of food miles is a joke (can you really calculate the carbon footprint of a single mango?); sometimes food from away just tastes better than food grown nearby; and as an overall lifestyle change that people could make – for any reason – it would be both impractical and expensive.
The theory got a lot of flak as it grew in popularity, and charges of elitism were prevalent. Only someone with a lot of time and money could afford to search out locally grown grub. And in a society where the food budget is the first thing that gets cut in times of financial crisis, few people would be willing to give up their cheap imports. And let’s not forget about the fact that, here in Canada, many good and wonderful things that we’re accustomed to having in our kitchens – things like olive oil, spices, chocolate, coffee, tea and citrus – all need to come from away.
On the other hand, long before local food became trendy, I was an advocate of shopping locally. It only makes sense that we support the businesses around us. That we buy from the small place on the corner if their stuff is as good as the big guy’s, and that we encourage local artisans and help strengthen our local economies.
Turns out there is a backlash growing against local food. The main proponent being author James McWilliams in a new book titled Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. I’ve not read the thing yet, and it’s not getting particularly good reviews, so I don’t want to comment on the content, but McWilliams seems to paint locavores as crazy (and maybe that’s true), and has a lot of criticism for organics.
Continue reading “The Savvy Shopper – Has Local Become a Dirty Word?”