What is the perfect Canadian meal? Whether it’s pickerel and peas from Ontario, pork and poutine from Quebec, or salmon and spot prawns from British Columbia, the founder of Food Day Canada wants Canadians to choose foods grown and raised in Canada when they gather to eat on Aug. 3.
University of Guelph food laureate Anita Stewart says the annual event she founded 16 years ago has always been about celebrating Canadian food, from the recipes, to the ingredients to the production.
The day is a chance to reflect on what makes Canadian-grown food special: our farmers and fishers, talented chefs, food researchers and, most of all, our home cooks.
“The food life in Canada has grown tremendously since we began this event, but at the end of the day, that food life really still exists in our kitchens,” Stewart said.
Stewart hopes people will once again pile as much Canada onto their plates as possible this weekend, either by visiting a Food Day Canada-participating restaurant using local ingredients, or by cooking an all-Canadian meal at home. The best place to find inspiration, she says, is at the local farmers’ market.
“These days, you can get all kinds of things at farmers’ markets, from fresh produce, to water buffalo short ribs to locally-grown tree nuts. That’s really a reflection of how the local food movement has grown. Canadians want to eat what’s grown close to home,” she said.
As Canada’s food university, U of G has been involved with Food Day Canada since it began in 2003. That was the year Stewart helped organize the “World’s Longest Barbecue” in support of Canadian beef growers who were struggling after the U.S. closed its borders because of a case of “mad cow” disease in Alberta.
The barbecue was meant to be a one-time gesture of support, but it evolved into an annual, nationwide celebration of all Canadian food. It’s held every year on the Saturday of the August long weekend, when so many Canadians gather for feasts.
“It was already a day when people tended to eat locally, so we named it Food Day Canada and haven’t looked back,” Stewart said.
This year, the theme is “Shine a Light on Canadian Cuisine,” and 22 structures across Canada will be lit up in red and white in honour of Canada’s food scene, including Niagara Falls, the CN Tower, Confederation Centre in St. John’s and B.C. Place in Vancouver.
U of G’s executive chef Vijay Nair says for him, Food Day Canada is about the commitment to local farmers and producers. His team works year-round with local community leaders and food producers, from day-to-day to award-winning events and occasions.
“Food Day Canada is the opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of our food culture on campus and to draw inspiration from other chefs, to create a more sustainable food future,” he said.
On Aug. 3, Stewart is encouraging people to post photos of their Canadian-grown meals using the #FoodDayCanada hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and follow the @fooddaycanada social media feeds.
“The goal of eating from our own backyards — whether locally, regionally or nationally — is extraordinarily important to the future of Canada and to our local growers,” she said.
“Shopping is a political act and the food choices we make matter.”