This Saturday, August 2, is Food Day Canada. If you're Canadian, you care about food, the food industry and how we eat as a nation, you should definitely know about this day. With the aim to bring awareness to Canadians about every aspect of our food culture, Food Day founder, Anita Stewart, has always been at the forefront of food education, food journalism and culinary activism in this country.
Stewart first got the idea when she heard about how devastated the beef industry was out West back in 2003. "I was reading John Ralston Saul at the time, and it was all about being a citizen and what it meant: the duty of citizenship was to act as a citizen," recounts Stewart. She decided to email people she knew all over the world, from Beijing to Victoria, and asked them to barbecue Canadian beef. Set to happen on a specific day, the event went viral and became 'The World's Longest Barbecue'. From that point on Food Day began to take shape.
Today, Food Day encourages all Canadians to cook with only Canadian ingredients and has restaurants and chefs participating from coast to coast. Just in Quebec there are 24 restaurants taking part, including Les Jardins Sauvages, Maison Publique, Toqué!, Le Bremner, Pastaga, Auguste, Tuck Shop and Monkland Tavern.
"Canadians were already using local food so why not celebrate it? Especially at this time of year when the harvest is in. Adding restaurants to the mix has just been a bonus, it's really taken off, " explains Stewart.
"Anita is the female food ambassador of Canada, she's amazing," says chef Derek Dammann. "We're proud of what we do, proud to be Canadian and proud of our ingredients. Contrary to what people think, we really have a food identity."
At the moment, Dammann is using 85% local ingredients at Maison Publique, so for him to participate in Food Day with a menu made up of Quebec produce, it's obvious. "The fact that Food Day is the 2nd of August, there's no excuse why you're not using what's out there right now."
Stewart has equal admiration for all the Quebec chefs participating this year, as well as their contributions to the overall culinary landscape. "Derek has been an arbiter of taste, he's an extraordinary chef. Barb Irwin and the Monkland Tavern, they're doing really good work; there's Martin Juneau, Nancy Hinton at Les Jardins Sauvages, absolutely brilliant. Quebec is where a lot of regional food started in the early days and their attitude about food is outstanding."
·Food Day Canada [Official Site]