Shop Cana­dian for Food Day Canada

At least three lo­cal restau­rants are par­tic­i­pat­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - BEATRICE FANTONI LOIS ABRA­HAM

A few lo­cal restau­rants are join­ing the na­tion-wide party this Satur­day to cel­e­brate Food Day Canada.

The an­nual event, spear­headed by food ac­tivist Anita Ste­wart in 2003, high­lights the coun­try’s farm­ers, fish­ers, chefs re­searchers and home cooks and the foods that de­fine our culi­nary iden­tity.

At Earth to Ta­ble Bread Bar on Locke Street South in Hamil­ton, a chipo­tle pulled pork pizza with gar­lic scapes, Swiss chard, pick­led red onions and a ranch driz­zle is the fea­tured Food Day item on Satur­day’s menu — made with sea­sonal, lo­cally pro­duced in­gre­di­ents.

“We’re just re­ally about let­ting the in­gre­di­ents come out and stand in front,” says head chef Mike Spitzig.

The more fresh, lo­cal food you have avail­able, es­pe­cially through nearby farms, the eas­ier it is to come up with a menu, he says.

“It’s more in­spir­ing when some­body shows up with a beau­ti­ful prod­uct; let’s just let it sing. That’s an evo­lu­tion in how you cook.”

Bread Bar’s sis­ter restau­rants: Spencer’s at the Water­front, in Burling­ton, and the An­caster Mill, are also tak­ing part in Food Day Canada.

Spencer’s ex­ec­u­tive chef Ian Kap­i­tan de­cided to fo­cus on seafood.

This week­end’s menu will fea­ture a smoked tomato wa­ter shrimp gaz­pa­cho made with On­tario toma­toes and B.C. prawns and sal­mon, with red pep­per jus on a bed of suc­co­tash made with On­tario corn and beans.

All three restau­rants source part of their pro­duce and meat from the Earth to Ta­ble farm in Flam­bor­ough, as well as from lo­cal pro­duc­ers. They also try to fo­cus on Cana­dian prod­ucts when pur­chas­ing from ma­jor sup­pli­ers.

Spitzig es­ti­mates prod­ucts of Canada make up as much as 80 per cent of what they cook with at Bread Bar. (Nat­u­rally, they have to make ex­cep­tions for things like le­mon juice, he says, since lemons don’t grow here.)

Kap­i­tan says Spencer’s is also set­ting up part­ner­ships with seafood sus­tain­abil­ity groups like the Marine Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil, to en­sure the restau­rant sources its fish as re­spon­si­bly as pos­si­ble.

But you don’t have to eat out to mark Food Day. To in­spire cit­i­zens to get cook­ing with more made-in-Canada foods, Ste­wart has com­piled a shop­ping list of 100 per cent Cana­dian in­gre­di­ents.

Her shop­ping list at food­day­canada.ca/fea­tured-ar­ti­cle/shop­like-a-cana­dian has 149 items, to mark one year till Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial.

“If I tell peo­ple to cook like a Cana­dian, I have to tell them how to shop like a Cana­dian and it seemed to me it was be­com­ing more and more dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out ex­actly what is on the shelves and farm­ers mar­kets,” says Ste­wart, food lau­re­ate at the Univer­sity of Guelph and a mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada.

Part of the dif­fi­culty is the way food is la­belled.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Food In­spec­tion Agency, a “Prod­uct of Canada” la­bel means that all, or nearly all, of the food, pro­cess­ing and labour used to make the food is Cana­dian. The in­gre­di­ents were grown or raised by Cana­dian farm­ers and pre­pared and pack­aged by Cana­dian food com­pa­nies.

But when it comes to “Made in Canada,” it can get con­fus­ing.

“Made in Canada from do­mes­tic and im­ported in­gre­di­ents” on a food la­bel means a Cana­dian com­pany was in­volved in some of the prepa­ra­tion of the food and it con­tains some food grown by Cana­dian farm­ers and some that’s been im­ported.

For ex­am­ple, Ste­wart was mak­ing black cur­rant jam with wa­ter from her tap, fruit from a nearby gar­den and im­ported su­gar. But be­cause the prod­uct con­tains more su­gar than any­thing else, she wouldn’t legally be able to call it “made in Canada.”

How­ever, Ste­wart has found su­gar from Lan­tic Inc., of Taber, Alta., which has the num­ber 22 in front of the prod­uct code on the pack­age, in­di­cat­ing it is Cana­dian su­gar pro­cessed from su­gar beets.

Ste­wart dis­cov­ered she needs to ren­der lard — long her go-to fat for pas­try — or find a butcher who does it be­cause there are no large Cana­dian com­mer­cial lard and short­en­ing op­er­a­tions. The process is “smelly,” she says. “It’s easy to do, but it’s not my favourite thing.”

She’s de­vel­oped a recipe for canola oil pas­try, which she pats into a plate for a crum­ble-topped pie with ap­ples and black rasp­ber­ries.

“And of course a good but­ter pas­try is won­der­ful. It’s the clas­sic French way of do­ing pas­try. Our but­ter is, of course, Cana­dian.”

The blue cow logo on dairy prod­ucts in­di­cates they con­tain 100 per cent Cana­dian milk, and Ste­wart lists some ice cream and yo­gurt brands on her shop­ping list that com­ply.

Ste­wart ac­knowl­edges it might not be pos­si­ble to find ev­ery item on her list — rang­ing from vine­gars to craft beers to lentils, flax, flour, quinoa, meat, seafood and nuts — across the coun­try.

“It’s pos­si­bly a rea­son to travel too … There is some­thing to be said for the ca­chet of our cui­sine, whether it’s our caviar or Colville Bay (P.E.I.) oys­ters be­ing found only in very spe­cific ar­eas of the coun­try,” she says.

“Well, good for us be­cause it gives us a way of un­der­stand­ing the re­gion­al­ity of our food. You’re not go­ing to get corned capelin (a fish from the smelt fam­ily) out­side of New­found­land — and the capelin are rolling right now.”

Food ac­tivist Anita Ste­wart con­cocted this colour­ful potato salad with pota­toes from the Univer­sity of Guelph’s Elora Re­search Sta­tion and dressed it with a basil vi­nai­grette.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF ANITA STE­WART, VIA CANA­DIAN PRESS

Home cooks are in­vited to set the ta­ble with uniquely Cana­dian in­gre­di­ents on Food Day Canada, an an­nual na­tional culi­nary party.

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