Shop Canadian for Food Day Canada
At least three local restaurants are participating
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.
Home cooks are invited to set the table with uniquely Canadian ingredients on Food Day Canada, an annual national culinary party.