Monday, August 20, 2007

The meaning of field to plate: three experiences

Chefs to the Field, Terra Nova Rural Park, Richmond BC. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Richmond, is Terra Nova Rural Park, home to wildlife areas, trails, heritage buildings, and a very beautifully cared for community garden which was the site of this year's Chefs to the Field event. Although the food was my first motivation to attend, the most enjoyable aspect of my visit was wandering through the expansive vegetable patches and flower beds with fork and plate in hand. My favourite food item was a succulent pseudo-pulled pork sandwich (which was not pork but instead vegetarian) offered by the charismatic Chef Tony Minichiello from NWCAV.

This celebration of local organic cuisine also included a black-box competition involving the harvest of ingredients directly from the community garden. To see twenty chefs in their white jackets picking the freshest possible greens and vegetables was a tangible expression of the seed to table philosophy which fuels organizations like the Terra Nova Schoolyard Project, run by the equally charismatic Chef Ian Lai.

My dad's garden. Although my thumbs are only a pale shade of green, my dad has always been the most prolific and attentive amateur vegetable farmer I know. My earliest memories involve summer afternoons picking cherry tomatoes, digging up potatoes, giggling at odd shaped carrots, and wondering how compost was magically made. Because of age, he has slowed down in recent years but his crops still include asparagus, beans, beets, blueberries, carrots, chives, corn, cucumbers, gai-lan plus other chinese greens, green onion, numerous varieties of lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, several varieties of squash, many varieties of tomatoes, watercress, and zucchini. The most unusual item he attempted to grow one year was cantaloupe; needless to say, the climate here is not ideal for cantaloupe and only one golfball sized melon was harvested!

Westham Island Herb Farm, Ladner BC. Today, my friend Michelle and I shared a lovely afternoon exploring this quaint local farm located on Westham Island which sits at the mouth of the Fraser River. I bought a bag of potatoes, green beans, onion, garlic, and blueberries. Buying produce direct from the farmer is a unique experience and as an urban dweller, a somewhat rare opportunity. Undoubtedly, it is easier (but not necessarily cheaper) to stop by your neighbourhood supermarket to pick up produce which was grown on a different continent. Making the effort to seek out local producers is the challenge and luckily, it is becoming not only more available, but also more appealing to do so, especially when the local summer harvest is so abundant and irresistible!

No comments: