To borrow a phrase, “You are where you eat”!

2 Oct

Have you ever attended a Harvest Feast? Richard and I did a little while back, after being convinced to go by his sister.

Now Richard’s sister is a superb urban gardener. Her piece of heaven on the Saanich Peninsula is a little like walking into an old fashioned English garden. At least until you get closer and realize, though the layout may be familiar, many of  the plants aren’t.  This garden is full of vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants that are native to the lower part of Vancouver Island. Of course the usual old standbys, found in gardens all over the world, are also in evidence.

My youngest daughter is a food blogger who lives in the Cowichan Valley a few miles north of  Saanich Peninsula. She insists on using in season, locally grown food as much as she can, in her pursuit of new and exciting recipes that she can photograph and share with her growing audience. She is also growing as many of her own fruits and vegetables as she can. Not to mention raising a few hens for fresh eggs.( You can visit her site at guiltykitchen.com)

These two women are part of a growing trend. More and more you hear folks talk about eating “locally” and the island is in the forefront of that movement. Hence my original sentence, “Have you ever been to a harvest feast?”

The one we attended was billed as, “Saanich Peninsula Harvest Feast, A community celebration of Saanich Peninsula food and agriculture”. Everything we ate, except for the black tea, coffee and sugar came from within 20 miles.

I don’t mean just the vegetables, like squash, beets, carrots, green beans, lettuce, corn and potatoes. I mean the wheat that was milled and ground to make flour, baked into rolls and served with the meal, along with locally churned butter. The cranberries that were sauced and served with the turkey. The menu offered beef, salmon chowder, jellies made from wild Oregon Grapes and Red Currants. There was pies of all sorts, made from apples, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. And to top it off, lemon meringue pie! Yes, that’s right, lemons grown on Vancouver Island. There was even cider and wine! The meal was superb to say the least and not only was everything grown locally, and donated, the locals who grew it, along with help from local businesses, made it, prepared it and served it. An excellent effort by all involved!

This is an interesting return to the land and an attempt to control our food supply. If your neighbour grows it, it’s handled less, it travels only from the farm to your home and if you have questions, you can ask the grower face to face. Though it may seem like a retreat into the”old days”, this makes an enormous amount of sense. The food is healthier, fresher and cheaper and the sense of community that this movement generates is tremendous. You get to know your neighbours this way, not just the farmers but those folks you meet every weekend at the  Farmer’s Markets that spring up every summer, not just in the rural areas but right downtown Victoria.

It does require a change in eating habits though. Foods that are not in season are expensive so why not just eat what is available? It’s a bit harder in the winter but there are still fresh vegetables that can be had, as well as all the preserves and canned foods put up over the bountiful summer.

Now, since we have limited space and weight issues, we have to be careful about accepting handouts, but we never leave the island without a couple of jars of Apple Butter and wild Oregon Grape jelly. To be honest, we take full advantage while we can. Enjoying great gourmet meals prepared by both our daughters, getting jars of this or that from Richard’s sister and stuffing ourselves with all our favourite fruits. Mmmm cherries!

Soon we’ll be in Baja and our eating habits will change to harmonize with the foods that are available there. The vegetables are different, the beef much, much leaner and more seafood than you could possibly believe. We can hardly wait! In the meantime though, we’ll enjoy the food that we find here on the island, including looking forward to the Thanksgiving turkey that the farm down the road has raised for our daughter. Just remember, you are where you eat!

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