Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FOODSTOCK

On Sunday October 16th, we drove north through the hilly Hockley Valley, up to Ontario’s roof: the highest and most fertile land in Ontario. From there, we tossed our map and followed the peloton of car-pooled cars to Foodstock.
Hockley Valley


arriving at Foodstock
Arriving at the edge of a golden-leafed forest, we submitted our donation towards the cause: to stop the mega quarry proposed by The Highland Companies, an American company which bought 7000 acres of farmland with the guise of using the land for potato production. The quarry would be the largest on the continent – deeper than Niagara Falls, and would not only take massive amounts of energy (i.e. pollution) to fuel, but would also contaminate the watershed of spring water that feeds into numerous rivers and streams. When The Highlands Companies has scraped up all of the limestone (used for highways and infrastructure), they propose to use the land again for farmland. If the farmland can be rehabilitated (the Minister of MNR is doubtful) it would still require 600million litres of water to be pumped in per day, perpetually.



Outraged, the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) began to petition and in September 2011, they convinced the Ontario government to demand an environmental assessment (EA). It is mind-boggling that no quarry of any size has had to face an EA in Ontario, but promising that government has agreed to look into how the quarry will impact the watershed, farmland, environment and communities.

Chef Stadtlander dishin' out some soup
It was comforting to arrive to the windy, rainy, muddy forest, greeted by wafts of smoke and crackling fires. Foodstock is an event is to raise awareness and bring community together. There is power in numbers. Michael Stadtlander deserves a hearty round of applause, as he is known in food-lovers’ circles as a pioneer to Slow Food in Canada. Respected for his Michelin-star worthy creations using all local ingredients, he has often brought chefs together from around Canada to bond, discuss, cook and praise food from farm to fork.
Buca boys
from Buca: boar prosciutto, soft pecorino, balsamic and pistachios
The map showed that more than 60 cooks from restaurants in Toronto and surrounding areas had set up tents along the forest paths with small fires behind over which to cook. The (FREE!) food was amazing due to the talent and hard work of the chefs and their cooks, but it was also an obvious homage to Ontario’s produce, which is honoured by the chefs not just for Foodstock, but all season long at their respective restaurants.
from Loic: potato-beet rosti with fennel cream and a candied beet chip

handmade gnocchi with pancetta, brussle sprouts and sage
     

Parts & Labour tent
The first tent I visited was Parts & Labour and Chef Matty and (we cooks know him as) Kung-Fu, who were smearing liverwurst on a large baguette, topping it with pork belly braised over the fire and sprinkling slaw on top before slicing the sandwich into eight portions and handing them to smiling faces. Chef Matty Matheson passed a sandwich to a woman behind him, who had raised the cow whose liver became liverwurst. It was beautiful to see it full-circle and a perfect start to a day filled with intimate interactions and comradeship.
from Parts & Labour: liverwurst and pork belly sammy
                                             
two gentlemen helping a lady stuck in the mud
The estimated number of people to attend was 20,000. Given that the weather was sporadic, I hadn’t expected to see so many people but in each line, there they were - grandparents and kids and everyone between – holding their mismatched cutlery, cups and plates, smiling and steadying themselves on mud as they waited to be served by the chef. After just two hours many of the chefs had already served 2,000 people!
from Kolapore Springs: trout gravlax cured in lavender with beet relish


the sun comes out
Through the trees, we followed the cheers to find an opening to a large field, where there was a stage set up for performances by Canadian musicians: Sara Harmer, Ron Sexsmith and The Barenaked Ladies, to name a few. There were tractors on display and children bobbing for the most delicious (Ontario) red apples.

When the event was scheduled to end, around 5pm, it began raining heavily and the space cleared out fairly quickly. Left behind were the chatting chefs, hard-working mud-soaked farm-hands racing back and forth on their 4-wheelers, and cars stuck in the mud, pulled out by tractors and directed by volunteers. The car was silent on the way home save the crunch of crisp apples savoured by soothed souls. I am hopeful.
the day's end


Thank you to all the chefs, musicians, organizers, farm-owners, and to everyone who came.

                               

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