Saturday, December 19, 2009

Part I: Antipasti - "The Edible City" Book Review

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I just finished the antipasti part of "The Edible City: Toronto's Food From Farm to Fork" so I thought I'd share some brief first impressions.


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The book starts off with Sarah B. Hood's historical food map of Toronto. Don't worry, those of you who failed History in high school - it's not boring - she paints a vivid picture of what has fed Toronto over the years, from what early hunter-gatherers could find in the area to what urban farmers and manufacturers provide nowadays. There's some interesting initiatives I've come across before that she mentions - like Not Far From The Tree, which harvests Toronto's fruit trees (yes, there are actually quite a few fruit trees here - NFFTT's site says they harvested over 3,000 lbs of food in their first full season in 2008 and this year they are way above that at about 8,135 lbs). I had the pleasure of tasting one of their apples actually. Pretty cool stuff.


Next up was Andrew Braithwaite's story which made me smile endlessly. I honestly die a bit inside when people make fun of Toronto in any way, especially the food scene, because I think it deserves the utmost respect - we have some really talented chefs and the multicultural cuisine cannot be beat in my opinion. So to hear Andrew explain how he moved to France and how he, despite how awesome I'm sure France was, perpetually missed the Toronto food scene made me nearly die of joy - I'd say we have arrived as a world player on the food scene.


Jessica Duffin Wolfe writes about why Toronto lacks a street food scene - the main point that resonated with me is it's cold most of the year so street food (well, we've usually still got our street meat!) is not suitable really. Although Mark's tales of street food in the Philippines put Toronto to shame, I'm kind of okay with that. She's pushing for street food vendors more than I would be. I kind of like the landscape being uncluttered by street food carts, in the summer I'll just, say for example, run into La Bamboche and grab some macaroons and eat them outside - same thing really, but with less cluttered streets, so I've made peace with Toronto's lack of a street food scene, though I am dying to go to the Philippines and other countries with good street food scenes (I know, that sounds a bit hypocritical. I am a woman of contradictions).


Steven Biggs talks about the food processing industry in Toronto, which all started with pork processing (hence the city's nickname Hogtown). I learn something new everyday: I had NO idea we are North America's second largest food processing hub (Chicago is #1).


Bronwyn Underhill talks about her grandmother's amazing peach chutney - food for me is also very attached to memories - and when making her own version she contemplates the pros and cons of three different ways she can get her peaches to make the recipe: she can buy from the grocery store or market (where peaches are usually from California or sometimes Niagara) or she can help pick her own with NFFTT. She peppers her adventures in peach-buying with some interesting facts.


My first bite into the book ended with a story by Darren O'Donnell about his ideal conception of the city (which is based off Sesame Street) and how, to get to that ideal, he evolved the concept of dinner parties to be more inclusive. I have to say the style of writing was more suited to one of my old University textbooks, but I get what he's trying to get at and found his concept interesting.

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Click here to read our reviews of the next sections (primo, secondo, contorno, and dolce) of the book!

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