Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gastronomy of Place: Life's a Peach

Food has always held communities together, whether in the preparation and eating, or in the careful sourcing that guarantees a livelihood to local producers, good food to the consumer and a balanced economy.
Dennis Cotter, Irish restaurateur and award-winning celebrity chef

My recent reading of Locavore by Sarah Elton has committed me more than ever to choose locally grown foods and to support local farmers. 

Elton's call to arms for a sustainable food system musters consumers, chefs, and farmers alike:
On the farm, we need to move towards a holistic understanding of agriculture that takes its cues from nature, supports biodiversity and relies less and less on fossil fuels. Farmers must make a living wage and be respected for their work, something achieved by rehumanizing the food chain and connecting farmers with consumers through farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture while at the same time developing new supply chains for institutions such as universities and hospitals. When devising our new food system, we need not dwell on the past and replicate subsistence agriculture. Instead, we can push forward to fashion something new and innovative, using our technology and our imagination to design energy-efficient greenhouses and other novel ways of producing food.

In the city, we need to grow some of what we eat and figure out how to incorporate food production into the metropolis. By connecting with the food chain, and eating well, we will be more likely to experience a cultural shift and watch a gastronomy of place take hold.

The Niagara Peninsula deserves a hearty 'gastronomy of place'. In my youth it epitomized the Garden of Eden, full of blossoms in the Spring and bountiful fruit and vegetables for months thereafter. I am thankful that some of the local orchards have resisted selling their rich arable land to developers and that it's still possible to buy fresh local produce along the road. The signs announcing in-season products appear to be the same as those from my youth. Even if the local farmers need to price their products slightly more than the agribusiness imports flooding supermarket displays, I believe that I'm getting value for my money.

Today I specifically wanted peaches that have just come into season so as to bake a couple of Peach Schlitz Pies, featured here last year, thankfully preserving the recipe in the blogosphere because Mom and I searched the house but could not find the recipe's original hard copy. ;-)

Procuring farm fresh peaches was an added bonus to the excursion into the Niagara peninsula which originated as a celebration of my aunt's birthday at the 13 Mountain Street restaurant. The chefs there promote 'gastronomy of place' by proudly serving local ingredients in seasonal menus, such as my very tasty Roasted Red Pepper Ricotta Brulee Tart, and pairing each item with a local wine.

No doubt its primary ingredient was an import, but I must leave you with an image of the mountain of molten and baked cocoa that comprised our Vesuvian dessert (its real name had something to do with lava but since I've been thinking a lot about Italy lately Vesuvius is all that stuck in my memory).

Elton's sustainable food system does not proscribe food sourced beyond a 100-mile radius, such as coffee, bananas and chocolate. Rather (she writes), the ideal of a strong local food economy is to eat good, healthy food that is produced with the least environmental impact. This usually means food that is produced nearby, but includes imports that are produced and transported sustainably.

Makes sense to me.


John said...

"...the same as those from my youth..."

Relax - you're still there !!


Shari said...

John, you are a peach!

John said...

...and I thought the Botox had fixed my wrinkles !