Farm to Table is dead.

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Farm to Table is dead.

As a chef particularly interested and actively involved in the local food movement , I have always been curious in understanding  the role chef play in the creation of a vibrant food system  - perhaps  eager to give direction and intention to my work .  

Travelling has been especially revealing in that sense. It’s easy to see patterns into your own everyday and to come up with theories, but it’s particularly revealing when you can recognize those very same patterns in other parts of the world.

From  Puna (Big Island) to  Saulyta (Mexico), all to way to my hometown of Piacenza  (Italy) , without forgetting our own Valley :  on one side Chefs demand quality & ethics to their farmers and producers and on the other  they hold a captive audience in their dining room with the opportunity to showcase what’s in season , how to use it in an inspired way and where to go to find it. This is arguably a key step into the development of a vibrant food system and an important milestone in the creation of the so called farm to table movement. 

A movement indeed that has swept away food scenes in the new world  often decanting its base on sustainability and food biodiversity. Although often misused and highjacked , the words seasonal and local are on everybody’s mouth and on everybody’s menu. 

Rather quickly  however, the movements  encounter a bootle neck of sort. 

No matter how many meals you chose to have in your favourite so called farm to table restaurant or how many visits you manage to pay to your local farmers market , for most , that number represent nothing but a small fraction of the total meals you consume on a weekly bases - personally that number has plummeted since having kids.

Dan Barber, author of the Third Plate,  recognizes this has a significant shortfall of the farm to table philosophy in making  tangible the changes it promised to deliver; It comes down to  simple numbers. 

It is unquestionable that chefs have done their work in promoting both the products and their creators so eventually it is not up to chefs,  farmers or food artisans to implement those changes : it us up to us, the people, and those are some simple reflections I hope you will find valuable in this regard.

1 - Make Local a Daily Practice:
Real system change will only occur if we can manage to invite local flavours to our table on a daily base. 

Start with what feels comfortable for you both economically end logistically, but turn it into a practice that goes beyond farmers market day or date night and becomes part of your every day . 

Personally, eggs represented the entry point that triggered the rest. Start somewhere humble, become familiar with the feeling , then consider expanding on it.  

2 - Accessibility

In the Okanagan , accessibility to local food is surprisingly difficult. The farmers market window is small and while effort on the consumer side is necessary, convenience is a must to facilitate the process. 

And while things have changed in the last few years, if you ask yourself in this moment where you can find local & seasonal vegetables you might very well be stuck . 

So, support those business that facilitate this process because cool branding and fancy words aside, accessibility is the first fundamental step into tipping the weight of the conversation to our advantage. 

3 - Education:

An important part the work will always be educating the public.Since opening One Big table for example  , from time to time we have been labelled as “an expensive grocery store” . While grossly simplistic, such statement really highlights the lack of understanding of the real costs of Food Production .  

What you might label as expensive, includes ethical practices and fair wages for those involved in its production, while its counterpart , (mass produced & incredibly cheap food) neglects to include significant hidden costs. Its  questionable production practices carry a  profound effect on our environment, state and well being -  and eventually we pay its full price.

4 - Language:
Language is often a simple place to start when promoting change at a system level.   By changing our language , we can adjust how we perceive a specific topic and through repetition, its message is normalized. 


Our current language around food is particularly  revealing in that sense. When for example a major outbreak plagues a chicken operation, the animals are said to be “destroyed”. The word Foodie on its own conjures images of exclusivity and privacy. Let’s take back our language and be mindful of its use: chickens are not a product and while the topic of eating animals deserves a whole separate discussion, the difference between destroying and killing is settle but clear. Repetition helps reshaping ideas on a conceptual level and language offers us a simple opportunity to start practicing the ideas we want to promote & affirm .

5 - There is power in Numbers:

The power that the consumer holds is immense and often  highly underestimated. Colourfully put if you stop buying crap, industries will stop producing crap. In my country of origin, the movement to ban GMO started at a grass root level. As it grew and gain momentum, it became difficult for the government to not pay attention to its growing voice forcing the discussion from the street to a legislative context. 

The result ? Currently Italy bans the growth of GMO crops in all 20 regions. By consciously choosing what we eat , defining practices, and affirming rights,  we do have the opportunity to shape our reality. 


6 - Participation:

It it by working together that we can bring balance and understanding to the food we eat & the products we use. it is by working together that we can address issues and understand  how to solve them.

Sure we need leaders to guide us through the steps of social change; to stop doing the same things and truly invite innovative solutions on those issues we collectively consider to be important.

But where would all leaders be without people? 

Where will their ideas be without people supporting them?

They would be just that - an idea and a bank account deep in the red. We need leaders to guide us, but leaders need people to support their vision, give it strength and momentum as they grow and move forward.

We are the people.

However small the difference you believe you can make in creating that world we live in, it is essential in creating change as it is having the fortune to have strong leaders in our community. We can sit around and complain or we can play a role, however small in budding a new world. 

So let's dance.



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All I Want for the Holidays

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All I Want for the Holidays

My name is Giulio; I am the founder of One Big Table and what I want this holiday season is more supportive housing for all the residents of our city, Kelowna. 

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This is my letter in support of the Agassiz Supportive Housing Project.

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Hello, 

My name is Giulio, I am 38 years old and have lived in Kelowna for the past 10 years. In my time here, I have met my wife, Anne-Marie, had 2 daughters , Pia & Simone, and amongst other things I have started a business called One Big Table. 

I am proud of what I have created for myself through hard work, friendship and I must say, a little bit of luck as well. I am aware of the abundance I get to enjoy often in my daily life, and while life is far from being easy, I am throughly grateful for all that I enjoy.

However, life hasn’t always felt this gracious & purposeful. In my early 20s, arguably still too young to see through the dynamics of life, I found myself working a string of minimum wage jobs for about 3 years. Back then, just like today, cooking was what I loved, so that’s what I did. The challenge was not finding work, but rather finding work that paid much felt impossible. 

I worked really hard, I didn’t drink much, and I lived simply - by most accounts frugally. I don’t remember ever going hungry (and working in a restaurant helped in that sense) but I remember distinctly when it was Tuesday. Payday was not till Friday, and I often had little more than a pocket full of change.

I was by most accounts poor. According to Canada Revenue Agencies I was definitely poor ; I lived well below the poverty line. “funny” I remember thinking; I didn’t feel poor.

I can see now, with a few extra years behind me, how blind I really was to the precarity of my situation - how a fall with my bike, an infected tooth or illness, could have easily swept me into a descending spiral, hardly because of something I had deserved or done. 

How was it possible that I was working so hard and yet I was so far from a life of financial stability?

I am older now, and I have learned what it means to surround oneself with community; of its pleasures but also of its inherent responsibilities. Inclusivity can shape both our language and our actions so gracefully, but it requires a continuous adjustment, at times a truly uncomfortableness. What it requires is effort - eye contact, a kind word, an ear to listen or a bite to eat. 

And then there's the issue of housing of course. We know of the transformational power that a roof over our heads lends to our mental and physical well-being. Of course, how could that not be true? And this too is something we can offer not just to “those people” but to our community as a whole, as a resource that we all hope will never be needed, but that we’d be fools to think is unnecessary. 

I vote in support of the Agassiz supportive housing project because I feel it’s imperative there be a system in place to help our community members through the difficult transitions most of us are bound to experience in the ups & downs of life. 

I am grateful for the work that the Journey Home Task Force has done so far. I believe they have shown their necessary leadership in addressing such a difficult task. But in order to throughly succeed, what they will need is our support. This is my letter to support.

Please consider sending your letter or email to Kelowna City Council by the 3rd of January 2019. The public hearing on the rezoning application will be in council chambers on January 17th, and we need as many people as possible to send in letters before the two-week cut off period. 

Additionally, please consider registering to attend and/or speak with the “in-favour” voice at the public hearing.

For your letter/email please address it to cityclerk@kelowna.ca and make reference to file number Z18-0109. 

Thank you so much.

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Lets (not) get down to busy-ness

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Lets (not) get down to busy-ness

We live in a culture of credentially busy; it means something to have a full daytimer and fuller yet inbox. A culture that eats in our cars + at our desks and fills evenings with meetings + practices and doesn’t know where the morning went to get there — but could if we stopped for a moment to look up at the sky while we grab another coffee...to go?

Our ceramic mug game has thrown some people off, and altered others, reminding them that they do in fact have ten minutes for coffee if they choose it...and they usually stay for twenty. This is not lazy. Or indulgent. Or irresponsible. It is not even the paradoxically hyped up “self care” -- it is, just, taking time for the sweet + quiet parts of life.

Stop + smell the roses, if you will.

And the process in making time, is too, similar to a rose garden. Dead heading flowers \\ trimming plant leaves so the healthy ones can grow is the very metaphor for reorganizing your life to create space and time. Reorganize priorities \\ re-evaluate preferences. This allows you to collect your energy and distribute it into the things that matter most rather than many withering blooms.

Which of your projects are half dead. Do you have one toe dipped into so many different pools that your foot can not ground in any, let alone your body steep in the richness of one?

Like plants we thrive when we hone in on the few. When we do not disperse ourselves so as to dilute ourselves. Ain't nobody like no thin slick of butter or pb or marmite for you Aussies out there reading up on Biggie....lay that on thick. Lay yourself on thick to what you love.

There is no glory in ambition or multitasking. There is so much in disciplined presense and attuned care for those + what you lend yourself + time to.

And too, like plants, and humans, so does food love to be gathered in the fewest and simplest of ways.

We preach simple food at the shop not because we are chintzing out on sammys, but because when you work with quality ingredients, you want them to sing, not be strangled with complication.

Keeping food simple not only allows you to really taste the characteristics of a component, but it makes cooking less daunting and time consuming. It means that an onion + a clove of garlic + thick carrots + a sprig of lemon thyme + a sprig of your own time makes a whole pot of comfort. That Sprout bread + fine dairy and time under the broiler while you grab a beer is a snack worth sitting down ten or even twenty minutes for.

You don't need much to make it count. Only a reverence for the quality of what you are putting in – just like you with your time + efforts + gifts. So give more into less, and stay awhile.


Thanks for supporting my writing.

Bye

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Tis the Season

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Tis the Season

Its not quite Christmas yet. There is still a month left, hopefully, of golden leaves and glossy if not glaring pumpkins with seeds in their bellies for roasting, or a candle to light their smirk. Still fields of other squashes and gourds, shaped with their long necks or impossible to peel rivets...

So don't peel them. 

Roast them skin on – some will turn tender enough to eat, like Aunt Thelma : a white acorn of clean sweet taste; some you can spoon from their hardened crusts. Still too, some tomatoes, sheltered by their own now wilted leaf cloak. All the roots pulled from the cold earth. And from some innovative farms : delicate salad greens grown in tunnels to keep them from frost bite. No, this is not yet the season of excusable cookies + lacing your coffee with Baileys for breakfast. Not quite time for stollen + gingerbread + all other glutony traditions while caroling or knitting gifts. It is the season of wither and deciding whether or not you can still be grateful for the growing season here. 

Tis the season where many of us revert to big box tomatoes + raspberries because heaven forbid we go a handful of months without them.

We challenge you to go a handful of months without them.

Because then when the season comes to have them again, you will appreciate their full fruity tang. Their softness in the summer sun's warm hands. Their smell before you even taste them. 

If we had Christmas every day we would not appreciate it. There are kinda funny movies to prove this in theme.. 

If we had summer everyday we would not appreciate it's abundance. 


And how can we learn to appreciate this colder season if not to cuddle up with its offerings. Eat a bowl of roasted potatoes tossed while still hot in a bit of creme fraiche + mustard and call it lunch. Put a soup on. Roast carrots halved lengthwise, pile em up, fry an egg to top + shave raw aged gouda or a thick cut of Upper Bench Brie for a benny that needs no hollandaise. Not willing to let go of the raw crunch of cold salads? Try shaving kholrabi + celery root paper thin and tossing with lemon juice + olive oil + salt. And if you are a tomatos all year kinda person, then take what is left in these next few days cook them to store as sauce. 

Just as there are seasonal holidays + vegetables, so we are seasonal animals. We relate to the cold by eating what can be sustained through it. We relate to the stored roots, cabining ourselves in our homes + turning the oven on. We relate to the earth and so we come to respect it. We respect it and so we may see many more seasons to come. 

You'll see a lot more roots on the menu at OBT, come chat about how to keep yourself excitedly well fed + especially grateful this season.


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