Nov. 18, 2009 - Issue #735: Parkland Conference 2009
We Eat Together
It just tastes better: New cookbook touts the value of local cuisine
With the combined efforts of a number of farmers, restaurateurs and consumers, now all of that is changing. Julianna Mimande was at the forefront of the local food movement in this city with her restaurant Bacon, which served as much locally-sourced food as possible and is still considered a culinary highpoint in Edmonton's dining history. The restaurant no longer exists, but far from leaving the local food scene behind, Mimande is on the verge of publishing—along with co-author Gabe Wong—a cookbook entitled We Eat Together which features many of the suppliers she developed relationships with during her tenure at Bacon.
"The biggest hitch in the beginning was actually finding suppliers because it was still new for restaurants to be serving a lot of local stuff—if they were touting local it was like, 'We have elk steak,' it wasn't, 'We have carrots.' I think Bacon was on the forefront of changing that," she explains. "It wasn't easy because nobody has the time to deliver anything—these people are farming or whatever they're doing so it took a lot of work to organize it all. In doing so it created stronger relationships between me and those farmers."
Those relationships were crucial when Wong came to her with the suggestion that the two of them collaborate on a cookbook. His original idea ran along the lines of publishing the recipes used at Bacon, but when Mimande explained that she didn't really have recipes, they both knew they would have to go in a different direction.
It was decided that instead of publishing a straight cookbook featuring recipes that focused on ingredients which could be sourced locally, they would produce a visually beautiful book that featured the farmers Mimande worked with and included some tried and true recipes from them. Instead of pages and pages of ingredients and instructions, the book centres around getting to know the people behind the food that is available at Edmonton and area farmers' markets, and on progressive menus around town. Focusing on the more human side of the local food movement was important to both Wong and Mimande because it took the subject out of the dry, activist territory it can sometimes slip into and made it all about the people and the food.
"A lot of the local food things are really political right now which is great, but we didn't want to make it so political. We just wanted to make it seem like it was not only the best thing for the economy, it just makes a lot more sense," says Wong. "When I started buying most of my produce from the farmers' market there's a change in perspective. It's no longer broccoli from the Superstore, it's something you have to respect—you really want to take advantage of how awesome this thing could be."
"I think not making it political is less boring and I think sex appeal is super important for selling this concept," continues Mimande. "People don't want to just buy into supporting their farmer because I think that's been tried and it's just not happening. I think it needs to be put into sexier, romantic ways and get people supporting that stuff"
The book itself, featuring photos by Zachary Ayotte, is a thing of beauty in and of itself. An engaging read whether you make the food or not, getting to know the people behind the food we put into our bodies is an important step in growing the local food movement and tapping into the myriad of benefits it has for people and for the environment.
"Bacon was a test pilot in some ways for me, it was just a door in for me, an opportunity. This was another opportunity—I think that these types of projects are really important," says Mimande. "It's really important to support your neighbours and your local economy, but food is just so much better when it's grown close to home. It starts with freshness and flavour and health and then it extends to supporting your neighbour and then it extends to not spending money on gas to get it from farther away and it keeps going and gets bigger." V
Wed, Nov 25 (6 pm)
We Eat Together
D'Lish (10418 - 124 St)
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