My high school reunion coincided with the launch of this adventure- poor planning on my part! Since it included social eating and festivities, not much happened in the local food department on day one, I’m afraid. My apologies for the delay. Now let’s get this show on the road!
I think we should start by setting the table. By that, I mean get into the right headspace for this little journey. Which requires a brief story about how this road trip was born.
When I came home from the desert, I crossed the border into a Canada that seemed more beautiful, rich and varied than the one I’d left. For a short time, everything about “home” was pleasantly surreal, super-precious and seriously worthy of my admiration. The grass was greener. The lakes vaster. I began sentences with “I don’t remember that tree up on that hill before” and “I don’t remember the lake ever being this shade of blue ….”
It was an unexpected gift to see “home” through this new lens – the eyes of someone who had been away – and at times I was awash in reverence, as if I’d saved every penny my whole life just for the opportunity to experience this land.
In the Buddhist tradition, this state of wonder is sometimes called “the beginner’s mind” and it’s connected to the practice of paying attention. I once had a spiritual teacher who had me place a photograph of myself as an infant on my bedside table. Each morning I was to reflect on “baby me” and pray to see life as she did; literally as if I I’d never seen anything on earth before. I felt a bit like that baby me, seeing Canada for the first time.
But we humans aren’t known for our ability to stay mindful and appreciative, and I’m no over-achiever. It wasn’t long before the curtain of complacency began falling on my newborn sense of wonder. My playful “inner filly” was at serious risk of being replaced with a weathered trail nag who walked with her head down, the heaviness of the predictable insufficient to entice her to look up from a well worn path.
Well, I may have arrived back at my barn, but I was not ready to be a trail nag and I didn’t want the curtain to fall! I didn’t want to fall asleep with my eyes open! I certainly did not want to take my homeland for granted. I needed to find a way to cultivate the “travellers curiousity” I’d experienced on the road back here in Canada.
The realization that my sense of wonder had a slow leak coincided with missing my U.S. friends, and some anxiety about staying in touch with them. The answer to both of these problems arrived as one solution.
I would become a tour guide for my friends from “away.” Because showing encourages seeing.
I’d take my new friends on a road trip through eight different regions of Ontario, some of which I am familiar, some completely new to me. Regardless, I have treated them all with ambivalence; erred in my complacency. We could share the beginner’s mind together. A road trip of discovery and curiousity.
Then I got to thinking like a tour guide. If I invited guests to Canada, inevitably they would get hungry. When they got hungry, I would want to feed them, and if I was to feed them, I would naturally want to serve up some quintesential Canadian food.
And it was that thought that led me to the backroads, and those backroads that led me to the farm and those farms that led me to the forests, rivers and lakes. Where most of my favourite Canadian food, in it’s simplest form, comes from.
The simplicity of this idea was a relief. Because serving food to guests is no simple affair these days! The array of food-practices and diets followed in todays “modern” and information-saturated world is mind-boggling. I suspect we are suffering from some sort of collective food neurosis; tortured by new ethical, moral and health dillemnas emerging out of a highly industrialized food culture: keto, paleo, low carb, vegan, vegetarian, organic only, macro, raw, gluten-free, no GMO, low fat, high fat, low sodium, no dyes, red-fish, blue-fish. I can hardly keep up with the research required to make the “right” food decisions these days. I’m often at a loss. At which time I eat ice-cream. I would like to feel less lost. A little more connected.
I was dizzy for a while, contemplating all my hungry guests with all their potential dietary preferences. All the while reviewing the dozens of food “regimes” I, myself, have identified with over the years. In a state of food-identity paralysis, I took a nap, but when I woke up, I had a map. We were going to eat our way through Ontario!
A simple journey in search of simple food, grown and raised in a land we have come to call Canada. Which is a Huron-Iroquois word believed to mean “Big Village.”
Not quite a “how to” story, although I will certainly be writing about the mechanics of enjoying awesome food on the road. Which has it’s challenges for sure. I will certainly put effort into inspiring you to be brave on your Coleman’s and campfires! Mostly, however, I imagine it will be an exploration of our relationship to food and our subsequent relationships to ourselves, our families, communities and Nature. From a distinctly nomadic perspective 😉
Simple, whole, local food. Food with the power to nurture bodies, families and communities. Food that, in many ways, defines us, geographically, as Canadian. Food grown, raised, hunted and foraged close to home and prepared out the back of a minivan, with nothing more complicated than a pot, a pan and one sharp knife.
Slow food. Being distinctly different from fast food.
Bring an empty plate and your beginner’s mind. We are going to meet our food, together, for the first time; a caravan of food-seeking, nomad-babies!
First stop? Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, and I need to go shopping for some food!