We’ve been spending a few days on Vancouver Island, which is a center of Slow Food in Canada. Between lovely walks along one of the many bays, inlets and spits, we’ve idled time away in desultory conversation with locals on where the island is headed. As in Portland, the local food scene is growing in importance and sophistication. Less like Portland, time spent at the table is more relaxed and extended. The misty light settles around a table of friends, crumbs fall, wine spills, the chatter gradually dims, and you notice hours have gone by.
It is easy to think a food revolution is going on when there is so much activity in one place regarding the 100 mile table, artisanal food production, and restaurants boasting of locally sourced ingredients. You could conceivably source most of your food, if you include food that includes only local production (such as baked goods made with mainland wheat) within 100 miles of the 400,000 strong city of Victoria.
For now. And, if all goes well. As Don Genova, local slow food guru, said, many of the local artisanal producers have no one to teach or anyone to whom they can bequeath the business. It is a hard go to make an artisanal creamery, poultry operation or winery successful. There are complexities of scale, distribution and inputs. You need more than passion to realize your dreams and sell them to others.
The situation isn’t that much different on Vancouver Island from France or Italy or elswhere, where the generational links that result in master farmers and cooks are being broken. Someone new may come in to learn at the feet of the master and take up breadmaking or distilling, but there is always some wisdom lost when there is no one to pick up where ancestors left off. And if that new devotee of artisanal pizza or heirloom crops develops a cultish following but can’t convince their children to take up the business, how is all their work sustainable? In the end, does that mean industrialized food production wins? That certainly seems to be the case in certain parts of the world.