Food & Love
Food connects us. It is part of our identity, our culture. It can elicits nostalgia, love and warmth.
Growing up, the dinner table was always a place of community. As a child, our family would gather around the table, recounting our day as we munched away at dinner. During holidays, friends and family would celebrate as the tasty smell of food wafted through the house. When I was an undergraduate student, my roommates and I would host Sunday evening potlucks: an open invitation for friends to come together to enjoy a meal composed of an eclectic assortment of dishes.
Food is more than just fuel. Food connects us. It is at the cornerstone of community, culture and identity.
Sharing food together creates a sense of belonging. Yet, sadly many Canadians rarely eat together anymore. According to Statistics Canada, more of us are living alone, and thus eating alone too. Taking into account people’s busy schedules, it’s not surprising that people are gobbling down their meals in between planned activities. One study revealed that 40% of employees eat their lunch at their desk, as they continue working.
Eating together has its benefits. It’s a great way to connect and to have a sense of belonging. It’s a way to share food traditions across generations and cultures, and to explore new recipes. It can push you out of your food comfort zone, and ultimately will influence you to eat healthier.
For February, we wanted to explore the concept of eating together. Sharing food. Connecting over culture, cuisine and stories. We decided to host a potluck, and asked our friends to bring a dish to share that embodies love and community.
Here are some highlights from our Food & Love potluck.
– Sarah Nyrose
Chelsea Cole – Fish cakes with escovitch
When I think about food and love, I think a lot about favourite foods and the memories that accompany them. For me, nostalgia is a big part of why my favourite foods are my favourite, and sharing that with others is meaningful. With that said, thinking about food and love also made me excited about exploring new food and flavours because that is such an important part of my life. So, I decided to blend nostalgia and exploration for this potluck and made salt cod fish cakes with escovitch. Fish cakes, made by my mom, are one of the foods I most look forward to eating when back in Newfoundland. I had never made them before, but was excited at the opportunity to use my mom’s recipe and share them with friends. I usually pour a little white vinegar over them, but I decided to pair them with escovitch, which is a spicy and delicious, vinegar-based condiment that I first tasted in Jamaica. It felt like the perfect set of recipes to share the love of nostalgia and exploring. Thank-you mom for the fish cake recipe, and thank-you Danya and Nathan for the input on making escovitch!
Nathan Smith – Bread pudding
Back in Jamaica, one of the staple foods at any family event or gathering is bread pudding. Pretty much every wedding reception or Christmas party I can remember going to had bread pudding as an offering. When I was growing up, my grandma had a recipe for bread pudding which she would always make around Christmas time for the family that included traditional Jamaican hard-dough bread, local made sugar, raisins (and on occasion chocolate chips) and a whole lot of love. It was always my favourite dessert item growing up — more than rum cake or Devon House ice cream even.
When I think of love, I think of those family gatherings and the taste and texture of bread pudding takes me back to those nights of my youth. I’ve only made it a few times but I managed to secure a copy of my grandma’s recipe so I’ve got the best version in existence. What really brings the flavours all together though is the rum sauce that you pour over it after you’ve plated a slice. Of course for my recipe I use Jamaica’s own Appleton Rum, which I may be biased towards but I am a strong believer is the best rum in the world and brings the best flavour to this recipe. When you combine those two flavours together the results are incredible. It’s my hope that sharing this recipe at gatherings with friends, I can help foster those associations of warmth and love with the dessert. I hope my friends love it as much as I love making (and eating) it!
Sarah Nyrose – Aunt Isa Cookies and Lemon & Poppy Seed Cookies
When I was young, my family lived in Grand Prairie, while all of my extended family lived in southern Alberta. For holidays, my parents would load my sister and I into the car, equipped with ample books, activities and Disney soundtrack cassettes, and we would embark on the ten hour drive south. I remember always being so excited to see my grandparents, and the anticipation made the journey even longer.
After what seemed like days, we would arrive. We were always greeted with hugs, kisses and freshly baked goods.
I am lucky to have two grandmothers who can bake, and they were always prepared for our visits. Among their selection of cookies, my favourites were my Nannie Nyrose’s Aunt Isa cookies, and my Nannie Jorgenson’s Lemon & Poppyseed cookies. The smell of these cookies brings back memories of these visits, particularly the laughter and the love.
I decided to make a rendition of these cookies for our potluck, as they remind me so much of family and love. Since I don’t tolerate eating gluten, I altered both recipes to make them gluten-free. I added rose to the icing in the Aunt Isa cookies, and increased the lemon in the Lemon & Poppyseed cookies.
I’m looking forward to making these for my grandmothers when they come to visit me in Victoria. Hopefully they will approve of the recipe modifications!
As a way to connect with others, and celebrate food, we decided to organize a recipe exchange of your favourite sweet treats.
COVID-19 has illuminated many of the existing problems in our society, including food insecurity. We wanted to learn more about who is most affected, and discuss why these conversations are necessary, especially in the health and wellness world.
Ariel and Jess Reyes Barton are the creators of Palenke Greens, which is a burlap sack gardening initiative aimed at assisting people of African descent facing food insecurity. Not only do they provide all of the supplies to create a burlap sack garden, they also help to install it, and have exciting ideas for the future.