I was asked by Eater Mtl for my thoughts on ‘How to change the world through food?’ as a local annexe to a global feature on ideas for change on Eater. http://montreal.eater.com/2014/9/21/6662949/montral-change-food-lesley-chesterman-normand-laprise
Here is the unabridged version of my reply..
Yikes, a loaded question that I attack more wearily than say 15yrs ago when I was a young chef caught up in Quebec’s burgeoning cuisine de terroir. Inspired by Alice Waters (and our Quebec version, Anne Desjardins), I was embracing Slowfood, Fair-Trade and sustainable fish, I was dating a forager, hanging out with farmers, devouring documentaries and books that denounced the problems with our food system and offered solutions.. It all made me hopeful that life was rosy for the future of food in the world.
But WOW, CHANGE IS SLOW.
Despite the promising wave of interest in everything food, artisans are struggling more than ever and there is even more hunger in the world, a widening gap between rich and poor. All those books I read & documentaries seem to have vanished in a void. Thanks surely to the parallel growth/stronghold of the industrial system and big business, which I am convinced is not the answer.
So, THE ONE BORING THING I have to say to everyone in the western world is SPEND MORE on your food. Yes, as in $$ /% of income (less on other stuff like shoes and Iphones etc). But at least investment in terms of TIME and EFFORT. As in Sourcing & Shopping (farmer’s markets over superstores), or growing, connecting with people who do. Not everyone needs to be out gardening or foraging for greens, but peeling your carrots is a minimum. Opting out of big ag and supporting local. Choosing Fair trade for imported, Café Rico over Nestle. Voting with your dietary dollar. Cooking real food and putting up.
This is the time of year to be revelling in the beauty of local harvests and investing for the winter. Celebrate abundance in season with J.Remillard at Jean Talon Market.. For example, a bunch of his green onions is the equivalent of 10 from the supermarket, same price and fresh, 25lb of root veg for your winter or a bushel of tomatoes for peanuts, check out my basil plant below. Learning to shop is the best thing you can do. Think less but better. Share a cow with neighbours or buy natural meat at Price Noir. Treat yourself to Quebec cheese.
Plus Spend More time at the table so that it’s worth it. You do not have to be rich to eat well, it’s often about priorities, planning..
Why do I think Spending More is the best way to positively change the world through food?
Win/win. It tastes and feels better. It spurs local economies. Everyone worldwide benefits from being more self-sufficient, closer to the land and community. For stronger communities, healthier soil, bees and biodiversity, a sustainable, traceable fresh food supply, we want Mother Nature on our side..
Especially that at the end of the day, it makes for food that is simply more delicious and healthy; it pays off! Quality of life/Joie de vivre is a major bonus of investing in your daily meals. Beyond wholesome, when food is pleasure, meaningful and soulful, it really does impact lives. And once on the bandwagon of real good food that is ethical too, you do not go off, no matter how hard you have to work for it – holes in your socks, leaky roof, crappy car.
I have been preaching and blogging this for ever, now I just do my own thing. And that’s what everyone has to do. For their own good, and it just might slowly make the world a better place.