Slow Food is making inroads in British Columbia. And that’s just an appetizer.
Unhurried and deliberate — the Slow Food Movement started in 1986 on the Spanish Steps in Rome in protest over the proposed site of a McDonald’s chain (fast food) in a city known for its pasta, pecorino and prosciutto (slow food).
Slow Food cultivates, endorses and defends Good, Clean and Fair food traditions in keeping with its manifesto: that slower lifestyle connects to consumption practices.
“If today I want to go fast, I go fast. If tomorrow I want to go slow, I go slow. What we are fighting for is the right to determine our own tempos,” says Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini.
At 66, Carlo is, according to *Time* magazine, a Slow Revolutionary. He won the United Nations Environmental Award (Champions of the Earth).
Slow Food International took root in 1989 and has now sprouted 150 grassroots organizations worldwide. In British Columbia, four chapters exist: the cities of Vancouver and Victoria and the regions of Vancouver Island, Thompson-Okanagan and the Columbia Valley. All strive to connect food pleasure with product through farm-fresh education.
We’re about to chow down. What better way to slow down than on a bicycle with elliptical pedal-power synching with each aroma (inhalation), each breath (exhalation) and an 180-degree view?
Nothing fancy — we don a helmet, dress in layers, stash some water, cruise, stop and savour.
Pemberton Slow Food Cycle Sunday
Where/when: 35 kilometres north of Whistler, mid-August, in the Pemberton Valley
Distance: 50 kilometres, out-and-back, self-guided (turn around when you want)
How long since inception: 11 years
Who organizes: in the last two years, Tourism Pemberton
The Pemberton Valley Slow Food Cycle began as a seed-potato idea of Anna Helmer and Lisa Richardson. To get the 27 varieties of potato you want in Spud Valley, re-plant a little chunk of that same potato. To get the event you want, plant several hundred cyclists along a paved pathway with farmers, then hoe, hoe, hoe.
That’s what Anna and Lisa did for nine years.
“I like hoeing,” says Anna. “It’s peaceful, extreme, and… glamorous.”
This is the path David McKenzie, President of Tourism Pemberton, continues to take in its 11th year, and he has secured an event coordinator for the 12th through 14th seasons. That’s the promise of a good crop.
As well as maintaining safety, the event attracts international participants. The numbers are growing with 2,600 participants this year and over a dozen stops along the way.
Purchases and displays vary each year. Baked goods, live entertainment, arts, crafts, preserves, the Pemberton Distillery’s Schramm Vodka tantalize. Dreamcatcher Meadows Equestrian Tours tempt riders to try out a saddle of a different sort.
We fill our paniers with carrots and lemon cucumbers from Camel’s Back Harvest, fried bannock, butter tarts and zucchini cookies from roadside entrepreneurs and a spinach brioche from Across the Creek Organics’ Collective Kitchen Gourmet. That’s lunch.
By the time Mt. Currie’s late-afternoon glow is visible, we’re in the hot tub at Pemberton Valley Lodge, soaking up a Coast Range panorama of which Whistler-Blackcomb is most famous.
The lodge runs a free shuttle that delivers clients to the slopes slower than you can say “Slow Food Cycle Sunday” (20 minutes isn’t that slow).
This award-winning Green Key Hotel has year-long recreational packages, which range from golf and fishing to weddings, hiking and biking.
Before leaving Pemberton the next day, we enjoy the Pony Restaurant’s rustic dinner fare and breakfast at Grimm’s Deli.
Over at the Pemberton Museum, Dana Andrew, Program and Promotions Supervisor, shows us some of the 2,000 photographs and artifacts. This is Pemberton’s longest-running community project.
Dana’s Lil’wat (Mount Currie) forefathers knew all about Slow Food, and employed wise phrases like “take only what food we need” (K’ul’tsam) and “take only what materials we need” (K’ul’antsut).
Slow Food Vancouver Island
Where: Lochside Trail begins one kilometre after exiting the Vancouver-Victoria (Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay) BC Ferries
Distance: 32 kilometres one-way from Swartz Bay to Victoria
Leaving Swartz Bay ferry, we ride the bike lane one kilometre with the traffic and take the first overpass to Lochside Regional Trail, which parallels the Patricia Bay Highway 17 and brings cyclists along Sidney’s waterfront. It is due south all the way into Victoria over the Johnson Street Bridge, but not before dawdling along some lovely rural stretches.
Lochside Trail was once a daily General Electric gas car line that transported passengers and freight north of Victoria. It intersects the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, which necklaces south and west of Victoria: the final leg into the city.
We skip our usual lunch stop at Adrienne's Restaurant & Tea Garden, Mattick’s Farm, which has been a market-provider of fresh produce, art and entertainment since the 1950s, in order to reach Victoria’s Public Wednesday Market at the Hudson before it closes at 3pm.
The market is Victoria’s only indoor, year-round market according to Market Manager, Corry Matechuk, and is located in the old Hudson’s Bay Building on Douglas Street. There are several organic producers to taste, Unsworth Vineyards Restaurant & Winery to sample, and live music to take in.
We pull up a chair beside a German couple visiting from Dusseldorf. We’re at Cowichan Bay Seafood, one of the market’s permanent vendors. The Dusseldorfians are sipping white wine, anticipating fresh-cooked Dungeness crab. We’ve got seafood chowder on the go.
Cowichan Bay Seafood prides itself on sustainable viability in association with SeaChoice, a coalition of Canadian conservation organizations who raise public awareness of our oceans and what’s in them. This is all in keeping with the Slow Fish campaign, part of the Slow Food Movement.
Back in the 1880s, Victoria’s citizens voted for access to fresh farm produce, and 60 stalls stayed open until grocery food chains made food more accessible in the 1920s.
Nowadays, we’ve come to an appreciation and protection of local water, air and soil, and the Victoria Market partners with Slow Food Vancouver Island, the city of Victoria and local conservation and stewardship initiatives.
We’ve ridden. We’ve snacked. We’re ready to slow down.
Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast is one of Trip Advisor’s recommendations as a Top 10 Victoria respite. Situated two blocks south of the Legislature Buildings and three blocks from the Royal BC Museum, downtown and shopping, it epitomizes quiet comfort and beauty.
Proprietors Fernando Garcia and Don Halton are frequent visitors to auction houses, and 90 per cent of the manor’s layout is in their artistic sense of taste. Both Fernando and Don have left a creative imprint inside and outside the 1892 heritage house.
Truly Victoria’s Victorian jewel, there’s beauty at every turn: on the ceiling frescoes and walls (paintings, prints and sculptures, many, Fernando’s own), in the chinaware, ceramics, draperies, lamps and ornately-carved woodwork, in the bedrooms (with names like Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Renoir and Henry VIII), in the common areas and in the English country garden.
Fernando added the green, yellow and red ornamentation of the exterior paint along a wrap-around veranda where natural light streams in.
The Victorian era is a timeframe of Queen Victoria’s rule (1837-1901) as opposed to a style, but Fernando and Don have that in eclectic spades.
The dining room table is set for 10 with a dahlia centerpiece from the lush varieties outside. We eat fashionably late in the second shift. Fernando serves fruit salad and yogurt as a prelude to Don’s Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (recipes to-die-for on their website).
We move on to The Pedaler for a guided bicycle tour with Paul Rayman. He and his wife, Rosemary Lee, are co-owners. We review some safety rules of the road before nibbling our way through Victoria’s gastronomic back streets.
Paul says, “Tourism is now all about active, culinary and eco.”
The Pedaler leads several tours on these three themes: Castles, Hoods & Legends, Beans & Bites, Happy Hour Ride and Eat, Drink, Pedal.
We begin the latter a few short blocks away at historic Beacon Hill Park. Paul draws our attention to two beacons (up on the hill). “If sailors lined up the beacons: the blue square through the green triangle, they’d be on the rocks.”
In like fashion, Paul guides us safely single file, stopping centrally at some stop lights where a cycling symbol is painted in the lane. “Do you know what this is?”
Bicycle (car and motorcycle) metal triggers wireless sensors. Cars do it by mass, but bikes and scooters need to straddle wheels over the cut in the pavement to activate a light change with their (lesser) magnetic field.
“I met the octogenarian who engineered it here at this very intersection,” says Paul.
He gives us (and nearby drivers) clear signals (right, left, slow, stop), and if we feel comfortable with one-handed steerage, Paul encourages us to mimic him.
First stop is Zambri’s, rated by the Italian Chamber of Commerce as Vancouver Island’s only authentic Italian restaurant. We pull up at the bar ahead of the lunch crowds, and Chef Peter Zambri slides a prize pizza under our proboscises.
Rave reviews and awards from Eat, Vancouver and Saveur Magazine as well as the Vancouver Sun tout their prestige. A royal Queen pizza suits us, right down to (and including) her crusty crown.
We’re really rolling now… over to Cold Comfort Ice Cream, where we cleanse our palates with a choice of over 340 flavours. Dairy-free coconut milk with an almond flour and meringue sandwich, and a Raspberry Rose and Golden Graham with salted caramel ice cream tie for first.
Luckily, there are no big uphills, at this point. Kid Sister provides ice pops, paletas or popsicles. Ours has locally-picked cherry-lime poignancy made in small batches of fresh flavour on a stick.
One of *Top Chef Canada*’s contenders is Chef Kunal Ghose of Victoria Harbour’s Red Fish Blue Fish fame who prepares nine kinds of tartines.
A zesty shrimp open-faced sandwich is our choice on the brick patio at this line-and-hook eatery. Sustainability is in the restaurant’s name, Fish Hook, which opened in August, 2015 on Fort Street. We’re certainly hooked. Pairings with salad or soup to satisfy every palate reel us in.
Fish Hook partners with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise conservation program in selecting recommended species that are resilient to fishing pressures, by-catch and destruction of marine habitats. Look for the Ocean Wise stamp of approval.
It’s time for dessert. We meet the mother-and-daughter team of Pure Lovin’ Chocolate, who started their business in 2012. Leah presented Cindy with a Mothers’ Day present of Vegan Truffles, and they haven’t looked back since.
“Rolled in cocoa powder, they resemble mushroom truffles,” explains Leah, a Red Seal chef with a leaning towards sweets. “That’s where the resemblance ends.”
Pure Lovin’ Chocolate produces organic, vegan, fair-trade, soy and gluten-free treats. We select two each from the Cups Collection, Fleur de Sel Caramels, Peppermint and Maple Creams and tuck them away for another day’s indulgence.
Our last stop is Bon Macaron Patisserie Ltd. Macarons, their meringue shells, dusted with powdered almonds, are gluten-and-dairy-free delights and come in a myriad of sweet-savoury fillings.
We pop a pineapple-basil and a key lime and wait for the flavour explosion. Kaboom. Fortunately, there’s a Kitsilano and Granville Island Bon Macaron location to satisfy Mainlanders.
Brooke Fader, leader of Slow Food Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, is co-owner of Wild Mountain Restaurant with her chef-husband, Oliver Kienast. They are both founding members of Slow Fish Canada. It’s time, in their estimation, to connect, cook and share food from its source. What better way to understand, appreciate, respect and support local growers?
“Many seniors are lucky enough to be able to make that [food] choice, so why not become co-producers?” says Brooke. “Co-producers are empowered consumers who actively help produce the food they want to eat.”
Brooke’s passion for engaging people on how to consume inspires more food for thought.
We’ve met growers along the food route of Slow Food Cycle in the Pemberton Valley. We’ve made inroads along Lochside Trail into Victoria to taste from some of Vancouver Island’s Slow Food influencers.
That makes us bona fide (well fed) co-producers.
Want to get involved? Take in the Slow Food, Canada National Summit in Invermere in the Columbia Valley from April 6-10, 2016, known as “the little Slow Food convivium that could.” This year’s event is all about “Feeding the Future.” Become a Slow Food member; go to a Slow Food event; get Slow Food’s monthly newsletter. Become a co-producer.
APRIL 2016 INSPIRED SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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