We all know that food is central to our lives, and it just never ceases to amaze me how the intricate details of turning honey into a delicious fermented cocktail, or harvesting weeds from the garden to make medicine, can bring so much satisfaction, or ignite so much passion.
They are skills that over time, many of us have has lost (or have never had the pleasure of having), yet are still essential to ensuring that we stay connected to the source of our food, how it grows, and how it affects our health. So the pure joy of bringing these skills back to the forefront, and sharing them with our neighbours and friends, is what “Food Up-Skilling” is all about.
On September 20th 2014, the Ecology Action Centre teamed up with Transition Bay St Margaret’s to host a day of hands-on workshops on all aspects of growing, harvesting, storing, preserving and cooking different types of food. “Everybody who eats food” was invited to attend, and workshop hosts brought an amazing array of knowledge and skills that included backyard hen keeping, food fermentation, seed saving, ethical wild-crafting, food dehydration, maple syrup tapping, and much more. A full list of workshops was posted on our websites, and participants rotated through different classes throughout the day. Participants came with notebooks, eager to learn, and that we did!
One of the highlights of the day was a workshop hosted by Jimuna Niroula (and other members of her family), who is part of the Bhutanese Community and was connected to us through Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services. Over the course of an hour, she demonstrated a method of cultural food preservation that combines garden vegetables with different oils, spices, and vinegars, to make a mustard pickle that not only tastes delicious (and spicy!) but also extends the life of common vegetables. In addition to learning about a new method of cultural food preservation, I watched language barriers dissolve, and cross-cultural connections emerge. These are some of the hidden powers of food, and our connection to it, which appear in my work on a daily basis. I’ve come to understand food as a connector, and as a medium for people of all ages and backgrounds to share their gifts; And I never get tired of watching these connections unfold.
Half way through the day we shared a delicious meal of locally grown food, and participants had a chance to peruse information and resources that were brought by local community groups and organizations. We finished the day with more learning and connecting. Many of the participants attended 6 workshops each, and were eager to find opportunities to learn more. It seems that the appetite for food skills is really growing, and that’s a great thing!
In the end, learning knowledge and skills about how our food is grown, as well as how to prepare and preserve it, is a fundamental piece of what connects us to each other and the world around us. Through our connection to food we can explore a place, a culture, a way of living- and slowly start to (re)build the skills that were once a key part of our daily lives, and critical to our understanding of what it means to build a healthy “food culture”.
So next time we host a Food Up!Skilling, Join us! Or better yet, host one in your own community and witness the fun (and the magic) that unravels:)
Written by Aimee Carson, Community Food Coordinator