Saturday, August 9th marks the beginning of the 4th annual Brock’s Big Bite, a unique culinary tourism experience that highlights the flavours of local food, and the talents of local citizens. It is featured as one of the four events celebrating Lake Simcoe through the Splash Floating Water Festival.
This past Wednesday, volunteers and community members gathered in the Family Studies kitchen of Brock High School in Cannington. The mission for the day: to transform fresh, locally grown produce into delicious salsa, and to give the re-emerging art of home canning a try.
Of course, many of the participants have been home canning for years. Decades even. But with Chef Emerie Brine on site, executive chef for Bernardin home canning products, there was much to be learned (or re-learned as the case may be). Chef Brine led a spirited workshop (complete with the flare one would expect of a great professional chef) in which the science of canning, as well as canning safety, was featured.
This is the second year Bernardin has partnered with Brock’s Big Bite; the company has donated all jars and canning equipment for the occasion. They are also lending Chef Brine’s talents not only for the canning workshop, but also for Nite Bites, one of the festival’s main events in which local food will be prepared and served—including the day’s salsa efforts.
Nite Bites will be catered by North House Catering, a division of North House Transitional Housing which seeks to answer the problem of homelessness in Durham’s rural North. At North House Catering, families and individuals in need are given the opportunity to receive training under a professional caterer and earn certificates that can be applied in any food service industry. They also learn life skills through culinary arts training such as time management, problem solving and organizational skills.
Another organization partnering with Brock’s Big Bite is The Nourish and Develop Foundation, whose focus is on community food security and education for self-reliance. The foundation is a community food hub, which looks to transform the relationship with its clients and community partners. Representatives from both North House Catering and The Nourish and Develop Foundation lent their time and enthusiasm to preparing the salsa which would be featured this coming weekend.
There was a genuine interest in Chef Brine’s demonstration, supporting the idea that there’s been a rise in popularity of home canning in recent years. As Chef Brine said, “It just makes sense to me to can and preserve food when it’s in abundance.” He explained to the group that he grew up in a family of many children, in which food preparation and planning was an essential part of household management. In today’s busy, fast-paced, fast-food world, that’s both a life skill and a pleasure many of us have forgotten.
Right from the start the energy of the volunteers in Brock High’s Family Studies kitchen was infectious. There was a palpable sense of community spirit. Participants worked diligently at various “food stations,” cutting, chopping, stirring, and sterilizing cans and lids.
But when you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, how can you approach such a task with anything other than enthusiasm and community spirit? With the resurgence of the whole food, local food and farm-to-fork movements, it’s clear to see that people are beginning to take an interest once again in the food they eat. It’s that connection with the earth, and the food which sustains and nourishes us, that Brock’s Big Bite celebrates.
Wednesday’s prep-workshop gave me unique insight into what Brock’s Big Bite is all about. You don’t have to be a “foodie” to appreciate local cuisine. You just have to come hungry, and be ready to savour delicious, locally grown and prepared foods.
As a bonus, the people you’ll meet while you’re there will win you over every bit as much as the food will.
Katie Ryalen is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She lives in Durham, Ontario with her husband, son and three spoiled cats. Blog: katieryalen.wordpress.com Twitter: @KatieRyalen