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Elora author and food activist Anita Stewart named to Order of Canada

by David Meyer

OTTAWA - Being passionate about “local” has brought Elora’s Anita Stewart national recognition.

Governor General David Johnston announced on Dec. 30 that Stewart has been named to the Order of Canada for her contributions to culture and for her promotion of Canadian cuisine.

Stewart said in an interview Monday she has been swamped with calls, emails and Facebook congratulations. She was featured in a number of publications across Canada, including the Globe and Mail, which highlighted her achievement among the honorees.

The Order of Canada was established in 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II as Canada’s honours system. It recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society for a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. It is similar to Great Britain’s Honours List that is announced at the start of the year.

“This has been crazy fun,” said Stewart as the aroma of baked biscuits wafted through her kitchen.

She gives a great deal of credit to Elora and its residents for her achievement. “It does take a village to create a success,” she said.

Stewart cited the biscuit recipe from a longtime friend, the plates and cups from several different artisans, and all the help she has received over the years from people.

The first of many of her cookbooks, Cookies and Juice, was a collaborative effort as a fundraiser for the Elora Co-op Preschool she founded over 30 years ago.

“These are people who have been a part of my life,” she said.

From the village, Stewart expanded her love of food and its promotion. She is known across the country for the annual Food Day Canada, celebrated over the August long weekend.

That event evolved from Stewart’s decision in 2003 to do something to help Canadian farmers at the peak of the mad cow disease crisis.

She called her “food friends” from coast to coast and asked them to go to their grills on the Saturday of the August long weekend to cook Canadian beef just to show that Canadians cared about their plight.

She called it the World’s Longest Barbecue - and it was.

The event actually began in Beijing, China and took off around the world to Victoria B.C.

In the following years, the posts that were sent to her website made it clear Canadians were using that mid-summer holiday weekend to hold parties and gatherings from the Yukon or British Columbia to the east coast - and they always included local ingredients.

She said the goal of Food Day Canada is to ensure there is at least one day a year Canadians understand they have many of the finest ingredients and culinary talent at all levels, on the planet.

Wellington Halton Hills MP Michael Chong congratulated Stewart on her appointment.

“Anita has made an exceptional contribution to food and cuisine in Canada,” said Chong in a press release.

“I am proud that the contributions of a local resident are being recognized through the Order of Canada.  It is a momentous honour and achievement.”

Stewart has been promoting food and writing cookbooks for over three decades, as well as promoting Canadian cuisine. She is a cook, journalist and author of several books, including Anita Stewart’s Canada - The Food, The Recipes, The Stories, which received Cuisine Canada’s Gold Award.

In June, she received a Doctor of Laws (Honouris causa) from the University of Guelph, and served as the 2011 Ontario Food Ambassador.  She is currently the President of Flavours of Canada.

The appointees announced by Johnson include one Companion of the Order of Canada, 28 Officers of the Order of Canada and 37 Members. The appointments are made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

Stewart said a woman she met in Elora nominated her for the award over three years ago, and she later received a phone call asking her if she would accept the award. Her exuberant answer was “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest civilian honours. It was established in 1967, Canada’s centennial year, to recognize a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation. Over the last 40 years, more than 5,000 people from all parts of society have been invested into the Order.

Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held later this year.

For more information on the Canadian Honours System, visit

Stewart will be featured in a coming Inside Wellington cover article.

January 6, 2012


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