An Elora cookbook author and writer wants to create a national holiday celebrating food and is using this community as a focus for a world-wide celebration.
Anita Stewart is known for promoting local food, and so in 2003, she started The World’s Longest Barbecue as a way of helping beef producers overcome the scare caused by mad cow disease and to get people to start eating beef again. She called friends around the country, urged them to grill Canadian beef, and send their beef menus to her.
“I had no idea how to go about it,” she confessed, noting that she had few internet skills. A friend from Edmonton helped her get a rudimentary web site started, and her friends started spreading the word.
By 2004, she was hearing from vegetarians, and decided to include all forms of food. She said people started grilling for parties, weddings, and all kinds of celebrations on World Food Day.
“What I’m seeing from these parties is … food is a pivotal point … We are having a National Food Day; it’s just that nobody has named it.”
One thing she did learn about the internet was to buy all the names for it for all .com and .ca addresses, because she figured if the event takes off, people will try to make money off it, and that is the last thing she wants. Her plan is a not for profit operation.
Stewart said the idea of a national day to celebrate food has been around for some years in several countries, and she believes there might even be events in China this year. All people have to do is grill something to eat at 6pm on Aug. 1, and then place the recipe they use on the website.
She calls it the World’s largest barbecue because in Canada she hopes it runs “coast to coast.”
She said, “I’ve got some nice press from Germany already,” but she wants Canadians to spread the word and enjoy local food. She noted the time is perfect because 6pm is normally supper time, no matter what the time zone.
Meanwhile, the Grand River Agricultural Society is planning a major barbecue at the Grand River Raceway, in conjunction with Stewart’s efforts. “We wanted to create an event around World Food Day, said Grand River Agricultural Society president Paul Walker.
He said the society is involved with different people, all of whom are partners. They include the Ontario Cattlemen’s association, which will be barbecuing beef, and Ontario Pork Producers, doing pulled pork. Other groups will also attend and grill what they wish.
Walker said beer and wine will be available at the outdoor venue, as it is when the race track is operating, and the grillers will simply be charging their costs. The $2 adult admission will be given to the local chamber of commerce – “another not for profit group.”
Walker said Stewart will be a guest of honour, and there will be other special guests, too. There will be musical entertainment starting at 5pm when the grilling begins, and even after the grills shut down, there will be jazz from 9pm onward.
“We’re trying to make it an annual event,” said Walker.
Stewart said this is the first of the public barbecuing for World Food Day, and she is hoping that others will pick up on the idea of a public event to celebrate the day. That would move the event from back yards to main streets.
Anyone interested in joining in the World’s Longest Barbecue celebrations is invited to register at http://www.flavoursofcanada.ca. There’s no cost and there are no rules other than to cook with as many local ingredients as possible and then post the menu.
Anyone looking for inspiration, can visit the Flavours of Canada website, which has dozens of free recipes based on local ingredients.