With temps in the high 20s this past Sunday, a drive down the coast seemed fitting. But we weren’t just driving aimlessly. We were off to the IncrEDIBLE Picnic, a local food feast co-sponsored by Select NS and the South Shore Social Ventures Co-op Ltd. Select NS has sponsored many a picnic this summer to spread the “buy local, eat fresh” word. This picnic, however, was a fundraiser for the Block House School Project, specifically the creation of a food hub, and the menu couldn’t have been more enticing: a pig roasted for pulled pork sammies, asian slaw, harvest soup, a corn boil, preserves from Ma Bells, crackers from Ashwood Ridge Farm, apple cider, apple flan, even gluten free options.
Though I’d pretty much do anything for a pig roast, we were’t attending simply for the food. Since becoming further involved in the local food scene, from working with Select NS to meeting chefs whose passion for local runs so deep that you can’t help but feel inspired, it’s clear there is something truly wonderful happening in Nova Scotia.
There were many times I felt this connection but no more so than while volunteering at the Slow Food NS supper this past Spring. Though I sadly didn’t sample all the dishes, I left with so much more than a belly full of amazing local food and wine. For me it was more about the collective passion that made the event possible. Here were the province’s top chefs volunteering their time for something far more important. Sure, it was a fundraiser so Slow Food NS could continue to fight the good, clean, and fair fight but it was so much more than that. It’s hard to put it into words exactly. It was sharing and learning and connecting and feeling proud of the food cultivated right here at home, so proud that you can’t help but get involved.
That was exactly the sentiment I felt yesterday at the Incredible Picnic. What one would see as an old school destined for demolition, others saw potential, a space for a community to come together, a project to connect us through food and sustainability and passion. The Blockhouse School Project is taking an abandoned school and, according to their website, cultivating community by transforming it into a model to become self-sufficient and sustainable in food, shelter, energy, culture, and employment. An aspect of that initiative is the creation of a food hub. Part community kitchen, the food hub will be a space for learning and teaching, for community suppers, for cooking classes, for supporting local farmers and producers. It’s clear that it’s about so much more than just the food.
But what about the food? With Chris and Melissa Veldon of the Flying Apron Cookery, Matthew Krizan of Mateus Bistro, Ma Bell, Peter Hardy, and the whole Select NS and Blockhouse crew at the helm, there was no way this picnic couldn’t be incredible. Obviously that tender pork was my fav but the whole meal was the epitome of how I feel about local food: fresh, flavourful, delicious. I wasn’t alone in that. Young and old came together at the table, sharing in their love of local food. I imagine it resembled precisely what the food hub is hoping to achieve. I felt honored to be part of it all.
Lastly, while I’d like to say I caught Matthew and Chris in a rare moment, I’d be lying. I’m not sure I’ve seen these two not smiling. And that goes for the whole local chef crew. Not only are they all extremely passionate about local food, but they’re also genuinely nice people. I’m not sure how the culinary scene is in the rest of the country but we’re pretty damn lucky out here in NS. With folks like these, Select NS, Slow Food NS, the Blockhouse School Project, a population increasingly rooted in local food, and a whole slew of young passionate chefs joining the ranks, Nova Scotia is poised to show the world that local isn’t simply a fleeting trend, it’s a way of life.