This month, we detour from MEATing Chefs, to talk about something more important: Why we are all here. I want us to have more discussions about the food we eat and about how and why we make the choices that we do. I also want to talk about food heroes.
It is hard to talk about just one food hero because as they say, it takes a village. Fridays at my bubbies, growing up in a family where food and cooking were the focus, learning about other cultures’ foods from my diverse group of friends and developing a genuine curiosity were important moments in my early years. However, in my early 30s, I had a food awakening. Where does all this food come from? The grocery store isn’t the answer I was looking for. Farmers, I needed to learn more about farmers, so off I went on a journey of discovery.
I wanted, needed, to know where my food was from and to be part of the process of getting it – whether fruits and veggies, or proteins – to my table. I work in food and have easier access to the source, but visiting farmers’ markets in the city makes it easy for us all to become friends with folks who grow and raise our food.
I wanted, needed, to know where my food was from and to be part of the process of getting it.
My first love was Vicki Emlaw, of Vicki’s Veggies, with whom I spent many a sunny day in the fields of the farm in Black Creek, Prince Edward County. This is a magical place where I learned a lot about food and myself, with Vicki and her team.
There is nothing like having your hand in sun-kissed dirt, planting or harvesting veggies. One of my favourite
memories is grabbing my pocket knife, throwing a beer in my back pocket and getting lost in the fields, making a shirt salad. Collect whatever looks tasty, carry it in your shirt, find a place to sit in the sun and have a snack. Absolutely the best.
Ask any chef in the know, and they will confirm that the best tomatoes in the world come from the farm, and I will back that up.
Now, I connect farmers with people via chefs. I sell meat, which has met the standards of ethics of the food I want on my own table, from some of the very best farms to some of the best restaurants in the GTA. If I won’t eat it, I won’t sell it. One exceptional meat farmer, Jeff Linton of Linton Pasture Pork, is my food hero and very good friend.
Jeff raises heritage breed pigs on five different pastures in Huron County. The other farmers, who raise their GMO cash crops on all sides, think he is crazy. A visionary, Jeff is proving that pigs can be raised on grass with perseverance and sense.
In the nicest possible way Jeff stalked me on Instagram. I was immediately sold. What he does makes total sense..Six months later, we were bringing his pork to our Toronto butcher shop, Bespoke Butchers for our restaurant and retail clients. People don’t just like his pork, they are obsessed with it.
The first time I cooked one of the chops from his Duroc-Hampshires, and I cut into it and tasted the fat, I knew it was meant to be. I actually put my knife and fork down and texted him immediately; I hadn’t even tasted the flesh.
A visionary, Jeff is proving that pigs can be raised on grass with perseverance and sense.
Another rewarding part of my job is that I get to take my chefs out to the farms we work with. Creating respect in the kitchens for the product they work with is very important to me, and farmers like Jeff love having people out to learn more about what he does. Hanging out with the pigs on the farm is life-changing; these are amazing, smart animals. This summer I even got to hold a baby pig, about six hours old! I’ll never forget it.
Knowing the people who grow your food makes it more sacred and delicious. Buying food from the source is better for our food system. This doesn’t have to be your way, but it is the only way that I now know how to be.
When it comes to protein, happy animals are better for you and our world. Think twice and buy from someone you trust and have personally vetted. Ask questions. If you don’t know what to ask, I can tell you. I buy and eat Jeff Linton’s pork, he is my farmer and my friend.