- BC Games
Cover: Eating close to home
Chef Derek Bothwell remembers the exact moment when he started to think differently about the food he put on his plate, and into his body.
While travelling through Australia as a 19-year-old, Bothwell was perplexed that he couldn’t find the orange cheddar cheese he knew and loved from back home in Canada.
When he asked a grocery clerk where he could find the North American staple, he was met with a puzzled response.
“Orange cheese? Why would cheese be orange?”
The cheese he knew had been processed and dyed to hide its poor quality and poor ingredients.
“It never really dawned on me that cheese is not supposed to be that colour,” he says. “That’s when I really started thinking about what I was putting inside me.”
Today Bothwell, who is the general manager of Chill Winston in Vancouver, knows exactly what goes into his food, because he controls almost every aspect of its production, from pasture to plate.
At Tsawwassen’s Earthwise Farm and Garden, he and his staff tend a plot where they grow fresh seasonal vegetables for the Gastown eatery, from carrots to lettuce, to squash and beets.
Bothwell comes down to the farm once a week and has every one of his staff members put in time digging in the dirt.
Knowing where your food comes from, and how much time and effort it takes to bring it to the plate, gives his staff a greater appreciation for the ingredients they use.
“When your onions come in a crate that’s dropped off by a truck, whatever,” he says. “But once you see how much work goes into growing that onion, you treat with respect.
“And of course, they taste so much better, theres no comparison.”
Bothwell and his staff will be serving up local delicacies on Saturday, Nov. 2, as Earthwise Society hosts its fifth annual Hundred Mile Harvest Banquet.
The five-course gourmet feast celebrates local food and community, in addition to raising funds to help Earthwise continue to operate. Each year, hundreds of children visit the Earthwise Farm and Garden to learn about growing food and to connect with nature, and thousands of pounds of fresh produce are distributed to those in need through Delta Food Coalition.
This year, Earthwise’s goal is to raise $15,000 in support of these programs.
Bothwell says he also hopes to raise awareness about the many positive aspects of buying local produce. Even in Delta, which is covered in farmland, the average food item travels between 2,500 and 4,000 km to reach our plates, gulping up fossil fuels along the way.
“First off, it’s the taste,” he says of what sets local produce apart. Because vegetables don’t have to be shipped long distances, they are picked ripe and served fresh, instead of being artificially preserved.
“But flavour and health aside, I think it’s important to support the local economy,” Bothwell says. “If people don’t support their local farms, they’re going to be gone. We have enough condominiums, but we don’t have a lot of organic farms.”
The 100-mile diet fad is anything but a fad, he explains. This is how the entire human race has eaten since time immemorial. But in the past century, something changed, and Bothwell and other locavores like him want to see it changed back.
“We’ve forgotten where our food comes from,” he says.
While eating a diet of locally-produced foods does limit one’s culinary options, Bothwell says he enjoys the challenge of having to cook seasonally.
“It increases your creativity, because you can’t go to your standbys and the things you’ve done before,” he says. “It forces you to try things you might never have tried.”
Much of the food for the Nov. 2 event has been grown at the Earthwise Farm and Garden.
Patricia Fleming is the executive director of the Earthwise Society and says that “gourmet” need not be made with international ingredients to be exotic, and that supporting small farms and local food systems is both worthwhile and delicious.
“There’s a huge interest in eating healthy and nutritious foods,” she says. “So people are asking themselves, where does their food come from, where is it grown and how.”
Small scale farms at the edge of urban areas are very important in providing fresh, healthy delicious produce, she says.
“There’s an issue of food security,” says Fleming. “Small urban farms can make fresh locally-grown produce more accessible.”
Starting a 100-mile diet is about reconnecting with where our food comes from, and she has just one simple piece of advice for those interested in eating more local foods.
“Know your farmer.”
• Tickets to the Hundred Mile Diet Banquet are $125 each, with a $65 charitable tax receipt. Phone or email Earthwise Society to reserve your tickets (604 946 9828, firstname.lastname@example.org). Information including the full menu, is available at www.earthwisesociety.bc.ca.