Illustration by Sasha Plotnikova/Torontoist.
Yesterday, Torontoist packed into the charming wood-panelled ballroom of the Gladstone Hotel along with throngs of passionate food lovers for the launch of The Edible City: Toronto’s Food from Farm to Fork, hosted by This Is Not a Reading Series. The latest in Coach House Books‘ ambitious uTOpia series, which selects one broad aspect of Toronto each year and corrals some of the city’s most influential writers to tackle it—past publications addressed the city’s future (uTOpia), the environment (GreenTOpia), and arts and culture (The State of the Arts)—The Edible City delves into all things food.
Fresh off the Coach House presses.
At the launch, five of the book’s writers, including Sarah B. Hood, Lorraine Johnson, Steven Biggs, Joshna Maharaj, and Sasha Chapman took to the stage and engaged in a well-informed panel discussion, moderated by City Bites editor Dick Snyder. Like the book itself, the discussion touched on many political issues, notably hunger. “We have an amazing food activist culture in Toronto,” said Johnson. “So we can’t forget it’s not only about good taste and flavour and fun and pleasure of eating, but making sure that it’s available to everyone.”
Well-equipped to speak to this point was Maharaj, who spent many years working as a chef at The Stop Food Community Centre. The Stop is a multi-faceted organization that takes the idea of a food bank and goes several giant steps further. “We needed to figure out a way to get people more involved in taking care of themselves in a really legitimate, honest way,” Maharaj told the crowd. “That is community kitchens, the urban agriculture program, which now has a garden and greenhouse, producing gorgeous food every year.”
Top, from left to right: Authors Steven Biggs, Lorraine Johnson, and Sarah B. Hood. Bottom: A proud contender in the post-panel discussion cookie-decorating contest.
When the floor opened to questions, we realized the audience was full of enthusiastic food, education, and health professionals, among them a dietician, several employees of Evergreen (a not-for-profit that “makes cities more livable”), and an idealistic youth-camp director who was interested in feeding local and sustainable food to kids attending his programs. It was clear that food, far from being a solely hedonistic topic, is resonating with Torontonians who are interested in how we got here as a food city, where we are striving to go, and how to ensure all of us are nourished and healthy.
The Edible City: Toronto’s Food from Farm to Fork can be purchased online from Coach House Books’ website. Torontoist’s satellite Books site is also hosting three excerpts from the book: Kevin Connolly’s “From Galangal to La Bomba: Where to find exotic ingredients in Toronto,” Damian Rogers’s “Ontario Food Terminal: Behind the Curtain,” and Torontoist’s own Jamie Bradburn’s “Not Loafing Around: Bread in Toronto.”
All photos by Ayngelina Brogan/Torontoist.