Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Food Shows

I spent the last couple of days in Vancouver attending the GFS (Gordon Food Service) semi-annual trade show. They very kindly put me up in a hotel for the night and covered my travel costs, and the following observations are in no way influenced by their generousity.

These 1-800-tractor-trailer food shows are interesting affairs. I use GFS for everyday items like packaging, chocolate, organic flour, and other staples. They also have a fairly reasonable assortment of good cheeses ( I was delighted to see Daniel there from Salt Spring chevre) and sustainable fish. Freybe which is a good higher end local sausage and charcuterie processor was there, as well as a number of equipment and smallwares companies.

I live on a small island and run a small kitchen. The focus of our business is to provide good food, ethically sourced and produced. So this show with its aisles of Australian lamb, jalapeno poppers and Chilean pork ribs doesn't exactly get me all excited about food. It was suggested that I line up for the "truckload sale" - a huge savings on meat and some seafood and smallwares. I couldn't find a single product that I would serve in my restaurant.

I do like to have some fun and ask suppliers if the corn in the cornstarch cutlery comes from GMO corn, and when asked why it matters explain that it can't be composted organically if it is. But what really comes across is the difference between the large corporate food world out there and my little kitchen. At one booth I was given a deck of playing cards as swag while two guys obviously representing a large account were given very nice fleece pullovers.

I was part of this corporate world once, and while we made lots of our food from scratch we still utilized many of these convenience items. I am also fully aware that I live in a gastronomic paradise and that it is a luxury to produce food the way we do. But I genuinely wish some of these larger companies would put more thought into sourcing food on a more sustainable basis. I know people still want raspberries in January and endless mountains of shrimp. However, there is an environmental and social cost to all of this and we as consumers also have to step up and start eating more sustainably and locally.

I arrived home on the ferry knowing that the 20 year celebration of Island Natural Growers was going at our Tuesday Farmer's Market and glad to be part of a small community that supports local, sustainable food.