Thursday, August 06, 2009

Coming Home

PEI is home. There is no denying this. No matter how many times I uproot myself from this Island that I grew up on, no matter how many kilometres away I plant myself, or how many times zones I have to adjust my phone calls, this little cradle shaped piece of land on the East Coast of Canada will always be home. And I will forever find myself 'coming home', returning as the holidays demand or as another chapter of my life comes to a close. The chapters of my twenties are marked by the dog-eared months I spent in between adventures, recuperating and rejuvenating on PEI. And so it was throughout most of my twenties that I developed a pattern of flitting between the familiar and the unknown. I'd leave PEI for somewhere far far away, then return to home for a few months , get itchy feet and then find another country willing to entertain my fascination with accents, kilts and all things non-Canadian. And then, many months later, I'd be back on red soil, savouring the familiarity of this place called 'home', until I again felt the need to made tracks for somewhere else, anywhere else.

And always, coming home meant returning to an easy routine, where eating and food shopping were second nature, where barbecued salmon and green salads were as common place as the pints I slugged back in Scotland and I found excuses to go to the Superstore on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the eating and food shopping experiences of Scotland, Ireland and Australia (stay tuned for a post about my haggis and kangaroo days), but there's something to be said for having dinner with your parents and running into friends at the grocery store.

Last August, I started the latest chapter and the last of my twenties, when I moved to Kingston, Ontario to do my Masters in Environmental Studies. In June I decided I had to book a solid month (or more) long visit to PEI during the summer - a wedding and baby shower were calling me home (not the same girl!), as was the desire for some familiarity and peace. And so I find myself here yet again, savouring everything about this Island I was fully prepared, in fact I was downright giddy about the prospect of spending six weeks of summer on PEI purely for the gastronomical pleasures it would offer up. I actually booked my flight home so I wouldn't miss the short, but delectable strawberry season. And I envisioned many nights around the dinner table, enjoying barbecued salmon, new boiled PEI potatoes and fresh garden salads. Mussels would also be a must and, while I wasn't set on it, I figured a lobster dinner might be worth taking in during the month of July. I had also plotted my visits to the Farmer's Market in Charlottetown and penciled in Adam for a delicious dinner at the Dayboat Restaurant, in Oyster Bed Bridge. Clearly, I was going to make the most out of my short visit home by indulging in the fresh bounty of produce and seafood on offer.

What I didn't expect was that, in the time between summer of 2008 and summer of 2009, PEI would begin to embrace the very things that I have always believed to be amongst its greatest assets: strong community and delicious food. Almost daily since I've been home on PEI I have found myself pleasantly surprised by what is starting to take place here. On the surface, I see provincial government initiatives, such as the 'Buy PEI' campaign. Deeper and more meaningfully, I see members of the community starting to support local farmers and entrepreneurs, such as the three farm families that started Riverview Country Market. Then there are the creative, forward thinking people like Dave Cormier and Rob Paterson, championing a local food movement and encouraging people to think about where their food comes from. Dave recently started a website that will map farms across PEI, so people can find local food in real time - when it is available for purchase/picking. This coming weekend there's an Organic Food Festival, dubbed Nigwek (Miqmaw for 'something good is growing), on Victoria Row, where there'll be plenty of musical acts, food demonstrations and presentations by our own Chef Michael Smith and organic farmer Raymond Loo. Then there are the farmers of course. Like Jen & Derek Campbell, whose CSA in Brookvale is full of fresh, organic veggies and feeds several happy customers every week.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm impressed. Very impressed. PEI is finally beginning to build on its strengths. Yes, maybe these are just small sprouts right now, but they are sprouts nonetheless. On my part, I've found myself avoiding the Superstore as much as possible, preferring to make meals from fresh berries and produce that I can get from the Farmer's Market and roadside stands or, ideally, my mother's rather large garden. I've been eating a lot of fish too. I'm not close to eating a 100-mile diet, but I'm closer than I ever have been in the past. And that's progress.

To use a well-worn phrase of my good friend Joan Fleming: 'At the end of the day'....that's what life is about: progress. If we are progressing towards something that we can feel good about, if we are able to smile and shake the hand of the person who grew the food we're going to eat, if we can sit down to a meal and know that what we're eating is good for us and good for the earth, then I think we're doing well. And we all have the potential to progress - to individually and collectively transcend the norms that stagnate our evolution. You have potential, I have potential, communities have potential, even a little island on the East Coast of Canada has potential. Let's make something of our potential. Let's progress.

And on a final note - it's good to be home.

1 comment:

Rob said...

It's equally good to know that you are here S