The world's longest barbecue

Karl Wells
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Canadians celebrate local food today

Canadian culinary activist and author, Anita Stewart, is inviting Newfoundlanders to take some time today to enjoy a meal of locally produced food. Barbecue it if you like or prepare it how you want. The important thing for Stewart is that your menu feature food produced in your hometown or as close to it as possible. She wants all of us from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to celebrate our own area's food, our Canadian food - its variety, its quality and its unique flavours.

Stewart got her first taste of the range of ingredients and food styles across Canada in the mid 1980's when she travelled across the country doing research for a book she was writing on Canadian country inns. It was an eye-opening experience for her.

Above, Karl barbecues salmon with Newfoundland curling champ Brad Gushue. Below, Frederique's fabulous garlic steak hot off the grill. - Submitted photos

Canadian culinary activist and author, Anita Stewart, is inviting Newfoundlanders to take some time today to enjoy a meal of locally produced food. Barbecue it if you like or prepare it how you want. The important thing for Stewart is that your menu feature food produced in your hometown or as close to it as possible. She wants all of us from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to celebrate our own area's food, our Canadian food - its variety, its quality and its unique flavours.

Stewart got her first taste of the range of ingredients and food styles across Canada in the mid 1980's when she travelled across the country doing research for a book she was writing on Canadian country inns. It was an eye-opening experience for her.

"There were people all across the country, literally from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, that were doing extraordinary foods with local ingredients celebrating their regions and they didn't know each other and I'm going, 'Wow how can this be?' So it's been a passion ever since, trying to connect people and trying to make it, you know, 'Canadian cuisine,' not an oxymoron as it was at that point in time."

Pioneer cooking

Since then Stewart has seen how lighthouse keepers and their families around Vancouver Island prepare their daily meals. (It's "pioneer cooking of the first order" according to Stewart.) She has eaten bannock and delicious pike, caught with her fly rod and cooked in cast iron pans by the shore in Churchill, Manitoba. Several years ago Stewart enjoyed a piping cup of King Cole tea with Crosby's molasses while sitting outside a lighthouse near Gros Morne in Newfoundland. And, like yours truly, Stewart will always remember the trip she made to the Hibernia platform where she saw a list of 37 different ways you can cook potatoes posted to a pillar in the kitchen and watched the cooks doing their chores in a space that allowed them to watch pods of whales breaching as they sliced, diced and sautÉed.

I asked Stewart if she could explain what Canadian cuisine is in the context of, for example, U.S. versus Canadian cuisine.

"Theirs is really fusion and melting pot where ours is more like the smorgasbord. So you can go and pick something that's an Icelandic food from Thunder Bay. You can go to get the wonderful Irish foods and some of the things that are rooted in the Celtic tradition in Newfoundland and Cape Breton, and, you know, the francophone Acadian tradition in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and down the south coast of Nova Scotia. This is what my travels have taught me. We are an extraordinary nation and Canadian food is exotic and it's sexy and it's fantastic."

Huge celebration

Now, Stewart wants to create a huge national celebration of our Canadian bounty every year at this time.

It's what she's calling Food Day Canada and The World's Longest Barbecue. The genesis for Food Day Canada goes back to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis several years ago when many Canadian cattle farms and communities were facing economic ruin. Stewart decided to do what she could to help by having as many of her friends as possible hold barbecues on the first Saturday in August. Since then the focus has shifted to include all Canadian food. Stewart would love to have some feedback on what individuals do in Newfoundland and Labrador today to celebrate our local foods.

"If you're at the barbecue that's great. Post the menus on www.foodday.ca and let's celebrate. And read each other's stories because actually the fun part of this, more than anything, is the stories from the last few years. You'll find amazing ingredients and also parties.

This year someone I think is celebrating their sixth anniversary and they were married and celebrated the first world's Longest Barbecue on their wedding day six years ago. So that's the sort of thing that happens.

We've got family reunions, we've got weddings, we've got just plain parties on the beach or in the backyard, wherever, in the fields of Alberta or Ontario or Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. We're celebrating what we grow and who's growing it."

As for Stewart, today you'll find her at a Food Day Canada celebration happening at the local raceway of her village of Elora, north of Guelph, Ont.

Hundreds will be turning out for an event featuring Ontario beef, pork, fresh fruits and vegetables. A highlight will be fresh Ontario peaches served over local ice cream.

No doubt Stewart will be in the thick of things, as usual, slicing and serving tasty grilled meat to the proud Canadians of her own region. I, for one, will be accepting her invitation to celebrate the local foods of St. John's and Newfoundland. Yes, a good barbecue today with friends sounds like a wonderful idea.

Here are some barbecue recipes from Anita Stewart's latest book, "Anita Stewart's Canada."

Frederique's fabulous garlic steak

(Courtesy Anita Stewart's Canada - Harper Collins)

Yield: one serving

For each serving:

1 filet or strip loin, 4 to 6 oz (125 to 175 g)

Salt

1 or 2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. (5 mL) butter, slightly softened

Lightly salt the steak and grill to the desired doneness. Meanwhile, crush a clove or two of garlic onto the dinner plate; top with the butter. When the steak is done, simply lay it on top. Grind a bit of pepper over top.

Barbecue-roasted baby potatoes

(Courtesy Anita Stewart's Canada - Harper Collins)

Yield: four servings

2 lb. (1 kg) baby potatoes

2 tbsp. (30 mL) canola oil

Basting sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil

2 tbsp. (30 mL) grainy Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. (2 mL) freshly ground pepper

1 tsp. (5 mL) salt

2 tbsp. (30 mL) chopped fresh rosemary

In a large pot of boiling water, partially cook the potatoes.

Drain and let cool enough to handle. Cut larger ones in half. Toss with the canola oil; set aside.

Make the marinade by whisking together the garlic, shallot, oil, mustard, pepper, salt and rosemary.

Place the potatoes on a preheated barbecue, brushing liberally with basting sauce.

Turn and roast until tender, seven to 10 minutes. Remove and serve immediately or hold in a warm oven.

Organizations: Hibernia

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Vancouver Island Churchill Manitoba Ontario U.S. Thunder Bay Cape Breton New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia Alberta Quebec Saskatchewan British Columbia Elora Guelph St. John's

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