When it comes to eating local in Ontario, there are few people who know more about it than our featured author, Lynn Ogryzlo, food writer and author of The Ontario Table. We spend a lovely hour in conversation with Lynn to learn from her wisdom and expertise.
LoveLocalFood: You spear-headed the $10 challenge a few years ago, why is this a movement that Ontarians should embrace and what does it mean to you?
LynnOgryzlo: People don’t really understand that they can make a difference. Everybody wants change in the world and it empowers people to know that THEY can be the change they want; the $10 challenge is voting with your food dollars. It strengthens the local food economy.
Rural communities in Ontario are really struggling, but if you buy local and buy from a farmer it puts dollars back into the local community. That farmer has a tractor he needs to buy, tools he needs in order to grow and maintain his crop, and other items and products that are necessary to run a farm. He’s going to buy those locally, so it keeps the tractor shop in business, it keeps the hardware store in business… it’s dollars put back into the local community. It’s cyclical.
One thing I like to call out is that the challenge isn’t encouraging you to spend an extra $10, this is diverting $10 you already spend on food and concisely making the choice to spend it on a product produced in Ontario.
In 2011, Lynn first approached Dr. Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute at Toronto University and Doug Vallery of Experience Renewal Solutions with the question; if every household in Ontario could be convinced to spend just $10 a week on local food, what would that mean to the province? They responded with following statement:
“If every household in Ontario spent $10 a week on local food, we’d have an additional $2.4 billion in our local economy at the end of the year. Keeping our money circulating grows those dollars to $3.6 billion and creates 10,000 new jobs.
LLF: Tell us about your cookbooks; what inspired you to write them?
LO: My whole writing career has had a heavy focus on food with emphasis on buying local. My first cookbook featured a farmer with every recipe as I wanted to introduce people to the farmer, showing them that THIS is the person responsible for your food. Often when you go to the grocery store there is a disconnect between farmer and consumer. More often than not, the person stocking the produce section has no clue how the food was produced and where it came from. But when you get to know the farmer, before you get to the grocery store, he tells you how he makes the food, stories about his family, the fact that is children run in the grass alongside his crop and they sneak into the garden to eat the food… you begin to build trust with this person and feel a personal connection. You, as a consumer, start to think about this farmer as a human, a friend. It’s all about developing trust in a local food system that, somewhere along the way, has really broken our trust.
My second book was also about local food and connecting the consumer to the farmer, but it was about seasonality, as people didn’t know or understand why you couldn’t get Ontario asparagus in January.
And then came The Ontario Table. My initial concept for the book was centered around the 100km diet, but being located in Niagara region, I quickly discovered 100km encompassed most of Ontario’s top producing farm land, so that book quickly morphed into the Ontario table. As I’ve done with my past books, I included farmer profile to connect people with their local food, but I also included twenty travel stories. These highlight several regions telling the story of what grows there, why it grows there (climate, soil conditions, etc), and what some culinary leaders and chefs are doing with the produce grown in that region. What’s most interesting is that each of those twenty regions has a very different culinary profile.
LLF: Do you have any favourite recipes from the book?
LO: One of my favourite recipes, especially right now, is the tomato & basil tart. It has a lovely pesto in the bottom… and if you’ve ever had fresh summer tomatoes and pesto… you know what I’m talking about! Not only is it flavouful, but it looks great. You can really impress guests with this dish.
Now this might sound lackluster, but one of my other favourites is the Roasted Root Vegetables (page 212). If you are having it for Thanksgiving or Christmas they can be done the day before. You simply dunk them in a little hot water, because that bring the sugar to the surface, and then put them in a plastic bag with a marinade and refrigerate. When your company arrives just pour them into a roasting pan and pop them in the oven. They cook up beautifully because you’ve already brought the sugars to the surface giving them the chance to fully caramelize. And let me tell you, they are delicious! And best of all you are not exhausted because you prepped everything the day before!
LLF: What one tip do you have for people who are looking to eat local year-round?
LO: Buying, eating and cooking local is easy, better for you, and not as costly as you think. You don’t have to visit a farmer’s market every weekend, there are a lot of locally grown and produced foods in your favourite grocery store. You can absolutely take the $10 challenge when shopping at the grocery store, and it doesn’t matter if it’s January or July, there will be some type of Ontario product you can spend your $10 on. Locally grown food is also better for you. There are more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in local food as it has the chance to fully ripen on the vine or tree before being harvested, meaning it’s given the opportunity to retain all its nutrients. At the end of the day, buying local is good for your health and good for the economy.
Watch for Lynn’s next book which will focus on all the health benefits of eating local, slated for release in late 2018.
In the meantime visit her website to read inspiring blogposts and to learn more about the local food movement.