The Ark of Taste

ark-of-taste-slow-food-torontoBy Laura Buckley, Canadian Ark of Taste Chair

Did you know that pawpaw is native to Ontario? Have you ever heard of herring spawn on kelp or tasted Lunenburg pudding? I hadn’t before I got involved with the Ark of Taste.

As the chair of the Ark of Taste Commission for Slow Food in Canada, I am responsible for overseeing the nomination of ingredients and products that are in danger of being forgotten in our Canadian food culture. And it’s not just for the sake of nostalgia. Biodiversity is critical for the future of our planet.  Diverse animal breeds and plant varieties provide an essential ecosystem to protect the soil and decrease our reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It’s also essential for flavour. Monoculture of species creates bland taste. Hence those ubiquitous supermarket apples and tomatoes that taste like cardboard.

As our “supermarket” mentality grows, we are losing the link with the land and our food traditions. While we are lucky that we have access to exotic fruits and vegetables that travel to us from around the world, there are so many indigenous foods we have yet to taste and discover that are grown right here in our vast country. The Ark is working to identify these foods and work with small-scale producers, foragers and farmers to create a market and revive our heritage foods.

Anyone can nominate a food. After I receive a nomination, I work with a committee of advisers who help me assess the validity and completeness of the submission. I then put the nomination forward to Slow Food’s international committee for final approval.

There are more than 1500 products on the international ark. It’s fascinating to explore the food heritage of other countries too. Have a look at http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/ark to see what’s on the list. This year, Terra Madre in Turin, Italy will be celebrating the Ark of Taste and inviting delegates to bring samples of foods they would like to save.

There’s a lot of work to be done to identify more foods, so if you’ve got an idea for something you’d like to see on the Ark, please contact me at [email protected].

Written by Laura Buckley, Canadian Ark of Taste Chair

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