On Monday April 25th, Jamie Kennedy attended and spoke at the 10th annual Terroir Symposium, which took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This symposium brings together members of the hospitality industry, from across the country and the globe, to inspire and educate each other. The first Terroir Symposium took place at Hart House in 2007, and Jamie was the keynote speaker. This blog post, the first of three, shares Jamie's words from his session on food culture.
Poetic is a word that describes your self expression. Being poetic is to turn little things into wonderful meaning. To be poetic you must observe the things around you and transform them into something that, for you and for others will resonate with a new clarity and beauty.
As a child I can remember taking piano lessons down the street from my house in Don Mills. It was this time of year. Trying hard to concentrate on the monotonous, “Train around the Bend”, when through the window, my senses distracted by the smell of freshly mown grass and the sun on moist spring earth. I still wanted to make music but I couldn’t stay inside. promises of practicing my scales set aside, I opted for the outdoors. This soon evolved into making fires by the railway tracks, learning about fire. Learning about embers and the persistent heat of embers that had that ability to roast a whole potato.
What a delicious potato. This transformation by fire to the mouthwatering and the remnant scent of the smoky caramel, now a part of the overall flavour.
The character of the wood changes with each cultivar used. The length of time that food is exposed to smoke fundamentally affects the flavour profile. The fruity scents of apple or cherry wood smoke, like pipe tobacco. Low and slow, thin wisps of smoke sometimes over days and weeks as the ham or fish slowly cures and dries in harmony with the smoke. You learn restraint as you undoubtedly experience smoke and heat overload, acrid, bitter, don’t go down that road.
Taste memories are some of the first memories we experience. Plum tomatoes with shallots and red wine vinegar. Corn, let’s say Seneca corn where you still had to have the pot boiling before you pick and run to the kitchen to shuck and plunge the cobs into the pot so as not to leave any time for those sugars to start spontaneously transforming into starch. Just like a vinyl LP, a more analog time with our ingredients.
Germinating the first seeds on trays, capturing the lengthening March light, indoors. Planting the seeds out in May. Birdsong, sun and rain symphony will yield the fruit. You touch the fruit first. It feels good. You cut it open and its vibrancy sticks to your fingers like some weird sticky but not sticky wax. Back in the kitchen you let the ingredients you have just harvested dictate what happen next. From your “potager” (oh the French) you select aromatic herbs to bring this dish together. You sit down at the table across from your daughter. Your eyes meet. It is a shared moment of delicious understanding that makes you smile and laugh with each other. It’s another layer. This dish is an ephemeral exponent of this place. The soil, the rocks, the farmer.