Patricia

“A Definition of Foodways: …everything about eating including what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it and who’s at the table – is a form of communication rich with meaning. Our attitudes, practices and rituals around food are a window onto our most basic beliefs about the world and ourselves.”

– Harris, Lyon and McLaughlin, 2005

Who I am in the family:

I will unabashedly lay claim to what I see as a plumb role in our family, encompassing that of adoring den mother, family cheerleader, chief grocery shopper and most ardent fan of my adult children; Jacqui (23), Hunter (20) and my most recently adopted Daughter #2, Natalie (22). Food has been a passion for me as long as I can remember, and I’ve been blessed with children who have developed a mutual obsession in the amazing ability food has to nurture ourselves and each other.

I initially called this connection to cooking “ a hobby gone mad,” when I began baking for friends in high school, which lead to small scale dessert catering by age of 16 and dreams of attending culinary school. After obtaining a certification a few years later from the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute in NYC (a vegetarian cooking school), and several restaurant and catering jobs, I found kitchen work increasingly isolating, and I longed for greater contact with the people I was cooking for. As a result, I drastically changed life and career paths by taking a 21-year hiatus from professional cooking to pursue my post secondary education in Family Studies and Home Economics, raise a family and become director of a non profit organization which serves street youth here in our Northern community. All the while, I hoped that I could somehow return to my culinary roots.

At the age of 41, after much deliberation and family prodding, I enrolled in a condensed farm-to-table Culinary Arts program in Boulder, Colorado in 2011 while continuing my work in Edmonton remotely. These six months were the most challenging of my life; a rigorous culinary program coupled with being away from my family and community. The learning, however, was nothing short of explosive for me, providing the classical French culinary education I craved, coupled with food sustainability and farm-to-table principles. The highlight of my education, however, was bringing the learning home and sharing it with my family. I delighted in witnessing their palates and preferences changing, as they adapted to new flavours, cooking techniques, and absorbing whatever information I could relay on my trips back home.

But how to bring these two worlds together?

My answer to this question is Elevenses; a shared venue where I can explore food culture and craft through the lens of both individual and family perspectives. My blog title reflects this interest; Sustenance is not just about what helps us to maintain physical health through consumption. My goal is to explore what types of foodways helps us to feel sustained regardless of whether we are in familiar surroundings, traveling far from home, or experiencing transition, loss and of course, joy. The pursuit of Sustenance my own personal obsession, and I wish to explore what it means on physical, emotional and spiritual levels in my own home as well as in homes across the globe.

Why elevenses:

Elevenses is nothing short of a dream come true.

Based on the notion of a fabricated yet revered in between meal feast, Elevenses captures the spirit food occupies in my family’s world. When it comes to our family, we are always pondering, planning and scheming our next meal together, a path that connects our days together with the promise of sharing time and resources we all deem as precious. Elevenses is a collective account of how we source, gather, prepare and share food with each other.

The complicating factor in our happy, food loving family is how children, over time, do the darnedest things; they grow up. The idea of an online food journal occurred to me last summer in my realization that, in the near future, we will all soon be separated by great distances. This next year will see my daughter and her partner move to England, and in the year following my son will attend graduate school in New York City. This soon-to-be reality was compounded by my recent divorce from my partner of 23 years, so the concept of maintaining connections in the face of loss was something we all cared deeply about. What this original idea has grown into is far greater; not only will Elevenses provide a place to connect over something we are all passionate about, but it also a means with which we can, at present, prepare ourselves for the distance that will separate us, bridge it in the near future, and help us to thrive as a family when we cannot be with each other doing what we love most: making precious memories in the same kitchen!

What I want to bring to elevenses:

In two words; JOY AND LEARNING. Conceptually, I look forward to contributing my passion and knowledge of food, culture and the ties that binds them together. Practically speaking, I wish to bring my experience gleaned from a diverse culinary experience which included school, professional cooking, and years of personal experience cooking for people in my family with diverse dietary needs and preferences; food allergies, intolerances, insulin resistance, and several years ago, a movement toward cooking which focused on local products while avoiding processed foods, grain, and occasionally dairy and sugar. Each dietary change we encountered, in my eyes, was a new and exciting door opening for our family, expanding our knowledge of what is possible in terms of flavor and quality, while deepening our understanding and connection to where our food comes from, and the implications for the community who consumes it. Cooking and baking in a manner which encompasses this deverse perspective is, admittedly, an easier task when you have cooked more than the average person, which I have. It’s my goal to bring these culinary experiences, and my excitement, about what I’ve learned, as well as my boundless hunger to continue educating myself about food and the meaning it holds, to our readers.

What I want from elevenses:

I wish for Elevenses to be a place to record our food-focused writing on several levels; my own desire is to explore the foodways which exist in my own family and to compare and contrast it to how food helps us to form bonds with others, both near and far.

For my children, I hope Elevenses will assist them in developing their own voices as they have new experiences, recreate good memories, and refine their personal food mandates.

For my community, it is my intention to support local food purveyors, community-based food sustainability initiatives and compliment the body of existing food-based literature with regards to tradition, authenticity, memory and sustainability.

My dream elevenses project:

To contribute to elevenses for the rest of my days.