The Canadian Food Experience Project: End Reflection
The Canadian Food Experience Project has had a profound effect upon my life, my understanding of Canadian food, Canadian culture, and upon developing a much more distinct Canadian voice within my own writing. Certainly, the project has heightened my sensitivity and awareness to regional Canadian cuisine, culture and deepened my passion, love and loyalty to this multicultural and unpretentious country we live in.
Overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to the project, I was fervently committed from the get go. I had been waiting for an opportunity like this since I started my blog in August 2008. The time had come. The Call to Action was expressed. The project challenges outlined. The participants reveled round the ring and the experience took on a life of its own. Helene, from La Cuisine d’Hélène introduced me to her daughter, Genevieve Charest, and we had an incredible volunteer translator for our project that made it possible for the whole of Canada to participate as that was critical to the success of The Canadian Food Experience Project. However, there were two gaps. The smaller one: few men participated. Some did, but few. The greatest gap: our aboriginal or First Nations people did not participate. This was not without an intense and impassioned effort on my part, but it wasn’t to be.
The first three months (June to August) were profound as I was exceedingly gratified and edified while reading and responding to every single post written by each participant.
Then dad got really ill and required most of my time until he passed in January of this year. Without the intimate personal connection between myself and the participants, participation waned. Not right away, but it eroded over time. And though I was reading some, and at times, many of the posts, I wasn’t responding personally due to lack of time.
I was missing the personal interaction so I knew the participants were also missing that exchange. I was also missing the learning experience by not reading, responding and developing each relationship I had begun to nurture at the onset of this project.
A project of this nature does require that kind of commitment for it to thrive. Life is all about relationships, and the many relationships I did glean through the process of this project are so precious to me. There is nothing like friendship with a like-minded person. A community of friendship did develop amongst participants. Not all, but some – even most, I venture to say.
Each month I would celebrate as many participant posts came in. Gifts. So many precious words to read. Many to make and to bake, as well! I would ache when one participant would just stop sending their posts in. I would encourage. I would head over to that site and try to read and comment to provide that lacking personal connection I was so committed to, and so unable to carry through to the degree that was required.
In the end, about 30% of the initial group participated for most of the year. At the very end, only about 15 percent completed the entire challenge. Even I could not fulfill my responsibilities in a timely fashion the last three challenges due the passing of my dad and the unexpected passing of Vanja’s mom one week later. But, don’t get me wrong. This project was a huge success! It exceeded all of my expectations. I was transformed and reformed in manners and measures I hadn’t conceived or perceived. Participants have also expressed that the experience has profoundly affected and refocused their work and writing. What more can one ask of a project with the primary purpose to Identify My Canadian Voice?
Hearing from so many participants and learning of intimate interferences in their own schedules was also heartbreaking. So many committed to this work, yet lost jobs, got ill…. were grieving. We are a valiant bunch. Driven by our passion for the love of food and the love of our families and friends, we tend to write with our heart in our hands as nurturing one’s family and one’s spirit are very closely aligned. And, I believe this is what we do: nurture.
I was also on an archeological dig, poking through lives and life stories, seeking regional Canadian family recipes, food and cultural experiences around food. It may be difficult to explain, but as vast as Canada is, I feel a part of it all. I genuinely feel a part of it all. Is that sense of belonging inherent to the human condition? When in the Atlantic provinces, particularly Newfoundland, much of the food culture was new to me, yet I owned it. I basked in it. I rejoiced in the opportunity for yet another quintessential Canadian food experience. Another opportunity to discover another part of my own personal cultural identify. One might say: “Bah, humbug! You are but a prairie girl. This regional culture does not belong to you!” Yet, I feel it. I feel it. I really feel it, so it must. It must. And it does. I am Canadian.
So, each of the recipes from participants recreated in my own kitchen I now own, too. Each is a part of my Canadian food experience and my personal Canadian food identity. And so it is. The project is over, but “we have only just begun”. I now have a new area on my site for Canadian Food (link really doesn’t take you to the options, the green menu bar has a section titled “Canadian Food” and the categories fall down in the menu under it) – traditional regional recipes, and Canadian Food Heroes that is growing weekly.
The Canadian Food Experience Project has been that beginning for me. The foundation that I was seeking with a glowing heart has been laid and it is true and strong and me! Ah, only in Canada, I say!