Surveying the Foodscape


foodie canapes

Thanks to my girl Niya, I was made aware of an event being held by the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Centre for the Study of the United States at the University of Toronto. Two of the university’s professors, Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann, were in attendance for the launch of their book Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape. Of course, you can’t launch a book about foodies without delicious things to eat and drink.

With this book, which I’ve only just started to read, Johnston and Baumann attempt to “investigate food’s continuing role establishing symbolic boundaries and status distinctions” and “to use foodie culture as a lens for investigating the political dimensions of food practices”. I’m still on the introduction, but already have questions I’d love to ask the writers. First and foremost would be why they chose to turn their focus to American foodie culture, when the community right here in Toronto is so full of extremely passionate food lovers and advocates. But I’ll save my questions for when I finish. I expect, by that time, my copy of the book will have its margins filled with notes.

But to the food. There was a selection of four canapés and hors d’oeuvres on offer, and I do wish there’d been some indication as to who catered the event. Sadly, I couldn’t try the sesame shrimp dumplings with soy chili glaze, but they looked delicious. The Peking chicken quesadillas with stir-fry asian vegetables, Hoxin barbeque sauce and smoked mozzarella were not bad. The sweetness of the caramelized onion and the sauce tended to overpower the rest of the ingredients, but the tortillas were toasted to crunch perfection.

I really enjoyed the garlic rubbed crostini with minted pea purée and shaved pecorino-romano. The freshness of the minted peas really woke up my mouth. All the flavours in this offering were really well balanced, and the contrast of the toasts with the purée definitely worked for me.

My favourite thing though, was the wild mushroom risotto cakes with lemon aioli and arugala sprouts. It’s the only item that made me go back for seconds. Okay, thirds. As you’ve guessed by now, I have a love for all things crunchy. The coating on these cakes was light, and crispy enough to provide a nice contrast to the creamy risotto inside. The tang of the aioli and the green-ness of the sprouts helped cut the richness of the mushrooms, cheese and butter of the risotto to make the dish feel lighter than it probably was in reality.

I’m looking forward to getting into the meat of Foodies, particularly the chapters on “Eating Authenticity” and “Seeking Exoticism”. As an immigrant myself, I certainly have my own opinions on these subjects, not only within the foodscape. And considering the American focus of the studies, I’m imagining I’ll have some opinions on these chapters specifically. I look forward to making notes.

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