Melancthon is a township which has a major claim to fame. Officially it is Class 1 farmland! It grows tons of magnificent potatoes not to mention some great cole crops like brussels sprouts. It’s high, too, and its from its rolling gravel-filled hills that the magnificent Grand and Nottawasaga Rivers rise. Here in Ontario we don’t have glacier run off upon which many cities in the west depend, we have rainfall and winter and generous aquifers that water our land and our people.
Trouble is that over 7000 acres of Melancthon Township have been “assembled” and purchased by a Boston hedge fund ostensibly to farm potatoes under the name Highland Companies. The company then filed an application to open up 2316 acres for an open quarry that would be blasted so deeply into the earth that it will reach 180 feet below the water table….OUR water table. It will be deeper than Niagara Falls is high and will pump 600 million litres from this mega quarry every… single… day. That’s one quarter of the water consumed by Ontarians every day. As the second largest open pit mine on the continent, it’s so large and so sweeping that it’s actually hard to comprehend.
Enter Chef Michael Stadtlander, his wife and partner Nobuyo, the Canadian Chefs Congress, dozens of local citizens and a huge cadre of the top chefs from all over SW Ontario. “No Mega Quarry!” became the rallying cry and FOODSTOCK was born and nurtured until today it came to fruition in the maple forest and clover-rich fields of one of the remaining farms.
Under a bubble of blue sky and in chill autumn air, chefs arrived in tandem. A who’s who line up. Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco, Victor Barry of Splendido, Chris Brown of The Stop Community Kitchen, Keith Froggett of Scaramouche, John Higgins from George Brown College, the entire Buddha Dog team from Prince Edward County…the list was extraordinary. Into the leaf carpeted forest they hauled their gear, along paths deep in mud. Soon the air was filled with wood smoke and good smells from the make shift kitchens. A fiddler was tucked into a thicket beside a tree while a steel band played a hundred or so feet away. There were guitarists and rock bands. On stage over the hours were stars like Jim Cuddy and Cuff the Duke.
Some of the flavours? Anthony Walsh grilled thick cornbread over an open fire to serve with the best chili I’ve ever eaten, made by John Horne of Canoe. He drizzled then insisted that it be drizzled with honey.
Near Brad Long‘s tremendous vegan soup, Monforte’s Ruth Klahsen served forth the fresh chevre on Evelyn’s wafer thin heritage grain crackers and a squirt of Saskatoon berry jam.
There was amazing seafood chowder from Acadian Sturgeon that filled and soaked into hollowed out crusty buns and as many variations of potato and squash soups as their are varieties of the vegetables. On the edge of the forest Jamie Kennedy even served forth his legendary Yukon Gold fries.
This is consciousness raising of the finest order.
On October 16th thousands of Ontario citizens drew a line not in the sand but in that magnificent Honeywood loam!