Delicious Days at Fraser Valley

I’m hopeless in the kitchen. I do, however, love food. No really, I don’t think that there are enough word formatting tools available to emphasize this fact. Maybe I even love food too much sometimes; if that is possible. If it wasn’t for my limited budget I would be wining and dining in all best foodie spots in town but you know, quinoa – all the time – is pretty much the same, right? Anyway I digress, I’m pretty sure the vendors and people attending the Fraser Valley Food Festival this weekend at the Tradex in Abbotsford would not agree. Self delusion crushed; especially when samples of some of the yummiest local and international foods were being passed around. I. Was. In. Heaven.

This food fair was a feast. Not just of the eating variety, but on different levels for those who love food. There was celebrity cooking shows, wine and cheese seminars, delicious samples and even a sausage making competition. With so many stalls it was hard to decide which one to visit first. If you’re like me you will make your starting point one of the ones with a food sample, a worthy choice I would say. Score one for going hungry. The stalls had a variety of food from coffee beans, to fudge, crackers, dried mushrooms, wine and beer tasting, cupcakes, olive oil – the list goes on. Too bad my stomach eventually filled up.

Food always has a way of bringing people together.  Whether you’re sitting at a restaurant eating, at a friend’s house for dinner or chatting about different foods you’ve tried – this communal joie de vivre that comes along with food was not lacking on Sunday.

After satisfying my unhealthy addiction to fudge, I then wandered over to the Lake Country Harvest stall and talked with Paula, the owner. I learned there, that the ability food has to bring communities together has not gone unnoticed by any means. Lake Country is an area in Kelowna and, hence the name, where this company is based. Paula’s two year endeavor began when she was looking for a career change and a woman at her Church let her know she had some cherries in her backyard that hadn’t been picked yet. Paula then learned that every season about 6.5 million pounds of cherries go to waste every year. 6.5 million! It’s with that shock which Paula experienced, that encouraged her to begin her dried fruit making business (which is delicious might I add). Not being able to pit that many cherries by herself, Paula began to employ teenagers on their summer vacation to help out with the business. The results of giving teens some motivation, purpose, and community involvement has had a noticeable impact on their self-esteem, she let me know. My conversation with Paula let me see that not only was there creative foodie souls food at this show, there was a definite feeling of community and good will with the vendors

Next stop?  Beacon Hill. These two guys were selling tea – delicious mulled tea from Sri Lanka. A non-profit organization, Beacon Hill’s proceeds go back to a Sri Lankan community for the locals to fund extra-curricular school programs and other educational needs.

A plethora of food types to wander through from there, the most interesting one I came across was Hot Nanas, showcasing flavored sugars. Ranging from savory to sweet to coffee flavored, which I obstinately defend as its own food group! The specific flavors ranged from espresso, vanilla, sweet onion and ginger. Something I’ve never come across in my glutinous food explorations.

With my food lust being satiated, I sat down to watch a cooking show hosted by Bal Arneson, The Food Network’s The Spice Goddess. Bal has a successful show that teaches healthy Indian cooking. On Sunday she was teaching the audience how to make roti and paneer. Before getting down to business however, Bal beckoned for three specifically male volunteers. Who comes up? A tall slim Asian man, a Santa Claus look-a-like, and the third man, well, in my head he was the guy in the black shirt. Playing on the stereotype that men don’t have a place in the kitchen, Bal challenges them to a competition to see who can make the best roti. Following a brief demonstration, much to Bal’s dismay, the ‘man in black shirt’ revealed he does all the cooking at home. The men were off to make their own roti. The winner?  Man in black shirt, of course. With an audience vote deciding the winner, Bal then moved on to show us how to make paneer. In about 15 minutes, using a method that makes cooking look like the easiest thing ever, her meal was finished – with samples for the audience afterwards. Bal’s show was a nice break from walking around, especially since there are not as many practical cooking shows on TV anymore. Although shows about food abound, shows about how to cook are scarcer than they used to be. It was refreshing for someone like me to see that cooking doesn’t have to take a minimum of three hours and can taste nicer than burnt. In this case, it was delicious and simple.

The Fraser Valley Food Festival had an abundance of things to see, learn or eat. Whether you just want to see what kind of food was at the show, taste some wine or learn about different cheeses, there was certainly something for everyone. Greeted with a goodie bag of almond milk, a granola bar and a schedule of events, I got to wander around, chat with the vendors, taste some food and visit a few shows. Oh, and let’s not forget the wine and beer available which may make your stay a little longer. The show made for a great weekend day out. I certainly didn’t leave feeling disappointed with the food, and became more motivated to support our local businesses.  They need love too!

Oh, and for any of you who are concerned for my unhealthy addiction to food, I stand by the words of Erma Bombeck: “I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.”