Delighted faces flocked to the Cornerstone Cafe Tuesday March 5th for the first installment of Fernwood University. This year’s free lectures focused on the issue of food security, something that should intrigue many community members.
Victoria has always been a volatile community when it comes to food, and Dr. Robert Griffin’s lecture at the cafe made that perfectly clear. Griffin is the co-author of Feeding the Family: 100 Years of Food & Drink in Victoria, a book that demonstrates the chaotic, and import heavy, world of food in our provincial capital.
Victoria was visited by a series of diverse fortune seekers following the Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s, all of whom were excited by the prospects of profit. Suppliers in Victoria provided goods to towns in the interior as well as their base of operations. But the amount and variety of food required to supply Victoria’s growing community was not always reliably available from commission merchants and their storehouses. Individuals and institutions turned to their own private gardens to fill their tables. Today’s urban gardeners and local food enthusiasts are participating in a time-honoured tradition.
“In a sense, it’s going back to what it was in those days (the late nineteenth century),” says Dr. Griffin, “Because most people had gardens, often had chickens, often had that kind of animal around, and what was imported were more exotic items.”
It is encouraging to hear that community gardens, not big chain supermarkets, have plowed deeper into the historical ground. Dr. Griffin also discussed the revolution in local brewing methods: Victoria’s recent shift towards craft brewing reflects the city’s rich history of specialized beer production. These are tasty bites of history that should bolster the community’s move towards more sustainable and locally-focused products.
If you missed the lecture but would like to learn more about the history of food in Victoria, feel free to pick up a copy of Feeding the Family at the Royal BC Museum or at the library.
You can find all the films of the lectures from Fernwood University 2013 here.
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