The Great Food Revolution

by Jessica Wong, CBCNews.ca

Nearly any type of food-related TV show or movie tends to pique my interest, so I was definitely eager to get an early peek at The Great Food Revolution, a playful yet informative documentary series airing on CBC-TV beginning Thursday night.

The four one-hour episodes look at a variety of themes, starting with a general portrait of how Canada's food culture has drastically changed over the past 30 to 50 years, through mini-stories about, for instance, the wide adoption of sushi, how balsamic vinegar became a pantry staple and the rise of the chef as celebrity.

"The overall goal is a celebration of food and looking at where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going," Liam O'Rinn, who directed the first instalment and helped write all four, told me recently.

O'Rinn recalled some of the drastic food-world changes he's lived through in the past half-century, including harkening back to growing up in Ireland, when milk was delivered to his home by horse and cart.

"The sound, on a winter’s morning, of the rattling of milk in crates and the clip-clop of the horse was a very evocative sound, but it’s gone," he reminisced.

Another more recent example, he said, is how dinner has transformed from a family meal around a table at a set time in the evening — television off, everyone discussing their day — to something often rushed through without much thought.

"I've seen [the sit-down dinner] erode over the years," he pointed out.

"Now... there's that ad with a woman in her underwear popping something in and out of the microwave and running upstairs with it while she presumably is getting dressed and will continue to eat her meal. I find that astounding."

Subsequent episodes of the documentary series branch out to other themes, such as the locavore movement, how food is developed and marketed, 24 hours in the eating life of cosmopolitan New York, futuristic trends like molecular gastronomy and how science is shaping what we consume.

"I’m hoping at the end of this, people will give a little bit of a thought about what they’re eating, why they’re eating it and where it comes from," O'Rinn said.

The first two episodes of The Great Food Revolution air Thursday on CBC-TV, with the third and fourth following in a week. The series will also appear on Radio-Canada later this month.