Farm to table to classroom: 4 questions with Anna March
New CBC Ottawa series inspires conversation about food and community
Chef Anna March keeps four backyard chickens at her Aylmer home and often has more eggs than she can use. So she finds creative ways to connect with her friends and new neighbours by swapping eggs for things like handmade soaps and Vietnamese spring rolls.
As a graduate of Algonquin College's culinary program, March has come full circle. She now teaches cooking classes to adults, teens, and kids, including courses at Algonquin.
A self-described food nerd, March has a keen interest in where her food comes from. For her, simple, pure ingredients are key to her cooking philosophy.
Food develops community. My neighbours had just moved in. I hadn't met them. I went over to say hi, introduce myself and bring some of my extra eggs.
As part of the new summer series CBC In The Kitchen, we sat down with her at Urban Element in Hintonburg just before teaching a class to discuss her farm to table philosophy and how her backyard chickens influence her cooking style.
Her answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What is your philosophy about food?
I would say my philosophy is evolving. At every stage of life comes new challenges. Right now while I'm not working in restaurants and I'm predominantly teaching and I have a young family, I think my philosophy has changed to be simplicity. I'm looking for things that are fast and delicious. And I think these things are really stripped down to the ingredients.
Can you trace back your love of food?
I can totally trace back my love of food. It circles right back to teaching. I would say in primary school I can very specifically remember the cooking workshops that we did.
[In high school] I took cooking for a French credit because I found French super challenging and I thought, I can easily get this credit because I can cook. And I just got lucky. I had super inspired teacher and we did a few dishes, again really from-scratch-cooking, and I think that's where it started.
Tell me about a dish that defines your style of cooking?
The butter is something that I learned to make from a farmer friend of mine at Mariposa Farms and she has a beautiful Jersey cow. She started making her own butter and I thought it was super interesting seeing where it came from, and it was also a thousand times more delicious than store-bought butter. So that was the inspiration behind that.
And then the eggs are survival. It's kind of funny but I have chickens in my backyard and four of them each lay an egg every day. It's a lot. And so in order to process them and keep them good and delicious I'll often pickle them.
What comes to mind when you think of food and community?
Food develops community. My neighbours had just moved in, I hadn't met them. I went over to say hi and introduce myself and bring some of my extra eggs. And it turns out that they were a Vietnamese family. They didn't speak much English but they seemed very grateful for the eggs. And then a few days later they reciprocated. They brought homemade spring rolls and a seafood pizza over.
CBC In The Kitchen will introduce you to local chefs, at-home cooks and food lovers in our city to inspire the conversation as we ask what food and community mean to you.