Why we're so obsessed with food
'It's not about the mac and cheese anymore ... it's about how can I make it gourmet?'
You can see it this weekend in the hordes of people coming and going from the PEI Shellfish Festival in Charlottetown, cameras in hand to snap and share shots of their dinner.
Food is now a major component of many festivals and promotions, from a decade of the Fall Flavours Culinary Festival (this year boasting about 100 events) to a new-this-year campaign to showcase P.E.I. food and drink called That's Island Style. P.E.I. has also been marketing itself the last two years as "Canada's Food Island."
- Instagram takeover: P.E.I. 'a great place to be a food blogger' says Barbara Mayhew
- That's Island Style campaign promotes P.E.I. food and drink
A few weeks ago, I suggested one of my teenage daughters make a sandwich for lunch.
"I can't," she sniffed. "There's no aioli." I didn't even know she knew what aioli was.
My question: When did we all become so obsessed with food?
Blame the internet
People are extremely knowledgeable about food now, more so than they ever were before.— Irwin MacKinnon, chef
"A lot of it is coming from television and the internet," asserted Robert Jouridain, the president of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. and an instructor in seven subjects at Holland College's Tourism and Culinary Centre.
Those 30-second recipe videos on Facebook have also piqued people's interest in cooking, he believes, by making it look easy.
'Make it gourmet'
"It's not about the mac and cheese anymore … it's about 'how can I make it gourmet?'" he said.
Although food, recipes and getting together to share meals have always been an important part of the social fabric, there is a new obsession with sharing photos of food and talking about what's in it — especially on social media — that wasn't there in the past.
"Things are a-changing!" Jouridain exclaims. "Who would have thunk it, a couple of years ago, that you would have gone into McDonald's and made your own burger?"
'They want to celebrate food'
People are even sharing photos of their "handmade" fast-food burgers online, he said.
"They want to celebrate food and they want to celebrate with their friends what they accomplished or what they made. And when they get a chance to build it themselves, there is a sense of accomplishment," Jouridian said.
There's also an increasing trend of pairing beverages: Wine, beer or tea with certain dishes, he noted.
"People are extremely knowledgeable about food now, more so than they ever were before," agreed Irwin MacKinnon, president of the P.E.I. Association of Chefs and Cooks and the head chef at Papa Joe's Restaurant.
Before, it was was just — is this good? And they'd shovel it in.— Iwin MacKinnon, chef
MacKinnon has seen generations go through Papa Joe's, he said, noting kids he served as youngsters now bring their children to the restaurant — and they're seeking more sophisticated cuisine.
"They're asking the questions: Is it fresh or frozen? What's in it? Is it farmed, is it wild caught? And where does it come from?"
MacKinnon, like many Island chefs, is lucky to be able to source most of his meat and produce almost exclusively on P.E.I. — most of it, he said, within 50 kilometres of his restaurant.
"That's a trend that is here to stay. People love to be able to identify what's on their plate," he said.
Customers have even stopped MacKinnon in the restaurant's parking lot as he's supervising deliveries to take pictures of fresh fish being unloaded — then returned a few hours later to enjoy it on the plate.
'Eating was an inconvenience'
"We went through a time when eating was an inconvenience," said MacKinnon. "It was rush rush rush through the drive-throughs."
"Before, it was was just — is this good? And they'd shovel it in." Now, he said, people are more interested in not only enjoying the taste but also savouring knowledge about food.
Keeping on top of trends and tastes that foodies will enjoy "keeps you sharp," MacKinnon said.
"Food is going to be more about the experience than just about the need to eat," Jouridain concurred.
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS I 'Anyone can paint a bungalow': Meet P.E.I.'s lighthouse painter
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS I Car Life Museum still running smoothly after 50 years