The Food Matters Cookbook Chronicles: Toronto


You might ask why I was eating a burger at all last night, and the answer is that simply, in this lovely little restaurant I was taken to in Toronto, the fish had no appeal – simply none. (And later, when I tasted that of one of my co-guests, I recognized that that had been the right decision, anyway.) I could have ordered vegetables but I had been eating them faithfully all day, and I was cranky. I could’ve ordered a big piece of meat but it felt hypocritical and wasteful. Maybe I should’ve gone to bed.

But after sharing a few unpromising appetizers, I begged the waitress for a really rare burger and she said, “When you ask for rare they make it medium rare,” and I said, “I know, that’s how it often is, and though I’d prefer it rare I don’t mind it medium rare, but if it’s medium I’m going to be unhappy,”  and she said, “Then you’ll be very happy.” And it came out well done. And I wasn’t unhappy at all, I just didn’t eat much of it. I ate fries and roasted beets.

Other than that it was a great day. Lunch at Terroni, one of a small chain of pretty authentic-seeming Italian joints, was better than pretty good; I had pasta with mushrooms and two coffees. (Book tour requires much coffee.) There was a taped interview with Canada’s food channel; a sort of better-organized one with Maclean’s magazine where we strolled through a supermarket pointing out that you had to search for decent food but it was there, buried among the crap; a sit-down with Malcolm Jolley of Good Food, who insisted on taping the conversation with a little camera in front of his face the whole time, which seems to be au courant, though why you’d rather plough through a video in real time than read a writer’s analysis of it is beyond me … and … maybe that was it.

In the evening I met Matt Galloway, the handsome young radio personality whom I’ve always liked; we did an onstage q&a in Toronto in January 2009, and had fun. This year we were at The Stop, a wonderful collection of rebuilt bus and trolley car garages, or “car barns,” now called Whychwood Barns and housing community groups, artists, startups, and a whole lot of sustainable-food related activities, including afterschool cooking for kids. Excellent scene.

Matt and I talked and took questions on a stage in front of 300 or more enthusiastic Torontoians, or whatever they call themselves, and a couple of them were especially interesting. Asked why I didn’t just recommend veganism, I asked the vegans in the audience to raise their hands; there were two. Asked how many people intended to become vegan, I counted 15 or maybe 20 hands. Asked how many people intended to cut back on animal products, at least 200 hands went in the air. So I felt … hmm, like I was maybe making some sense.

There was another question about gender and cooking and stigma and how all that was going to shake out which I realized I had to think about a lot more. Whatever my answer was, it got applause, so it must not have been too stupid. But there was a sociological upheaval in the second half of the 20th century that took all of us with it, and some of that was around the role of women, which needless to say had an impact on cooking that is only just now coming full circle. More on this sometime.

Off to Pittsburgh, to see my friend Andrew Morrison, now running Habitat restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel. He’s created a menu based on Food Matters Cookbook, with a few of his own twists, and I’m looking forward to it. And to seeing Andrew, and Christine, and Kelly. And to running along the river – I hope the Monongahela! –  this afternoon.

(Photo Credit: Ben Mark)


Posted in Behind The Scenes, Travel


  1. Anonymous said...

    Do tell, which lovely little restaurant serves such bad food? I’d like to be able to avoid it.And FYI:Wychwood Barns (not Whychwood)We call ourselves Torontonians.

  2. Anonymous said...

    I had a lot of fun last night but ended up forgetting to thank you for introducing me to savoury oatmeal dishes for breakfast. So I’ll leave it here 😉

  3. Cari Miller said...

    A very enjoyable talk last night – thank you! It was great to hear some of your philosophies first hand, pick up a copy of your new cookbook, and get it signed!I too wonder where you had such bad food. There are a few lovely spots near Wychwood Barns, though unfortunately my favourite (the meat heavy but very tasty Stockyards – ) is closed on Mondays. I would have gone there after myself if it were open.I was actually wondering about how you handle your personal way of eating when travelling. Do you typically manage to stick to the vegan-before-6pm rule, or do you bend the rules a bit when on the road? Do you heavily research before travelling in order to find restaurants that steer clear of processed foods? I find when travelling it is particularly difficult to stay healthy and animal product free.

  4. TheStopCFC said...

    Great to have you in town yesterday, Mark. We were excited to be your hosts and had a wonderful time last night. And we were very pleased that you were so enthusiastic about what we’re doing at The Stop. Just want to let your readers know that the link you posted above is to the Wychwood Barns; the Barns are indeed the home for one of our facilities but there is much more detail about all of our programming and services at our own website: again and all the best on the rest of your tour!Jason McBrideCommunications CoordinatorThe Stop Community Food Centre

  5. Anonymous said...

    I would love it if you could comment & consider the role of women in the kitchen. I’m in culinary school right now and fight the male students for the right to cook the meat. They’re like a pack of cavemen around a grill. Hmmm, Maybe that will change if society changes to a healthier, vegetarian meal choices 🙂 (I think you ARE on to something…)There are primarily male instructors and I think it is still difficult & sexist in a kitchen arena. All which only makes me more determined to shine! Deans list and a 3.87 says something 😉

  6. maxvaliquette said...

    I think, that had Mr Bittman wanted to mention the restaurant by name he would have, right? i’m pretty sure I know where he was and it must have been an off night, it’s a usually a really terrific place.

  7. southfriedcurry said...

    I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on the social upheaval/women/cooking issue. I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself the past year or so.

  8. malcolmjolley said...

    I agree the videocorder in the face is inelegant, but I think it gets the job done:

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