Dana VanVeller and Lindsay Anderson are the authors of FEAST: An Edible Road Trip. Curious about what lies in their own backyard, VanVeller and Anderson travelled across Canada collecting recipes and stories that highlight Canada’s incredibly diverse food scene. Dana VanVeller chatted with the good local and shared some insight from their travels.
TGL: How did you narrow down which cities you were going to visit?
Yeah, it’s hard because there are still so many places that we could have gone. We kind of started our itinerary with “who do we know?” I grew up in Ontario and went to school in the East Coast and Lindsay grew up in Northern BC and went to school on the island and then has lived in Alberta so we had different networks in each place. And we both also worked in the food industry for a long time so that was kind of where we started and we started doing research and so a lot of our itinerary was designed by “Oh, we want to go and visit this person, so we’ll definitely go here”. Also there were times where people would just write into our website and say “we’ve got a big farm house and a bunch of beds and organic veggies. Do you want to come and stay with us?” So then it became, “we’ll make a stop in this tiny rural Nova Scotia town to do that.”
TGL: Was your website fairly established before your trip?
No, Lindsay was working a food rating job and was very public so we couldn’t say a word of it until her contract was up. Her contract was up June 7th and we left June 27th so in that three weeks we launched the website, we launched the Indigogo campaign and that kind of got us the money to start. Eight months prior to that we were planning and trying to figure out what and where and how and all of that stuff but it was that three weeks where we both finished our jobs on the 7th and spent three weeks just working everyday.
TGL: What was the process in lining up your subjects to share their stories and recipes?
The book wasn’t on the table when we were travelling. On the road trip it was just the blog so whoever we’d wanted to meet we would just write them and introduce the project which was a cross country road trip with the sole purpose of finding and sharing interesting stories of Canadian Food. For the most part people said “yeah! You can come in and talk to us!” It was amazing how generous people were with their time. Sometimes we’d just say a quick hello and put a face to the name. We didn’t have huge expectations.
There was this one farmer in the Yukon who spent four hours with us…He experiments with all different varieties of apple trees to see which can survive the harsh winter the best so he just knows so much about plant biology and so I had four hours of recorded interview with him. It was fascinating. I am so glad that I have that recorded. Then you have to take that 4 hours and turn it into a 500 word blog post.
TGL: So this whole thing started with the intent of being a blog and then turned into a book?
Yes. The book was more of a “oh wouldn’t that be great if…?” but it was a year after we got back that we even handed in a book proposal. So we thought, “Let’s do this. Let’s create this project and let’s hope that something comes from it for us.” When we got back the initial goal was more: let’s get back, let’s get the car back, let’s still be friends, let’s have all these stories to share and that really was the initial goal. Once we got back we collected so much content, it was impossible to keep up with it on the road.
We got back in November and the following May or June we finished up the writing. But then during that time … our friends had nominated us [for Best Food Blog Award] … and we thought “oh our friends are so sweet, but there’s no way” and then a month later we got an email informing us that we were finalists for the Best Culinary Travel Blog category and then we started another campaign getting everybody to vote for us. So we won Reader’s Choice…and we got so much more publicity and it gave us something to show to the publisher too. We were able to say that we did this project and it got internationally recognized. So with that confidence boost, we started putting together a proposal.
TGL: How did the different landscapes you travelled through shape recipes you were trying?
A lot actually and I think that even the fact that there is so much land in this country affects the difference in recipes and even the approach. There’s so much land in between a lot of the communities. I think what we found was that there was very distinct recipes but people were very much reluctant to say that this was a Canadian recipe because this is what we make here or this is Sunday dinner. No one wants to put a grand title of “This is Canadian Food” which I think it also a classically Canadian approach.
TGL: Has your palette changed overall after your trip? What types of foods do you enjoy more now than you did prior to travelling?
There is definitely a lot of recipes in the book that have become things that we make often in our own kitchen so that is definitely true. There wasn’t really much that we didn’t like or weren’t willing to try when we left so I wouldn’t say that our palettes have opened up.
This may be because it’s summer but I think I have a bigger appreciation for berries and the amount of berries that we have or orchard fruits, summer fruits. Our summer fruit line up is so amazing.
TGL: Which city or town would you want to revisit?
There were so many places that we didn’t get to go to. Yellowknife we didn’t get to go to so I’d really, really love to go there. I’ve heard wonderful things about the food scene.
I really loved Winnipeg. I feel like Winnipeg is a really underrated city in Canada and they have amazing food. The city itself is beautiful.
Charlevoix in Quebec is just full of food artisans and it’s just so beautiful.
TGL: I see you both went across the country again to talk about FEAST. Could you talk a little bit about that?
We went back to Newfoundland and Montreal after the road trip. And then for the book tour this year we were in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and then all around Ontario and then in Montreal.
The tour was interesting because for two years it’s just the two of you. You’re working at weird hours and it’s mostly quiet and internal and then the book tour is one hundred percent the opposite so all of a sudden you’re talking about your experience. It was a weird transition to make. It was very tiring at first but then we settled into how to do it.
TGL: What have you learned about yourselves after being on the road for so long?
Yeah! I mean, lot’s of things. I think both of us just kind of really love the life of chasing curiosities and hope to be able to keep doing that in some form, you know, even if it’s not in a fully professional context.
TGL: What does Canadian Food Culture mean to you?
It is incredibly diverse. It is incredibly regional and seasonally based. It’s a mix of first nations and indigenous cuisines and wild foods; foods that were here and then foods that have been brought and cultivated here. It’s also a mix of immigration which makes it, kind of, always changing . There’s a certain part of it that will remain the same; like I don’t think Poutine Râpée will go anywhere anytime soon but I think new things are always being created. It’s something that’s kind of difficult to track because everything’s kind of happening in these little pockets that are so far from each other.
TGL: East Coast or West Coast?
TGL: What do you appreciate more: Complex Recipes or Simple Recipes?
TGL: Planes, Trains or Automobiles?
TGL: Beer or Wine?
TGL: Eat off the land or under the sea?
TGL: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner or Desert?
If you are interested in reading all the amazing stories and delicious recipes in Dana and Lindsay’s book FEAST: An Edible Road Trip enter our giveaway. We are excited to be giving away not one but two copies of the book. Follow the rules below and good luck!
- FOLLOW @thegoodlocal and @feast_on on Instagram
- LIKE our Instagram post
- TAG a friend in SEPARATE COMMENTS (but as many as you wish)
- The winner will be chosen at random and notified by DM November 22.
Photographs from Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Roadtrip by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. Copyright © 2017 Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Interview by Hailey Brooks