I once asked a server in Italy if the pork they were serving came from a local farm. Although I couldn’t translate his words, his flaring nostrils and scrunched eyebrows said, “Are you nuts?” It was the same look I got from a server in Portland when I asked if their pasta is made in-house. Sure, I felt like a putz, but still, I hoped that one day, I would be derided in the same way if I asked those questions of servers in Edmonton.
Although the local food movement has gained much ground in Edmonton over the past few years, we’re still a long ways from where we need to be. More often than not, if I ask a server in Edmonton about the food they’re serving, I still get responses like: “I’ll have to check” or “I’m not sure”. Worse yet, many explanations of their food sources are made up, or full of wrong information. Just so you know, Arctic Char does not come from Yellowknife; Canadian Atlantic salmon is not wild; “Heritage Beef” is not a breed of cattle, and contrary to what companies want you to believe, a vegetarian diet is not a good thing for chickens.
Yes, I’m that diner who asks where the beef/chicken/fish/pork is from and sorry, but it’s not good enough to hear that it’s Alberta beef or Hutterite pork; I want to know what farm it comes from, what it’s fed and how it’s raised. Why is that important? Because I don’t (and you shouldn’t) want commodity protein that was once a stressed animal knocked up with antibiotics and chemical-laced feed. I want to know what goes into my animal before it goes in to me. We should all be asking these questions—every single one of us—until it comes to the point where servers snort at our nerve for asking, and not because we’re a pain-in-the-ass customer, but because of course it’s local, ethically raised, ‘happy meat’.
At 12 Acres Restaurant in St. Albert, the servers can tell you about the farm near Pickardville (also called 12 Acres) where the animals are raised. They’ve been there. They’ve put their hands in the dirt, held the lambs, fed the chickens, walked through the fields where the animals forage, and listened to the farmer speak of how he raises them. How refreshing to have a server tell you, with confidence and pride, about the ingredients in the dishes you are about to eat.
As diners—as people of this earth—we need to know and trust our food source; it’s that simple.
If you’re still reading this, then you must be one of the growing number of people who truly cares about the origins of your food. Please help change the way Edmonton eats by letting restaurants know that good, honest, conscientiously raised food is important. Demand to know where your food comes from.
Thank you, 12 Acres for caring. Thank you for hoeing a harder row; for not taking shortcuts. To Chef Cory Rakowski, a ‘local-food crusader’, who cooked our food, thank you for a refreshing, enjoyable experience on the night we dined.
Click here to listen to my CBC Edmonton AM review of 12 Acres. Expect the menu to change according to what’s in season. 12 Acres Restaurant is located just north of Edmonton at 8 Mission Avenue in St. Albert.
Scroll for a visual of what we ate: