Partridge berry tarts, cod tongues, Arctic char chowder, seal loin, mustard pickles, and bottled beets. These dishes are equally a part of the Atlantic Canadian Newfoundland landscape as its blustery coastline and friendly culture.
For travel company Adventure Canada, which takes travellers on small-ship expeditions to the most remote corners of Canada, including the Arctic, Greenland, and Atlantic Canada, this year has been momentous. The 2019 season included the first official trip featuring Taste of Place—a program that connects passengers to communities and culture through sustainably-sourced local cuisine.
By tasting these dishes on board and at pop-ups in various communities (which often included dancing, music, and much laughter!), passengers directly connected with Newfoundland culture and together made a positive impact.
At the forefront of this program is Bill Swan, one of the co-founders of Adventure Canada, and someone who has spent over three decades working to implement sustainable and regenerative initiatives, such as improving food systems on a local and national level. He sees the company’s operations in these regions of rich, high quality supplies, as a missed opportunity to travel more responsibly.
“I’ve always felt that the impact of expedition cruising can be positive across all three social, environmental, and economic fronts,” says Swan, “and food is this amazing bridge between all three of them.”
Swan describes our food system as complex, yet simple in many ways: it is set up to be cheap and fast. This is especially true for meals on board ships, particularly in isolated places like Newfoundland and Labrador. Supply and storage challenges mean onboard cuisine is often sourced from faraway places by unsustainable means and reducing food waste is always a challenge.
Connecting food and place
The Taste of Place program was therefore designed as a solution to an increasingly strained and defective food system. In true Adventure Canada style—learning through food, culture, music, arts, and science have long been at the core of their expeditions—it promotes local cuisine through culinary ambassadors.
The program was introduced on the Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition in October, spearheaded by Lori McCarthy, a talented chef, outdoorswoman, and fierce advocate for the preservation of traditional food culture in Newfoundland through her company Cod Sounds.
McCarthy worked hard to load the Ocean Endeavour with fresh Newfoundland products such as seal, moose, and hand-picked partridge berries, and designed a menu that incorporated all these local flavours. She also spoke to passengers about her passion for locally sourced food and traditional family dishes. As Swan says: “She brought it into context and made it very personal.”
One thing that was important to both Swan and McCarthy was that the menus were designed with waste reduction in mind. Leftovers from previous servings, like mussels and moose, could easily be incorporated into upcoming meals. In the future, Swan also wants to develop an onboard composting system that offloads nutrient-rich soil to local communities.
A group effort
To make this program possible, Adventure Canada partnered with many organizations, including Ocean Wise, Slow Food Canada & USA, Food Day Canada, and Régénération Canada.