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Food, glorious food

In television, tv on 03/18/2009 at 2:20 pm

Remember when there was only one kind of vinegar? When the only lettuce was iceberg? When broccoli was invented?

Oh wait, most of that was definitely just me, living in a single-parent family headed, during most of the 1970s, by my dad and filled out by my two younger brothers. Gourmet was cheese slices on the Minute Rice. Most of the home-cooked food was eaten in somebody else’s dining room. Oh we survived, largely with the help of Campbell’s, Kraft and Captain Highliner. But discovering, publically of course, that broccoli had been around for quabillions of years? Embarrassing. But also liberating.

You, I trust, were never so sheltered. But it’s likely that 10 years ago or more, you also did not have, say, balsamic vinegar at the ready. Nor the spices to make your own curry blend. Or soy milk. Or know the name of the nearest sushi house.

Cheaper travel, the web and the proliferation of cable television are just some of the factors that have gathered many of us at the global food table, where you can eat almost anything from almost anywhere. Even more choice if you prefer to cook it yourself.

A new Doc Zone series starting on CBC Thursday, March 19 takes a four-part look at our changed and changing relationship with food and from the two hours I’ve sampled, it’s worth watching, not least because it’s shot in glorious HD (what ARE you waiting for?). Montrealers, take special note: chef Ricardo and food writer Adam Gollner are among the local experts called upon.

The Great Food Revolution: A Citizen’s Guide to Eating in the 21st Century starts it off March 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBC with The Great Food Revolution, which clocks the arrival of sushi in California as well as the more recent advent of salad in a bag. It looks at the explosion of food television, food magazines and books and our love affair with food images in same, and the democratization of Modena, Italy’s balsamic vinegar. Nothing, as you’d expect, about the invention of broccoli. Ah well.

Part 2, the Battle to Get on Your Plate at 9 p.m. ET on March 19, looks at the race to create or capture the next everyday staple: last year, 18,000 new products were developed for North American alone, with only 10 per cent making the cut.

Part 3 — airing at 8 p.m. ET on March 26 — my fave of the bunch, is a look at the food life of the second* best city in the world. 24 Hours, 24 Million Meals: Feeding New York begins with the midnight frenzy at Hunts Point in the Bronx, one of the largest food distribution facilities in the world. Let the haggling begin. Then on to a midtown bakery where 1,000 ciabattas are being hand thumped in preparation for delivery to just one sandwich maker. Over in Vermont, at about 3 a.m., a bleary eyed cheesemaker loads her van and begins the four-hour drive to Union Square Market, where she sells twice a week to foodies and top chefs. Back in Hunts Point, at The New Fulton Fish Market, vendors are dropping their prices. In the produce section, a silver-smiled agent for City Harvest is beginning his nightly rounds of asking for donations of slightly-off-perfect wares. In a few hours, one of the soup kitchens he supplies will be buzzing under the direction of a chef who left his boutique resto after 9/11. Later still in a much swankier kitchen, a truffle seller fresh off the plane from Italy sweats through price negotiation with famous chef Daniel Boulud.

Part 4, Food the Future, follows at 9 p.m. ET on March 26 on CBC makes some educated guesses about what we’ll be eating in five years. Jamie Oliver helps out.

Here’s the website, where you can get details on your chances of winning an iPod Touch. Can’t cook without one, apparently.

— Denise “Broccoli” Denise

* Winnipeg, of course, being the best city in the world.

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