It’s hard to imagine Toronto as anything but a food city, but as food critic Joanna Kates writes in her farewell essay in the Globe and Mail this week, it’s clear that this wasn’t always the case.
To be fair, 38 years reviewing restaurants in the city is long enough to gain some perspective of the culinary landscape to say the very least. From the days when Swiss Chalet was the regular go-to for the working class folk to today’s offal (awful) offerings, she’s seen it all and she gives us a good understanding of just how things have changed over the years–and lucky we are that it has.
Can you imagine, other foodies of the city, if there were no Chinese, no Thai, no Italian in this city? How bland would our tastes be? Sure, we’d still have poutine (I’m confident that this would have still migrated down into the city eventually), but certainly not duck confit poutine. And even if we did, would we be able to truly convince anyone of its culinary merits? It’s hard enough to do so these days. Just think of the last time you suggested your out-of-town visitors to hit a poutenerie, that look of mild consternation and disbelief over the thought of fries, gravy and cheese (what did you say? Curds? No thanks.) What if there were nothing else in this city to support our taste?
Kates describes the new type of restaurant owner in the city as being one who hasn’t necessarily grown up in the industry, but is confident enough in his or her ability to trust their palettes to serve others. That’s an incredible thing. We have grown in such a way as eaters in this city that we’re sophisticated enough to serve each other. We no longer need the experts like Suser Lee and Jamie Kennedy who have toiled in the world’s finest kitchens to satisfy our own stomachs (although I would argue that we still appreciate that they still do.) To paraphrase the feminists, we’re “doing it for ourselves”, baby.
She even goes so far as to compare us to that other great city that we’ve strived to be for so long: New York.
For some time now I’ve felt the hum of this city getting louder. The construction, the food trucks, the pop-up shops; they’re all indicative of a change in the air. We’re growing, baby. And yes, there are growing pains. We’re not sure how to adequately transport all these people. Our idea of how to build neighborhoods is in question. Our mayor is a boob. But, regardless of that, there is a change in the air and we can actually taste it.
That’s a wonderful thing. Am I the only who’s noticed this change? What’s been the indicator for you that things are changing in this city?