Spring is here and migratory birds have begun to arrive. This is a great time to get out and see them. Some species have flown all the way from Central America and Mexico. Migratory Bird Week is your opportunity to get to know more about them. The City of Vancouver and several partner organizations interested in birds are putting on walks in many local parks, talks at the Vancouver Library and more. You can see the times and places by going to the Stanley Park Ecology Society web site. I will be at the proclamation at the Stanley Park heron colony by the Park Board Office on May 4 and speaking on ‘Society of Crows’ at the main library in the evening of May 11. This talk has proved to be very popular with audiences. It delves into the intelligence of crows with some amusing stories, explores their nesting behaviour and thieving ways, and ends with the rush hour exodus of thousands of crows from Vancouver to an evening roost.
On January 1, 2013 my family assembled around our dining room table to celebrate the first First Day Feast. What is a First Day Feast? On one day of the year – in our case, it was the first day of the year and hence the name – we decided that we would have a feast made up entirely of locally sourced food. We chose the region referred to as the Salish Sea to establish the boundaries. The Salish Sea is the collective waterbodies known as the Strait of Georgia in BC, Puget Sound in Washington, and Juan de Fuca Strait shared by both BC and Washington. The land in the watershed of the Salish Sea and the ocean are more or less a single large ecosystem.
The idea of a feast was to focus our attention on the value of land, ocean and rivers as a source of food and to its diversity of wildlife. What better way to appreciate the region than through a feast literally rooted in the land.
Setting out to have a feast of only locally sourced food took careful planning. No spices are locally grown so we had to improvise or choose dishes with other ingredients. We were pleasantly surprised to find sea salt from Vancouver Island. Honey was used for sweetening, beef and flour came from wheat grown in the Fraser Valley, wine and balsamic vinegar came from the Gulf Islands, and vegetables were from local farms and greenhouses. We were pleasantly surprised by how much food is locally sourced around Vancouver which reflects the productivity of the soil and ocean. The challenge of the First Day Feast to come up with dishes that do not require distant sourced ingredients. One solution is to search for recipes that fit the local source rule but another fun idea would be to come up with entirely new food that would be unique to the region.
Before the dinner began, I unveiled a large number 1 lit with Christmas lights. We spoke about where each food came from as we dug into the feast. We thought how much easier it would be to find food in the summer and so we are considering a feast from food all gathered while on bicycles. But that is for later. We plan to celebrate the First Day Feast each year on January 1. Maybe you might join in too.