Seeing this man, walking away from the Wolfville Farmer’s Market with a
backpack overflowing in fresh vegetables and a JUST US! fair trade coffee in hand reminded me of something a New York Times food writer told a former head of A Taste of Nova Scotia. He said, “In most places, people eat to live, but in Nova Scotia you live to eat.” It’s a pretty astute observation. The bulk of our festivals are essentially food-based celebrations. We celebrate birth, success, friendship, marriage and death with food.
And while The 100 Mile Diet urges responsible – and better – eating by employing local and seasonal ingredients, most places in this province can do better. The Annapolis Valley can offer a 10-mile diet that includes farm-fresh produce, proteins, fruit, plus local seafood and shellfish, wines, craft beers, ciders and spirits.
Wolfville seems to be the poster community for our food addiction. With 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, this town of 7,000 people (divided between permanent residents and Acadia University students) has evolved into the province’s culinary capital.
It is the centre of Nova Scotia’s booming wine sector. Wolfville is ringed by vineyards and wineries producing award-winning reds, whites, sparking and ice wines. In summer the Magic Wine Bus, a pink, double-decker London bus, offers a weekend hop-on, hop-off service to a cluster of wineries in the Gaspereau Valley and Grand Pre.
In winter there’s an ice-wine festival. Each November, Wolfville hosts DEVOUR,
the Food Film Festival. During DEVOUR only food-related films and documentaries are aired. Visiting culinary stars prepare meals based on film themes. The film and food pairing is brilliant. For example, after a documentary on oysters six types of local oysters were shucked in the theatre lobby and served with seven local vodkas. Sure beats popcorn.
Thanks to a couple of locally-owned food trucks the community benefits from a type of drive-by gourmet experience. In the centre of town an old apple warehouse is home to a vibrant Saturday Farmer’s Market, where this man filled his backpack. The Farmers’ Market brings together farmers, fishmongers, cheese makers, specialty food producers, bakers, a French chocolatier and local chefs preparing fresh pasta, sushi, Moroccan, German and fusion dishes for consumption there or take away. The market also brings in local wines and spirits, crafts people and entertainers. On Wednesdays, the Market hosts a community dinner with fresh ingredients from vendors.
It’s such a food-crazy place that even the yarn shop has a food counter and a curiosity shop is a front for a killer doughnut company. A former bookstore is now a cider company. And while it must be the one university town without a Chinese restaurant, Wolfville does have among it’s pizza places a gourmet stop offering pizza from a traditional wood-burning oven, plus Moroccan and Mediterranean restaurants, and even a crepery.
Wolfville has two approaches. From Halifax, people pass through Grand Pre. The landscape of Grand Pre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the longest, continuously farmed part of North America and is site of the Deportation of the Acadians. In 1755, the French farmers, the Acadians, who reclaimed land from the tides of the Minas Basin by building hundreds of miles of dykes, were deported by the British. Some of the 10,000 deportees landed in Louisiana where they dropped the ‘A’ and became known as Cajuns. In essence, the Annapolis Valley is the homeland of Louisiana’s Cajun culture – and cuisine. That goes to the area’s culinary ‘street creds’.
Approaching the community from the other direction, you pass by four farm
markets operated by the Bishop, Hennigar, Stirling and Elderkin families. Each market is on the edge of their farmlands and each farm has been in the family for three, four and more generations.
To paraphrase Martha Stewart, it’s a good place. For food and drink.