When an invitation to a literary cocktail event came into this cocktail lover’s mailbox, you can bet that I was quick to respond, and when the organizers then offered me a day pass to Appetite for Words, Stratford’s Literary and Culinary festival, I roped in a friend and we were off! (Thanks, Roseanne!)
Appetite for Words is a series of meals, workshops and readings that allows visitors to experience the literary and culinary arts in a new way. At literary meals, food is matched with an author’s readings, so participants can actually taste the words they’re hearing. The program features authors who have written about food, and fiction writers who allow food to become a strong component of the scenes and the characters in their novels. To complement the content of the books, chefs from Stratford Chefs School create menus inspired by the featured books. Our day began with a farm lunch at Church Hill Farms and ended with a dinner at the Stratford Chefs School restaurant. Peppered between these meals, there was also a workshop in the Chefs School classroom and a Literary Cocktail Tasting held at Junction 56 Distillery. It was a glorious day of discovering new food, drink and books.
The programme began with a ploughman’s lunch at Church Hill Farm, where the owners opened up their home, and we feasted on a ploughman’s lunch of local meats, cheeses, pickles and breads.
I tasted quince in a cold-pressed juice for the first time, and it was a tart and refreshing start to the meal. The selection of cheeses was outstanding, and they were rich and flavourful, perfect with the rustic breads. It was all heavenly, and that was before the reading even got underway!
Lunch was followed by a reading by Jonah Campbell, author of the essay collection Eaten Back to Life, and an interview with Theresa Albert.
Next on our agenda was a class on autobiographical food writing: how to write the self into a menu or recipe with Chef Andrew George Jr. at The Stratford Chefs School. We were assigned the task of writing a menu or a recipe in exactly 50 words that reflected our personal history. As the author of three successful cookbooks of traditional and fusion interpretations of Canadian First Nations’ cuisine, he stressed the importance of finding the purpose of your recipe, beginning with the simplicity of what you know, and then adding your own personal twist to create the “wow” moment.
We were supposed to go from there to a wine tasting at Pazzo, but when we arrived, we discovered that the event had been cancelled. The very best of silver linings meant that we sat and enjoyed an unstructured hour of a cocktail and an afternoon nibble, and I was able to taste Dillon’s absinthe, something I’ve been curious about for ages. (Verdict: it’s potent!)
Literary cocktails were next on the menu at Junction 56, where we learned about the art of distilling from the fantastic Leah McGuire and sipped on puntastic literary cocktails.
To round out the night, we headed back to the chefs school for a dinner inspired by Alice Zorn’s Five Roses, set in Montreal. The meal was a glorious interpretation of Quebecois working class food, both comforting and innovative. It began with a deconstructed habitant pea soup, in which ham, crisp croutons, peas and a poached egg were set in a bowl and then drowned in the pea soup. That was followed by a divine tourtiere, the taste of my Montreal winters.
After the main course, Theresa Albert reprised her role as interviewer, and interviewed Alice Zorn and she read from her novel Five Roses.
I loved every minute of this day, and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a day trip or a weekend event.
If you would like a taste of these literary dinners, Appetite for Words has an ongoing book club with events throughout the year. Find out more here.
Many thanks to Digiwriting for the invitation to Appetite for Words and to Roseanne for being my partner in indulgences. You can read Roseanne’s post about the day here.