Food writer Jennifer Schell comes by her passion for the Okanagan honestly: she comes from generations of local farmers who passed their respect for the land down to her. Today, she shares her love for the region through her writing, and by introducing us to the community that produces our food. Below, she dishes about how inspiring a taste of the Okanagan can be – and to prove it, she gave us some mouth-watering suggestions to refresh your table for April!
Buy Local Eat Natural: You described your award-winning book The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine and Cheese Maker as “a love letter to the Okanagan”. How did your love affair with this sunny BC farming region get started?
Jennifer Schell: I was born and raised on a beautiful orchard in Kelowna. My family’s Okanagan farming roots thread through my grandparents on both sides and I am reminded each harvest time of how thankful I am that this wonderful Okanagan soil allowed my immigrant grandparents to thrive. Growing up, they instilled that respect for the soil in me and passed on their old world methods of composting, preserving and tending vegetable gardens, raising chickens and pigs, making their own sausage and wine — these days we call it good, organic, sustainable living; they called it survival.
BLEN: You’ve got a lot of food writing on the go; between your regular food and wine column, working as editor-in-chief of Wine Trails and publishing gorgeous books on the side . What keeps you coming back to writing about eating local?
JS: I am never without writing material living here and being constantly inspired by our local farmers, chefs and artisans. It is crucial to instill in consumers the importance of eating, drinking and buying local. Not only are we supporting our farming industry, which provides us with healthful food, it is also so important to make consumers aware of the choice to invest their money in our local food supply and community. It is the circle of local life.
BLEN: Your last writing project brought together local chefs, farmers and wine makers to share recipes as well as the stories behind the contributors. Why was it important to you to highlight the people behind the food?
JS: I first saw a menu in Paris fifteen years ago that named the farm or artisan each ingredient came from and it was life altering. These are the people that are working to keep our heritage seeds, to save the bees and give good conscience back to meat and fish eaters. My goal is to help provide a stage for them to educate us about what they are doing and why.
BLEN: As we head into springtime, we’re getting excited about BC’s spring greens and sablefish. Can you recommend a good Okanagan wine and cheese pairing to compliment a springtime soiree?
JS: The Okanagan’s repertoire of rosé has expanded over the last few years, offering a wide range of delicious styles. Upper Bench Winery & Creamery in Naramata has been a gift to local palates, offering the creations of husband-and-wife team Gavin and Shana Miller (he’s wine, she’s cheese) to our food and wine scene. I love Gavin’s Rosé 2012 paired with Shana’s U&Brie Brie!
BLEN: Sounds delicious! Do you have a favourite seasonal recipe you could share with us?
JS: Fresh local asparagus will be up soon and when it’s in season I think I eat it every day! I love it grilled with some shaved Parmesan but I also made a delicious discovery last year: Asparagus Pesto.