Jennifer Lim and Don Chow love food and Ottawa and have written a book about it: Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital. They are also the bloggers for my personal favourite Ottawa food blog: Foodieprints. The book is now available in stores and on Amazon.ca.
The book looks at Ottawa’s food landscape as well as transformations in the last 30 years or so in Ottawa’s continuously evolving food scene. Before we get to talking about the food scene itself, I was really curious about how Jen and Don, who are a couple, became successful food bloggers.
Jenn informed me that it really all started by accident. Don made biscotti for a Christmas party potluck and the dish proved so popular he got multiple requests for the recipe. Rather than repeatedly emailing it to requestors, he decided he would post it on the web. And so began Foodieprints, a blog highlighting their love of food, which actually really falls in line with the evolution of their love for one another.
Jenn and Don began dating when she was in her4th year of undergrad at Queen’s University. During their long-distance relationship, Don also moved into a bachelor pad, and his domestic skills appeared by all accounts to require development. Jenn’s friends, as she puts it, were not confident in Don’s bachelor skills, particularly as he was asking how to turn on the washing machine and dishwasher. “He started to take pictures of all of the food he would make himself to show us that he could survive.” When Jenn returned to Ottawa after school was over, they started to go to restaurants and do reviews. “It was like dating all over again!” she said. Petit Bill’s restaurant on Wellington West was their first review. They got to try new restaurants like Juniper before they even opened. The blog is now in its eighth year and the two are now married and the site is full of pictures of Don and Jenn’s food reviews and delicious food creations.
Now back to the book – here are some teasers. There are some important things that it notes about Ottawa’s food scene. First, Ottawa is a truly unique place given that it is 80% rural, and 20% urban. There is a demand by restaurant goers for locally made food which is possible given the fact that there are some 1,200 farms in the area. There is an absence of a restaurant scene past 10 p.m. in Ottawa and that is because perhaps Ottawans are not eating out as much as people do in other cities like Toronto and Montreal. The food scene in Ottawa is also very collaborative.
Jenn tells me that one of her favourite parts of the book is about how some chefs are taking care of people in the community. She mentions Ric Watson of the Ottawa Mission. He’s a trained chef and has chosen to give back to his community by working there. There are other organizations like the Ottawa Food Bank and the Parkdale Food Centre that help to change things for people who may not have access to food.
I get the impression that Don and Jenn think that Ottawa’s scene is growing, but needs more support from the community to thrive and perhaps even to drive down food prices. Don adds,”I believe very strongly that Ottawa deserves the food scene we create. If we don’t support our restaurants, if we don’t support our farmers, if we don’t support our independent entrepreneurs and restaurants we will lose them. I think that Ottawa knows better and has learned to know better.”
A book launch at West End Well for the Hungry Capital will be held Wednesday, October 29 at 7 p.m. at the West End Well Co-op, 969 Wellington Street West, Ottawa. Don and Jenn will be there to sign books.