Twenty-Twenty Vision: Hindsight & Foresight in 2020

Written by Chris McDonell

am cautiously optimistic that the new decade that has just been launched will be one that will be looked back upon with fondness at some future date. A century ago, the world was in a sorry state, coming out of a grievous period marked by horrifying world war followed by a devastating influenza epidemic. Today’s climate change crisis, with floods and fires taking a toll in equal measure, and the preponderance of harsh autocrats and self-interested oligarchs coming to power in so many corners of the globe has similarly put many of us into a dark mood, with worries about where we are headed as a society. Is it possible that we are in the process of turning a corner? Is it possible that this too shall pass? Today we recall The Roaring Twenties of the twentieth century as a halcyon celebratory time, with joyful music and dance, boozy nightlife, and general prosperity. I don’t imagine too many people saw that coming in January 1920. Let’s hope we will look back one day upon the 2020s with equal affection, as a time when we embraced the environmental changes we needed to make, as a time when we pushed back retrograde political impulses and recommitted ourselves to democracy, equality, and justice for all. This is certainly possible.

We have got a number of things right over the past decade. Looking back to our first issue of 2010, our Writer at Large Bryan Lavery wrote about “Culinary Tourism” as an emerging trend. Understanding the critical role that genuine encounters with local food and drink had in driving tourism made sense to us then, and it makes even more sense to us now, especially with the recent understanding of how authentic “Experiential Tourism” takes this to another level. All of this is reflected in our new volume of our annual Local Flavour guide. Copies will soon be widely available, and you can check the website for pickup locations, or you can access the entire guide online. 

This year’s guide includes outstanding culinary attractions throughout our corner of Southwest Ontario. London serves as somewhat of a hub, with strong representation in the restaurant, specialty shop and craft brewery areas. Support from SWOTC (Southwest Ontario Tourism Corp.) and the Ministry of Tourism helped broaden participation from the Lake Erie North Shore and Huron Shores wine regions, as well as breweries, distillers and agricultural attractions throughout that region. Huron and Perth Counties are also well respresented, particularly by craft brewers, inns and a strong representation of Stratford restaurants. There’s plenty for everyone in this handy guide we’re sure you’ll find useful throughout 2020.

Looking back upon the last decade in the life of Eatdrink, it’s also easy to see that we made some regrettable mistakes along the way. I’m not referring to the petty but infuriating typos that somehow manage to make their way into the carefully edited text, or even a couple of more serious errors in reportage that involved apology and clarification or correction. These were problems that were resolved fairly easily, or were trivial enough that they were of no real consequence. My deep regrets come from the occasional mismanagement of expectations around stories, and the resulting hurt feelings and disappointments from people that I care about. I wish I could promise that this will not happen again. In good conscience, I cannot guarantee that. 

Our endeavour to celebrate such a large culinary community with some depth means that our gaze cannot fall in equal measure across the full spectrum of activity at all times. What we can do is strive to keep our eye roving for exciting new creative endeavours without ignoring the long-standing businesses that are equally worth celebrating. I don’t mean to make excuses, but this is a heady responsibility and a challenging task that entails difficult decisions with every issue of the magazine. If our readers did not regard our story choices with faith in our judgment, this would not matter so much, but we know that our editorial spotlight generally results in new business. We do our best to spread that attention around as generously as possible. It is truly great news that our community is so rich with stories worth telling. The bad news is that our little magazine cannot fit them all into an annual output of six issues.

We rely upon our social media channels to help alleviate some of the pressure involved with spreading the word about great businesses and activity that we know our readers are interested in. If you are not following us yet, please do. If you are not sharing your news with us online, either directly or by tagging us with your posts, please change that. If you are not sending us your news for our BUZZ column, start. We want to share your information and for many readers, this is the first part of the magazine that they read. But we don’t have the journalistic resources to gather all of this information. Have I mentioned that there is no charge for any of these services? We’re waiting to hear from you!

If you have a business that has never advertised with us, we encourage you to have a discussion with us about that. While we labour over our editorial content, we can assure you that our readers also look at our ads with genuine interest, and make a great deal of purchasing decisions based upon them. This is the real value in being a niche publication. The ads in Eatdrink magazine are part and parcel of our ability to tell the story of what is going on in the community. We assure you that there is great value in investing in ads here. If you have doubts, we encourage you to flip through these pages and call some of our advertisers and ask them how this magazine is working for them. Call at a convenient time and I’m sure you’ll get an honest answer.

I am pleased that an exceptionally good friend to Eatdrink has embarked upon a well-deserved retirement, but I am personally and professionally going to miss my interactions with Cathy Rehberg at Stratford Tourism Alliance. Cathy has been a tireless advocate for Stratford — there has never been any doubt about where her loyalties lay — yet she has also given generously of her expertise to help make Eatdrink a better magazine. For a number of years, Cathy volunteered her time with us as an editorial advisor, not only keeping us informed about the latest changes and developments in Stratford, but helping shape the overall approach and focus of the magazine with suggestions and feedback. This was a vital service, and helped immeasurably in getting us on a successful track. Just as important was Cathy’s constant encouragement and buoyant good nature, her genuine concern for our success, and kindness, even when her budget was tighter than we wished it was, or she asked for data to decide whether to recommend her organization spend money with Eatdrink. Stratford has always been important to this publication, but if that had not led us to meet Cathy Rehberg, I’m not sure we would be where we are today. Thanks, Cathy. I look forward to hearing about your next adventures.

The Eatdrink New Year effectively kicks off at the London Wine & Food Show every year, running January 16–18 in 2020 at the Western Fair Agriplex, and we’re proud to include our “Profiles of Excellence” show supplement in this issue. Innovators Cowbell Brewing Co. and Dairy Distillery are featured, and I think that it is no coincidence that both have made architectural and environmental considerations central to their business model. Consumers demand a great product — that’s number one — but read on to find out how that is enhanced, not compromised, by their manufacturing approach.

Bryan Lavery had rounded up a number of outstanding examples of Central and Eastern European cuisines that contribute to London’s vital restaurant scene. There’s more than sauerkraut on the menus, but with that kind of fermentation becoming such a hot trend, from kombucha to kimchi to craft cocktails, Tracy Turlin reviews Fermentation Revolution as a guide for us, with some inspiring recipes. George Macke has some great suggestions for broadening one’s craft beer palate, and Gary Killops has some Ontario red wines that will help warm you up for winter. There’s plenty more to make this a great start to the year, and I wish you all the best for 2020.


About the author

Chris McDonell

Eatdrink founder and publisher Chris McDonell brings integrity and a widely diverse background in publishing to the task of making Eatdrink a vital part of the food and drink scene in Southwestern Ontario.