A Challenging Task We’re Pleased to Take On
There has not been a single issue of Eatdrink ever published that didn’t include important contributions from women. For over a decade, in the stories we share, and behind the scenes, women’s voices, talents and values have helped shape the magazine. That has been entirely intentional. This begs the question: Then why this special issue?
While this idea has floated around here for years, it was the closure of the Women’s Lifestyle Show (WLS) in 2016 that prompted me to act. For many years, Eatdrink helped coordinate the Cooking Stage at WLS, and that March weekend helped define our March/April publication. All good things do end, but when WLS ran its course, we really missed it in 2017. Our first Women’s Issue was planned for 2018, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8. We have received nothing but confirmation that we are on the right track.
We discovered that 2018 marked the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage — their right to vote — in Canada. The #metoo movement, The Globe & Mail’s “Unfounded” stories uncovering police dismissal of an alarming number of sexual assault cases without proper investigation, and allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety arising almost daily against high-profile figures in film, television, music, theatre, industry, politics and almost every aspect of human activity have put “women’s issues” on the front burner, steaming hot.
While controversy has definitely been part of the conversation, I hasten to add that I believe this is all a good thing. I won’t steal the thunder from the women who speak on the following pages, but — clearly — our society is reconciling longstanding problems that should never be tolerated by good people. We should do better, we can do better, we are doing better. Eatdrink applauds that, with an issue meant to celebrate gains that women have made, and acknowledge that the world of food and drink that we are immersed in here is not immune to problems of inequality and disadvantages for women.
Of course, we immediately had what I would call “a good problem” on our hands. We are a small magazine with finite resources, and there is no way for us to muster the required pages to celebrate all the women we started listing. I have no doubt we could fill every page just with the names. So this is just a start, a new tradition that we will look forward to every year.
We’ve done our best to be representative of so many groups, but I think of women such as Nancy Hotson, proprietor of Stratford’s oldest coffee shop, The Buzz Stop on York St., and purveyor of (shhh!) fine cigars. And the myriad longtime servers keeping a smile on their face night after night. We’re missing those who are somewhat backstage, the glue that holds so many businesses together while hardly being noticed. I will work on a way to celebrate them better next year.
The next question regarded who to put on the cover. I’m happy that the honour fell to Alieska Robles, whose energy for The Forest City Cookbook (excitedly anticipated for release later this spring) has galvanized London’s culinary community this year. Alieska, who is a passionate proponent of local cuisine, holds the centuries-old symbol of hospitality: a pineapple. We all are aware that pineapples do not grow in Ontario! The tradition, I understand, arose because this fruit was so delicious but rare that its presentation was a sign that no expense or trouble had been spared by one’s host. My hope is that this issue speaks to that as well. We have done our best to support and celebrate the women in our community, and I hope you enjoy our efforts.