As we sit on our sundecks until late into the evening, enjoying the warm breeze and the generous hours of daylight, it is difficult to fathom that in just a few months, much of Canada will be firmly clenched in the jaws of Old Man Winter.
Why disturb our citronella scented reverie with distasteful images of snow shovels, block heater cords, winter boots and plunging temperatures?
If you are a sustainable meeting planner who has an event (large or small) happening in the very early spring, you should be thinking about winter and how it might effect your “locally grown” menu selection. There will be minimal quantities of local, fresh produce available in the early spring, and that presents a bit of a problem for those who want to showcase regional, seasonal items.
The reality is that in many instances, we don’t really think about our food and more specifically, our menu, until the month or two leading up to our event.
Here are five different ways to
- save money,
- support local food growers and
- reduce food waste.
It is possible, but it requires changing the way we plan our events. We need to reconfigure our checklists and Excel spreadsheets. We need to back up the proverbial bus and begin considering our event menu earlier in the planning process rather than later.
What can you do to ensure that you have some local flavour added to your event menu?
Garden fresh goodness: The art of food preservation has seen a remarkable resurgence of popularity. There are a few caterers and restaurants which grow and then “put up” or preserve a selection of items like pickles, jams and salsas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to serve a typically Canadian cocktail like the Caesar (invented in Calgary in the late 1960s) with a locally grown and pickled green bean?
You will save money by purchasing food items when they are available locally, plentiful and fresh. It also contributes to the bottom line of your local food producers and contributes to Community Social Responsibility.
Freeze it! Berries and herbs can be picked at the peak of freshness and then flash frozen to use later when you are craving the taste of summer. Imagine serving your guests fruit smoothies created with summer berries picked months earlier or serving a pesto made from herbs grown organically in your community. You will minimize food waste by taking advantage of the increased quantities of berries and tomatoes which might not be “pretty” enough to be sold commercially, but perfect for jams and salsas.
Get to the root of it: Ask your caterer if they have access to locally grown root vegetables, all of which would be harvested and stored in late fall for use during the year.
Think beyond the event menu: Consider giving local food items as gifts to speakers and special guests. Considering these opportunities early on in the planning process provides many more options. Small jars of jams, jellies and honey can make thoughtful tokens of appreciation – even more so when there is a “story” attached to it. A personal touch is to include a card sharing where the berries were picked, etc.
Think outside the traditional food garden: Consider items such as lavender, which can be used for both baking and gift items, or herbal teas made from rosehips.
We are so fortunate to live in a country with such an amazing food bounty available to us. It is wonderful to be able to share the taste of all four seasons with our attendees all year long. It just takes a little more time, a little more planning and can take your event from ordinary to extraordinary!