One thing very few people know about me is that I LOVE documentaries. Our TV at home is basically permanently on Fairchild TV, the Chinese channel, and on Monday nights they have a show called "NCIX: Magazine 26", which alternates between in-house documentaries (if you understand Chinese, you can watch ones on the impact of the economic crisis on Chinese-Canadians of different age groups and about child care in Canada here) and ones that they've translated from CBC. So I was really pumped last week when I read on are you gonna eat that? that there was going to be a FOUR-PART series on food on CBC called The Great Food Revolution.
The first two parts were on last Thursday, and if you missed it you can go and watch the full episodes on their website. The last two parts are TONIGHT at 8 pm, so if you're living in the eastern part of the country, you should go and turn on your TV RIGHT NOW.
There's very little talk about nutrition - the first two parts were more about the evolution of the food industry; how Canadians went from a meat-and-potatoes society to the way we eat today. I did recognize some names, like Adam Leith Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters, but learned a lot more new things, like how balsamic vinegar was brought to America by one Dean & Deluca or the existence of Jungle Jim's, a six-acre grocery store, complete with a theatre and a monorail. A lot of people on Twitter after the show was impressed that the Joy of Cooking has sold four times more copies than the Joy of Sex.
The documentary is a fun romp through the food industry, though at times I didn't like the writing (i.e. the unnecessary emphasis on the shape of the coco-de-mer as "mature content") and it sometimes felt like I was watching an extended ad for Loblaws or Hardbite Chips.
I did love watching the segment on how they develop new President's Choice products at Loblaws. It was interesting to hear Maria Sharvat, VP of Product Development, say that to work in R&D for their food products, you have to "love to eat and to cook." I guess in a way it makes me sad that what starts out as a recipe using real ingredients that you can find at the store ends up having all these chemicals and preservatives added to it in the industrial process for economies of scale.
Anyway, the first part of tonight's show is a whole feature on New York and its industrial kitchens - how chefs, bakers, grocers go about feeding the city. The second part is about the "future of food" - Jamie Oliver's in it, and it looks like we're going to be looking at some molecular gastronomy as well. I'm excited, and it's on antennavision too! (Even though we have the much more reliable satellite.)