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Eating with intention, and always hungry

New food and drink blogger Jessica Emin on her culinary passions, why good food matters and last meals

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Emin stands in Gaspereau Vineyards, with a glass of Muscat, naturally. Photo by Scott Munn

Emin stands in Gaspereau Vineyards, with a glass of Muscat, naturally. Photo by Scott Munn

Food and drink run my life.

When studying at Mount Allison University, I had a realization about happiness. When stressed, I would push all work and pressing deadlines aside and cook. I’d cook so much that I would need to invite people over to share the heaps of food, then my starving student friends would ask about my creations. I relished sharing the food and the knowledge, and it resulted in many grade deductions on my late papers.

The cooking, reading about food and researching wine that I did back then are now what I’m trying to make into a career. After graduating from Mount Allison with some writing and photography chops, I took my van across the country to work in the lush Okanagan Valley, where I lived in the vineyard and fell in love with wine. I got a killer tan working between the vine rows, pruning and thinning leaves, and learned a lot working alongside sommeliers and enthusiasts in the tasting room.

When I got back to reality, sitting in a journalism class, at King’s College, here in Halifax, and told my peers I wanted to write about food and wine, I got more than a few stink-eyed looks. I didn’t want to write hard news, and I still don’t. (It’s a noble job, just not for me.)

Food and drink are important. Some of us lucky humans get to indulge three times a day with food that not only fills a void, but stimulates the mind and our taste buds. I believe that what we eat communicates our sense of adventure, culture and our mindfulness towards the world.

What we put into our bodies can be a creative or political statement, or it can just be blissful. I don’t take food lightly, and I certainly don’t think it should be perceived as a flippant interest. Conscious eating, and that isn’t to say it’s always necessarily healthy, can affect the way you look at the rest of the world, and stay with you through other aspects of life.

“I believe that what we eat communicates our sense of adventure, culture and our mindfulness towards the world.”

Whether a crispy, hot piece of homemade fried chicken puts you in such a good mood that you’re kind to strangers for the rest of the day, or that buying fresh market vegetables influences you to become part of a community garden, it can’t hurt to think about what’s fuelling you, or to demand better quality.

With this blog, I hope to give you more insight into our local food culture, whether it be through restaurants, farms or purveyors. I’ll also take affordability and the importance of sustainable food systems into consideration when writing, but indulgence and mass produced crap-food inevitably make their way into my life, as well.

Restaurant experiences will also be part of my upcoming repertoire. Eight years as a server and bartender at everything from a microbrewery, to a beer-slinging English style pub, to Italian fine-dining, to a sweet local wine bar will inform the way I look at the service, food and drink in our city.

I’d like to think  that most people who’ve spent a few years serving tables, and admiring cooks work their asses off, knows the difference between a fluke, and carelessness or mismanagement when it comes to service and food. I respect all those who work in such a cutthroat, tireless industry, and that means I have even more appreciation when a food business shows consistency, attention to detail and gives added value to their experience.

“[…]Most people who’ve spent a few years serving tables, and admiring cooks work their asses off, knows the difference between a fluke, and carelessness or mismanagement when it comes to service and food.”

My training as wine professional, which started a few years ago, and is ongoing, will inform my comments on wine lists, pairings and, less often, cocktails and beer (not from lack of interest, rather from fear of putting my foot in my mouth.) I just finished my exam for the third of four levels of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a course not unlike a sommelier certification, and can confidently assess the quality of wine, but I still feel like I’ve just gotten my feet wet in the world of wine. I will always be a student.  

Lastly, although it’s a bit cliched, I get a kick out of asking people to reflect on their hypothetical last meal, if they could predict their impending death. I feel that the response is telling, so here’s mine. My last meal, if I was to die tomorrow, would be a large piece of very old gouda, an old Riesling from Alsace, 6 Sober Island oysters, buffalo style battered and fried sweetbread, a heaping bowl of butter-fried caramelized yellow onions, a diner style cheeseburger with dill pickles, sea-water steamed Bay of Fundy lobster—just plain, and a piece of my Mom’s carrot cake, which is the only one I entertain, because of the 3-to-1 ratio of cream cheese to icing sugar in the frosting. I’m a glutton.

I’m looking forward to showing you Halifax’s food and drink through my words and pictures. If there’s something you want highlighted, let me know. I’ll try to take your suggestions into consideration while I eat and drink my way through the city.

Cheers, and happy eating.

  • SouthCoastTODAY

    Looking forward to reading your stuff.

  • Jessica Emin

    Thank you so much, please follow me on social media, too. @thejessicaemin

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