The Island’s Project Cooks up Powerful Message

March 4, 2009

It is often stated that sacrifice and change are necessary measures humans must employ in order sustain the planet. For the average person,
these words conger up images of fear, discomfort, back-breaking labour
and lifestyle disruption.  On the contrary, Michael Stadtlander’s trek across Canada honours the will of the people and our bright future by interspersing multiple courses of culinary delights and environmental messages amidst the backdrop of this beautiful country.

The film begins on Michael’s farm near Collingwood, Ontario where he, his wife and children, and a group of dedicated citizens operate a local eden of garden space and culinary and environmental education.  With “food as ammunition,” Michael and his clan set out in a diesel-powered red schoolbus, travelling some 3000km to the BC Gulf Islands.  The bus serves as a mobile kitchen equipped with solar and wind-operated stoves and appliances and a dining area where up to 12 people can be seated for dinner.

There are many contentious subjects broached in this film, issues that have drawn battle lines between environmentalists and skeptics for decades.  We meet chastised loggers who turn out to be wonderful environmental stewards, local farmers who advocate for agricultural education, slow food and co-op’s of committed volunteers, and inspiring people who celebrate our cultural diversity and power to make a difference.  There are also examples of using shells and creative “natural” serving dishes to reduce waste and reusing litter, driftwood and “junk” to construct trash to treasures.

Oh, right, the food.  Stadtlander supplements his message with food that would make a person never want to eat mac and cheese or frozen stuff ever again.  He uses many local ingredients: salmon, blackberries, apples, oysters, mussels, prawns and garden vegetables that, quite frankly, have to be seen (or eaten!) to be believed.  This Andy Goldsworthian marriage between humans and nature, with food holding everything together, shines a beautifully positive and artistic mirror on how we can potentially connect with the Earth.

Fortunately, we’re now learning that small shifts in our perspective and routine can yield results worth celebrating.  This film teaches us that we can still eat meat, can still build houses, and still travel without having to milk Bessy at dawn every morning to make a difference. This is exactly the positive message we draw from this inspiring documentary not about loss and sacrifice, but the beauty of what we will gain.

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