Last week I attended City Farm School held by Concordia University’s Greenhouse – a week of enlightenment and education as myself and 30 or so like-minded individuals learnt the practices, philosophies and politics of urban agriculture in the 21st century.
In breaks between building vermicompost bins and studying the theory of permaculture, we feasted on fresh and hearty lunches made by some earth-conscious caterer.
Sweet potato and sunflower seed-flecked veggie pâté baguettes.
Vibrant green salads with sprouts cultivated in the greenhouse.
Technicolour beet salad.
More-ish black beans and rice with fresh coriander and tomato salsa.
Hand crafted rice paper rolls and pizza.
Having endured more than a handful of oil-laden samosas at the odd shindig, I think it’s fair to say that good, healthy, enviro-friendly, no-fuss catering is hard to come by. On chatting with the craftswoman – Concordia alumna Vanessa Finnie – I discovered that all the produce had been sourced from Jean-Talon Market or from local businesses, and was, where feasible, seasonal and organic. Whilst a little unlike the other food secrets I’ve shared here, Finnie’s catering is definitely one of Montreal’s hidden gems.
Finnie’s love for large-scale cooking stemmed from a university internship with a ‘meals on wheels’-type organization where she worked as a summer coordinator cooking for 30 people a night, three times a week.
Inspired by the summer, she took on her first gig with Sustainable Concordia, cooking for three days out of her home with nil professional experience to produce a sustainable, seasonal feast for 50 of the university’s professors.
Each apple filling the 12 pies she crafted were hand picked, the pasta was flavoured with pesto produced from her mother’s basil plant, and the leek and potato soup and grilled veggies were all sourced locally. “I think that apple pie I made was really good…I put so much love into that.” She describes the event as, “a great but stressful experience… It took me a little a while to do it again…but then I ended up doing it again and again and again.”
Whilst she boasts an academic background in community development, Finnie sees cooking as building on – rather than diverging from – her academic roots. “Food is a central part to community organizing…that’s why I love food so much because you can share it. Just having a meal together can lead to so many things.”
Since then, she has done a handful of weddings – including one in which she created a vanilla wedding cake, decadently frosted and decorated with wildflowers – and community events – one which involved whipping up 500 sandwiches for the City of Montreal.
She is willing to accommodate almost any request for a client – as long is it is within the bounds of vegetarian, unprocessed and sustainable. If you’re looking for party pies and white bread mini sambos, look elsewhere.
With warm weather on the way and the local growing season in sight, Finnie’s catering should be at the front of your mind for your summer event planning.
Vanessa Finnie Catering
Below are a few more pics I snapped whilst in the Greenhouse last week. Enjoy!