Dana VanVeller and Lindsay Anderson had known each other for less than a year when they started planning their culinary road trip across Canada. Last week, the duo released their uniquely Canadian cookbook, FEAST: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. The collection of recipes comes from the people they met on their cross-country journey, and the beautiful resulting publication is now available in Edible Canada’s retail store.
Flashback to June 27, 2013: the two recent friends hopped into a silver Toyota Yaris with a skeleton of a plan and hit the road. The goal was to spend four to five months winding their way across Canada, discovering the culinary heritage and delicacies of each region. But more than that, they wanted to share their experience with their followers. They founded the award winning culinary travel blog, Feast: An Edible Road Trip. According to VanVeller, they wanted to explore and share Canadian food in a way that hadn’t been done before.
“We were really trying to answer the question: how do we define Canadian food culture?” she said. “No one is really willing to claim a national food identity.”
For Anderson, she wanted to prove that Canada does have great food and that culinary tourism is alive and marketable.
“You don’t have to go abroad to have incredible food experiences,” she said. “They are here and they are diverse and they are unlike anything else you can find elsewhere.”
A Shared Passion for Canadian Cuisine
Both Anderson and VanVeller have a passion for food and an academic background in culinary studies. Anderson did a master’s degree in food culture in Italy and VanVeller studied food security through Ryerson University. The two were a natural match and when they met around a campfire at a Kelowna folk festival, they connected instantly.
“We were glued to each other that whole weekend,” VanVeller said. “It really was a relationship based on food right from the beginning.”
Within the year, the two fast friends started planning their culinary road trip across the Great White North.
The Edible Road Trip
After months of preparation, Anderson and VanVeller were ready to hit the road. Through a variety of tourism board sponsorships, provincial support, local connections and a crowd-sourced Indiegogo campaign, the duo finally had the financial means to get started. According to Anderson, when they started the trip, they still had many loose ends to tie up but felt they had enough to get on the road.
“If we waited until everything was in place, and all the money was in, and our t’s all crossed and i’s dotted, we would have never left.”
Luckily for them, they continued reaching out for support and finding new fundraising avenues on the fly and completed the trip in five months consecutively. Both VanVeller and Anderson look back very fondly on their road trip but neither would claim it to be a relaxing holiday.
“It was an epic adventure,” VanVeller said. “…But it certainly wasn’t a break. It was a lot of work.”
They were taking photographs, interviewing people, collecting recipes, blogging and planning their trip each step along the way. The two covered 34,000km by car over five months and lived to tell the tale. Although, challenging at times, Anderson said having new experiences everyday was an amazing feeling.
“It becomes addicting,” Anderson said. “We were seeing something new every single day.
When asked what her most memorable experiences were, VanVeller said they had many amazing moments, it was hard to recount just one. They went cod fishing off the coast of Newfoundland; they made traditional Acadian poutines râpées while visiting Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick; and they stood in a field surrounded by bison at the Maple Hills Bison Farms in Alberta.
“I am weirdly afraid of horses so you can just imagine how I felt standing in the middle of the field of bison,” VanVeller said. “They are like 2,000 pounds and they just stand there, staring at you.”
Other highlights included their kayak trip around Spring Island off the northwestern coast of Vancouver Island and their hike-in camping trip on Haida Gwaii. A Canada Day stop for a plate of Little Duckers at Edible Canada was also a feature on their cross-country trip.
From Blog to Book
Upon returning to Vancouver, five months after their journey began, the weathered travelers started brainstorming ideas for the ‘Feast’ cookbook. It took some time to finish their blog and complete their initial book proposal.
After receiving some suggestions and encouragement from Random House Publishing, the two went back to the drawing board to narrow the scope and hammer out a proper proposal.
The hard work paid off again for VanVeller and Anderson. In the spring of 2015, they inked a book deal with Random House Publishing. Two years later, conveniently timed with Canada’s sesquicentennial, their cookbook FEAST: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip has hit the shelves in bookstores, restaurants and cafés across the country.
VanVeller and Anderson said they are very proud of the whole experience and the risks they took helped realize their vision. From the moment they left on their trip to the Feast cookbook being on the shelf, it’s been almost four years of hard work but VanVeller said it was worth it.
“The book was on our mind from the beginning but we didn’t have any real grand hopes,” VanVeller said. “We were completely blown away with all the support we received. It was a very long process but we made it happen. I’m so excited for our book to go out into the world.”