Posted in Event Review

Landscape and Food: hidden gems of the Creative Rural Economy

Last week, a good friend from England sent me a link to the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. This annual event is a weekend in July at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. The theme for 2017 was Food and Landscape. This was the start of an interesting week of discovery.

With a birthday and Valentine’s Day on February 14th., Heather and I decided to attend the Valentine’s Cookery School at the Flying Apron Inn in Summerville on Highway 215, East Hants, NS.

Before reaching Summerville, we stopped at Avondale to hike the community trails. The four kilometre loop wends through the ridges and sink holes of the gypsum formation. In the Spring, you can discover several species of Lady Slipper orchids (Cypripedium spp.). Avondale is also the home to Avondale Sky Winery and in the Summer, the annual Garlic festival.

The Flying Apron is an Inn, restaurant, Cooking School, post office and second-hand bookstore, all housed within  a refurbished general store. It has several unique qualities:

  1. it is a cooperative marketing venture with Avondale Sky Winery and Meander River Farm and Brewery.
  2. Chef Chris offers a unique Cooking school.
  3. the signature event is ‘Dining on the Ocean Floor”, an outdoor meal served at low tide on the Bay of Fundy shore.
  4. it bring European cuisine to rural Nova Scotia, using local produce.

The Cookery School is an expandable concept. Students arrive to learn how to cook a three course dinner. All the ingredients are provided. The kitchen is well equipped with pots, pans, stoves, oven, refrigerator, and , of course, sharp knives. Chef Chris acts as the mentor. With proper equipment, local ingredients and a methodology, Chris guides the class through the creative process. At the end, there is the opportunity to savour the result, along with local wine or beer.

Take Home Lessons

Imagine we had a community college, with campuses in different landscapes across Nova Scotia. At each campus, we could identify the needs of the community. With a knowledgeable mentor (aka chef) who would bring experiences from other ‘geographies’, students could learn what are the key ingredients, the method, and create a product which they would test and share with members of the wider community. The cooking class could be a model for other crafts, hands-on activities, and even software development. Within the context of the community, students would learn about the landscape, the geology, ecology, heritage, as well as locally available resources.

After a night at the Inn, we continued along the Noel Shore to Maitland before heading back through the Rawdon Hills to Windsor, gateway to the Annapolis Valley. Driving along Highway 215, across the gypsum, in February, we noticed the abundance of red stems of the local species of Cornus (dogwood) in the wet hollows, along the roadside. Another unique quality of this landscape.


In the second-hand bookstore, I found Soul Voyage. This book is a fictional account by Cameron Royce Jess, of Joshua Slocum’s ‘Sailing Alone Around the World”. Slocum was born on a subsistence farm at Mount Hanley. Jess lives with his wife, Linda, in Hall’s Harbour.

On our return, I received an email, from another good friend, on  ‘Evaluating the impact of subsidized food boxes in Nova Scotia’. Another, very different but important, community link between landscape and food.

Please compare this economy with the economy described by Bill Black (see previous blog).


Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery started in 1983. Check Wikipedia or Google.

The Flying Apron Inn and Cookery

Meander River Farm and Brewery

Avondale Sky Winery

Cameron Royce Jess. 2004. Soul Voyage. Inscape Publications, Port Williams.NS.


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