Here’s another one from City Studio:
Three Question Quickie
“Would you like to take my quick 3 question food survey?” I asked politely. The answer was almost always yes, in fact only once did someone tell me they couldn’t, oddly a former co-worker of mine from Whole Foods. “Awesome”, I smiled back to them, and asked the first question, a warm up question; “what’s the closest intersection to your house?” It was an easy thing to answer, but a crucial question to ask, one that would really help root the information I wanted to place, the next best thing to a door to door survey, and arguably considerably better since it was far less invasive. It was also a good question because I could get a good read on people by asking it, how comfortable they were, and if I needed to adjust my tone. Some people just jumped to an answer, and reported intersections like Main and 10th a busy node with lots of through traffic keeping me at arm’s length and themselves relatively anonymous. I was hoping that they would go deeper into their neighbourhood, somewhere close to home offering me a finer grain analysis of their neighbourhood. For those who didn’t immediately beat me to the suggestion, I would encourage this and use the example “for instance, 30th and St. Catherine’s”, the closest intersection to my home. Some would get the subtle hint, and move in a street or two, others maintained they lived at Main and Kingsway.
“Excellent”, I said, “now for my second question, what are the three main places that you get your food from?” I tried to keep it benign, careful to not narrow the focus. Some rattled it off like it was nothing. “Super Value, No Frills, sometimes at the Superstore on Rupert, that’s mostly just for big shops though. Oh, and I have a Costco card so I sometimes go there too.” Often people seemed pained by the question. “I really try to shop local’, and listed Kim’s on Fraser ahead of the No Frills and the Super Value. Other’s meticulously listed off many places. “Well for produce, I go to the Farmer’s Market at Trout, but it’s closed now so I guess I’ll have to go to Nat Bailey for the Winter Market. Or I go to Donald’s on the Drive, good produce there too. For cheese, there’s this little shop on Hastings just before the overpass for the railway that I go to, and for bulk, I go to Kea on 10th”. One man claimed to drive out to the Superstore in Coquitlam because they had good deals, another reminisced about being able to buy fresh farm vegetables from a place in Southlands that used to host a farm market, he described it like a tailgate sale, while another explained how you must buzz the door at the Italian shop in Chinatown in order to get in, but it was well worth it. “Can I include restaurants?” one asked, explaining that she rarely cooked for herself at home due to time constraints, but loved the Pad Thai at Mali Thai on Main Street. I listened and found each of the places on the map, drawing straight lines from their residence to the locations. Before their eyes they were beginning to see how the map was being filled in, how many lines and connections to food there were, how much it didn’t matter that the line started almost right on their doorstep.
“Now for the last question, what is your favourite dish and why?” Oddly, this was the stumper, most furrowed their brow and grimaced like they had just received a shot straight to the gut. “My favourite food?” they would ask, I let them interpret it as they would, “wow that’s a hard one”. “Yorkshire pudding, garlic mashed potatoes, roast beef” one slight girl listed without hesitation “love it, it’s like a part of me”. Salmon, in all manner of preparation was popular and usually attached to the descriptors of wild and local, sushi was also popular and for many, almost addictive. “I could honestly eat sushi everyday”. Curries were also hot, rich dahls and fresh naan, so much variety, so much flavour. A friend said lentil soup because his mom, who had passed away a few years ago, used to make it for him. This information I wrote down and made notes for another piece of the food map- I wanted to make one more connection, the store to the food source as well as formulating the best way to create a flavour map at a later time.
“So, that’s It” I informed the participant who often looked remorseful after their last answer. “That’s all you wanted to ask?” they would reply, looking just warmed up and practically salivating at the chance to offer more. “Well if you would like more information on our project, or the chance to participate in food policy, submit to us a story about your relationship to food, take this information piece along with you or write down your email address and we’ll keep you in touch with what we are doing” I said watching the slip of paper moving from the table into their fingertips and transferred into their pocket.