Ontario Food Heroes- Activist

Here we will profile people in this province who help shape the way we eat, cook and think about food.Ashley at the Lyric Diner in NYC

Ashley Shortall, activist

After spending 8 years in the service industry, Ashley is now in her second year and 3rd semster of the Community Worker program at George Brown College. Her focus is on food security and social justice awareness. After a month long stint in Cuba learning about their foodways she was inspired to become a fighter for good food.

She is doing a year long placement at The STOP Community Food Centre Green Barn as a Community Cooking Coordinator assistant working with kids ages 8-12 to help develop their cooking skills and healthy food choices.

Where did you start out in the food world?

So many starts. During high-school I took care of my niece, I would pick her up after school and cook dinner for us. I really enjoyed cooking and feeding my family but I do recall some really bad  meals. Namely a pasta with over-cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts topped with salad dressing. I also did a brief stint at a Tim Hortons filling doughnuts and making sandwiches, eew. The smell of grease was ever present.

I’ve been a server for years and used to host a monthly dinner party at a small cafe in Parkdale. That was a great opportunity in that it allowed me to be creative in planning and implementing a menu for twenty to twenty-five guests.

What changes have you seen over the years in how the people you meet feel about local farmers and food?

I see an elevated consciousness. The fact that a movie like “Food Inc.” even made it into theatres speaks volumes about peoples interest in food. Eating habits are evolving, people are making positive changes for themselves and the environment.

What is your favourite vegetable?

Picking just one is so tough, although I think my all time favorite would have to be peas. Shelling peas in the summer, then lightly cooking them and grating a little parmesan cheese on top. They taste like summer.

Farm animal?

I think Homer said it best.

Lisa- “I’m going to become a vegetarian”

Homer- “Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?”

“Yes”

“Bacon?”

“Yes Dad”

“Ham?”

“Dad all those meats come from the same animal”

“Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!”

Season?

Summer hands down. I love going to Toronto Island, not having to wear layers, going to farmers markets, tanning and drinking white wine in the sun while grilling!
Now I am having summer fantasies.

Where are some of your favourite places in Ontario for food/drink?

I really enjoy Stampede Burger in Parkdale, not only is it right beside the LCBO but they also make really good poutine and lemonade. One thing I love about Ontario, Toronto in particular, is the variety. I am so down with sushi, I really like Oishi Kada in Kensington. I am a big fan of roti from Island Foods and I love Nazareth for Ethiopian. I also love Monday nights by the fireplace at the Drake Hotel for their super cheap 86’d menu. The STOP has an amazing dinner series called Food For Change by Chef Chris Brown. I serve at these fundraising dinners that allow guests to support an amazing organization and in return they have a one of a kind six-course dining experience in our green house.  A memorable night of beautiful local food.

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