Granville Island Public Market

A short walk and one bridge away from my apartment is Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market. So when the Culinary Historians of Canada chose “markets” as this month’s topic for the Canada 150 Food Blog Challenge, I knew it was time to do some literary fare research on the surrounding neighbourhood of False Creek.

Whether it’s a weekend or weekday, the Granville Island Public Market is abuzz with summer tourists, foodie walking tours, and local shoppers relishing the sun after a rainy spring. Ranked as one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, the public market is what I would describe as a “must see, must taste” place.

Wandering through the market, you’ll discover seasonal produce towering in the aisles. Everything is within reach: fresh halibut from Haida Gwaii, fine cheeses, and artisanal chocolates. If you’re ever nostalgic for Montreal (as I tend to be), there are authentic bagels served warm from a flame oven.

But when you peer beyond the cornucopia of today’s Granville Island Public Market, you encounter multiple histories in this space. Writers in Canada have played a significant role in giving voice to these realities.

Granville Island is located on the traditional Indigenous territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil Watuth, and Squamish First Nations.

In her narrative essay “Goodbye, Snauq”, writer Lee Maracle, a member of the Stó:lo Nation, recounts how the Squamish resided year round at Snauq (now called False Creek) since the early 1820s. For time immemorial, Snauq “was a common garden shared by all the friendly tribes in the area…. On the sandbar Musqueam, Tsleil Watuth, and Squamish women tilled oyster and clam beds…. Wild cabbage, mushrooms and other plants were tilled and hoed as well. Summer after summer the nations gathered to harvest” (119).

Looking west across False Creek from 7th Avenue and Birch Street [ca. 1890] Photograph shows a house at 1304 West Seventh Avenue, the Granville Street Bridge, C.P.R. Kitsilano Trestle Bridge and Squamish village of Snauq. Photo Credit: City of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Van Sc P58. Photographer: W. Chapman

In 1913, the Squamish people who were living near the south end of today’s Burrard Street bridge were manipulated and forced out of their homes and off their land by settler society. (Barman) The Squamish people’s unjust removal precipitated the Island’s construction, since the sandbar, or Snauq, to which Lee Maracle refers, was eventually built up and turned into Granville Island.

Today, if you head west from Granville Island, walking along the seawall and underneath the Burrard Street bridge, you will pass one of Vancouver Public Library’s Literary Landmarks that pays tribute to Lee Maracle and to her story “Goodbye, Snauq”.

Lee Maracle makes clear that the “Snauq supermarket” of locally sourced and cultivated food was eventually destroyed by Vancouver’s industrial development and urban settlement. (121) The inlet known today as “False Creek” was reduced in size and polluted by garbage, toxic chemical waste, and human sewage. (118)

Granville Island, Vancouver, 1932. Credit: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 20-67

Reminders of this industrial chapter of Granville Island’s colonial history are readily visible when you visit the market. Many of the original buildings remain but have been refurbished to house the food market, artists’ studios, community centres, and shops.

Next door to the Edible Canada restaurant is a small parkade that was once the Canada Chain & Forge Company (est. 1922). A large piece of chain is affixed inside the parkade wall, a leftover discovered after the company vacated the property.

Today, one of the last remaining heavy-industry tenants is Ocean Concrete, which has been operating on the island since 1917.

Ocean Concrete’s silos, titled “Giants”, were painted by Os Gemeos, two Brazilian street artists, in 2014.

If you’d like a sense of Granville Island’s industrial past, I’d recommend Al Purdy’s visceral poem “Piling Blood”, which recounts memories of strenuous manual labour. During the Depression, Ontario-born Purdy “rode the rails” to Vancouver in search of work. One of his jobs was at Arrow Transfer on Granville Island, piling 75-pound paper bags of “powdered blood” from butchered cattle.

Memorial statue of Alfred Purdy in Queen’s Park, Toronto, by Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales. Photo Credit: Photo by Shaun Merritt, Creative Commons

In the poem, Purdy remembers that the blood meal (used as fertilizer) tended to “belly out / from the bags in brown clouds” and “settle on your sweating face” (13). Purdy’s other job at the time was working at Burns’ slaughterhouse on East Hastings Street. So between the “blood smell” that clung to his clothes and the “screams / of dying cattle”, Purdy recalls a haunting time living in Vancouver in the 1930s, a time when he “wrote no poems” (15).

Eventually, “Industrial Island” was transformed into the Granville Island Public Market, which opened its doors to the public in 1979. Today, the market is a food lover’s paradise. More than anything, though, the storied memories are what give shape and meaning to Snauq and Granville Island, revealing the complex and troubling histories of Canada’s past 150 years and beyond.

Barman, Jean. “Erasing Indigenous Indigeneity in Vancouver.” BC Studies 155 (2007): 3-30. Canadian Business & Current Affaires Database. Web.

Maracle, Lee. “Goodbye, Snauq.” West Coast Line 42.2 (Summer 2008): 117-125. Print.

Purdy, Al. “Piling Blood.” Piling Blood. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984. 13-15. Print.

 

Text and Photo Credits (except where indicated): Shelley Boyd

Going Fishing?

In the world of Canadian Literary Fare, the question “Going fishing?” means so much more than casting a line and securing a meal.

“Going fishing?” is the question posed to Maggie Lloyd, the protagonist of Ethel Wilson’s novel Swamp Angel (1954), when she leaves her second husband, Edward Vardoe, and their Vancouver home and sets out to begin a new life working at a fishing lodge in the interior of British Columbia.

Book Plate Credit: UBC Library

Fishing enthusiasts themselves, Ethel Wilson and her husband Wallace Wilson vacationed for over 40 years at Lac Le Jeune near Kamloops, which served as the model for her novel’s setting. (Whitaker 13)

In Swamp Angel, fishing represents freedom and possibility. Trapped in an unfulfilling marriage, Maggie Lloyd uses her skill at tying fishing flies to secure her independence. She sells her hand-tied flies to a Vancouver “shop known up and down the Pacific Coast.” (2) Wilson modelled this fictional sporting goods store after the actual Harkley and Haywood Sporting Goods Ltd., which was in business for over 60 years at 101 West Cordova Street. (Whitaker 18)

The original Vancouver location of Harkley and Haywood Sporting Goods Ltd. The main floor is now occupied by a Mexican restaurant.

Not far from the sporting goods shop is Vancouver’s Chinatown, where Maggie purchases a peacock feather fan – the iridescent feathers are perfect for her fishing flies. It takes Maggie a year to save enough cash, but her husband never suspects.

Throughout Swamp Angel, fish and birds are closely related, signalling movement between elements, just as Maggie slips from one life and identity into a new one. But these transitions are never easy or quite what one anticipates.

Having fled her marriage, Maggie secures work at Loon Lake Fishing Lodge, where the days are long and fraught with tensions between herself and the owners. In his Afterword, George Bowering warns of the “delimiting” meanings of fish and birds: “birds such as eagles eat fish and take them flying; people such as Maggie Lloyd make flies out of feathers and feed trout to their death.” (226)

While Ethel Wilson does not romanticize this fisherwoman’s autonomy, the bountiful food that Maggie prepares at the lodge suggests a forward-looking contentment:

  • 10 quarts of bottled tomatoes
  • 5 bottles of tomato chutney
  • 8 loaves of bread
  • 1 applesauce cake
  • 2 large crocks of beans in the oven
  • And pie-making scheduled for tomorrow!

Visitors from Vancouver relish Maggie’s fried trout, bacon, bread, tomatoes “still smelling of the leaves of the tomato plant,” apple pie, and coffee. (142)

The trout dish is one with the natural setting and contrasts with urban fare: the hot-dog and fried potato vendors that litter Stanley Park, or the five-pound roast with gravy (and pudding for dessert) that Maggie prepares for her unsuspecting husband on the night that she leaves. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Wilson clearly recognized Vancouver as “a roast beef and suet pudding city” — in other words, a conservative population with strong cultural ties to Britain. (Stouck 83)

In the opening chapter, the beef dinner is formal, heavy, and begrudged by husband Edward, who declares, “Who wants to eat cold meat that cost the earth for a week!” (8)  Little does he know those leftovers will come in handy.

The dinner provides the necessary cover for Maggie’s surreptitious departure, but it also communicates a different set of life circumstances than those of the fishing lodge.

Who wants a traditional roast beef dinner with unhappy marital trappings when instead there is the lightness of fish that flies through the air the moment that it is caught?

Going fishing? Most definitely.

 

Bowering, George. Afterword. Swamp Angel, by Ethel Wilson, McClelland and Stewart, 1990, pp. 222-29.

Stouck, David. Ethel Wilson: A Critical Biography. University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Whitaker, Muriel. “Journeys to the Interior: The Wilsons at Lac Le Jeune.” The Ethel Wilson Symposium, edited by Lorraine McMullen, University of Ottawa Press, 1982, pp. 13-18.

Wilson, Ethel. Swamp Angel. 1954. McClelland and Stewart, 1990.

Text and Images (except where indicated) by Shelley Boyd

Breakfast Memories & Kechap Manis

In her last two posts about Brian Brett’s Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life, Alexia Moyer revealed that food plays a pivotal role in memoirs, especially when it comes to reminiscing about times shared with family either around the table or in the kitchen. The collection Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck (2007) uses a similar approach, as the preparation of food and personal histories go hand in hand.

In the introduction, editor Brandy Liên Worrall traces how Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck grew out of a “Food and Family workshop” in Vancouver, where participants shared family memories and recipes— providing each other with a veritable taste of the past. (xiv) The collection’s title, Worrall explains, uses “eating” as both “an adjective to describe the type of stories”, and “an active verb” to capture the writing and reading process. (xiii)

Fittingly, the book opens with breakfast. CBC radio host Margaret Gallagher—who has many other food-related interests, which you can read about in an interview she gave over brunch—volunteers memories of her Chinese-Indonesian grandfather and her family’s recipe for an improvised Kechap Manis, a sweet soy sauce (with brown sugar, ginger, and green chili) that can be served with eggs (fried with butter and a diced shallot). Yum! When Gallagher was a child, the sauce wasn’t available in Canadian grocery stores, so her mother used to make Kechap Manis from scratch.

Food facilitates family cohesion, Gallagher tells us, because it “conquers the cultural divide that arises when families are constantly on the move in an evolving world” (ix). Perhaps most striking, though, is the fact that food creates a sense of generational continuity even when loved ones have passed away.

Gallagher recalls how her grandfather “wasn’t very comfortable in the kitchen” yet still cooked for his grandchildren and conveyed to them his “lifelong love affair with fresh fruit”— from the mangos of Indonesia to the cherries of the Okanagan. (x) And although Gallagher’s mother was typically the one who made Kechap Manis and fried eggs for the kids, her grandfather was known to have made the dish as well.

Some of Gallagher’s once-cherished family recipes have been lost over time, but others — like Kechap Manis— persist. The lesson is that if family histories are to remain ever-present, recipes must be shared and used by the living, allowing the next generations to add their own stories to the mix. The recipe (or story), Gallagher observes, “changes a bit each time someone new tells it—a detail added here, a spice omitted there…. They need to be dusted off and shared in order to thrive.” (x)

Worrall, Brandy Liên, editor. Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck. Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia, 2007.

Text and Photos by Shelley Boyd

Toasting Vancouver

In a February post on Drinking Food, Alexia Moyer opened with the observation that “Drink of all kinds populates Canadian Literature” and that writer Austin Clarke (via his mother) urges readers to line their stomachs with food before imbibing. Wise advice.

But there are other accompaniments to alcoholic beverages. How about words?

Let’s raise our glasses for a toast…

In The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser notes that the act of toasting has an ancient past. Its meanings and rituals vary depending on the culture. Today, the true delights of toasting are mostly tied to the senses — taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound (257). Visser observes that when we mark an occasion with a toast, we bring people together:

“Clinking glasses—rapping them to call everyone present to attention, or tapping them together when toasting—has always given people pleasure. Clinking one glass against another is making contact, an action we perform precisely because we are not sharing one cup; in doing it we remind ourselves that the wine, now separated into glassfuls, is still one, and we reach out to each other even though we do not hand our glasses on” (258).

Clinking may delight the ears, but so do words, especially poetry.

Yesterday– April 6, 2016–was Vancouver’s 130th birthday. For the next 130 days, the City of Vancouver will be posting fun facts about the city. You can follow along on Twitter #Van130.

To mark this event, a poetic toast seemed in order by way of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), who wrote the poem “A Toast” in 1903, praising her adopted western city as the “Queen of the Coast.”

Born in 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve (in Ontario), Johnson spent the last years of her life residing in Vancouver. She is famous for the collection of stories Legends of Vancouver (1911) that were inspired by Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish Nation. When Johnson died in 1913, she was buried in Stanley Park not far from Siwash Rock.

The sing-song rhythm of Johnson’s “A Toast” expresses merriment and love for this coastal city. In Paddling Her Own Canoe, Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag comment that the poem’s joyfulness suggests that at the time, Johnson still had “hopes of a more inclusive nation” with respect to Canada’s treatment of the First Nations (215). “A Toast” blends the seemingly simple yet meaningful ritual of raising a glass with Johnson’s dreams for the future of Canadian society.

In the poem, Johnson selects a rare vintage wine, generously fills her cup “to the edge,” and toasts Vancouver’s health, youth, wealth, and future achievements.

So if you’re sipping a glass of wine this week, say a few words of poetry and toast Vancouver at 130.

Then here’s a Ho! Vancouver, in wine of the bonniest hue,
With a hand on my hip and the cup at my lip,
And a love in my life for you. (“A Toast”)

To read Johnson’s poem in its entirety, see Canadian Poetry.

Gerson, Carole, and Veronica Strong-Boag. Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Johnson, E. Pauline. “A Toast.” Canadian Born. 1903. Canadian Poetry.

Visser, Margaret. The Rituals of Dinner. Toronto: HarperPerennial, 1992.

 

Text and Photos by Shelley Boyd