Christina Allain and the Slow Food movement

I first met Christina Allain at a networking event for entrepreneurs during my 6 month stint at Enterprise Saint John. She came up to me, fearless and wide-eyed, and said, “You’re Jeri, right? You’ve been trying to connect with the Community Loan Fund?”

Christina brings this energy to everything she does. Busy is an understatement. She deftly juggles a full-time job in poverty reduction with a second, unpaid, full-time job as the secretary of the Slow Food National Board.

 Christina Allain waving her flags at Terra Madre, the Slow Food International conference in Turin, Italy.

Christina Allain waving her flags at Terra Madre, the Slow Food International conference in Turin, Italy.

A phase that stuck

Christina’s foray into food was the result of a few months of unemployment, when she was bored and looking for something to do. She wanted a hobby that was relatively cheap and useful, and cooking fit the bill. She hadn’t had much time to dabble in her youth.

"I grew up with two parents who were entrepreneurs, so there wasn't a lot of time for food,” she said. “There was a lot of frozen meals, ready made meals, at restaurants, etc."

"I knew I liked food, but wouldn't have considered myself a foodie"

As she learned to cook, she got more excited about the possibilities, eventually starting her own food blog, eclectique eats, which combined Acadian and Maritime traditions.

Christina first heard of the Slow Food organization through one of her clients. They convinced her to come to the Annual General Meeting, then two weeks later to the National meeting. There, they suggested she get involved with the board.

She said yes. "I like to kind of jump in head first and figure out the rest after," she said.

Slow Food

 The 2016 Slow Food Canada delegation in Invermere, British Columbia, visiting a local farm: Patty's Greenhouse

The 2016 Slow Food Canada delegation in Invermere, British Columbia, visiting a local farm: Patty's Greenhouse

When I first asked her what Slow Food was, she laughed. “We get that a lot,” she said. “Even when I first got involved, I didn’t know exactly what they did.”

Slow Food was started by a group of Italian activists who heard a McDonalds would be opening at the Spanish Steppes in Rome.

Led by Carlo Petrini, the group was concerned with the loss of regional traditions and negative impact on local restaurants. When they successfully stopped the McDonalds from opening, they went on to other ventures.

"I find it very inspiring how they won, and instead of stopping there, they were just like, what other things in the food system can we help?” Christina said.

Since then, the group has expanded internationally, promoting food that is good, clean and fair through a number of initiatives. These are many and broad in scope, but include educating consumers about their food, creating food gardens in Africa, and saving food traditions.

Christina says it’s an organization she’s proud to be a part of and has travelled to Italy three times for Terra Madre, the group’s international conference. Coming up next, she sets her sights on the national conference, being held in Dieppe, New Brunswick, a few kilometres from her hometown of Bouctouche.

Optimism

 Three members of the Slow Food Canada Executive from left to right: Callum McLeod (Canmore, Alberta), Christina Allain (Saint John, New Brunswick) and Christian Baxter (Guelph, Ontario).

Three members of the Slow Food Canada Executive from left to right: Callum McLeod (Canmore, Alberta), Christina Allain (Saint John, New Brunswick) and Christian Baxter (Guelph, Ontario).

Even though she sees a lot wrong with the current food system, overconsumption, low wages for farmers, and global warming, Christina says what is most encouraging is the shift that she’s seen.

"Yeah, I think there's a shift happening,” she said, “and I feel like being part of slow food is actually making that happen."

She brings up examples of food shows, where people will watch others cook but still grab a frozen pizza instead of being inspired. But with the farm-to-table trend and the democratization of recipes and cooking, things are changing.

And she will be there when it changes.

Everything isn't terrible

It washes over me when I least expect it. It radiates from my chest outward, heading toward my extremities, turning them numb. It feels like I'm suffocating, like everything is hopeless and nothing will ever be okay again. I breathe in, then out, then in again. I convince myself this is entirely a product of my own mind. Everything isn't terrible.

But is it truly a product of my own mind?

We're living in an age where information is more accessible than ever before. Unfortunately, that information often makes us want to crawl into a hole and die. We live in a world with Donald Trump's America, terrorism, mass deportation, islamophobia, sexism, racism, uncertain futures causing people to turn against each other instead of toward each other. I could go on, but I won't. Because that's not the point.

When it seems like there is no hope to be found, there are millions upon millions of people creating their own hope. Using the skills and tools they have to fashion together a better future for themselves and for others. Fighting the good fight. Actively encouraging kindness and understanding through education and selflessness. 

And these stories aren't being told. At least, not to the extent that the stories about death and destruction are. This series will tell these stories from around the world, once per week. Check in to hear about the good things in life.

Because there are still some there.

How to write a news story at UBC Journalism

1. Search Twitter for a story idea the night before your pitch is due.

 

2. Get your story torn apart by Frances during the pitching meeting.

 

3. Cry.

 

4. Go back to Twitter and find a new story idea.

 

5. Get approval for your story idea from Kathryn.

 

6. Google your idea and find sources.

 

7. Call sources after-hours, get an answering machine.

 

8. Cry.

 

9. Email 10 sources, get one reply.

 

10. Write story at 11:59 before midnight draft deadline.

 

11. Have draft torn apart by Frances.

 

12. Cry.

 

13. Go to BC Assessment on Frances' advice, even if you don't need to.

 

14. Rewrite draft with new information. 

 

15. Take photos of anything remotely related to your story.

 

16. Have Mary Lynn tell you the ethical shortcomings of your story.

 

17. Consider dropping out.

 

18. Eat your feelings.

 

19. Have a meeting with Kathryn, and feel like everything will be okay.

 

20. Rewrite story one more time.

 

21. Struggle to put everything into Wordpress.

 

22. Cry.

 

23. Get help with your layout from Chantelle.

 

24. Have Alf tear apart your headline.

 

25. Get the entire class to help you write a new one.

 

26. Put the story into pending review.

 

27. Do all the CP reviews that Frances asks you to do.

 

28. Publish!

 

29. Do a happy dance.

 

30. Have all 9 sources email you back.

31. Cry. 

My hot air balloon experience

I have decided to rewrite some of my old entries regarding my travels, partly to reminisce, and partly to re-share some of my experiences. Here's a gem from when I went on my first hot air balloon ride a few years ago. Enjoy.

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When I was 20, I moved to Japan for a year to teach English. The year had its ups and downs, but one of the most memorable moments was when I heard that you could go up in a hot air balloon in Furano. I booked the trip well in advance, and then set upon the daunting task of asking everybody I knew if they'd be willing to part ways with $150 to spend 20 minutes floating high above the air in a tiny little wicker basket held up by a giant torch and some fabric. Needless to say, it was hard to find any takers. I was at my wit's end, when finally my lovely friend Cian told me that he was so down to come with. GREAT!

The day of the flight, I waited and waited, and the morning finally came. The flight was scheduled for 7:30 am, but the people would call me at 6:30 am to let us know whether the weather was conducive to ballooning. I was up at 5:00 am, pacing back and forth because I was so excited. I tried in vain to not wake up Andromeda, my roommate. It didn't work, but she was understanding, and sat up with me as I waited.

Eventually, I got the call. The weather was perfect. It was time to go.

"Take a picture of me on my way to balloon! Take a picture of me! Take a picture of me!" I asked Andromeda, and she obliged as excitedly as she could in her exhausted state. The result was this gem:

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Afterwards, I ran downstairs to await the van. The great thing about Asobiya, the balloon company, is that they pick you up from your hotel and drive you straight to the field. Which is awesome, because we didn't have any other way there. Cian was waiting for me in the lobby with his 7/11 breakfast and ridiculous yellow snowboarding pants. They had told us to dress warmly. Apparently it's cold up super high in the middle of winter!

After about 15 minutes, the man with the van showed up, and we hopped in excitedly. We made small talk with the driver for about one minute until Cian and I collectively ran out of any Japanese we could remember at 7:00 am. Then, we sat excitedly in silence, and I snapped this picture of Cian looking super excited!

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We picked up a Japanese couple, then finally made our way over to the balloon. Furano is pretty much all farmland, so we could see the balloon from a mile away, with a backdrop of beautiful, snow-covered mountains. Oh, yes. This was totally going down.

We got out of the van and walked through the snow to where 5 Japanese men were painstakingly holding the balloon down. "Well, hop in," the driver of the van said. Just like that.

"Uhh... okay...", I thought, starting to falter a little. The basket was maybe 1 x 1.5 metres, and once I was inside it came up to my waist. No harnesses, no seatbelts, no anything. 

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I had it better than Cian, though. He is 6'2", so the edge of the basket only came up to mid-thigh on him, and his head was at most a foot away from the flame. I'm pretty sure he thought he was going to die, and I can't say that I thought otherwise. My unease was only heightened when the pilot said, "Alright, if you're scared, crouch down, and whatever you do, don't get in my way. Let's go!"

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With that, we were steadily rising.

The balloon wobbled a little as it got off the ground, but it rose smoothly and quickly. There was no wind, so it felt a lot more serene than I had anticipated. We rose and rose until all of a sudden, the van that dropped us off was no more than a dot in the expanse of white below us.

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Even though I was dangling in a basket, I felt completely comfortable and at ease. Maybe it was the fact that the balloon felt like it was barely moving or maybe it was the fact that I was stunned by the view, but I was calm, collected, and absolutely in awe. These pictures don't do it justice at all, but it looked a little like this. (Click on the photo for the gallery)

About halfway through the 20 minute ride, Cian realized that he felt safer if he stood behind me, using me as a sort of block against his inevitable downfall. I'm glad that I could help him feel at ease, but I'm not sure how I felt about being used as a human shield. Thanks, man. Thanks.

The trip went by way too quickly, and all of a sudden, we were descending. There was a power line in our way and the wind wasn't working with us, so we flew a little bit longer, and amused ourselves by watching the men in the vans down below follow us around, parking where they thought we would land, only to have to move again. Eventually, we landed, and they immediately started deflating the balloon while we were still in the basket. How many Japanese men does it take to deflate a hot air balloon? Apparently, the answer is four.

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We were finally let out, and I quickly snapped this photo of the deflating balloon before I headed back to the van, my heart and mind content with a completely unique experience. 

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The man drove us back to the hotel, and the drive was long and solemn. The only thing I could think of to express my utter contentment was "楽しかった!", or "I had fun!" and somehow, that just didn't seem to be enough. 

Welcome

Hello. My name is Jeri Knopp, and I am a journalist. It wasn't always this way; I've been a gymnastics coach, English teacher, fundraiser, painter, and cashier, among other things. In fact, I'm relatively new to the journalism scene.

I moved to Vancouver in August last year to pursue my Master of Journalism degree at the University of British Columbia. I had decided that this was the course for me after teaching English at a small high school in rural Japan. I had always been interested in writing, but while I was in Japan, I realized how much I relished the ability to put my own experiences into words, and share them with people who would never have those experiences. I used my personal blog to write about going up in a hot-air balloon at 6 am on a cloudless winter day, with nothing but rolling, snow-covered hills underneath me. I discussed strange Japanese traditions, the oddities in my apartment; you name it, I wrote about it. 

Now that I am here in Vancouver, I have had the opportunity to work with many well-respected professionals in the city. I have climbed the steep learning curve, and am now trained in a number of mediums. I still love to write, but I am experimenting with storytelling in a number of different forms. Stick around to see how things go!