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.
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.
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.
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.