This article was first printed in Good Cheer/ Bon temps Volume 1 Number 1 Summer 1995. It was in the tabloid of Cuisine Canada named and edited by Jo Marie Powers. Jurgen wrote it just as the organization, the first of its kind, was being launched. It seems appropriate as we look back at the magnificent career of Jurgen Gothe, that we reflect on his contribution to Canadian cuisine. It was massive!
MY, BUT AREN’T WE all so quiet and reserved. Maybe even resigned, some of the time: seems like it. We are friendly, polite, rarely really demonstrative. We say please and thank you and hold doors open and try not to make a fuss.
These are Canadian attributes; a lot of people like them. I’m here to make some noise, kick up a fuss, gesticulate wildly, wave sheaves of paper, grab you by the arm, sit you down and make you eat a plate of something home-made. Home-grown, too. Probably home-invented.
We have to learn to shout. There is plenty to be proud of, but we need a little night school in how to hand it, in public. I’m hopeful our new organization will point the way. That’s why I’m here.
Years ago, when The National Lampoon was still a satirical magazine, there was a very funny two-page spread on “Canadian border towns,” pointing out the possibilities for sin and gambling and all manner of naughty fun. Bingo loomed at the top of the list; but the ting that sent me over the edge, shrieking around the room, was that in the middle of this mythical town was a statue called “Winged Politeness.”
So let us start shouting about the glories of the domestic instead. It may well feel a little odd at first, but what good thing you ever did didn’t — at first? We tend to run aside, a little uncomfortable, when our southern friends shout their pride in our ears and air. We should take some notes instead.
Every time I come back home from a journey – be it to Missouri or France, New York or Buenos Aires, Germany or L.A. – I am struck by a major thing: how well we eat in Canada by international standards. I’m not talking about star-struck eating; I’m talking real food. For while there is a handful of celebrated restaurants around the world that get international acclaim – and often attitude and price to match – I’ll tell you that having eating in most of the three-star spots abroad, I find enough any weekday in Vancouver, in Toronto, in Kitchener, in Halifax, in Victoria, in Winnipeg, to delight my jaded palate no end.
Recently, in Kansas City, I was eating in a place touted as having the best barbecue. It was all right. Not long ago in New York I sat down in a place most critics revere as having the best fish anywhere. It was adequate. In Paris I gulped at the prices in the three-star eatery (that was, anyway, way better when it had only two), but they all said iw was the hottest and best in town. It was okay, but the service needed work and th sauce for the sole had separated before it got to me.
While it really wants a separate rant, there’s the subject of wine as well. Those people who claim there is no good Canadian wine – strangely, they still exist – haven’t got a clue to what’s really going on, just what they’ve read, years ago.
Let’s not wait for the U.K. to tell us make good Chardonnay, or Orange County to praise our Pinot, or, Vinexpo to vindicate our Vidal Icewine. Let’s take a little more secure comfort in the home-grown knowledge that we can do it just as well and often better than anyone else.
We have remarkable meat, fish, vegetables. And we have creative cooks, imaginative manufacturers, conscientious growers, and who knows, maybe even not bad food writers running all over the place. We have people with passion and pride and skill and unlimited creativity. Let’s all start shouting.
Join me in getting this growing so that some day we’ll haul down old Winged Politeness and replace her with the Bold Culinary Avenger. We are damned good at this food business, and even if some of you don’t know it yet, I do. That’s why I’m here, shouting. There’s lots of room.
We can still be friendly and polite and buy each other a couple of rounds when we’re done shouting.
~ Jurgen Gothe, Vancouver 1995.
Jurgen Gothe, passing at a mere 70 years old, was a media star, although you wouldn’t know it if you listened to his gentle voice and self-deprecating chuckle. We loved you Jurgen and you did make a very real difference. From coast to coast to coast, we have learned how to shout!