Hi, Tasting Victoria readers, this is Annika Olson, Tasting Victoria’s summer intern! This summer I’ve done several interviews, tasted many foods, taken hundreds of photos, written numerous food articles, and have loved every second of it! As an extroverted foodie working towards my creative writing degree, this position has expanded my writing abilities, content creation, and passion. Here are a couple of “take-aways” from my internship—or as I like to call it, my favourite job ever.
Victoria is not just BC’s capital, known for its tons of freshwater seafood and garden-fresh produce. It’s also home to cuisines from all over the world that can transport your taste buds with one bite. I learned that authentic food is drawn from its cultural milieu, from family, and most importantly from the heart. I’ve tasted beef rendang from Indonesia, beef birria tacos from Mexico, dosas from South India, croissants from France, and pork buns from Hong Kong. My taste buds travelled around the world, and I never left Victoria!
Victorians care about each other. Local businesses join with other local businesses to help each other while supporting local producers and serving an authentic taste of Victoria. Whether it be selling 49 Below Craft Ice Cream at Ghost Ramen, serving Portofino Bread at Varsha and John’s Place, or featuring Discovery Coffee at Fern Cafe and Bakery, many of Victoria’s businesses work together to contribute to a fantastic community.
Victorians care about their place on Earth. Many businesses emphasize sustainable approaches to cooking and packaging. Recyclable and biodegradable carry-out containers and cups are laden with delicious preparations. Small efforts go a long way, like buying free-run eggs, being ocean-wise, and choosing organic or fair-trade. I noticed many businesses collect their produce from markets, farms, and gardens for the freshest taste! Some places even ditch the heavy-duty machines that make cooking faster to lower their carbon footprint! Nowadays, most menus are enhanced with vegan and vegetarian-friendly options to ensure plant-focused meals and less processed procedures.
Many of Victoria’s businesses are inclusive of people with dietary restrictions or specific diet choices/preferences. You’ll see tons of gluten-friendly options on menus, such as hamburger buns, pizza crust, fries, muffins, and waffles. Origin Gluten-Free Bakery, even serves a 100% gluten-free menu! For the lactose-sensitive, dairy-free options are available in Victoria’s favourites such as boba, artsy lattes, ice cream, and milkshakes using plant-based milk! As more and more people stay away from animal products, vegan and vegetarian-friendly options are available at just about every eatery. You might see jackfruit instead of pulled pork, bean-filled burgers, plant-based chicken, and cashew cheese and Hollandaise sauce. Some of my favourite 100% vegan eateries include Virtuous Pie, Fern Cafe and Bakery, Green Cuisine, and Be Love.
While I’ve eaten tons of new cuisines, tested diets, and signature creations from over 20 eateries in Victoria, the biggest thing I’m taking away from this internship is passion. Over the past three months, I’ve made close connections with local owners who kindly gave me their time and attention. They told me their stories about chasing their passions and realizing their dreams in Victoria. Some people I have touched souls with and will never forget are John, Deborah, and Norm from John’s Place, Bob from Dosa Paragon, and Bana from Ayo Eat.
My favourite tastes in Victoria include the cinnamon bun from Daniel Patisserie, Hawkins Cheezies ice cream from 49 Below Craft Ice Cream, Nasi Campur Telor Sambal at Ayo Eat, okonomiyaki (seafood pancake) from Nubo Japanese Tapas, and the Valentino Benny on house-made cornbread from John’s Place. There are many more—I won’t forget any of the incredible flavours.
Food is culture. Food is identity. Food is family. Food brings people together. Food builds connection.
I hope next time you decide to eat out, you think about the story behind the food that was served, the culture that was shared, and the love that was given.
Now, I’m off to the United Kingdom to study creative writing and indulge in English breakfasts, Indian cuisine, and crumpets.
Thank you for reading.
Annika Olson, Tasting Victoria’s summer intern.