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Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 21 February 2020
Winnipeg Center of the Food Universe, 1973
I moved to Winnipeg as a PhD student in zoology at the University of Manitoba in 1973 and lived there for about 14 months. I have many memories of this time, but memories of food are particularly strong though the details are vague. Preliminary contact with Winnipeg newspapers and historical societies to verify my memory of restaurant names were fruitless. No helpful strangers. Memory is unreliable as I showed in False Memories & the Mill on the Floss, an article also set in Canada in 1973.
I’ll therefore take the Christopher Isherwood approach from Lions and Shadows 1937.
Christopher Isherwood’s autobiography of his school and university years is perhaps reminiscent of my situation in Canada. My recollections are not indiscreet and perhaps not entirely true.
Why was Winnipeg the Center of the Food Universe?
I use ‘was’ rather than ‘is’ because it was a very long time ago and entirely personal.
Winnipeg in 1973 had a population of around half a million. It has grown very slowly since. The population in 2019 is 808,419. Winnipeg has more restaurants now but they don’t look unique on the net. One feels that they’d be typical of any English speaking small-city anywhere, nowadays. They were perhaps more culturally distinct then.
I’d grown up in post-scarcity Australian society in the 1950s and 60s to a diet of meat and three vegetables (or veg in Australianese) on a basically English diet, with better ingredients than the ‘home country‘ at least but not adventurous in any way.
Winnipeg was the first place I’d resided overseas. I’d enjoyed the changing cuisine in Australia as new ethnic groups moved in and influenced food culture. At university I’d experimented with different cheap cuisines and had decided that I liked eating and enjoyed new culinary experiences. Yet, I was untutored and naïve.
I had aspirations for novel and better food but no expectation that Winnipeg would provide them. But, the food in Winnipeg was a revelation. There was really good food to be had, if you looked.
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