Ancestry shapes our perception of food. Familial traditions fuse with the mainstream food landscape to create a distinctive dimension. This garners unique perspectives, according to Two Hungry Blokes.
This is the second edition of our new monthly blog series where we chat with a Canadian foodie/ food writer and discuss their love of local food. This month we spoke to Ed Sum and James Shaw, the lovely team that encompasses Two Hungry Blokes. Ed’s parents immigrated to Victoria in the late 1950s from China, whereas James is a second-generation British-Canadian. This May, after six years, it is one of the longest running food blogs on Vancouver Island. People love what this opinionated and unique duo has to say.
Tell me a bit about how you got started with the Two Hungry Blokes blog?
James: Ed himself was already a food critic by writing for Nexus Newspaper at Camosun College. I was a bit of a workaholic — I used to work 120 hours every two weeks. Ed rescued me out of that. One day I turned to Ed and said, “hey to get me more out of the house let’s do a food blog?” And we took it from there.
Ed: My buddies at Camosun used to run the “Victoria Burger Blog” and “Victoria Buffet Blog,”and they invited me out to join them. I went back to school to re-evaluate what I wanted to do as a career — I was doing this and that as a tech writer but I was getting bored with that. Going back to school helped me focus — to get my journalism chops. I label myself a professional nerd because of my love of pop culture. Now I get to talk about what I enjoy.
James: My family is from the UK, so Ed came up with the title: Two Hungry Blokes. It was just gonna be something fun — we didn’t think we’d have a lot of people reading it. But we just rolled with it. It was something to get us out of the house into some adventures.
While you two are born and raised in Victoria, you both have strong family backgrounds. Tell me a bit about that.
Ed: Because my parents immigrated here and tried to raise me on Chinese values, I have a different perspective on life. I wouldn’t say I have an outsider’s perspective, but because I had so much to deal with growing up, I didn’t feel like a real Canadian (i.e. fully understanding about what Western Civilization is all about) until I embraced it in the 1980s. I wasn’t fully accepted by my peers when I was young so that’s influenced me. I write from how I see things based on my understanding of the world.
This probably gives more depth to your perspective.
Ed: Yes. I have a friend in Vancouver who pointed out on one of his Facebook posts the other day how Chinese food isn’t real Chinese food — it’s westernized Chinese food. Eggrolls aren’t authentic. When I went to Shanghai with my mom years ago, I got a proper education on what defines Chinese food. We went on a culinary exploration of what dining in each district is like (and I have a few relatives who worked in the restaurant industry).
James: Technically, I would be third generation Canadian, but to be honest I consider myself second-generation because although my grandparents were from Newfoundland they were part of the British Crown at the time. I was raised in a British household — that’s the attitude we had. It’s a different mentality. But I’m proud of both sides.
What do you love about the food scene on Vancouver Island?
Ed: I live not too far from Blenkinsop Rd., which is where The Root Cellar and Galey Farms are located. You have easy access to farm fresh eggs, things like strawberries when they’re in season. There’s nothing like a strawberry in season. I hate buying things from California. I’m so happy that the Public Market is open downtown to bring farm products to residents in the city; they’ve been open for a few years now.
James: I love the farmers markets. Some provide vegetables and fruits for less — the stores are marked up now. Even when it’s a bit pricey and you get it from a farmer it’s better because it’s fresh — you can taste the difference and know where it comes from.
For instance, Littler Farms. They’re out in Western Communities and they sell farm fresh eggs but with them they actually use their grandfather’s egg sizer. Over generations what would be considered extra large today would be small or medium back in the day. With them you get huge eggs! You look at them and think how did the chicken survive? Haha.
Speaking of that, you both talked proximity to local farmers. We’ve seen a growing trend towards non-gmo, organic, and local products in the food industry. Why do you think that is?
James: I saw the prices for fruits and vegetables at the supermarket and my eyes just popped out. I think as those prices increase more people will take advantage of buying from local farmers.
Years ago, farms were having trouble selling their products. There wasn’t a huge market yet — they had their regulars. People are now getting into supporting local businesses. It’s good but this is misdirected. We need to focus on non-franchise stores or farmers that are independent and in the area.
Ed: I dislike the idea of food being genetically modified because who knows how that will affect us as humans in the long run. Will we grow an extra set of lungs? Haha. Whatever we consume, that product’s natural lifespan should run its course instead of having science extend it for the sake of getting the most out of it.
And lastly, what is your favourite winter comfort go-to?
Ed: Hot chocolate!
James: A nice bowl of hot ramen.
Once again, a big thanks to Two Hungry Blokes for taking the time to speak with us! Stay tuned for next month’s blog post! If you are interested in being our guest for an upcoming blog send us a message or comment on Facebook or Twitter!