If you live anywhere in Ontario I bet you are thinking “Where?”, “Are you kidding?” or “You are lying!”
I began my trek at 9:30am by tweeting @ElginCounty where good foodie or farm places to go in between London and West Lorne. They responded with two farms that I still have yet to go to! It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I had to let my dog out back home (my grandma would enjoy that saying -her big excuse to leave somewhere – but this time it was true!).
My purpose of going was to fill out paperwork for volunteering at a kids cooking class at West Elgin Community Health Center. Conversations with Shelly led to my Twitter account, my tweet from the county, and low and behold another recommendation.
So off I went to Fit Workz.
It looked cheery and Shelly, who recommended it, was an amazing community person so I went in.
A hallway with many doors and openings made me peak into the first opening on the left. A small room had Steele working in it. I asked to come in and if they sold food. She welcomed me in. I took one look:
and even though it looks like not much – smaller menus can mean tried and true favourites with less waste.
I chatted with Steele who was attending university for nutrition and family studies after not choosing dietetics stream. (A post on that should be done one of these days!). She was lovely. I couldn’t decide so I picked both a salad with quinoa and the curry chickpea blend. Not being big on smoothies I took Steeles favourite one for a spin too.
It was so nice to sit outside and eat but it went into my belly very quickly!
And yes the sign is right, a cute small stand of organic fresh fruits and veggies they have inside too!
So for three items it was $17 approximately. Not bad for quality stuff and a big green smoothie made right in front of me. I’m not big on green smoothies in general. The cucumbers helped me out but throw a berry in it (I should have asked ) and it’d be perfect for my taste. Knowing most people though… It was fab for smoothie people.
But I wasn’t done … Walking back to the health Center (Fit Workz is super close and on Main St) I jumped into the car after posting on Facebook (www.facebook.com/nutritionbitescanada if you are looking) and started driving.
I was not 2 minutes before I saw something that had caught my eye on Twitter AND those tourist signs cities and towns put up. I drove past these buildings and yes, the awesome black flags flagged me down and in!
Welcome to one of the most unique spots I have ever been to! The Arts & Cookery Bank.
It’s a blend and connection of:
- Two buildings – a bank and a barn.
- Two times – the past and modern day.
- Two types of communities – rural and big city.
- Two types of purpose – Arts (photos, graphic design, architect) and Cooking (holy Batman I’m in love with the kitchen!)
So I walk in to see what this tweet that said something from farm to cookery and Rogers TV doing an episode there.
I walked in and above a beautiful wood and cushioned bench – the wall’s message explained it so well.
Welcomed so warmly by a fabulous employee I was immediately asked if I wanted a full tour! YES PLEASE!
So first she took me into the huge barn turned into kitchen. What you can’t see is the amazing Pony Stalls on the left with the original sliding barn doors – 3 of them! Behind them is where student interns and many computers reside. They are big on photography as an art.
They were doing a planning session for their Food Fight coming up in July! Saturday, July 18th it is open to the public 3-8pm for demonstrations, lots of goodies and awarding the best product made during the week of Food Fights. Fellow OHEA member and P.H.Ec., Emily Richards (cookbook author), will be one of the guest judges. And Fresh Air Media, Andrew Campbell, will be speaking on the Saturday – he’s very well-spoke and a riot. I met him at a Dietitians of Canada conference two years ago and we sat beside each other at a Canada Beef/Dairy Farmers informal dinner. Great local farmer to be speaking.
This event is highly recommending you make your way down on Saturday, July 18th for this very well put together fundraiser (and for you it’s free!). For more info: http://theartsandcookerybank.com/page/food_fight
Ok so I need to continue the tour…. in between the barn and the bank is the entrance I originally walked into. It was recently built (did she say 2004?) to connect the two donated buildings. And then you walk into The Vault. On one side it says this: Wow – I hope you read that to the bottom. (Read again if you missed it. Go ahead. I will wait.)
The other side is what they were talking about – prints. I love it – not hand prints but finger prints as in breaking into the bank! Adorable. Those who live in the community can do this. Amazing.
Remember, that wherever you live – especially if it is a big city – you might feel like you can’t be a part of your community. Whether you think you affect your community or not, I challenge you to think – when was the last time you saw a neighbour helping a neighbour. When was the last time you volunteered your time? When was the last time you dragged their garbage and recycling cans in, just so they didn’t have to when they came home from work after you? All those small things actually do help and are appreciated.
Be good. Do good.
That will always leave a mark on your community for the better. BE & DO! It doesn’t work if you do nothing or don’t include good and positive. We are afraid of going out of our way for neighbours and strangers. When I have done things to help, or ask someone if they need something – they always look in shock. Community is connections. And sometimes it starts by smiling, opening a door and genuinely asking how they are or how you can help.
So into the bank we go. A beautiful hanging dividers with photography art. Around the room are all the historic families that contributed to West Lorne. Imagine all the research it took. I’m so happy someone preserved all those documents and photos. Then, the art of the architecture and design. Look at those ceilings! Look at the windows. And love the fireplace (how else would they warm the building?).
We went upstairs to what would be the Banker’s apartment. That would be some good security if a person was always above the bank! Upstairs has many resources to pick up and maps so you can pick different trails (driving mostly) to discover towns, history (quilt art trail) and southwestern ontario culinary day trips. As well, there are meeting rooms, more computers for photo editing (upstairs is the Mac behind that wall). I think they should have a Christmas historic bash with a live band and appetizer stations set up throughout the whole place. That would be amazing party I would attend!
And that’s not all…
If you were watching my instagram (www.instagram.com/nutritionbites) or twitter (www.twitter.com/nutritionbites8) you will know that somehow I said yes to entering the Food Fight on the Wednesday night! They still have openings for you to compete against other organizations and companies (think team building!).
I will be representing ‘NSTEP – the charity I work with. We teach nutrition and physical activity to children with the mission of eliminating childhood obesity and all the health concerns that go with it. (More info on that or contacts please visit http://www.nstep.ca). Unfortunately, my co-workers have other part time jobs and I’m still left without a partner. My mom was my next go to, but she has bummed out her knee. So still looking for a partner in crime for this event. If not, I’m going to be on my own! Ah well, I’ll still be trying and supporting a great cause AND getting messy in a kitchen – yes please!!!
So I’m inviting you to take a Sunday, or Saturday (July 18th) drive to West Lorne. It was less than an hour from my Northwest London home.
Definitely hit up Fit Workz for lunch. https://www.facebook.com/ginasfitness
Stop into The Arts & Cookery Bank for a historic, artistic and yummy destination. A high-end non-profit is a great blend of a museum, community centre and local art & food education centre. http://theartsandcookerybank.com/page/home
And next time I’m there, I’m going to take Elgin County’s advice and try out those farms: Great Lakes Farms & Empire Market. If you go first, let me know how it is: Comment below or tweet me at @nutritionbites8 .
Who can really love Canadian history, food, art and community and not stop in here? Like Paul Brandt would sing, Small Town, Big Dreams. And did they ever dream big and make it a reality!