Once upon a time, not so very long ago, joyful lilts of music, cadences of children playing and neighbours chatting, and aromas of home cooking floated from the grounds of the Naramata Centre as the second annual NaramataSlow Harvest Supper unfolded 3 to 6 pm, October 15, 2017.
A few years earlier, community leaders of the Canadian village called Naramata – which is placed like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the southeastern shores of British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake, got together to pursue the “Cittaslow” designation. To revitalize their Cittaslow commitment, they envisioned a harvest meal.
When you’re talking about a village like Naramata, BC, where citizens have the determination to adopt the “Cittaslow” ideology, “Once upon a time” is a valid opener. Cittaslow is an inspiration of the Slow Food Movement founded in Italy and at its core, endeavours to improve the quality of life by encouraging a slower pace of life that holds dear community traditions. The vetting process to be one of the 100+ towns and villages worldwide is vigorous so declaring such values without truly embracing them is avoided.
In the end, the decision is community-driven and demonstrates a genuine attitude of caring about a balanced life where heritage, culture, the arts, environment, plus health and welfare of its citizens matter. For skeptics, it might all sound like a bit of a fairy tale – hence, in launching into my story, I start with “once upon a time” to give naysayers leave to look away.
Naramata’s history is a tale of Okanagan First Nations, then fur traders, miners, beef ranchers, orchardists, railway personnel, and settlers, then artists, writers, recluses, vacationers, innkeepers, and retailers, and more recently, winemakers, and filmmakers. Even how Naramata was named evokes colourful debate whether it was in a séance that founder John Moore Robinson witnessed medium Mrs. Gillespie speaking with the spirit of an Indian Chief who spoke fondly of his wife “Narramattah” translated as “the smile of Manitou”. For more on the history, go to Discover Naramata’s website history section.
Whether it was Manitou or some other spiritual force that smiled upon this region, the area is truly blessed with bucolic lifestyles and backdrops. Little wonder the twisting stretch of road extending from Penticton through Naramata is punctuated by some of the finest vineyards and orchards in North America. It’s also no surprise that spring through fall, locals are forced to slow down as visitors dipsy doodle along the route. Who wouldn’t want to zigzag to check out wineries, distilleries, breweries, cheeseries, fruit stands, bistros, beaches, parks, the repurposed Kettle Valley Railroad (KVR Trail) and other hiking trails? To learn more about this wine region and wine touring tips, check out Naramata Bench Wineries Association.
While the population swells in peak season, the village is home to about 2,000. Along with the tranquil setting, the pace is more thoughtful and less frenzied. The daily agenda is dictated more by Mother Nature’s ebb and flow and less by man-made formulations. Naramatians, as locals call themselves, tend to embrace this reality and are more likely to weigh decisions that bring change through the filter of how they’ll impact the community rather than expediency.
If you’re looking for night clubs and urban distractions, there are more suitable destinations. On the other hand, Naramatians are a friendly bunch and are delighted to welcome likeminded people into their fold even if you just visit seasonally. Plus, the #naramatalove (The Twitter hash tag that celebrates the region), extends well beyond the village’s boundaries.
Accordingly, Naramata Cittaslow committee created the NaramataSlow Harvest Dinner, in 2016, as a celebration of harvest and community with all ages welcome. The goal was to raise awareness and create conversations around what it means to Naramata to be designated as Cittaslow. It sold out quickly and response was so positive, the first year’s event barely began before it was conceived as an annual event.
In 2016, I was lucky to be hosted as a guest media with my husband, and in 2017 when the tickets went on sale, I quickly snapped up two. Tickets were $15 for adults and $5 for children with sales intended to help cover the basic costs of set up and service.
2016 NaramataSlow Harvest Supper
It’s a potluck-style community meal so each family is asked to contribute a dish. The menu highlight is savoury slow-roasted pork contributed by Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose of Bella Homestead Farm, that they raised and prepared.
Guests were “asked to use as much Naramata grown, raised or sourced ingredients” and it was inspiring to see how fully that request was respected. Naramata Cittaslow hopes to build a library of the recipes from those dishes.
A popular feature for those willing to participate was a Preserve Exchange to highlight the local harvest. Participants brought a jar of their favourite preserve and traded it for a neighbour’s jar.
What would a feast be in wine country without wine? Appropriately, a select group of Naramata wineries offered wines for purchase.
A tasting area showcased “the unique terroir of the Naramata Bench with wines made from grapes from vineyards located within the Naramata Cittaslow designated area”.
Children played in the park and plotted out their approach to the dessert tables inside even before dinner.
Music overflowed from the Naramata Centre’s Columbia Hall melding with the aromas from the outdoor buffet and arrival of the succulent pig to stimulate conversations and cravings.
The formal portion wasn’t formal at all with blessings given and some commentary on “NaramataSlow: Recognizing and celebrating traditions, events, organizations and people that are fundamental to a Naramata way of life”.
The Naramata Community Church Women’s Group offered the sale of 50/50 tickets to support the local fire hall, bursaries for Naramata students, the Penticton Soupateria and other local causes. Guests were invited to write down their perception of the benefits of Naramata Cittaslow.
2017 NaramataSlow Harvest Supper
Volunteers cleared tables and did dishes so by the end of the evening few crumbs of evidence were left, save the scraps of coloured paper posted on the bulletin board singing the praises of the momentous occasion and Naramata life. For information on Naramata and upcoming events, My Naramata is a great resource.
Thanks, NaramataSlow and the many groups who came together to make it possible. May you live long and stay slow!