This project considers the place of food production and consumption in Italian-Canadian culture, examining cuisine as one of the defining traits of cultural identity for Italian immigrants that settled within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) over the past one hundred years. It begins with an overview of the history of Italian immigration to Toronto and key neighbourhoods built and transformed by this diaspora, including the establishment of landmark food businesses that persist to this day. Using a sociocultural, historical lens, the project further highlights the impact and contributions of the Italian community on Toronto’s food industry, tracing the growth and enduring legacies of restaurants in the face of cultural demographic shifts towards the turn of the century. This project further outlines the importance of recognizing and preserving the culinary traditions of diasporas, particularly in times of crises that impact local businesses and threaten to erase the cultural footprint of immigrant communities.
In an effort to preserve Italian-Canadian culinary traditions, as well as to deploy them in service of foreign language acquisition, Prof. Lobalsamo oversees a student-led research initiative centred on identifying, analyzing, and archiving culinary artifacts (such as menus and advertisements) from historically significant Italian-Canadian eateries in the GTA. Students enrolled in Cucina Italiana (UTM), Scholars in Residence (UTM), Work Study (UofT), internships, and those who volunteer, have the opportunity to participate in a community-engaged field experience in which they visit (in-person or remotely) Toronto’s Italian eateries, interview proprietors, and identify culinary artifacts for preservation in a new digital archive being developed at UTM. To help ensure that the diaspora mark, success, and memory will not simply fade away, researchers Samantha Arpas, Adriano Pasquali, and Dellannia Segreti (UTM) consider the factors that have changed the perception of Italian food over time and examine the current landscape of food establishments.
Here are the links to our project:
Italian-Canadian Foodways Mapping Site:
Historical Repository: https://omeka.utm.utoronto.ca/s/foodways/page/about