Fishing Industry Buoys Up the Arts

PEI Fishermen’s Association gets behind theatrical production, Glenda’s Kitchen, to raise awareness of the Island fishery

Seafood chowder and butter biscuits. Storytelling and singing. Each of these quintessential Island pairings is a treat unto itself, but blend them together and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect afternoon filled with heart and hearty goodness. Glenda’s Kitchen, a production of The Charlottetown Festival, was first served up to audiences in 2016 and is back for a second season. This time they’ve got 1,250 new friends supporting them—the best kind of friends, PEI fishers.

“We find people are fascinated by lobster and the lobster fishery. They have lots of great questions on how the industry works and how we keep it sustainable,” PEI Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA) executive director Ian MacPherson said. It’s this curiosity about the fishery amongst visitors to the Island that led, in part, to the organization’s decision to sponsor the 2017 season of Glenda’s Kitchen.

The PEIFA is a member-based organization that formed in the early 1950s. Today the Association represents the majority of core fishing licence holders on PEI including lobster, herring, tuna, mackerel, groundfish, scallop, and crab fishers. They act as the industry representative in all relations with the provincial and federal governments, and raise public awareness of the importance of the fishery to PEI.

The latter goal became critical in 2012 and 2013, when the price lobster harvesters were getting for their catch dropped. “We decided to take control of what we could and get out and promote our product and tell the many positive stories about our fishery,” MacPherson said, adding that the association has sponsored several food-focused PEI events over the past five years. Glenda’s Kitchen is their latest effort.

Starring Charlottetown Festival veteran Glenda Landry, Glenda’s Kitchen is a folksy matinee show playing July 13 through August 30 at Confederation Centre of the Arts.

“We wanted any show about Glenda to include her successful cooking career as well. And because Glenda is an authentic and informed Islander, she wanted her cooking show to celebrate food-based industries that are crucial to PEI’s economy like the lobster and other seafood fisheries and potato growers,” show director Wade Lynch said.

Glenda Landry, Glenda’s Kitchen//Photo Credit: Berni Wood

Landry is joined by a cast of five musically-gifted friends, armed with stories and songs that celebrate Prince Edward Island’s many charms. The show draws attention to how each cast member, aside from Landry, has happily found themselves with the label ‘Islander-By-Choice’, the unifying theme Lynch focussed on after realizing everyone in the company was an IBC except Glenda.

Sharing the stage with the cast is the beloved Island kitchen. At the start of the show, Glenda sets out to create a seafood chowder. Throughout the hour of songs and storytelling that follows, she takes pauses to bring the audience back to the kitchen. She guides them through the steps to making a perfect Island seafood chowder, including a liberal dose of wine (for the pot and the cook), the right kind of potatoes (Russet Burbanks), and, of course, the seafood.

Glenda’s Kitchen also features cast member Hank Stinson’s beautiful ode to fishers, “The Fisherman’s Song,” and audience members are given recipe cards with five different lobster dishes. In keeping with the adage that “the proof is in the pudding” (or chowder in this case), the audience is treated to a lunch of seafood chowder and biscuits at the end of the show.

“Glenda’s Kitchen is a celebration of the farmers and fishers, families and culture of Prince Edward Island. And what better way to celebrate than by breaking bread with your neighbours over chowder and biscuits?” Lynch said. Serving real food in a theatre environment presents unique challenges. To ensure the chowder is cooked to temperature, it comes from Mavor’s Restaurant’s kitchen rather than Glenda’s on-stage kitchen, and is prepared by chef Miguel Cervantes.

Aside from a thoroughly entertaining afternoon by a veteran cast of performers and bellies full of good Island food, MacPherson hopes audiences will walk away with an appreciation for the importance of the PEI fishery and what it stands for.

“We are about sustainability. We are about community. We are about keeping coastal Canada vibrant,” MacPherson said. To support the Island fishery, he suggests asking for PEI lobster and buying PEI lobster—not too daunting a proposition for any seafood lover out there.

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon is the co-founder of Salty and was its editor-in-chief for the publication's inaugural year. When she’s not writing about food, Shannon's either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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