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  • Interview with Maureen Littlejohn

    Erik Wolf

    Passionate about reading and very sociable, Maureen Littlejohn expressed a wish to become a journalist at an early age. After focusing on entertainment coverage for various magazines and newspapers, Maureen’s many trips and childhood food memories gradually led her to focus on gastronomy and travel as her favorite subjects. Gastronomy has always been a part of her life, especially since her mom loved cooking and was fond of experimenting with a variety of cuisines including foods of early settlers and French-Canadians. What better job than traveling to the four corners of the world and discovering unique culinary cultures.

    Thanks to her friend, Chantal Cooke (who is a WFTA board member and ambassador herself), Maureen got to know the World Food Travel Association. At the time, the association was looking for new members to join the board. Maureen took this opportunity last July and we are pleased to have her on our team. As a member of the Board of Directors, Maureen has several missions such as contributing to ambassador training, providing organizations with project advice, and designing and participating in workshops. As an ambassador, she also attends our monthly meeting in which we keep an eye on how the gastronomy tourism industry is evolving.

    Maureen is a woman of commitments. Eager to help others, she has carried out several humanitarian missions in Africa and Vietnam. Between Swaziland (now called Eswatini), Ghana, Ethiopia, and Hanoi, Maureen has participated in various missions ranging from education, maternal health, and gender abuse prevention (SWAGAA). Thanks to these humanitarian trips, Maureen was able to discover many culinary cultures. Although food products are generally different in each country, she noted several similarities including one that each of us should keep in mind: Cooking is a means of communication that brings people closer together. She believes that community-based tourism is key to helping these countries become more attractive to visitors and that it helps increase the living conditions of local citizens. These countries may face some challenges in terms of organization, but the importance of developing a leadership system, and the ability (and patience) to start small and grow gradually is paramount to all. Associations such as the WFTA can help support these countries in their tourism development projects. The association’s aim is to support small entrepreneurs and individual initiatives, and strengthen the sense of pride in local communities. Community-based tourism projects also make sure that money stays in these communities’ pockets.

    Back in Canada, Maureen has been on the editorial staff of Culture Magazin, Canada’s bilingual English-Vietnamese magazine since 2015. Offering articles on culture, travel, lifestyle, fashion, cuisine, health, and celebrities, the magazine aims to promote the intercultural bond that unites Canada and Vietnam. For Maureen, it is an opportunity to share her love for Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine, which is similar to Canadian gastronomy in one aspect. Variety. Although pho is Vietnam’s national dish, people tend to eat differently in the North and the South – pork is big in the North while seafood is popular in the South. In Canada, people also eat differently from east to west. The eastern part of the country is famous for poutine, maple syrup, and lobster and out west beef, grains and salmon reign.

    In her country, Maureen contributes articles to the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star newspapers. She is past chair of the Canadian Chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC). When asked, Maureen says she sees a bright future for food tourism in Canada. Gastronomy, like the population, is multi-cultural, delicious, and accessible. The foods and cuisine reflect the country’s many immigrants as well as those of the Indigenous peoples and the early settlers. Also, the country has a lot to offer for those who want to experience rural agriculture, unique experiences, and meet artisanal producers. To arouse the curiosity of future travelers, Maureen would use three words to describe Canadian cuisine: diverse, fresh and regional.

    Want to know more about Canada? Need help developing a gastronomy tourism project in your country? Do not hesitate to contact the WFTA, ask to speak with Maureen, or subscribe to GastroTerra, our platform for exchanging gastronomy tourism news around the world. Whatever your project, you will certainly find what you are looking for on our site!

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