On January 6, 2016, the International Year of Pulses launched around the world. In over 140 separate events (the number grew so fast leading up to Jan 6, we only knew the total after!), people came together, ate pulses and celebrated what is sure to be a momentous year for the pulse industry.

The date was originally chosen because it coincided with the “Bean Feast”, part of the European “Twelfth Night” celebrations.  According to folklore, the Twelfth-Night cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, and those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night's festivities.  I would extrapolate that to today, where those who consume pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils) are enjoying a royal diet!

Pulses are very important to Canada's economy, as our country is the largest exporter in the world of them!  Canada sends peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas to 174 different countries, which adds $3 billion to our economy each year.  These pulses are grown by 22,000 farmers who appreciate the value of these environmental sustainable crops in their rotation.

But back to the launch!  In Canada, we chose to hold our national launch in Toronto, the centre of the Canadian universe for food media, bloggers, chefs, and foodies. The venue was the “Design Exchange”, a non-profit design museum located in the historic Toronto Stock Exchange building. Guests entered through a live bean field, with plants grown by students from the University of Guelph for the occasion.  Guests could then have their pictures taken, award style, against a celebrity pulse backdrop.  Directly behind that was a station where guests could fill cloth bags from sacks of pulses that looked like they were straight out of a Mumbai open market. Continuing into the room, guests could read and learn from the beautiful travelling exhibit created by the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

Throughout the night, volunteers circulated giving people an opportunity to take the #PulsePledge. Chef Ivanna Raca provided amazing appetizers and four food stations focused on peas, beans, chickpeas, and lentils. 

And then there was Chef Michael Smith!  Chef Smith is our celebrity ambassador for the year, and he was available to every person who wanted to visit with him.  He is larger than life (6’7” to be exact), personable (such great stories of PEI life), kind (selfies with everyone), and absolutely loves cooking with and eating pulses! Check out his website at chefmichaelsmith.com. As the evening progressed, guests sauntered around, sipping champagne, noshing on appies, networking, visiting, and snapping photos, all to a backdrop of pulses, pulses, pulses. For a snapshot of what this event looked like, watch this short video!

And the result?  Both #LovePulses and #PulseFeast trended on Twitter for hours. And #LovePulses ranked fourth that night in trending topics from Toronto and eighth in Canada.  Bloggers had a field day interviewing pulse industry people (farmers and trade). Business cards were exchanged, stories were shared.  The conclusion: pulses are uber-cool in Canada!!!

To see more of what Canada has planned, visit www.iypcanada.ca 

By Allison Ammeter

Allison serves as Chair of the Canadian IYP2016 Committees, and is also Chair of the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission. Her goal is that Alberta and Canada more fully know the many benefits of growing and eating pulses.