by Christine Cleghorn
The toonie takes top prize for cool in the Canadian coins contest. The polar bear. The two colours. The affectionate nickname referencing the loonie, its poor cousin. For a long time I thought the quarter should appeal to the Marketing Department for a re-brand. Somehow the caribou just don’t have the same cachet as polar bears, or even loons.
I’ve never eaten polar bear, or loon. I understand that polar bear is an important food source for Inuit and Inuvialuit, alongside the valuable insulative properties of the hides, and the parts that get used in various crafting pursuits. I haven’t eaten loon either – not much of a duck person, really.
Caribou, on the other hand, is a world-class kind of meat I have had the privilege of eating off and on over the last 20 years. This lean, finely grained meat is simply delicious and doesn’t require a great deal of fancy prep to make it shine. It comes in a much smaller package than moose, that other favoured ungulate of hunters. A bull moose can weigh in at over 1000lbs. That’s the equivalent to 4 barren ground caribou.
by Laura D’Amelio
An Italian pauper, trying to win the heart of a prince, cracked open a chestnut, it is said, and found a wealth of gems inside. It was enough to buy her way into the castle and into the prince’s arms. In another Italian folk story, a young protagonist was cradled “in the shell of an unripened chestnut; it was bitter and gave him understanding.” As a holder of gold and riches, and as a giver of wisdom and knowledge, the chestnut is a source of food, imagination and folklore.
The Italians, still celebrating the nut with festivals throughout the fall, wove the chestnut into folk tales and history centuries ago. With its large meaty centre, the chestnut itself tells the story of hardiness and survival. It supported swathes of Europe through the 14th and 15th centuries, later falling out of fashion when the rich deemed it a poor-man’s food, fit for only pigs.
The nut, bred in a green, spiny outer shell, is well protected and takes patience to prepare. Pliny the Elder, a roman author and naturalist who lived from 23 AD to 79 AD, wrote: “It is really surprising that nature should have taken such pains thus to conceal an object of so little value.”
By Terri Elders
“One aspect of serendipity to bear in mind is that you have to be looking for something in
order to find something else.”—Lawrence Block
By the time Ken and I flew to northeast Washington State to shop around for our future retirement home, I’d lived, worked or travelled in forty-nine countries. But I’d never set foot in Canada. A native Californian, I envisioned Canada as a frozen wasteland dotted with icebergs and igloos. And now my husband of not too many years wanted to move in right next door, to a county that edged the Canadian border.
So that January I’d taken a week’s leave from my Peace Corps job in Washington, DC. I wanted to reconnoitre this area in the dead of winter before I committed to such a proposed move. During that brief 2004 visit our real estate agent daily escorted us up and down Stevens County’s Highway 395 corridor. Together we tramped through ranch houses, log cabins and even farmhouses, from Loon Lake to Kettle Falls, slogging through half a foot of snow to reach each entryway. By Saturday, weary and chilled, I nearly cheered when our guide announced she took Sundays off.
“We could drive up to Grand Forks in British Columbia for an early Sunday supper,” Ken suggested the next morning. “It’s less than an hour and a half from here.”
by Gabriella Brand
I have a beef about Canadian dinner parties. And it’s not the beef. It’s the way the food is actually served.
Every time I’m invited to an Anglo-Canadian home for a meal, there are no serving bowls in sight, no family-style platters. Instead, the host or hostess invariably “plates” the offerings. Even with just two or three guests. This is done quietly, without fanfare, out in the kitchen, perhaps with a pair of calipers and a yarn scale. On each plate, the host makes a little section for the salmon, a corner for the quinoa, a parcel for the squash. Neat and tidy. A work of art. Then the whole presentation is placed down in front of each guest like a steaming piece of needlepoint. Ta-dah!
At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful guest, I’m going to ask a question.
A culturally insensitive question.
We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to see Alton Brown at the Sony Centre in Toronto on March 27th.
With his upcoming tour, Alton Brown brings his brand of quirky humour and culinary-science antics to the stage. The two-hour show is a unique blend of stand up comedy, food experimentation, talk show antics, multimedia lecture, and, for the first time…live music. Audience interaction is strictly enforced throughout the evening, though if you’re called upon as a culinary assistant you’ll definitely want to take the lab coat Brown offers, as things tend to get messy. Brown has worked his weird magic on live audiences across the nation for over a decade but this is the first time he’s actually hit the road with a live tour. The entire family will have a blast, especially as you sing along with Brown’s soon to be hits “Airport Shrimp Blues” and “TV Cookin Ain’t Like No Other Cookin”.
Contest is now closed and the winner has been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who entered and congrats to our winner – hope you enjoy the show!
Prize is 2 tickets to see Alton Brown at the Sony Centre on Friday, March 27th, 8pm. No cash value, prize is not transferable, winner’s name will be left at “will call” at the Sony Centre box office.
by Timothy Fowler
Milestones of my life are momentous meals: graduations, weddings, and birthdays come to mind. Sunday night is a momentous meal – a going-away dinner – the whole family has been planning and preparing for a while now. We’re having roast beef; more specifically – prime rib. Dad’s favourite. I want it to be perfect, grudgingly accepting nothing is perfect and squishing the space out between perfection and reality so that you can’t slip even a meat thermometer through it. Wanting it so nearly perfect that no one will notice.
While boarding an aircraft to return to my parents home for this final meal, thoughts of Mom and Dad in the early days swirl in my head. I envision them as young parents, scrimping, no meat in their menu, save a sale on ground round, or an occasional discounted knuckle of Hereford.
by Beverley Wood
When I went to my first real Mexican market or “tianguis” (tee-ang-geese), it was over-the-top exotic to me. The sounds, the colours, the produce, the dollar store junk, the jeans, the incense, it went on and on. Now, if I need anything in Mexico, from underwear to goldfish, I hit the tianguis. But mostly, it’s where I grocery shop, especially when entertaining.
While they are farmers’ markets in the purest sense, the Mexican tiangius is nothing like the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, the Granville Island Market in Vancouver or the Seaport Market in Halifax. It really feels like another world. Yes, they all sell food. However, strawberries at the tianguis, for example, are piled high on a plastic tablecloth like a mountain peak. And a kilogram of these red, ripe, beauties only cost me the equivalent of $1.20 CAD. In January. In June, they’re 80 cents.
By Richard LeBlond
Fisherman’s brewis is an anachronism from the earliest stages of development of fish and clam chowders, when “sea biscuits” – hardtack – were a central ingredient. Brewis is what happens to hardtack when it is soaked in water overnight. Hardtack is a durable cracker that was a major source of limited nutrition on 19th century ships, and in the U.S. Civil War. It often consists solely of flour after the water is baked out of it, and if kept dry, can last for years. There is a joke among Civil War re-enactors that hardtack made during the 1860s tastes just as good now as it did then.
In Newfoundland, fisherman’s brewis was once the main meal for fishermen on a boat, and often a breakfast on shore. It is still eaten today, and is on the menu of some outport restaurants.