Monthly Archives: July 2012
This post was first published in my weekly column on Castanet, a local Okanagan news website. I liked it so much I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it if you follow me here!
I know I am going to sound like a nostalgic old fart this week, but if you will indulge me a little, I think I can bring you around to a pertinent point that requires everyone’s attention, even that of the “young farts”…
Last weekend we sat down for breakfast to enjoy a nice pastry with some fresh strawberries I had bought. I will attest that they were not local – I couldn’t find local ones at the Westside stores and regrettably I didn’t have the time to go downtown and visit the u-pick places. However, I did not think I deserved to be punished for buying from a larger store; they usually try to offer the best products within their channels. The utter lack of taste that I experienced was in total contrast to the plump, intensely red outer appearance. Was I to expect that was too good to be true? I felt like I was eating a cardboard cut-out of the food I was expecting.
Later that same day I had the same kind of experience all over again. (I kid you not – I really felt picked on by this point…) It was a hot day, and I thought, “What better thing to do than to have a piece of watermelon and spit the seeds off the deck like we did when I was a kid?” I am sure that was how generations of kids learned to spit. After all, the alternative was having a watermelon grow in your tummy, and who wants that? (My Gramps told me that, and he was never wrong.)
Well, that is all fine and good unless you live in today’s world where watermelons are all seedless (and they often don’t taste like much either). I figured that the reason both the strawberries and the watermelon didn’t taste like anything was the produce equivalent of a big box store: mass production. But then I wondered, just how do they produce masses of any kind of produce when they have no seeds??
That is when the whole thing started to get a bit scary, as I started to contemplate some kind of scientific lab slash greenhouse where an injection or laser perhaps was the secret to starting a new fruit. It made me think of episodes of “The Twilight Zone” where you thought at first the idea was too far-fetched to ever be possible, but by the end you realized that you had been hoodwinked and you were left helpless in a world filled with these dangerous far-fetched ideas as part of everyday life.
I know that at this point I have not gotten the attention of any younger folks, since they tend to figure that technology is almost always an advantage and unless a government conspiracy is involved, bigger ideas and projects are better. I am not against advancing, but I do think we should look before we leap.
You may not be a garden geek like me, using heirloom seeds and loving the wild plants that come up in the garden after the birds have dropped them or the compost has sprouted them. But here is another good reason to support those local farmers that grow food that survives in this environment. Even if they are not growing organic food, it is certainly sustainable. You may not have a memory of food from days gone by, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve food with character. Down with wimpy watermelons!
If you want to get involved in a network that works to support having a sustainable food community, Slow Food is a worldwide non-profit organization with members in 160 countries around the world. It was formed over twenty years ago in Italy as a way to counteract the trend of fast food. A local chapter, or convivium, is being formed. Check out their website for information on how we can change the world and connect people through food!
I wanted to create a post that would showcase something elegant for a summer garden party. I was thinking of keeping up to Martha Stewart and all her beautiful flower arrangements amidst pastel-coloured cocktails, or perhaps Alice Waters-style with sprigs of just-snipped herbs on every plate. Well, I never got the time to put an idea together. Instead, here are my impromptu notes…
At Rabbit Hollow we have what we call an edible fence. Our property line is covered on one side of the yard with all kinds of fruit trees and berry bushes. The most prolific of these are the golden raspberry canes that are now in their fourth year here. They are wonderful fruits, a bit less tangy than red raspberries and certainly more exotic to look at. The ones we have are everbearing, so from June through November we get to nibble on these little delights every morning if we want. I usually sneak a few after I walk the dogs and water the garden in the morning. There is something wonderfully rebellious about stuffing mouthfuls of raspberries into your mouth even before you’ve put your business clothes on 🙂
The catch is, the little bit of nibbling is not keeping up with production anymore. As a result, I have started to look for recipes that highlight their delicate flavour, and Raspberry Financiers are just about perfect. They are a lovely afternoon tea treat, but I have found that they make a decadent Sunday breakfast. You can be lazy and add them to pancakes, but this recipe is sure to impress everyone at the table.
So, this post is a reminder for you to combine the irreverent and the elegant occasionally, just for fun. Be serious about having fun. Life is short and it is meant to be enjoyed and shared. Have an extra mouthful of berries and let yourself smile.
Well, it’s now July and the rain and grey skies continue. At least here in the Okanagan it’s not really cold, but it’s not the summer paradise we’re used to, that’s for sure. Gardens are lanky and lush green, and lawns are hard to keep mowed with all the rain. Everyone is still wearing jackets, and only the die-hards deep in denial are sporting their flip flops – who wants soggy toes? But since I said in my last post I was going to make a concerted effort to improve I decided I had to find my own sunshine.
My garden is overgrown, which for the most part means more weeding and less bounty. However, rhubarb is one of the plants that is grateful for cooler temperatures. The strawberries are also plump and juicy in my boxes out back. So, in the spirit of making lemons when life gives you lemonade, I thought it only fitting to make a Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie! I used the good old-fashioned pastry recipe on the bottom of the Tenderflake lard box, because I wanted this to be a comfort dish. It always turns out flaky and golden brown. The beauty of the pie though, is that even a store-bought pie crust that you thaw and bake will still show well with the taste of freshly cooked fruit.
Having married a chef, I have to succumb to professional criticism of all of my recipes. Martin is friendly about his comments, but he is not shy to tell me when I could improve (“the filling would be thicker if you made sure it boiled”, or “the centre doesn’t cook very well when you put a large decoration on it”). However, when he says that something tastes really good, he means it. And when he goes back for another piece, I know I have a success.
We’ve now eaten the pie, and it’s still raining. But I feel a bit better. It really was like a bit of sunshine, tasting the tart rhubarb and the sweet strawberries with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream. Scoring a star rating with the chef didn’t hurt either 🙂
Next I am working on something with our golden raspberries as they are ripening to spite the rain, I think. Keep watching this space for another recipe!