Category Archives: food

Travel theme: flavour

I came in from outside tonight with my fingers all coated in saskatoon and raspberry juice, and read Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney’s post about harvesting berries – I took it as a sign. So, here I am contributing my handful of harvest ideas and memories to her theme for this week.

I live in the Okanagan, western Canada’s fruit basket. We have an edible fence in our front yard, with tayberries, golden and red raspberries, white currants, and two kinds of gooseberries. We also have a cherry tree that is over 60 years old, the only one left from the original orchard that surrounded our farmhouse. Late June our harvest begins with the currants and saskatoons, then it’s non-stop eating till the first frost.

 

As I stood out there tonight, picking and eating (you know, “one for the bowl, one for me”), I thought of how fortunate we are. To live in a place where all summer long I can eat my fill with the dogs nuzzling at my feet – it made me think of the phrase “an embarrassment of riches”.

When I was a kid growing up in Calgary, berries were much more of a luxury. My parents tried to grow raspberries, but we only ever managed a few handfuls for a harvest. My mom would buy them occasionally but they were doled out like gold coins. Perhaps that is part of why they taste so good now.

My favourite way to eat berries is by the handful right off the bush, but if I’m cooking them I want to make sure I can still taste the full impact of their flavour.

  • Our golden raspberriesberry financiers are more delicate in taste than red ones, but in Raspberry Financiers they shine. These are delicious for brunch or afternoon tea, and they make a delectable hostess gift.
  • Gooseberries have great taste but they are tough to deal with. The prickly bushes put up a good fight for their bounty, and their stems and tails are rather gnarly to eat. I like to make syrup by simply boiling the fruit with a bit of sugar and then I strain it for syrup – yummy on pancakes, ice cream, or even in salad dressing.
  • Currants are good for syrup too, and you can take things a step further and make mostarda. This Italian condiment is a great savoury match for roasted meats and cheeses. You can use this recipe for cherry mostarda for currants too.

As a foodie, I am all about the flavours of life. It amazes me that Mother Nature can offer us so many variations on a theme. I mean really, your imagination has to be good to develop the sweetness and range of colour in blueberries and golden raspberries and then head all the way through the spectrum to the different but equally delicious tangy gooseberries and currants.

I’m not sure what flavour the fuzzy saskatoons have – that was more about texture, not one I wanted to sample …


I have been fortunate to have flavour memories from other parts of the world, but I’ll save that for another post. Today I’m just going to stay grateful for the bountiful flavours of home.

You could fry an egg on the sidewalk!

We are in the midst of a heat wave. It’s not unusual for where I live at this time of year; the Okanagan is the northernmost tip of the Sonoran desert that runs through much of North America. It is a summer vacation destination, so many people are on holiday and don’t worry too much about being hot. For those of us working though, it’s tricky when the outdoor temperature is at or above body temperature. I bet you really could fry an egg.

Thankfully we have Okanagan Lake and a few other lakes along the length of the valley. They allow for moderate temperatures much of the year, but there is always a week or so that makes the mercury boil. I work mostly outside in the summer, long hours, but I vow not to complain because I am someone who dislikes cold much more than heat. I am thankful I don’t work in the snow and ice, and I am in a happy environment sharing in people’s celebrations. It could be worse. If sweating a little (okay, some days more than a little) is the price I pay, so be it.

It is especially delicious when we get to cool off. Some days we get down to the lake with the dogs and all of us go for a swim. Other days, it’s a soak in the tub, maybe even with a cocktail if we finish work early enough. At the very least, we can wander down the road for an ice cream cone at our local favourite, Paynter’s Fruit Market.

When I was a kid, it was easy to beat the heat. You gathered a few friends and someone turned on the sprinkler. Ta da! Instant fun. Or you listened for the ice cream truck – it was bound to come by sooner or later. Then you could critique your friends’ choices (“ice cream sandwiches are better than fudgsicles, for sure!”), and decided whose tongue turned the best colour.

I don’t hear an ice cream truck anymore, and kids seem to play at municipal water parks instead of in back yards. As long as they find some way to have honest-to-goodness fun, what does it matter? A little bit of creativity is all it takes.

I am reminded of a podcast I heard one hot summer day years ago, by the late great Stuart McLean. It made me think of a summer with my cousins when we had an epic water fight. In case you are in need of inspiration on a hot summer day, here it is:

Vinyl Cafe – The Waterslide

With that said, I am going to close now, and see if perhaps the dogs want to frolic a bit in the shade with the hose. The sweat is dripping down my nose as I write this, sitting even in the shade…

You Gotta Have Heart

Spokane Riverfront Park, July 4

It’s July 4th, and if there is one thing Americans know how to do, it is hold a patriotic party. Being Canadian, I am part of a country known more for its politeness and low key attitude so I have always been in awe of the Americans when it comes to this kind of thing.

I have been in the U.S. on July 4th twice in my life, and both times it was spectacular. The pomp and ceremony was grandiose, there was stars and stripes everywhere, and of course there was plenty of food and drink with American favourites in abundance.

The first time as a young teen at basketball camp in Pullman, WA. I had never seen a fireworks show like that before – wow! And that was just for all of us campers being hosted at the university campus. We had hot dogs for dinner, on tables dressed with bunting and flags. For dessert as a special treat we got apple pie.

The American girls wanted to know if we had a party in Canada (they had no idea about Canada

despite being low key, Canadians do have their own sense of pride – and sense of humour

Day). They also asked about Canadian food, not expecting that much of what we ate was at least similar (you couldn’t get Babe Ruth chocolate bars or Dr Pepper in Canada when I was a kid, but I never felt that I suffered).

This was before the internet and online shopping, so I suppose you can excuse some ignorance of Canadian culture.

My next Independence Day experience was taking a bunch of teenagers, when I was part of a Girl Guide trip to Spokane for the July 4th holiday. We were downtown at Riverfront Park, so there was not only the fireworks show but also the full carnival atmosphere from food trucks to craft vendors and all manner of buskers.

We saw dance troops, marching bands, a capella singers, a one-man band, a magician, and a fire

you want to share this treat – the whole thing is enough to conquer even the heartiest of foodies

juggler. I even had a chance to try a deep-fried Mars bar. The girls were overwhelmed by the scope of the celebration; it opened a door to a new understanding of a different world, as many of them had never left Canada before.

We celebrated 150 years of Canada as a country this year. I did see more Canadian flags on cars and tattoos on people’s faces. We knew more people who had parties, and we catered a party for people who had done all kinds of decorating at their lakefront house, and hired a fireworks barge to do a show on the lake for their guests. It was heartwarming, and fun – I could even say patriotic. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and felt a rush of pride at being a part of our great country.

It is important to give credit where it is due – as I type this, I’m watching fireworks set off from five barges in the New York harbour. The West Point band and glee club are singing a medley of patriotic songs in tune to the explosions. Cheers and good health to all you Americans out there. Here’s to your spirit!

 

Grow and Show

Perhaps it’s because I am now in charge of the garden and not one of my mom’s minions, but I am now a proud gardener. 

As a kid I used to begrudge my time in the garden – it always happened when other summer activities were in full swing, like long weekends when friends went swimming or camping. I was planting or weeding or harvesting. 

Planting wasn’t too bad, but it sure took a long time to see the results of one’s labour. Weeding was the worst, as it seemed to be a losing battle. (I still feel that way most days but I’ve learned to feel the worth in anger management therapy. ) Harvesting was fun as it was the payoff – but it’s like cycling downhill… there is another side to it. 

All downhills have an up, and the garden harvest has to be eaten. Since it tends to be ready in large quantities at once, this means processing what you can’t eat right away. I still have a vivid sensory memory of the yucky taste in my mouth after sucking the air out of blanched snow peas and beans. (The freezer bags came with a short straw to do your own “vacuum sealing”. It was a good concept but I have since learned squishing the bag is just as good. )

Now I take pride in every little victory, and I check every morning to see the changes. (It’s funny how it took me many miles in life before I could fully appreciate short spans of time.) I suppose this is just another way of stopping to smell the flowers, isn’t it, Mumsy?

So, here’s my “grow and show” for this week:

The first cucumber! Now if only my lettuce would catch up.

Basil! To go with …

Tomatoes! The red plastic is working. This black krim in the greenhouse is the first to bear fruit (with the plastic they are supposed to bear more fruit earlier.)

My pride and joy – the Pink Gilbert grape vine that grows over the stone wall and makes the perfect picture with the window Martin made. I finally got its shoots thinned today.


Cheers to all those gardeners out there, and to the many eaters that share in our harvest.  Here’s to a bountiful season!

A Taste of Place 

We had the good fortune of a day off this past weekend and so we took full advantage. It’s a bit early to celebrate the bounty of the region but we did our best. 

The best place to start is you want a taste of fresh local food is a farmers market. My favourite in our region is the Penticton market, a sprawling conglomeration of farm booths, food trucks, craft vendors and even a bit of kitsch. Being able to wander Main Street amongst the families with dogs and children while being serenaded by the many buskers along the way is a special experience. I love the chance to enjoy my coffee in a ceramic mug too – local roasters Cherry Hill offer freshly brewed java and you just deposit the mug in one of the bins they provide en route.

I brought my travel mug this time, but another great environmental gesture is their innovative “stir sticks” – biodegradable and low cost!

There is plenty of sustenance to be had – we each got a muffin from Brodo Kitchen and some fresh-picked strawberries (“picked last night” he told us). The fruit galette we got at Joy Road Catering we wanted to save for later, but we also could have munched on Thai food, crepes, tacos, or any one of a myriad of pastry choices. 

This early in the summer the fruits and veggies are not as plentiful of course. However there are plenty of booths offering flower bouquets, homemade preserves, honey, eggs, and even frozen meat from the farm. 

There is something both strong and delicate about fresh seasonal blossoms….

These guys weren’t kidding – you can take home your own guava tree! How cool is that?


Another wing of the market has crafts and artistic products as well as goods sold by what I call “hawkers”. These items are no so much “as seen on TV”, as they are nifty inventions or natural alternatives for household or body maintenance. I feel like I’m at the county fair when I walk this section; it’s entertaining. 

I thought this artist’s commentary was well done – sometimes we don’t recognize just how much heart and soul goes into someone’s creative efforts.


This fellow might be working to expand his demographic- he offers bat boxes for the adventurous, bird houses for the artsy folk, and even redneck bird feeders!

 

Once we had our fill of the market fun, we mosied up the road for some wine. After all, when in Rome – or wine country … We didn’t have much time but I had pre-ordered some wines in the spring. I took a bunch of scenic photos and a few pages of notes, so that will be in a soon-to-be released post. 

Here’s hoping you make time to taste the flavours of where you are this weekend. 

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