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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. 

Weird and wonderful

In a world where everything has to be sensational toget noticed, it seems food has fallen prey to that same philosophy. So, to ensure that you can all keep up at the company water cooler, I thought I should let you know of some of the latest news. Prepare to be amazed.

Perhaps the posterchild of the change in public image is junk food, which is now no longer cool to promote except in jest. The latest casualty is Hostess, the company that makes Twinkies and Ding Dongs; they filed for bankruptcy recently. They just can’t keep up… even though their products have become famous for never spoiling. (I posted a great piece from another blogger on possible ways to “kill” a Twinkie on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page, if you are in need of a good giggle.) The only division of the company to survive is Wonder Bread, whose new slogan is “Discover the Joy of Natural Wonder… now free of artificial preservatives, artificial colours and artificial flavours”. What a revolutionary idea.

The key to success nowadays is to have a food that is either so rare and unique (read expensive) that you can brag about it like you do your Tag Heuer or your Astin Martin. I saw an ad for “Shackleton’s whiskey” recently – a replica whiskey made in honour of Ernest Shackleton and his private stash from his expedition to the South Pole. You see, they discovered a few cases of scotch that was hidden in the permafrost under the hut Shackleton’s team used to store supplies. Three bottles were finally extracted from the ice and sent to Scotland for “research” (read tasting). Whyte & Mackay, the company that is the modern day version of the original maker of the stuff, produced the replica after tasting the original, with all of the flavours, as well as intrigue and irony. The story is fun not just because it’s about a retro product, but because it is a silly escapade. Shackleton’s expedition was fraught with disaster at every turn. (He should have known – the ship’s name was the Nimrod, after all.) He was not a scientific explorer, and didn’t even really like the snow (he hated sled dogs, the best transportation method to use in Antarctica). But he was a naturally good leader (no bloody wonder, if he had such good whiskey!) If you can find a bottle, this once-in-a-lifetime experience will cost you about two hundred dollars Canadian. That’s about $2 a dram  (one sixteenth of an ounce).

Shackleton, second from left, with his core crew aboard the Nimrod. They look like they could use a dram, don't you think?

Another category that has become trendy is of course the heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruit. At a dinner with friends recently, I heard much complaining of the overuse of “heirloom” as a descriptor on menus. Wouldn’t you know, we went out for dinner this past week, and instead of “heirloom”, the word was “little”? I grow heirloom varieties in our garden, but I have to agree – do we need to tell everyone their food is cute for them to want to eat it?

Perhaps the important part is that we seem to be more focused on enjoying our food. If we are weird and wonderful about it, then maybe that is all that counts. You might not want to carve your food up like the artist in this video, but if that kind of work will get your kids to eat fruits and veggies, maybe a bit of pulp and peel on the table is okay… think of it as the new version of that famous “Close Encounters” scene with the mashed potatoes.

Bon appetit!

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