Browsing: Food Celebrations

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-In Honour of Our Heritage

February18

Today is Louis Riel Day in Manitoba.  It is lovely to have a long weekend in the dead of winter.  On this day I like to reflect on the Métis part of my bloodline.  For those readers who are not familiar with the term, Métis is a French word that literally means mixed.  In my mother’s family, the mix was English, Scottish and Irish men who married Cree and Ojibwe women.  We can trace our roots back to the men who settled this country, and equally importantly, to the women who taught them how to survive in the Canadian wilderness. 

Recently, one of my nieces asked me to teach her something about the food of our family heritage for a university class she was taking.  She was especially interested in learning about Métis food.  But the reality is that we didn’t grow up with Métis food.  Our mom focused more on our Dad’s Eastern European palate, along with the typical Canadian fare that our friends in our middle class neighbourhood were eating.  I didn’t learn to make bannock till I was a grown woman.  To be honest, there was not a lot of pride taken in being part of the first people of Canada when I was a little girl.  I think it was like that for a lot of people.  I remember seeing a documentary by a descendant of  Peter Fidler (of whom we are also descendants) where the filmmaker interviewed her auntie.  The auntie told her that she used to throw a tea towel over their bannock if someone came to the door because she was embarrassed.  She said that now, however, she feels like she should charge people money just to look at her bannock. (Métis humour!)  I too am discovering that the more time I spend with people in Metis and First Nation’s communities, the more pride and joy I find in knowing that they are part of who I am. 

 

For the past couple of years I have had the privilege of doing some work in Sagkeeng First Nation.

The very best part of this has been the friendship I made with Lillian Cook. While she is close to my age, she has become like an elder to me, teaching me many things about Ojibwe life and way of being. One of the important parts of our visits is always what food we will share. This fall, lots of the people came together for an event and feast in the community. They had hunted a deer and we ate variations of venison for three days. 

I especially enjoyed the stew,

but my favorite food discovery was a little something called fry bread-like a deep fried apple fritter (without the apple). I am very glad that no one taught me to make it or I would be in big trouble, it is that addictive. 

 

So in the end I decided to teach my niece how I make bannock.  No we didn’t grow up that way, but many in our family are very intentionally reconnecting with our roots.  I hope having her old auntie teach her to make bannock has planted a seed in her and she will be able to find her own “Lillian”, who can teach her the ancient ways so that she too will know the people from whom she comes. 

Kath’s quote: “When the moon comes over the mountain, I will kiss under under the moonlight.”  -Cree love song

Love-that is all.

 

Be Informed this Valentine’s Day

January30

I met a lovely gal by the name of Kristian at a Blogger’s conference in Toronto this fall.  Since I am proud to say that D and I are new World Vision foster parents to one year old Ankita, I have been especially concerned about the global circumstances surrounding the welfare of children. I hate admitting my ignorance, but have only become aware that chocolate harvesting is a huge issue.   Here is the info that I received from Kristian:

Don’t let chocolate hurt children

An estimated two million children are doing 3D jobs – dirty, dangerous and degrading work in the cocoa industry, mainly in West Africa. They get hurt swinging machetes to cut down cacao pods. They get sick from pesticides and work in extreme heat with little pay, poor nutrition and no health care. They’re often separated from their families and can even be abused by employers. It’s happening mainly in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and many of these children are trafficked from Mali or Burkina Faso.

The bitter truth is approximately 95 percent of chocolate sold globally is still not certified to be free of child labour.

But let’s not put the kibosh on Cupid this Valentine’s Day! Here are a couple ways that Moms and kids can find “ethical options” when shopping for chocolate:

  1. World Vision’s new Good Chocolate Guide lists ethically-certified products sold in Canada by larger manufacturers.
  2. A cool, new ChocoFinder app helps locate smaller stores that sell ethical chocolate. (The app will launch first in Toronto and will expand city by city across Canada. It will be available for free on the iTunes store beginning February 5.)  

World Vision is currently working on a “Chocolate Report Card” that will grade Canadian manufacturers such as Laura Secord and Purdy’s on their commitment to selling products made from ethically-sourced cocoa.

If you are concerned about this issue, I would add this advice:  shop at an artisan shop like Constance Popp Chocolatier and specifically ask what country of origin the chocolate in your potential selection is from.  If you have ever met Constance, you know that she is passionate about everything concerning chocolate making but especially the individual ingredients that are used in each recipe.  In fact, I think that this is sound advice for everything that we consume and I am fortunate as a writer to have access to many persons responsible for producing the food that I eat.  Constance is so accessible.  Visit her at one of her two shops.  I usually find her at 1853 Portage Ave. Find out more about the sometime mysterious world of chocolate.

So this Valentine’s day, give the true gift of love.  Not just in the chocolate gift that expresses your affection, but in loving and protecting the child harvesters  of your gift.

Kath’s quote: “Carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested; that it does not cause the same harmful effects to feminine beauty which are blamed on coffee, but is on the contrary a remedy for them.”-Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.

 

 

Plethora of Pasta

January29

I have been reading non-fiction about Italy (A Vineyard in Tuscany, Halfway to Each Other and Mediterranean Summer), for the last couple of weeks and I cannot get enough pasta. This past “Mandatory Sunday Supper”, I just could not stop myself and made a bazillion varieties.

I was originally inspired by dropping in at 21st Century Pizza to pick up a couple of pies before a Jets game on TV.  Owner Vlado also makes fresh pasta that he keeps in the fridge and freezer in the front of the shop.  In addition, whenever I am zipping through “the outer” ring of the grocery store (where all the whole foods that inspire my cooking are located), I pick up whatever fresh items are marked with a fluorescent sticker and then throw them in the freezer as soon as I get home.  This way I always have a variety of dips to serve while watching a movie or a game and lots of sauces for pizzas and flatbreads.  But sometimes my freezer needs a purging and this is a great opportunity for a Italian Feast.

I started with a spaghetti alla puttanesca which was a snap to assemble as both the fresh pasta and the authentic sauce of anchovies, capers and olives were prepared by Vlado.  I put together a Jamie Oliver recipe of Mushroom & Cream sauce  to toss with Vlado’s hand-made gnocchi.  I tried to cut the fat back a bit by using a thickened milk rather than cream and I was a bit disappointed with the results.  Next time, cream it is…..  Vlado also has a noodle made from beets which I simply tossed  with a browned butter and topped with mizithra cheese.  This proved to be Daughter #1’s favourite.

A clear box of discounted fresh spinach was sauteed with pancetta (Italian bacon), pine nuts and combined with spinach ravioli.

I tossed another of Vlado’s fresh pastas, this time beet ravioli with Alfredo sauce.  I rolled asparagus spears with a Rosemary Tuscan roasted ham (also being cleared). And just in case there were not enough carbs on the table, I toasted crostini to mop up olive oil from this fall’s harvest and pressing, from our Sicilian friends.

As  a special indulgence for three (me, myself and I) I  made a crispy, low fat eggplant parmigiana.  Before I left for church in the morning, I sliced the eggplant and placed it on a tray with course salt, adding another sprinkle of salt over top.  By the time I arrived home, the salt had pulled the excess moisture and any bitterness out of the veggie.

Before dusting the eggplant discs in flour, egg-wash and homemade breadcrumbs (which I always have on hand in the freezer), I blotted the flesh of the veggie with paper towels.  In hindsight, I should have rinsed them first as they were a tad on the salty side but oh so good.  In order to reduce the fat, instead of frying them before baking them, I prepared a heavy cookie sheet with a generous drizzle of canola oil and placed the discs over top in a single layer.  Have way through the baking time at 10 minutes or so (in a 375 degree oven), I turned them an added a bit more canola oil.

Just before serving,  I prepared a casserole dish with a layer of marinara sauce and placed the crispy eggplant on top, and then a layer of shredded mozzarella over all.  I intended to add a second layer of Parmesan when they came out of the oven but was glad that I did not, as the dish was salty enough.

So why did I spend an afternoon in the kitchen, preparing a half dozen dishes when one would certainly have sufficed?  What can I say?  I did it for love.

Kath’s quote (from Mediterranean Summer): “David, I didn’t invite you here to chop vegetables and season lamb.  Cooking, you know is not about recipes.  It comes from my heart.  You have never asked me why-why I do things, why I want it done this way and not that.  What’s in your heart David?”-David Shalleck

Love-that is all.

Grey Owl 2013

January28

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This past Friday, I made a road trip to Brandon, Manitoba.  I lived in Brandon for a short time and had heard of the infamous Grey Owl dinner but had never had the opportunity to attend.  The event is a very special and prestigious opportunity.

 The year at MICA  (Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts) culminates with the hosting and organization of the four-week Grey Owl fine dining restaurant. Students and staff come together to present a fusion of nouvelle and classic cuisine in the historic Grey Owl dining room at the institute. This annual tradition has enthralled the community for years. Culinary Arts students present a stunning fine dining menu to members of the public, while Hotel and Restaurant Management students practice their hospitality skills with tableside service. Tickets for the Grey Owl sell out every year and are eagerly anticipated by the community. Running this student-run event provides a practical component to both programs that is highly beneficial to their training.

You have likely heard the expression “the honour is all mine”.  This is so true when it comes to my associaton with the Manitoba Canola Growers who were my gracious hosts for the evening.

I am honoured:

  • to have been one of 24 guests invited to the 2013 Grey Owl dinner
  • to be considered a friend of the amazing Canola ladies: Ellen, Jen and Leanne.  Their hospitality, thoughtfulness and attention to detail is nothing short of stellar.
  • to have become acquainted with Isabel Wendell of Wendell Estate Honey, whose product was recently pitched on the CBC The Dragon’s Den
  • to have been sat a table with Dori Gingera-Beauchimen, Assistant Deputy Minister, Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (my Daddy would have been proud).
  • to have been set next to one of the Manitoba Recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal: Bruce Dalgarno and his wife Carol.  I have even had the pleasure of a field supper on their beautiful farm in Newdale, MB.
  • seeing Donna Jackson of High Bluff Stock Farm again.  I am continually impressed by her style, warmth and savvy.
  • to have acquainted and reacquainted myself with members of the Manitoba Canola Growers Board of Directors including President Ed Rempel and Vice-President Brian Chorney (the other Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner).
  • Spending time again with Getty Stewart, Pat Orsak and Joanne Ross of Agricilture in the Classroom.  By the way Joanne, if you are reading this, I want to volunteer for a Manitoba Breakfast. All of them, passionate women.

But speaking of passion, I was blown away with the expertise of the student chefs and dining room managers.  The food was visually stunning and the word delicious, is grossly inadequate.  This is one of those times when I am not going to be able to find enough superlatives, so I will let the photos do the talking: 

 Amuse Bouche (amuse or delight the mouth) and it did.

Spinach pumpernickel with a fiery kick and crunchy sweet crust topping.  They had me at the bread……

One of the many talented table side chefs (full of confidence and so personable). 

I can always recognize the hands of an artist.

 

 Don`t try this at home.

 My prawns and scallops in Pernod sauce.

 A nest garnish.

 

Stuffed Mushrooms.

 

Isn’t this pulled pork flat-bread, simply gorgeous (my question mark is not working on my keyboard today).

I do not know what these were but they came with a shooter of vodka.

My pomegranate salad.

 

The garnish of my fabulous steak.   

Ratatouille deconstructed and reconstructed.

 

Butterfly garnish on the rack of lamb. 

Stuffed chicken.

Prawns skewers on the side of planked salmon.

The dessert tray.

 

 My peanut butter ice cream.

The garnish on these strawberries remind me of the Caribbean sea.

The evening was quite simply-perfect:  new and old friends to share the time with and exquisitely prepared food which was obviously made with passion and love. 

Kath’s quote: “If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.”-Fernand Point 

These hand made chocolates were served on an edible heart shaped platter.  Not being able to determine the heart shape in this photo is the fault of the photographer (me), not the skill of the pastry chef.

Love-that is all.

Mardi Gras 2013

January25

On many calendars Wednesday, February 13, 2013 is the beginning of the time before Easter known as Lent. “Mardi Gras” when literally translated means Fat Tuesday or a time to indulge in sugars and fats before the Lenten fasts begin.

I am often in Mexico for this day, when Carnivale is celebrated with the same intention. The time is spirited and festive with colourful costumes, all night dances, parades and other such merry-making.

We love New Orleans. The city, especially the French Quarter is a fascinating place to stay and the eating adventures are unequalled. So any time an opportunity arises to dine Louisiana style, we grab it.

Now if you can’t get away to celebrate Carnivale or Mardi Gras, fear not, for Mardi Gras is once again coming to Winnipeg! We plan to attend and have an authentic Louisiana dinner at the Food, Oyster & Wine Bar that will seat 300 and be set up at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

We will have the opportunity to choose between French Quarter Gumbo, Crab Cakes or even Alligator Fritters.

I was recently invited to a preview event at the Winnipeg Convention Centre- a “Mini” Gras, so to speak and was able to sample some amazing food!

At the preview, my first taste was of a Fried Oyster and Provolone Po’ Boy Sandwich.  These are served on every corner in the French Quarter and are the equivalency of a sub.  Authentic Po’ Boys start with a classic French baguette that is sliced open and smeared with a spicy mayonnaise.  If you decide to order yours “dressed”, then it will be adorned with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.  A huge fried oyster in a crunchy batter is then wedged inside before the baguette is closed.  If you are not inclined to oysters, not to worry, as the result is a very mild flavour or you can choose beef or pulled pork when you attend one of the two evenings.

My next visit was to the pasta station for a treat that I remembered not from New Orleans but my previous visit to the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s Mardi Gras-Cajun Carbonarra. Smoky bacon is first sautéed with mushrooms, onions and crushed red pepper and then tossed with a parmesan cream sauce, Cajun chicken, spicy sausage and penne pasta.  The result is appropriately spicy and satisfyingly hearty.

I was also pleased to sample the Louisiana Crab Cakes and Crawfish Etoufee but my favourite of the evening was yet to come.  The Shrimp Creole did not contain the baby gulf shrimp that I recalled from Bourbon Street but enormous ones with their tails intact.

They were expertly prepared before my eyes and pulled off the heat just as they changed texture, which ensures a firm and crunchy shrimp to bite into and savour.

There is a nightly Parade and over 30 entertainers including many directly from New Orleans. I have a collection of Mardi Gras beads from our time in New Orleans. How I earned them is a story in itself and a secret that I am not quite ready to tell.

Warm up winter in Winnipeg! See http://www.winnipegmardigras.com/for more details.

Kath’s quote: “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.”-Mark Twain

Love-that is all.

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