Sunday, August 29, 2010

In the guise of a ginkgo

In the guise of a ginkgo, my dear old Mum lives on. This graceful, sturdy tree was planted and dedicated to her in our garden this April after she left this life in the dead of winter in December.

Today marks Mum’s birthday, her first re-birthday since she glided into her new life in the great beyond. I will always remember, love and cherish her for her unconditional love, mischievous grin, and ready humour. She gave me the strength to go out into the wide world with a sense of independence and curiosity. On a Severn riverside walk shortly after her passing, I felt her telling me that she had done all she could, her time was up, and it was now up to her little boy, her beloved son to go and do his thing, whatever that may be. Look after yourself, she would always say. So it is that I tend the garden, feeling blessed to be able to cultivate our own as per Voltaire’s - and my Mum’s - sound advice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lean, green and surprisingly flavourful!
(A review article by Malcolm Jolley in the National Post, June 11, 2010):

Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market (Saturdays),
Riverdale Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays); $5 for small bag (serves four)

Sometimes, I think the locavore movement is less about where things are grown and more about who grew them and how. Concepts like the 100-mile diet are great for introducing folks to the idea of caring about your food, but if you want the very best quality of produce possible, you better buy it from the person who grew it. A few organic growers, such as Cookstown Greens in the Holland Marsh, package their salad mixes and sell them to specialty retailers in Toronto including Harvest Wagon, The Healthy Butcher, Pantry and the 100% all Ontario-sourced shop Culinarium, but to be guaranteed a salad at dinner that was picked after breakfast, nothing beats buying it from a farmer at the market.

Farmers’ markets have sprouted like weeds throughout the GTA and Ontario (a quick Google search will turn up a bunch of listings). Rolling Hills Organics from Northumberland Hills, northeast of Toronto, grows mesclun mixes that it sells in bags at the Riverdale Farmers’ Market in Cabbagetown on Tuesdays and at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. Theirs is a peppery, mustardy blend. In fact they sell a “hot” version and a “mild” version, as well as a straight bag of baby arugula. Unlike import mesclun blends, these greens haven’t been gassed to stay fresh. They actually are fresh, and they’ve been washed with water, so they can be eaten right away.

The point of ingredient-driven cooking is to get out of the way of the ingredients’ flavours, so that they are the star rather than the sauce or garnish. When faced with just-picked greens, I simply toss them in a good glug of quality extra virgin olive oil and season with a little coarse salt (I might add a squeeze of lemon, but only if I’m cutting one up for something else). The salad will accompany some kind of grilled meat or fish, and once the steak, trout or whatever has been cooked and let to rest, I’ll leave the barbecue on, clean it and make simple bruschetta to round out the meal. No pots or pans to wash up!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Loving local Thursdays

As I wind up another Thursday of deliveries to local restaurants – and drive home along the winding south shore of Rice Lake, the sun sparkling on patches of lake between the hillock islands - I feel the luckiest fella in the world.

The day began with picking, washing, spinning and bagging various fresh greens and herbs. Then came the leisurely toodle along the scenic backroads of Northumberland to drop off to first Ken and Penny at the 100-Mile Diner in wonderful Warkworth, then to Edward at the eclectic 66 King Street West and Johnny and the boys at the Northside (both in Cobourg), on to the always-jovial Chef Ray at Zest in Port Hope, to Jeff at the Victoria Inn overlooking the jewel that is Rice Lake. Along the way, kudos for the offerings, genuine appreciation, and heartfelt thanks. To go with the ready pay that comes with it, what could be nicer? Halibut and chips at Cap’n Jacks is a treat, as is the fine summer weather, but it is the delivery of fresh local organic to truly nice people and businesses that brings an upwelling of real satisfaction.

Also rewarding and productive are the good nature and hard work of local helpers in the fields. Meredith is living at her family’s farm for the summer. Like last growing season, she comes to help out three days a week with weeding, planting, and preparation for markets and restaurant deliveries. Lukash is a gifted guitarist making the most of a wonderful music teacher and program at Campbellford High School; his summer job is helping out here, and his enthusiasm and energy are exactly what we need. Natasha was a whirlwind who came in and got the season up and running with planting and early ground maintenance during this explosive spring. She shared her broad experience and exhilarated with her wide-ranging conversation; then was gone in a flash, via Georgian Bay and back to Scotland. And in Toronto at the markets, my trusty co-seller Chris has been ever-present and a lively, dynamic presence. Thanks to all for the warm glow you have brought to our fields, table and lives!

Local flavour and local spirit are a joy to partake of; long may they linger and suffuse.