My first "Home for Dinner" column in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, April 25, 2005.
I have been watching for one – and only one – sign of spring. For me, spring officially begins the first day I see something green growing in my garden. This year, that day was March 31. The snow was barely melting off a sunny spot of earth when I spied the unmistakable thin line of tiny sprouts. I planted those seeds last October, just before the first snow, and there they were, insuppressible and bursting with life. I can’t remember what I planted. I think it was arugula, lettuce, spinach and radish, but that mystery is half the fun of watching them grow.
The next special day – a true harbinger of summer – is the first day I eat something green from my garden. This year, that day was April 16. I know we’re still in for one last blast of winter, but I don’t care, because my spirits have been elevated to summer by that first fresh bite. It was the chives. Chives come up year after year, so they get a head start on the seeds. I discovered the chives were sprouting as I raked the leaves off the garden. I immediately got some scissors and cut the sprouts for dinner.
This would be a revolutionary dinner for me. For several months of winter, I had been planning to embark on a culinary adventure of sorts, an adventure that would begin the first day I savoured something green from my garden. For one year, I pledge to eat almost exclusively the foods of Saskatchewan. I will grow my own, share with others, discover new sources of local foods, buy directly from the farmers who produce it and develop recipes that make the most of it.
I asked my husband, What should I call this culinary adventure? "Austerity," he offered. "Monotony. Privation."
Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to science, technology and ingenuity, Saskatchewan is producing a greater variety of foods than ever thought possible a century ago.
I call it "Home for Dinner" because it challenges me to put local food on my dinner table. Here are four good reasons to be "Home for Dinner":
Local produce is usually picked just before it’s sold so it’s fresher, tastes better and the nutrients are not depleted. Eating foods as they are available in season ensures you’re always eating the freshest food possible. Local food is less likely to have been picked unripe, stored, hauled, and treated with preservatives, pharmaceuticals and other agents. It’s better for the environment. Think of all the fuel used to truck lettuce from Mexico and bananas from Costa Rica. Farming is a tough business, especially if you’re small and trying to do something unique on your land. Support the farmers who are producing good healthy food and keep your food dollars in the local economy.
It just so happens that April 16 was a Saturday, the day of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, at which my husband picked up a package of fresh weisswurst. This is German for "white sausage", a fat pale mild sausage we ate in monastery beer gardens in Bavaria with warm potato salad. Next column, I’ll give my "Home for Dinner" rules – and when I can break them!
BAVARIAN POTATO SALAD
Boil 2lbs of medium-sized potatoes until they are soft enough to pierce with a sharp knife. Cool slightly, peel and thinly slice. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté a small finely chopped onion in a good dollop of butter. When the onions are soft, mix them with 1C of hot chicken stock, 2T of white wine vinegar, 4T of vegetable oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the warm sliced potatoes into the dressing and toss well. Serve the salad warm sprinkled with fresh chives.