Monday, December 19, 2005

Newspaper - PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP

(Thic column was first published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 19 December 2005.)

I have a confession to make. I bought a box of Christmas oranges. This may seem innocent enough to you, but it is a brazen violation of my Saskatchewan-only diet. For one full year, I am attempting to eat only Saskatchewan foods in my own home. No orange, banana, mango or tasteless strawberry has graced my door since April.

Until now. What came over me? There I was in the Co-op grocery store picking up Saskatchewan cheese and sausage, drifting right past the produce section, when my cart bumped into a stack of orange boxes direct from China. I had a flash of childhood Christmases, discovering an orange in the bottom of my stocking and studiously removing the peel in one whole piece. I remembered the pioneer stories about jubilant children who got their only orange of the entire year at Christmas time. If it was a luxury of the pioneer diet, then surely I could justify a few zipper oranges in my own shopping cart at Christmas.

Not that my diet really resembles that of the pioneers. Eating locally is much different today. We grow so many more foods in Saskatchewan than the pioneers ever thought possible and we have freezers to keep them in.

As I write, I am awaiting delivery of half a pig – cut, wrapped and cured – from a local organic farm. Yesterday, I made ricotta cheese with local milk. And Canada Post has just delivered a box of Saskatchewan sprouting seeds for my cheese sandwiches this winter.

Why am I doing this? It seemed an appropriate challenge for Saskatchewan’s centennial year. But that is not my prime motivation. I want to support local farmers and processors, eat healthier tastier food, and cut the fossil fuels expended getting dinner to my plate. When you consider that most of our fruits and vegetables travel upwards of 1,500 kilometres, it’s a major contribution to pollution and greenhouse gas. I like to travel, but I like my vegetables to stay close to home.

To be truthful, I do purchase "foreign" food items if I need them for a mostly Saskatchewan recipe when there is no local equivalent. The other day I made a Russian salad with beets, carrots, potatoes, egg and pickled herring. That was followed by a pork and apricot stew and for dessert, cookies sprinkled with icing sugar. Astute readers will know that herring, apricots and icing sugar are not from here. But they do wonderful things for the foods that are.

This Christmas dinner, I will be serving a ham with a honey-mustard glaze, the herring salad and a coleslaw. My sister is bringing homemade perogies. Perhaps we’ll start with a curried soup of pear and butternut squash and finish with a saskatoon pie. Happy Holidays! (For the other recipes, go to homefordinner.blogspot.com.)

CURRIED PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP
I use Calcutta Curry produced in Saskatoon by Chatty’s Indian Foods. You can use a generic curry powder but it won’t be as good! You can buy it (and the vegetables) at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. As for the pears, I canned them last fall from a tree on Temperance Street.

1 large butternut squash
2T butter
1 large onion in thin slices
3T curry powder
Salt & white pepper
4C water
1 cup chopped canned pears and their juice
1/2 cup cream

Peel, seed and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. You should have 4-5 cups of squash. Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions. When the onions are softened, stir in the curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the onions are quite soft.
Add the water and the squash. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash can be pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes). Add the pears and juice. Cook another 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and cool. Purée the soup in a blender. Return to a clean pot and add the cream. If it looks too thick, add more water to reach your desired consistency. Reheat and serve.

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