Monday, April 19, 2010

Newspaper Column - Prairie Feast

This column appeared in today's Star Phoenix
The chives are up, the robins are singing and it’s a good time to launch a book. Particularly a book that was inspired by such a day as this. It was mid April 2005 when I snipped some chives from my garden, sprinkled them on a hot German potato salad and launched into a year of eating from the bounty of Saskatchewan.That adventure provided the inspiration for my new book, coming out in early May, Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner.

It’s a collection of humorous stories, each one based on a local food adventure, such as a trip to the Bruno Cherry Festival, an excursion to pick mushrooms near La Ronge and the misadventure of learning to make pickles with my mom. Along the way, I learned a few things about myself, my community and my attachment to the prairie landscape in which I call home.

Back in 2005 when I embarked on a year of eating locally, words such as locavore, food miles and the 100-mile diet were not yet in the popular lexicon, and I had a hard time explaining to some folks why on earth I would choose to favour foods produced in Saskatchewan. I was motivated by a strong desire to reconnect with the flavours of my childhood – the fresh farm eggs, big roast chickens, yearly excursions for saskatoon berries and those venerable prairie traditions of canning and fall (or is that fowl?) suppers.

I was also inspired to learn more about food and agriculture in Saskatchewan. As a former country girl, I knew that our farmers are producing more food, and different types of food, than the pioneers ever thought possible. Yet, much of it is shipped out of the province to processors and markets in other parts of Canada and the world. I wanted to tap into those established sources and find new sources of unique prairie foods, and I wanted to learn how people in other parts of the world were cooking the foods that we provide.

I also wanted to connect with those farmers and gardeners who don’t give two hoots about export markets – the smaller, sustainable operations that cater to the local market and to customers just like me. I had also been reading about the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and the distance that food travels. The fact is, eating is one of the least environmentally friendly things we do because of the huge requirement for fossil fuels, from the fertilizers to the tractors to the refrigerated trucks.

As the farmer-poet Wendell Berry wrote: “How we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.”

Officially, my year of eating locally is long over, but the lifestyle isn’t. Why give up a good thing? I’ve connected with local farmers, built supply lines with friends, learned to preserve the summer’s bounty and rediscovered the fresh wonderful taste of food that is unprocessed, raised in a natural environment and picked at the peak of perfection.

That’s the sentiment of Prairie Feast. It taps into our universal desire to find ourselves, our community and our history through the food we eat, and to rediscover the roots of a daily ritual that nourishes us body, mind and soul. Please join me, and the publisher Coteau Books, as we launch Prairie Feast with a couple of events in Saskatoon:

Sat., May 8, Souleio Bistro, an evening of food and wine, 265 3rd Ave. S., 979-8102

Wed., May 19, McNally Robinson, a local dinner in the Prairie Ink Bistro, 3180 8th St. East, 955-3599

I will also be signing books at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on Sat,, May 15, and Wed., June 30. Details of all events can be found on my book blog: Events are planned for Regina, Calgary and Toronto, as well as communities around the province (including my hometown of Craik), so please pass this on to anyone you know with a soft spot for prairie food and culture.

I’d like to say a special thank you to the Star Phoenix for allowing me to write this column, Home for Dinner, for the past five years, from which I drew the inspiration and encouragement to write Prairie Feast.


Term papers said...

A great article indeed and a very detailed, realistic and superb analysis, of these books, very nice write up, it is really a nice book, Thanks.

All Our Fingers in the Pie said...

Glad I found your blog. I have recently returned to Sask and love all things food and cooking, especially local food. I don't know if you are into the blog culture, but I have added you as one of my favourites. Also, tomorrow on my blog is a surprise for you!