This week, the full stress of Fall finally hit. Maybe it was my first cold of the season, maybe my first deadline at school, maybe dealing with water seeping through the wall, but whatever the cause, this was the first week that I truly craved Fall comforts (a disclaimer that I haven’t had Thanksgiving dinner yet – we’re hosting ours on October 15th). In the frame of mind of someone spending all day at their desk under their thickest blanket, with a pot of peppermint tea within arm’s reach so as not to disturb the careful blanket nest, I heard the tell-tale ting of an email
The perfect one-pot comfort dish for a rainy Abbotsford day. For best results, be sure to pick up some chicken thighs from Rockweld Farm at tomorrow’s market. Pair with a green salad and homemade focaccia.
If you ask Tim Rempel of Rockweld Farm why his customers keep coming back, he will tell you what they tell him: his chicken tastes like chicken, the old kind raised naturally in the field in eastern Europe or India, the kind that is tender but doesn’t fall apart, the kind that makes you forget any other kind of meat.
In today’s world of chicken nuggets, boneless-skinless breasts wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic, and movies like Supersize Me, it’s easy to forget the animal behind the meat. But tucked just off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway, Tim and Flo Rempel of Rockweld Farm raise chickens on organic, non-GMO feed which Tim attests isn’t all that bad, even for humans (yes, he’s tasted it). As an SPCA-certified farm, they raise their chickens on the basis of the ‘Five Freedoms’:
Thanksgiving is a holiday for the classics. The good recipes are the ones passed through the generations, unchanged for decades. A good stuffing is one that doesn’t skimp on butter (because granny made it before people were concerned that too much butter could be a problem). Vegetables rarely stray beyond brussel sprouts, carrots and pees, classic local standards. And dessert is always always pie.
There’s something uniquely pleasing about indulging in an old-fashioned meal of meat and potatoes, one made without trying to remove all sugar and butter, substitute quinoa for potatoes or make stuffing out of a blend of raw flax and organic spelt flakes. But without messing too much with tradition, we can certainly dress things up. This Thanksgiving, try adding some extra hints of local herbs to your classic sides: fresh sage is a long-standing stuffing staple but rosemary enhances the sweet tang of cranberry sauce, chives give extra kick to buttery garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh oregano breathes life into a do-ahead green bean salad.
So go ahead, make grandma jealous.
I seem to attract vegetarians. Practically all my friends are vegetarians, my sister-in-law recently became a vegan, I live with a vegetarian, some of my vegetarian friends also can’t have gluten – you get the picture… As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, I can appreciate the vegetarian diet and don’t think anyone should miss out on Thanksgiving because of it (though if you ask me, the best parts about Thanksgiving are the vegetables and cranberry sauce, so really vegetarians have it made).
Over the years, I’ve slowly built up a vegetarian menu good enough that even the meat-eaters can’t resist a slice of lentil loaf to go with their turkey. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s vegetarian dishes masquerading as meat. So no, I will not serve Tofurkey and, as someone firmly in the lard-based-pastry camp, I make a vegetarian or vegan apple crumble rather than serving pie with sub-par pastry. But this year’s great achievement? Finally cracking the code on vegan gravy. You’re welcome.
I know we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving and, trust me, I abide fully by the no-Christmas-music-until-December-1st rule. But as the weather turns and your garden slows, this is the time to think about easy edible Christmas gifts. We all have those people in our lives that we just don’t know how to buy for and (in my family at least) the easiest fall-back is something edible. The following ideas tick all the boxes: they use up excess garden yields, they’re relatively easy to make in quick large batches, and they store almost indefinitely so you’re always well-stocked for an emergency gift for a surprise visit with your in-laws.
I’ve spent the last four Thanksgivings outside Canada and each year I’ve confronted the same conundrum: where to buy pumpkin for pumpkin pie. I was raised on a classic pumpkin pie made from 100% canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs and (of course) lots of cinnamon and ginger. Apparently though, canned pumpkin is a uniquely North American affair. My first year at university in England, I roamed the grocery stores listlessly, met by blank stares and confused questioning when I asked for canned pumpkin. In later years, I would learn to pack a can of pumpkin with me when I left Canada in September, in preparation for the pies I would make one month later…
For the many among us who become grumpy and short-tempered when hungry, the recent introduction of the adjective ‘hangry’ into the common English lexicon has been a linguistic boon. The former difficulty of navigating a dialogue with a loved one while internally cursing them for delaying your feeding with their banal conversation has been solved by the simple rebuttal of: ‘Sorry, I’m hangry. Can we talk after I eat?’ Better yet, a slough of studies since 2014 have linked hanger to a spike in adrenaline and cortisol levels triggering shortness and aggression, so the ranks of hangry people now have science on their side. It makes genetic and evolutionary sense that when the human body registers low levels of blood glucose, it releases four hormones that stimulate glucose production, two of which (the aforementioned adrenaline and cortisol) are stress hormones – the body’s natural defense mechanism in dangerous situations.
There’s something about melons that feels high risk. For the average home-gardener or small-scale farmer in our little south-west corner, the harvest is short, the yield low and the melons, well, small (at least in my experience: there’s a strange excitement in the daily monitoring of that single miniscule cantaloupe throughout the summer, watching as it increases ever so incrementally in size). But the risk is matched by high reward: the sweet juiciness of a single honey dew or the crisp, clean taste of an old-fashioned watermelon – the kind that still has seeds. Great as they are on their own, there’s something about a melon salad that can’t be beat. That melon-y sweetness cut by a dash of sea-salt, sprinkle of garlic or pinch of chili is, quite simply, delightful. It also stretches your little melon just a little bit further so you can savour every hard-won bite…
Just this week, a familiar Fall chill crept into the morning air. Leaving the house at 6am now means leaving in the dark. Driving through town mid-afternoon means getting stuck in school traffic. Hiking with the dog means waiting for her to stop and sniff every fallen leaf… Although mid-day temperatures are still on the upside of 20, it’s safe to say that our long dry summer is pulling to a close. As life returns to the hustle and bustle of work, school, soccer and music lessons, it’s all about one-pan meals that sit comfortably on the table and in your stomach, like the old sweater you wear even when it really needs to be washed or the favourite scarf you break out as soon as it’s remotely acceptable to wear a scarf.
I first encountered the now oh-so-familiar Huy Fong Foods sriracha about five years ago. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting from Arizona and, when they were on dinner duty, they made a special grocery trip to pick up a signature rooster-clad, green-lidded bottle to make honey-sriracha chicken. The whole extended family was together so they were barbecuing for a crowd. All went off without a hitch and the chicken was a huge hit; the sriracha even more so. The recipe was immediately adopted by the rest of the family and this slightly tangy but still fresh chili sauce became a staple in our respective fridges. Like so many other Canadians, we now take sriracha for granted, adding it to sauces, burgers and tuna sandwiches, seeking out sriracha flavoured potato chips, or putting it to any other number of uses unforeseen by David Tran, its elusive Vietnamese creator.
Early in the season of this blog, I asked all Market growers to tell me their favourite cookbooks. Cara of Abundant Acre Farm was the first to respond, citing two vegetable-centric titles: Chez Panisse Vegetables (Alice Waters) and Simply in Season (Mary Beth Lind). For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with cookbooks. As a kid, I would climb on a rickety stool to reach my mom’s copy of The Best of Bridge and take it to the couch where I would flip happily through recipes I had no intention of ever eating, simply content to look at the pictures and read the exotic titles. One of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was a used copy of The Joy of Cooking, complete with the decaying cover and food stains I remember from my childhood. As an adult, the beautiful hard-cover cookbooks, with double-page photographs of vibrant beets and the British Columbian landscapes where they were grown, call to me not just as compilations of recipes but as artistic opuses deserving of their own slow intellectual and creative digestion. Perhaps because of this intensity of feeling for any book about cooking, growing and preserving, the story of how Abundant Acre got off (or perhaps out of) the ground resonates for me as deeply human in the most basic sense of a drive to exist and subsist without damaging the world around us.