• Taking a seat at Sir John’s Table + a giveaway

    John A. Pudding from Sir John's Table, with red plum compote.

    It’s hardly novel for me to tell you food is that great connector between us humans.

    The pleasure, nourishment and comfort it can provide transcends age, class and culture. It also transcends time. When Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald sat down for a meal, I doubt it was a perfunctory act. My money is on him needing the same things we expect today from any dish put before us, especially after he spent a long day on the Hill, or in court or his Kingston law office before his election.

    Sir John’s Table by Lindy Mechefske (Goose Lane, $19.95) is the story of the man through food, confirming the father of Confederation was as much a fan of good eating as he was drinking. Thanks to the subjectivity of recounting the past, I often forget historical figures were real people. Good old grade school history class made John A., with his reputation of liking his liquor and being a callous racist, little more than a caricature in my mind, much like others of his time and ilk.

    But Sir John’s Table is a reminder that he was a thinking, feeling human being and there are moments in the book that evoke great empathy in the reader. And of course, there are the stories of food sprinkled throughout to draw a deeper connection to the man who, for many, is little more than the knobby face on our ten-spot. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • The unfussy: Eat Istanbul’s tomato and yogurt salad

    I woke up Saturday morning to an email telling me my community garden was closed until further notice.

    My prolific plot that has kept me in more kale than I ever thought possible is behind a vacated church that was set on fire late last week. To say this is a bummer is beyond an understatement and almost as unnecessary as pointing out the sky is blue. Alas, it is what it is — a jut-your-bottom-lip-out D-R-A-G.

    Last time I saw my tiny patch of dirt a few days before the bad news, there were tomatoes on the verge of being fully ripe and ready for picking. And now that I’m living a freelancer’s life, I was looking forward to having the time between interviews and columns to go fetch them and yank a few weeds in the process. After all, I now work for the coolest boss ever who would let me take an extra long lunch to do these sorts of things.

    The dog days of the season are here and I know this by the amount of tomatoes I’ve been eating. While I’ve been having problems keeping up with my kale, I never have an issue staying on top of my tomatoes.

    Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Back in the canning saddle with The Canning Kitchen

    This will not be a sentimental story.

    There will be no reminiscing of a mother who put up pickles every summer or knocked it out of the park with her raspberry jam while I tugged at her apron strings wanting in on the action.

    My mom didn’t can when I was growing up. She did other things like ace a sauerbraten or bake a German plum cake that leaves me feeling just a little nostalgic for my childhood as I type.

    I also have no great stories about grandmothers packing the season’s bounty into mason jars to enjoy later. Both my Omas lived in Germany. One was abysmal in the kitchen. The other made the dreamiest mirabelle plum jam but I only ever enjoyed the finished product and not the process. She always had it ready, the jars neatly lined up in her pantry, for whatever family was making the trip to visit her from their scattered locations.

    No, my canning story is more pragmatic. It was a bit of a do or die situation — for my career and, I was certain, for me. It was the summer of 2007 when I was trying out the 100-Mile Diet and writing a series of stories about it for work. Seemed a fitting assignment for an agriculture reporter still relatively new to Niagara. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Page 208

    Greens Shakshuka.

    I can feel my kidneys twinge every time I visit my community garden plot.

    Just the sight of those oxalic acid-packed greens — the chard, the beet tops, and to a lesser extent, the kale and spigarella — has me reliving every kidney stone I’ve ever had and feeling the ache of every future one setting in.

    I can’t quite bring myself to leave those greens to languish or give them all away even if it would mean a kidney-stone free future. They are among my favourite vegetables, despite what they can do to me. I just wasn’t expecting them to thrive as much as they have in my tiny plot.

    Which brings me to my other problem. My brain feels a similar, cramping twinge when I open my fridge and see my stockpile of harvested greens in every shade and shape. Inspiration is in short supply right now as I finish my job at the university, dig myself out from under my pile of freelance writing assignments and get pinned under a separation-anxiety suffering toddler whose favourite word is “Up,” said with arms thrust skyward to indicate indefinite clinging is imminent. Continue reading

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