All posts in category “Beyond Niagara”

  • Chef John Ash, a sandwich, and his mentors

    Chef John Ash at IFBC 2016. (It's a much better picture if you click on it).

    He’s been called the father of Wine Country Cuisine. Chef John Ash might just be the inspiration for the panini press, too.

    Turns out, the storied culinarian from Sonoma County who introduced the concept of cooking with local, seasonal produce and pairing it with wines from that region has a knack for making great sandwiches — by sitting on them.

    It was a talent he discovered while visiting with M.F.K. Fisher, the first lady of food writing, who made him get comfy on a lunch she prepared. His buns were the finishing touch on what would become the most memorable sammie he’s likely ever eaten.

    The woman who could make a semi-colon appetizing knew the magic that the body heat and weight of a grown man could work. But the soft centre of her muffuletta belied her own unyielding ways with her protege, Ash.

    The man, certainly no myth, but a legend, recently dished on the people who inspired him in his career, causing him to give up copywriting for the kitchen. He was the keynote speaker at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento last month, and set the tone for a weekend of professional development that was nothing short of inspiring.

    Mentors was his theme and we all know his by name: Julia Child, Fisher, and Wendell Berry. They’re people who inspire us with their work, if not in person like they did with Ash.

    I recorded his address, keener that I am, and dubbed it Episode 4 of Grub: A Podcast about Food.

    Have a listen, a laugh, and a flash of insight and inspiration provided by one the greatest people to ever hoist a spatula. And feel free to drop me a line with a note about the people who you hold up as mentors and muses. I owe a lot of credit to many for kindling something in me to do what I do, so let’s trade stories.

    In the meantime, enjoy the sound waves on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud and PodBean.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Grub: A Podcast about Food digs into stir-fry techniques

    I learned how to make stir-fry in Grade 7 home ec class. Technically, it was family studies class. That’s what they called it back then for whatever reason.

    A life skills class by any other name is still a life skills class, and in the more than 25 years since walking into that kitchen at Stanley Park Senior Public School in Kitchener, I’ve never forgotten what I was told about how to make a stir-fry.

    Heat oil in a wok. Add your protein. When it’s mostly cooked, add your hardest vegetables — the carrots, broccoli stems and cauliflowers of the world. Then add the next hardest until you get to the softest; those that need the least amount of time cook. Douse with sauce, serve on rice and voila, you have dinner. Or something.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Samsara Fields: Cycles of Life in Waterford, Ont.

    Soyoung Lee and J.P. Gural of Samsara Fields, an organic farm in Waterford, Ont.

    This story originally appeared in Edible Toronto’s Summer 2016 issue.

    As she walks along the edges of sweeping rows of organic garlic at Samsara Fields, Soyoung Lee makes a beeline for a patch of wild catmint.

    She reaches for it, breaking off a bunch, but not for the reason you might expect of a farmer. Lee, who grows heirloom vegetables with partner J.P. Gural on this rolling swath in Waterford, Ontario, sees the value in this prolific squatter known for making cats loopy. Weeds provide great benefit, she says, as she breathes in the plant’s pungent smell. They’re medicinal, therapeutic, and often edible, so she leaves the catmint in the ground and doesn’t bat an eye at its overgrown, uninvited neighbours.

    It’s not the typical response of someone whose job description usually includes doing battle with weeds for the sake of their crops—their livelihood. But Lee and Gural aren’t your typical farmers. Sure, they grow food for a living but this is about more than trying to earn a paycheque from the 44 acres they cultivate.

    “We’re doing this as activism,” Lee says.

    Like many small organic farmers, they’re railing against the usual suspects: conventional, large-scale agriculture, unsustainable cheap food, urban sprawl, and the political and bureaucratic red tape that comes with any kind of farming. Their reasons for working the land to make the world a better, healthier place also go deeper than that, and have much to do with why that catmint was spared.

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  • Sophomore jinx: Episode 2 of the Grub podcast drops

    Who does No. 2 work for?

    Credit for that lede goes to Mike Myers a.k.a. Austin Powers. But to answer the question, clearly not me.

    The second episode of Grub: A Podcast about Food is now available on the virtual airwaves. I’m thrilled to talk to two food writing powerhouses on this show: Jennifer Cockrall-King, author of Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your Guide to the Best Locally Crafted Fare, and Jeanine Donofrio of Love and Lemons fame.

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