Books can inspire commitment to eating local

Food stories are interesting. Karen Anderson’s storytelling in Food Artisans of Alberta draws you into the book and you can hardly wait to turn the page. It feels like an intimate chat with the author.

In Jennifer Cockrall-King’s book Artisans of the Okanagan, the unique terroir of each region is front and centre.

“Terroir is a French wine term that encompasses the physical characteristics of a place — soil, climate, location, exposure, altitude, etc. — and the foods that spring from that place and its culinary traditions, practices and attitudes.”

She tells the story of the return of sockeye salmon to the Okanagan chain of lakes after more than a generation of declining stocks due to changes in the Columbia River by the construction of hydroelectric dams.

In addition to sharing stories of local farmers, producers and chefs, Angie Quaale’s book, Eating Local in the Fraser Valley, has more than 70 tried and true recipes.

I have on numerous occasions driven right through the Fraser Valley without stopping as I make my way to Vancouver or Vancouver Island.

The lush fields of produce come right up to the highway and next time I plan to turn off the Trans-Canada Highway and explore.

Jenn Sharp in Flat Out Delicious tells the story of the Oskayak Minowin Project, which is funded by Health Canada.

The Poundmaker Cree Nation, two hours northwest of Saskatoon, plans multi-day hunting and fishing trips for students in in Grades 7 to 10. There is a great feeling of confidence and pride in knowing traditional ways to provide food for the family.

These four books have one thing in common: the writers have tirelessly researched and sought out local food artisans, suppliers and chefs throughout Western Canada. Rather than being definitive, each one is a snapshot in time of the best they could find. That is not to say these are the only good small local businesses out there, but they can make a starting point for your own journey.

Historic buildings and places are a magnet for artisans. The stories and history behind the location become an integral part of their menu. Did you know there is a Westminster Abbey in the Fraser Valley? And I love the creative names like Thundering Ground Bison Ranch, The Night Oven Bakery, Kaleidoscope Gardens, Bird’s Nest Cookies and Well Seasoned Gourmet Foods.

Sunnyside Dairy near Saskatoon opened a Swiss milk dispenser in the spring of 2019 so that customers could buy milk on tap. | File photo

You learn about interesting gems like the Robertson Trading Post in La Ronge, Sask. It has been there since 1967 and is a true trading post. Raw furs are bought and sold and locally foraged food products like mushrooms, wild rice and berries are sold. There is a good selection of local First Nations artwork.

The pandemic has shown some of the flaws in food being controlled by a few big players and people seem ready to return to the small town, local model of food production and distribution.

We’re cautiously talking about silver linings, but the sense of community that has grown during this time is heartwarming. Local food is taking the spotlight during this time.

As Quaale writes in her book: “When we support our local farmers, producers, growers and artisans, we empower them to continue to do what they do best. Buying local food is one of the most important investments we can make.”

The books I’ve mentioned in this column intend to make you fall in love with local food regardless of where your local may be.

With travel restrictions in play, most bookstores are shipping orders.

Food Artisans of the Okanagan, Food Artisans of Alberta and Flat Out Delicious can be bought at Chapters Indigo, McNally Robinson bookstores, several small local stores of the area or through Amazon.

Angie Quaale’s Eating Local in the Fraser Valley can be purchased directly at Well Seasoned, a Gourmet Food Store at wellseasoned.ca or on Amazon.

Butter braised radishes

  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 90 mL
  • 1 lb. radishes, topped 500 g
  • salt
  • 6-8 springs dill, finely chopped, optional

In a large frying pan over high heat, bring the water and butter to a boil. Add the radishes and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Turn down the heat to low and allow the radishes to simmer until they are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pan and increase the temperature to medium high. Cook, uncovered, for about another five minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and disappeared.

The radishes will be glistening from the butter and the pan just slightly moist.

Turn off the heat, transfer the radishes with their juices to a serving bowl, season with salt, and garnish with fresh dill.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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