This week I have a guest post from my other half, Chef Martin Laprise. Since we are in the season of harvest and hunting, I thought it offered an interesting perspective...since this past week we had World Food Day in recognition of family farmers and the need for sustainable agriculture I wanted to look at the big picture in this column.
I own the best kind of dog breed around for hunting, Until this year, I didn't actually own a weapon; my dog Simon was only used for mushroom hunting. I relied on friends to share their meat once they have managed to drag it out of the forest! Now that I do have a rifle I plan to harvest small game like rabbit and grouse. I don't have any burly friends or a quad to get a deer out of the forest, but I am always willing to go cook a meal with elk, deer, bear or moose, especially if I get to stay for dinner.
I could never become a full vegetarian; I would so miserable! I enjoy the taste of meat so much, but then I also enjoy the taste of fresh vegetables too.
When was the last time you actually seriously looked at your dinner, thankful that someone has grown and harvested your vegetables or killed your chicken and sent it to your butcher for you to simply buy it? I am all for progress and technology, but I am extremely appreciative for all the hard working farmers out there who provide us with extremely good produce and meats. More and more it gets harder and harder to convince young adults that farming is a noble profession. For example, the world sees doctors as a much more noble profession than farmers, but when you stop to think about it, without food the doctor would die and so would all of the patients.
Educate your kids as to where dinner comes from, and maybe one or two will choose to become part of the food industry, ensuring that someone is there to feed us in 100 years.
Hunting for food is great way to get in touch with nature and also a great way to be more appreciative of how easy it is to go to the store and buy food for a meal.
I hope no doctors were offended by this article!
Below is my recipe for venison stew. You can substitute beef if you prefer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Venison Guinness Beer Stew
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 1/4 pounds of venison meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10 whole garlic cloves
- 2 cans of Guinness beer
- Water or beef stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
- 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- salt & pepper, to taste
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until brown on all sides, then add the garlic & the venison and brown the meat for about 5 more minutes. (Don’t stir too often while browning - leave it alone). Add the beer, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Top off with water or beef stock to cover the meat as necessary.
Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer for approximately 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and carrots. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Season with salt & pepper and parsley before serving.
The stew is done once the meat turns soft again. Do not over cook it though, as it will turn into mush! If the broth is not thick enough for your taste, you can thicken it with a roux (a small amount of flour mixed with water to make a paste). Even if you end up with a few lumps, it will add to the rustic flavour of the dish.
It's funny, as I get older I find the things I cherish the most from my childhood are those quirky things that I saw as uncool or downright weird when I was a kid. Now I regard them with wistfulness and humour. I long for the days when the biggest worry I had was dealing with the comments from fellow students about what was in my lunch bag.
Leftovers from Thanksgiving was one of the dubious lunches, according to my peers. I was destined to be a foodie, you see. My parents sent me with not just a turkey sandwich on Wonder bread but a masterpiece on hand-sliced sourdough, with homemade cranberry sauce, dressing and red leaf lettuce. (This was before the days of "artisan" food. ) As a side dish, I might have "Apple salad", the Peturson version of Waldorf salad. My Dad had whipped cream with apples as a childhood favourite I think (he didn't like the savoury celery and walnuts - those belonged in dressing). You can understand why I thought mayonnaise dressing was a horrible variation on this recipe, can't you? I also had notes on my napkins, which was worthy of lots of teasing. (The one in the picture wasn't mine but it easily could have been!)
In our house Thanksgiving was a time to share a meal, and over the years I remember various "strays" coming to the table and sharing their stories. That's how I learned of squash with a marshmallow topping, Brussels sprouts and lumpy mashed potatoes (my Mom made the creamiest mashed potatoes ever). I was keen to hear of tales from other people, and reasonably secure in my family's weird traditions (my Dad said Brussels sprouts were the worst vegetable created, and marshmallows at dinner sounded just over the top).
Nowadays I don't have Thanksgiving dinner; my husband and I both work in the hospitality industry so we are either working or we don't feel like cooking a big dinner, just for the two of us. I don't miss the clean up, but I have to admit I have the odd hankering for Apple salad.
Here's hoping you have a weekend for which you can feel grateful. As a token of my gratitude for your loyalty to my rants and raves, I'm offering up my recipe for pumpkin pie. I've heard it rates right up there - my Mom always said it was the best (but then I guess she was supposed to say that).
We live in a "bread basket", one of those bountiful regions of the world that offers a plethora of food grown within arm's reach without unreasonable effort. In our part of the world we tend not to suffer anyway, but in the harvest season we really do benefit from all the goodies. I know that Thanksgiving is still a week off (hang tough for commentary on the joys of turkey and cranberries and savoury dishes that contain marshmallows). But in the interest of recognizing the good life, I thought I might encourage you to partake of some of the toasting that happens this time of year.
In case you might be in a hole and are don't get out much, I'll state the obvious event to start the list: the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival starts this weekend and really does include something for almost everyone. It runs October 1st until 12th. Check out the program for the full list of events happening through the valley at wineries and community venues. Some are even free! If nothing else, this is your last chance to tour the many wineries that dot the valley, offering numerous grape varietals in white and red wines that cover a wide range of tastes. Do yourself a favour and surrender to the knowledgeable staff at many tasting rooms - try a few wines and find a new favourite or stock up on ones that may disappear before next year. A word to the wise: nominate a designated driver or call one of the tour companies to take you around, as those tasters sneak up on you :)
You're not a wine fan, you say? Well there are a few very trendy cocktail bars in town that you can visit, and even an event coming up that highlights locally made spirits, and of course, some food to go with them. The Okanagan Spirits Winetenders Mixoff is happening Thursday, October 9th in Kelowna. This is an interactive tasting event that involves a people's choice element where you get to vote on your favourites!
Okay, I know, you're a beer drinker. Maybe you've even become a trendy craft beer aficionado. Well then, you need to try out the upcoming event at Smack Dab at Manteo. This gastropub in Lower Mission has 12 beers on tap, and their Oktoberfest evening on Thursday, October 16th will feature 4 local breweries on site with specially made casks of beer and a feature menu paired with flights of beer. Tickets are available at Manteo Resort for this one, and for the other Brewmaster's Dinners they have scheduled through the winter months.
Now, just in case you don't imbibe any alcoholic beverages, I don't want you to think I'm suggesting you shouldn't celebrate this season and enjoy a little indulgence. How about this for an outing: head over to the Westside (I know, it's a pilgrimage if you live in Kelowna, but trust me it's worth it) - follow the highway to Paynter's Fruit Market, where they have a lovely display and selection of pumpkins and squash and apples and pears... you get the idea. They also have ice cream, and they make really good lattes. You can sit at a picnic table, or stroll through the orchard, or take a family picture in the hay bales with all the bounty. That will make your relatives on the freezing prairies envious, won't it?
Whatever method you choose to toast your own good fortune and our advantage of living here in the beautiful Okanagan, Cheers to you. Salut, Santé, Prost, Slainté... may your indulgence warm the cockles of your heart and keep any demons at bay, as any good toast is meant to do.
What good is a great dinner if there is no planet to live on?
Did I get your attention? I was pondering what to write about this week and happened upon this video put out by National Geographic. It deals with sustainability. We talk about sustainable agriculture and sustainable economy, but in using the word do we really consider the seriousness of not living on a sustainable planet? Buying local veggies isn't going to help if I don't consider other elements like how much plastic I use and where it goes. Do we even think about the many modern conveniences that make up our day and how they affect the future of our families and our planet? Let me remind you of a few of them...
- Do you make a cup of coffee in your pod coffee maker? The plastic pod, is it recycled??
- When you pack lunches (do you use pre-packaged items like juice boxes, single portion crackers & cheese or cookies in plastic, frozen items to be reheated?
- Are breakfast items in single portion packages?
- Does your commute involve a stop at Timmy's or Starbucks or the like? Do you use a travel mug or take it in a to-go cup?
- When you go for lunch do you grab fast food, in a plastic wrapper?
- at the kids' soccer practice, or your yoga class, do you drink bottled water? From a flat of bottles you bought somewhere, or a personal bottle?
- When you stop to pick up groceries, do you have reusable bags to use, or do you pay for the plastic ones?
- How much packaging is included with your groceries for dinner? Do you notice if non-recyclable styrofoam is part of packages?
- After dinner, do you pack up leftovers in reusable containers, or disposable ones?
- Are you able to take the empty pickle and salad dressing jars to the recycling depot, or do you just never have time?
Those are 10 times during the day you can consider the amount of disposable packaging that you are using in your everyday life. I know it's not realistic to expect that we can all go back to basics and give up all of this convenience with the pace of life we have today. But I would ask that you take a moment to watch this video and think of the consequences of our current pace.
I argue for the value of fresh food mostly from a taste perspective, but the concept of sustainability involves a sense of responsibility as well. In the best interest of our species, I do believe that a holistic approach to our food - and how it is presented - is important to our long term existence. In simpler terms, every little bit counts and we can be positive role models for the younger generations.
Here are 10 ideas on how to minimize our consumption of plastic and maximize our recycling efforts:
- avoid purchasing single portion items, and buy larger packages instead with less material
- put portable food and drink into reusable personal containers that can be washed instead of recycled or put in the garbage
- use water from the tap or a filtered system instead of bottled water
- ask for minimum packaging when taking items to go (use personal containers like travel mugs)
- don't use any more bags than you have to when purchasing fruits, veggies, etc. Reuse them as much as possible.
- take your own grocery totes to carry purchases home
- organize recycling of as many items as possible - use the "carpool" concept to share drop-offs with neighbours or friends for things that don't get picked up, or look out for non-profit groups that might be doing events like bottle drives
- avoid buying food that comes in excess or non-recyclable packaging (e.g. don't choose the eggs in sytrofoam containers)
- put leftovers in reusable washable containers instead of plastic wrap or bags
- look at fun ways that you can use items instead of sending them to recycling - wine corks and caps can make wreaths and picture frame decorations; colourful wrappers can be used in frames, over small furniture pieces or even as wallpaper in bathrooms and hallways - check Pinterest for ideas!
I'm not trying to preach, just open up your mind to the idea that there might be a bit more you could do to help make a positive change. I know after I watched the video it made me consider how I could do better.
Who doesn't want to be a better person, make a difference in the world, in some small way?
Just a thought, while you sip your coffee... out of a non-disposable mug :)
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
- Indian Summer Sep 20
- How to eat your peas & quinoa Sep 13
- Pork Jam Sep 6
- The dog days of summer Aug 30
- Etiquette - it's not about being a jerk Aug 16
- Stop and smell the flowers Aug 2
- Does there have to be an app for that? Jul 26
- Rock around the clock Jul 19
- Is there such a thing as adult food? Jul 12
- Too much of a good thing? Jul 5
- Midsummer madness Jun 21
- Good food, good friends Jun 14
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