Long before Europeans brought wheat and barley to the New World, the First Nations people harvested, processed and milled flour from indigenous plant life. Stuff you’d never think could turn into flour like Cattails, acorns, mosses, lichens and ferns. These became the base for a myriad of bread and bread-like recipes that kept the natives fed even during tough seasons and droughts.
One particularly badass recipe from the Neskonlith people (one that pre-dates European contact) calls for boiling black tree lichen until it coagulates enough to form sticky, licorice-flavoured hand cakes which were seared on rocks laid in charcoal-filled pits… Yurm.
My whole culinary career (such as it is) I’ve been under the mistaken impression that bannock was exclusively a First Nations thing.
It must have been all the outdoor cooking demonstrations on Canada Day; bannock broiling up on cast iron beside staves of smoked salmon, always supervised by the local band elders. Every native cook I knew fried a mean skillet full ‘o bannock and on the occasions that Crystal and I went to Uke to see the extended family you could bet there’d be a lot of fry bread involved.
It turns out that although First Nations people may have been grinding nut and berry flour to make something bannock-like, the bannock recipes we recognize today originate in the Middle East. Most historians agree that the recipe came from ancient Egypt and the modern name came from Celtic England. (more…)
This year’s non-winter has accelerated the growth of not only my herb garden, but all the greenery on the island. The footpaths and bike trails are ablaze with tiny neon-green shoots a month or so earlier than expected and font yards are dotted with confused-looking crocuses and daffodils.
It’s time to get foraging! The local bogs are full of various strange and wonderful plant life that can only be harvested for food during this early stage of growth. The vanguard of these spring edibles are fiddleheads: Immature ferns that spend only a couple ‘o weeks each year as tightly-curled delicacies resembling the head of a violin before opening up and becoming just another leaf adrift in the great ocean of green.
It’s now safe to say that 2014 was the year without a winter here on the West coast. I’ve done my best not to rub it in the face of my Eastern relatives, but seriously… T-Shirts in early February. It’s been a good, good year!
Already the fennel, sorrel (more on that in another post!) tarragon and various tough, fibrous perennials are returning to the garden wasteland to stake out their spaces like suburban families awaiting a parade.
The gnarly old rosemary and sage bushes spent the mild non-winter locked in combat for more territory, each trying to stretch wider and taller than the other. I hacked the tops off both of these beasts on the weekend to let the rest of the garden in on the sunshine party, now I’ve got a kitchen table covered in herbs. The rosemary is no problem, just hang it and dry it out for later use. But what the hell do you do with pounds of sage leaves? (more…)
Scrolling through itunes, I noticed that only one of the food podcasts from my previous list (less than a year ago!) had captured my interest long enough to survive.
Time moves fast in the podcasting world, and the culling can be merciless and swift. Two weeks of un-interesting episodes and my fickle fingers strays toward the “Unsubscribe” button…Don’t judge, I’m not the only one.
Luckily I’m not starved for content. As I said, seasons wax and wain at blinding speed and the fertile fields of itunes, Downcast, Sticher and Google Listen blossom with new food-related podcasts every month. With all the time I spend biking to work (yes, even in February) I got time to kill, and learn. So give me all the content, and then gimmie more! (more…)