No Alligator Fritters in the Everglades??!!

For whatever reason, I manage to find myself being taken on adventures on a semi-frequent basis, by people who love life, eat well, and want me around. I’m not going to start questioning it anytime soon. This most recent rendition included the Florida Everglades. The last time I was in Florida was when I was about 8, with my family. We went on a day trip to the Everglades and took one of those crazy airboat tours to see alligators, migratory birds, fig vines hugging huge oak trees, and mangrove trees with their fingerlike roots reaching into the still, green, brackish waters below. When I was little, we got to do all of that AND eat alligator fritters. I thought it was one of the most succulent creatures I had ever eaten. So, for the past 20-odd years, I have dreamed about one day eating alligator again.

Unfortunately I don’t frequent Southwest Florida, don’t have a snowbird grandparent to go visit, and generally try to avoid supporting the US economy. And then, I found myself positioned in the company of one very generous ladyfriend who needed a getaway, knew someone with a house to stay at down south, and whisked me away to the sunny Gulf Coast. She was dead set on paddling a canoe in the Everglades. Being pretty game myself, I agreed that it would be an excellent day trip. We managed to avoid being taken hostage on highway 41, rented a canoe, drew our paddles along the sleepy surface of Turner River, and paddled through the narrow and winding passage of the mangroves. We chilled out in the canoe mere feet away from many alligators. We saw a mommy alligator with two of her babies, we even got so close that I tapped one with my paddle, unknowingly. Alligators are very good at camouflaging themselves in the swamp. We were followed back up the river by a red-shouldered hawk, examined a colourfully painted turtle sunning itself on a log, and collected snail shells floating on the surface. After our foray into the wilds of the mangrove in a tippy canoe, nose-to-nose with sea monsters, we decided it was time to go in search for any alligator delicacy we could sink our teeth into. We arrived in Everglades City. It was a depressed little town, the main attraction being airboat touring companies along the water, but we managed to find a cafe with a table on the porch outside, and cold beer. A leathery and ancient old lady with very few teeth came to our table to take our order, I asked for the alligator fritters as advertised on the menu. “No alligator here.” “Oh, really? I had my heart set on it,” I said. “We ain’t got any cause they can’t sell the leather. You know it’s illegal to make anything with the hides, so nobody has any meat. I ain’t lying to ya’ honey, you can try the other places, they won’t have any either.” Disappointment set it. And so it went, because alligator hunters can’t do anything with the hides, they don’t bother hunting them. No fritters for us. Once again food politics trumps lunchtime satisfaction. I guess I can understand why. I’ll just have to go hunt me an alligator all by myself. You might expect a photo of a nice new leather purse in the next post… Just kidding.

Road Trip Christmas

Car-sized Tree on Christmas day meets Ontario!

There will be no photos or details about this past Christmas dinner. Let’s just say that this year taught me that although a warm, hearty meal is one of the best parts of the season, if you’re stuck in a snow storm in Northern Ontario, you have no good food left from shopping four days earlier in Vancouver, not one restaurant or grocery store has been open since you left Regina, and the only place to find food is at a gas station, it becomes exceedingly clear that the company one keeps is the most important part. Thank heavens for microwave dinners. (PS. You will never again see a sentence like that on this blog from here on.)

Port-landed

If there was anywhere in the United States that I could see myself feeling comfortable, it would definitely be Portland, Oregon. Yes, it’s true, I haven’t been to all of the places in all of the 50 states, but Portland would certainly give any other candidate a run for its money. And here’s why: 1. the local food system is sophisticated and supported by the community, such that one can procure much of what one needs or desires at one of the many farmers’ markets throughout the week; 2. there is excellent coffee found on every corner of every intersection in every neighbourhood; 3. the cycling infrastructure is user-friendly and comprehensive such that anyone could get from point A to point B in order to eat one’s way across the entire city with no problem; 4. White Pinot Noir. Need I say more?; 5. it’s delicious and has a great sense of humour. Full Stop.

Highlights from Portland

  • Saturday Market (on Saturdays and Sundays) full of artisans and knick knacks, and highly entertaining.
  • Saturday Farmers’ Market, with 140 vendors, live music, chef demos, many prepared foods for the muting right there, and a dedicated staff pleased to help you navigate and make the most of everything it has to offer.
  • The Japanese Gardens and the Rose Gardens. WHOA!
  • Alberta, Mississippi, Hawthorne and Alphabet neighbourhoods.
  • Great restaurants including (links on the Restaurant Rundown page): Higgin’s, Wildwood, Beast, and Little Bird

It’s tea time for the Cowichan Valley

Read my article on Teafarm for Good Food Revolution!

Large Black Pigs ~ Why heritage breeds matter.

We’ve seen the Is it local? episode on Portlandia, and laughed at its ridiculousness. And we’ve seen the heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market with all of their charismatic bumps and scabs as we balk at the price tag. On menus we have read Red Fife wheat, or Berkshire Pork in an item’s ostentatious description. But why should we care?

It’s important.

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The Art of Collecting Eggs

Eggs await removal

There is a common, yet irrational fear of placing one’s uncalloused fingers into a chicken coop for the first time. I’ve heard this phenomenon expressed by several seasoned friends and acquaintances who have embraced the joys of raising chickens. It starts when you walk toward the coop. Within a few metres the scent of ammonia becomes salient, the warmth created by roosting hens, and rooster counterparts, emanates from their humble abode, and the clucking, chirping and cock-a-doodling rings in the ears. You brace yourself for the collection event, which deep down you know will bring joys of custards and frittatas, with certain caution that comes while reaching in.

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Cross-Continental Road Trip! With mushrooms, of course.

This post isn’t so much about food. It is the retelling of the adventure that brought me to my newest, food-intensive home on a farm in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. It’s been a while since I have written. I’ve been busy. I’ll refrain from apologizing, but I assure you there are many food-related posts to come as I explore a new region, new skills, and a novel existence on the farm. Stay tuned!

Colorado

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