Category Archives: New Places and Exploring

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.

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!

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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Wolfville Farmer’s Market – One Brick at a Time

The Plans - Photo Credit, Bruce Dienes

Eighteen years have passed and it’s been a long and fruitful journey for the volunteers, directors and staff of the Wolfville Farmers Market. Starting with three vendors in a parking lot, this community hub has been transformed into a bustling intersection of business and pleasure. Live music plays prominently every Saturday morning like a piper, enticing neighbours and tourists alike to spend an hour or two taking in all of the flavours of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Well known for its sensational array of apples, berries, organic produce, and rich, red soils, the region is an integral piece of the Nova Scotia food map. It’s a true coming of age story for the little farmers market that can, and with a big fundraising campaign underway, the Wolfville Farmer’s Market is casting off its outgrown, outdoor shell and will be moving into its new home in September, 2011.

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The Gift that Keeps on Quacking

Merry Christmas! A time of happiness, joy, far too much booze, and of course, eating. Thinking that I would be spending this festive season all by my lonesome (Bah Humbug), I prepared an elaborate plan to stuff myself silly with things I enjoy to numb the fact that I am so far away from my family. I trucked out to Martock Glen Farm, a small scale abattoir and butcher shop just outside of Windsor, Nova Scotia. The Oulton family takes pride in raising its animals “the old fashioned way”, with no antibiotics or hormones, and with access to the great outdoors, grain feed, and green forage. Their products are distributed around the Valley at choice locations, but generally frozen, and a bit pricey. I decided to go down there myself to fill my fridge for a special Christmas weekend of over-consumption.

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