Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something Old, Something New

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato Squash, Turban Squash
I enjoy food. I like new recipes and prefer to visit restaurants with adventurous menus. But there are plenty of foods in markets and shops that are foreign to me. More than one aisle in the supermarket is devoted to ethnic foods from a number of regions in the world. So I decided to make an effort to learn about and try one new food a week. Here are a few of my recent "explorations".

My first purchase was from a local farm store. I buy pumpkins and butternut squash here but had not tried a turban or sweet potato squash.

Verdict: I cut the sweet potato squash in half, brushed it with olive oil and roasted it until tender. The flesh was sweet and the skin edible. I would buy it again.

The turban squash was the toughest gourd I have ever tried to cut open. I feared losing a finger in the process. Finally I just put the halves in a slow cooker and left it while I was at work. It was not as sweet as the sweet potato squash and due to the dangers in preparation, I will not get another one. They are pretty to look at though for a fall decoration.

We visited a farmers market in Carp, Ontario just outside Ottawa. I bought a fennel bulb and a small basket of patty pan squash. I don't recall seeing these tiny summer squash before.

Verdict: Fennel smells and tastes like licorice and I do not like that flavour. We cut it lengthwise in thin slices, brushed them with oil before roasted in a hot oven. The flavour is interesting in small amounts but I wouldn't buy it again.

We roasted the patty pan squash in a hot oven as well after cutting them in half. I popped one in my mouth when they were done and we ended up eating all of them right away. Delicious! They have sweet summer squash flavour but are not watery at all.

Fennel and Patty Pan Squash
I pass through the Six Nations Reserve when I visit Ruthven Park for bird banding. Gasoline is taxed at a lower rate on the reserve so I always fill up on the way home. I saw a sign for lyed corn and cornbread at the gas bar and decided to buy this traditional native food. I asked the young woman at the counter how she would prepare the cornbread. She told me she was a picky eater and did not eat it but her father cut it in slices and boiled or fried it. 

Lyed corn is similar to Mexican nixtamal and the cornbread tastes like masa which is used to make corn tortillas. The Mohawk cornbread has added kidney beans and the round of dough is boiled in water until it floats to the top of the pot. While it may not win a blue ribbon for looks, it is surprisingly tasty when heated up.

The native American "three sisters" are corn, beans and squash and aboriginal people frequently planted them together. I served the Mohawk cornbread with turban squash and bean stew for a locally traditional meal.

Verdict: I would buy this again but would freeze half the loaf. I am interested in trying lyed corn soup which is much like Mexican posole.

All these foods were locally grown or produced. We have a few fall market days left before the snow comes and I will look for new local foods before trying some imported items.

Do you enjoy any unique or unusual foods?

Historic St. Paul's Anglican Church at Six Nations Reserve

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A New Place

The past few weeks have been full of activity and change, good and bad. We visited Ottawa last week and enjoyed breath-taking Canadian autumnal beauty. The entire five hour trip was along “streets of gold” but the view from the Gatineau hills in the province of Quebec across the Ottawa River valley was beyond description. 

We took our dog, Raven, for her first long road trip. She has outgrown her car-sick ways and adapted well to staying in our daughter’s new home. She is only a year and a half old but has grown very accustomed to our house and daily routines. Raven watched us closely day and night the first couple of days in Ottawa, never sure if we were going to pack up and go somewhere else. But she came to trust that we would not abandon her and we were able to leave her and visit The Canadian War Museum one afternoon. 

Today was my last vacation day and I got up early to visit Ruthven Park for fall bird banding. I arrived as the sun rose and was fortunate to see a Saw-whet Owl caught in the first net run of the morning. It was a fine fall day to walk the trails along the river, woods and meadows at the park. There have been record numbers of birds moving through the area over the weekend as shorter distance migrants are making the push south. It must be terrifying for the birds to be caught in nets not knowing they will be handled benevolently and then released.

Like Raven or birds in the mist net, we may find ourselves in a new place where we are not in control. Fear of abandonment and an unknown future bring anxiety and we may not recognize that someone is caring and watching out for us all the time.  

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? 
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
apart from the will of your Father. 

Matthew 10:29