Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Honeymoon and A Honey Cake

"The honeymoon is over after a scant five years. The unique quirkiness that first attracted me is now nothing more than a mere annoyance. I can’t precisely pinpoint when it happened. It was a gradual and slow shift from being utterly rapt to now, where I look for opportunities to get away."       Sarah

My first two years in this windy prairie town were surreal. Here I was, in a ranch and cowboy scene straight out of a Hollywood oater. As a child growing up in the farmed southeastern Saskatchewan prairieland I longed to visit Val Marie and the infamous prairie dogs of the southwest. Well, here I am. Pinch me. 

I wiled away my Sundays on long drives through the glacier carved Frenchman River valley beautifully juxtaposed with the alpine Cypress bench creating a natural diorama. I passed by a little-known gurgling world class trout stream, on a road where the road sign tells me that chains are highly recommended in the winter (the prairies are not so flat after all, in the Cypress Hills) and down to into the valley where in 1991 an excavation found one of the largest and most complete T. Rex skeletons in the world. Rodeos, both professional and deeply hidden local treasures, were my weekend entertainment.

In the beginning I found it rather quaint that businesses closed at lunchtime. And restaurants still served 'super juice'. Soup or juice is some kind of prairie meal formality I grew up with.  Just as every diner meal comes with dessert, which is usually jello or ice cream. The same old 70's tunes still blared on the car radio. It was kinda like I never left. This return to my home province was a real-life walk down memory lane some three decades later.

It was bound to happen. I mean it is rare for the honeymoon phase to last forever. I don't even think it is healthy. Now after five years of living in the middle of nowhere I am feeling disoriented. If you can call Calgary (previously my home for more than 30 years) a city in step with the world, then I no longer feel I have a touchstone to reality from this prairie outpost. I see myself as a grown up version of my small town teenage fashionista self who idolized the likes of fashion guru, Jeanne Beker. I feel as though I am hopelessly sinking in quicksand without Jeanne to buoy me.

Brenda’s Honey Citrus Pound Cake

Brenda and Kevin Epp sold the farm. I mean, they sold the farm. And went into the bee business. Kevin is driving a truck and Brenda is a nurse while they build the honey business and raise their children. They have three boys, one is a foster child. Her table is two down from mine at the farmers' market. 

They are the first to admit it has been a learning curve. When I asked for honeycomb they thought, oh, yeah, I guess we could give you some. No, Brenda, you sell honeycomb. People love it. I have watched their market table grow from a little six foot table to this year, where they will have a 20 foot stall. Her standard polyester tablecloth is now a fitted earthy jute drape adorned with a fresh bouquet every week. In addition to liquid and creamed honey, they have added beeswax candles, beeswax by the block and lip balm.

This is one of her honey recipes. Be careful. It's addictively delicious. Bake it in two loaf pans or in a bundt pan. Don't you think this honeybee bundt pan is the most adorable cake pan?

1c. butter
1 1 /2 c. honey
5 eggs
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. lemon lime soda
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lime zest   

2 c. icing sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lime zest
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. water   

Cream butter and honey, beat in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients and zests. Slowly incorporate the lemon lime soda. Pour into a bundt pan or two loaf pans. Bake at 325 F for about an hour.

Test for doneness with a skewer that comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert on a cake plate while still warm. Drizzle with glaze while warm.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

We're born alone...

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”    Orson Welles

Of late I have had a pervasive feeling of loneliness. At times I have felt abandoned or betrayed by new friends. I call this loneliness and not aloneness. Welles speaks of aloneness of which I am also very familiar.

I have travelled alone and know the feeling of wanting another human being for simple conversation. I know the carefulness I practice in foreign countries after dark. Now I know aloneness in a new context. I am alone in a small town, a small town where everyone knows everyone, and I know no one.

It’s true what they say about small towns. I will never belong. I will always be that woman who moved here from Calgary and lives on Bothwell Drive, in the Elkink house. I will forever be referred to as the woman who lives in the Elkink house.

Everything is referred to by a previous local owner’s name or business name. For example, you know the market in the museum building, meet me there. Or it’s in the location of the old Peavey Mart. Or that restaurant is in the old Casey’s location. Meanwhile, I have no term of reference for any of these names or places. It isn't as though I can look it up somewhere.

I am not quite sure how I would have navigated this without my dear friend, Miss Sugar. She consoles me with her kisses, reasons with me with her meows and sedates me with her purrs. In this moment of illusion I am not alone.

Lamb Loin Chops with Farro Salad Dinner for One

I have been intrigued with farro since I had it in a salad back in the spring while I was in Kelowna. The grains have a slightly nutty flavour and when cooked al dente add nice texture to the meal. However, it isn't easy to find farro. When I was in the city I visited the health food store and found a few packages in the sale bin. I wish I had purchased more than one.

Farro is an ancient grain that is popular in the Mediterranean. Finding exact details is about as difficult as finding the grain itself. Most information tells me it is an ancient wheat. One source says that spelt, emmer and einkorn are called farro in Italy. The difference mainly is the size of the kernel. These three grains are considered farro. So don't be surprised if the farro you buy today is a little different from the farro you buy tomorrow.

I cook this like I cook all my grains and rice, in plenty of water. I cook until almost al dente, strain it and place a clean tea towel over so it can steam for awhile. I like a clean grain so if it is still a bit sticky, rinse under cold water, strain and let air dry.

The lamb loin chops are simply seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and seared in a pan with olive oil on both sides. Remove from pan and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Serve.

Farro Salad
1 cup farro
1/2 tomato, cubed
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tarragon wine vinegar

Cook farro as described above. When it is dry add the remainder of the ingredients and toss to coat. Serve.

Friday, May 1, 2015

"Why Swift Current?" they ask.

“Of all the questions I field from curious locals and friends alike the most common is, “Why Swift Current?"  I am not sure if they are wanting validation of the attractiveness of this community or if in doubt of its virtues. For me it was neither deep nor philosophical. Simply, this is where I was when I grew weary of my search.”            Sarah

How do you choose a new home after being firmly rooted for over 30 years? I didn’t engage in a raft of soul-searching questionnaires or value polls. I knew I wanted a smaller community and in Canada. So the adventure began. I was free to explore. Canada was my oyster.

From Greenwood, BC to Annapolis Royal, NS I scoured this land of ours. I felt a little like Goldilocks. Too far, too much the same, too different. My longest trip by far was to Nova Scotia. Fortunately I had plenty of time to ponder my predicament during my return drive. If not there, then where? It was not until I crossed into Manitoba that I considered returning home. Not necessarily home to Saskatchewan but home to the prairies. My new adventure was possibly Manitoba.

Yet it took me a full three years before I eventually made the decision to return to Saskatchewan.

Cheticamp, Cape Breton Island

Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia

My father in an apple tree.

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove