The Best Of The Year – A story
It’s getting to be that time of year.
No, not the holidays, I’m talking about what so many journalists, bloggers and writers tend to do at this time of year: reflect on what has happened in the past year. Last year, we made a list, but this year, we wanted to do something a little different. We’ll be posting about this throughout the upcoming days and weeks before the New Year rings in.
I made a promise to myself a while back to eat food that is produced as close to home as possible, and to keep in time with the seasons. It’s something a lot of people are doing, as more and more people become conscious of the issues around food production. This is not to say that I don’t eat out, or that I don’t occasionally buy foods that are not produced here. When I do make exceptions it is because they are items that are not produced here at all, such as rice, soy sauce, olive oil or coconut milk.
But when things are in season, I make the best of them, as much as possible. The growing season here is (relatively) short, so if that means I can only eat asparagus for a month, then so be it. I will buy it, and enjoy it at its peak, steaming it or grilling it, topping it with poached eggs and cheese. When raspberries and other soft fruits are available, I will make sorbets to cool off from the heat and eat them for snacks throughout the day. I will stain my counters with their juices, fill mason jars with them and make brandied berries. In the fall, I gorge on apples, snacking on varieties which are at their peak for a few short weeks, dreading the day when they’ve been in the fridge for too long and have become mealy. But when they do, that’s when I dry them and put them in the dehydrator, adding to wintery baked goods.
Ah winter. And then comes the challenge.
Last winter (and early spring), I took it upon myself to research as much as I could about how to cook with what was available to me during the winter months: everything from turnips to parsnips to potatoes to squashes and more. I experimented. I practiced. I failed and I perfected. Sure, it’s easy to eat seasonally when you’ve got your bags full of crisp greens and juicy tomatoes. But with a little help from a few farmers, I didn’t feel like I missed much, and actually came to miss the heat that rose off the oven when spring hit. Which brings me to what has been my favourite thing to happen to the food scene in Halifax and throughout Atlantic Canada: the education of our collective palates.
More and more people have started asking for, looking for and producing foodstuffs (and the experiences therein) of quality. We have started to seek out new things. We ask the people who produce our food we eat to supply us with the new, the exciting, the trendy and the obscure, and they are delivering. You can have hanger steak from a local butcher shop cooked sous-vide, lavender syrup from a small farm used in cocktails made with artisanally-made bitters and terrines made with offals that would’ve been thrown away not so long ago. We are looking for expressions of the terroir of the area. We are forging new culinary memories and extricating old ones before they are forgotten.
I really believe that this is an exciting time for food, as we come to care not only about the ecology of food production, but the quality and diversity of it as well.
I know I will enjoy it, one forkful at a time.