Canada Day is a celebration of everything that makes us the greatest nation on earth, our people, our culture, our land and sea, our farmers and fisherman, our food. It's a day for waving the flag and being raucously proud of all that we are and can be. It's also a time to consider our obligations as Canadians.
I recently led the team of chefs that cooked for all the athletes of the world in the Whistler Olympic Village. There were 100 of us tasked to create a giant food court, to leap very high nutritional hurdles and serve 12,000 meals a day to 85 different national teams. I'm convinced that our success flowed from our patriotic desire to show the world how good our food can be. Every day we set out to prove that Canada is a flavourful big deal. Our Canadian pride carried us to the highest food ratings in the history of the games as we set the new gold standard for future Olympic Village food experiences to follow.
That same Canadian pride is on display every time you make a local food choice. From coast to coast to coast we are blessed with unparalleled food bounty that has inspired more and more of us to form local food connections. What was once a fad, then a trend, has become the new norm.
Local food is restoring pride in our own backyards. On Prince Edward Island we all look forward to the first day of lobster season, then eagerly await the first strawberries of the summer. Before long we'll be drenching our own corn in local butter as we stay connected to our seasons. Your food choices can show your pride in your community, too.
There are many ways and reasons to support our local food producers. Our consumer voices need to be heard when our supermarkets insist on ignoring nearby agricultural bounty. We can vote with our dollars and find our local farm stands and farmers markets. When we do, we enjoy fresh local flavours, but perhaps more importantly, we show our respect for those amongst us who produce food. We hear their stories, we feel their pride and share their passion. It's called being a good neighbour. It's Canadian.
Prince Edward Island has debuted seven new farmers markets over the last few years. In Charlottetown though, the granddaddy of them all continues to thrive. Over the years much of my respect for local food heroes has been inspired here. Paul Offer's organic soil, Steve Knechtel's old-school bread, Irene Novaczek's pickled seaweed, the Matheson's lamb, Marty Taylor's pigs and sausages - the list goes on and on. Last Saturday, Richard Arsenault of Countryside Produce gave me a few melon plants to nurture. They'll have a great summer and I look forward to their sweet flavour reminding me how tasty patriotism can be!
In Canada, summer is berry season and one of the simplest ways to turn ripe fragrant local berries into a comfortable dessert is to bake them slowly with aromatic spices under an easy-to-make crumble crust.
Canadian Fruit Celebration Crisp
2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.5 kilograms) of your favourite berries (see Variations below)
1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) of ground cinnamon
½ cup (125 millilitres) of all purpose flour
2 cups (500 millilitres) of brown or white sugar
1 more cup (250 millilitres) of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) of nutmeg
1 stick (1/2 cup/125 millilitres) of butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 350°F
Toss the berries with the cinnamon, ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar, then spread it evenly into a 9 by 5-inch baking pan 2 inches deep.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup of flour, remaining 1 cup of sugar and nutmeg. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir until well blended with the dry ingredients.
Scatter this topping evenly over the top of the fruit. Bake until fruit juices are bubbling around the edges, the fruit is tender and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour.
There are many ways to add your own ideas to a fruit crisp. Try apples, peaches, pears, plums or rhubarb. Even chunks of come-from-away mango, banana or pineapple bake into a memorable crisp. You may use one fruit or try different combinations of fruit. You may also try stirring in raisins or your favourite nuts. You can modify the topping with whole wheat flour and vegetable oil instead of white flour and butter. You can use your favourite baking spice instead of cinnamon or nutmeg. Cardamom is always a treat!Serves 6 to 8.
Serves 6 to 8.