Spooning and Forking

Archive for November, 2012


Monday, November 26th, 2012

Why did we decide to do a seafood episode when we live in a landlocked province? A couple reasons, really. A popular pastime in Alberta, I, like many, grew up going camping. Well, I don’t do that anymore, but some of my most memorable stories happened on camping trips. There was that time of the emergency evacuation because of bears. They still freak me out. Getting a scratch on my face when I was on the back of a motorcycle riding through the woods and a tree branch snapped back and slashed my face. I don’t do motorcycles anymore either, but thankfully I don’t have a scar. And the most memorable was the time I caught a fish. I was probably 10 years old, and most likely did not reel it in myself, but I can very clearly remember thinking the eyes were very interesting and trying to pop them out. Before you go thinking I have some sort of latent psychotic tendency, I was fascinated by the colors of the scales, and how alive the fish still seemed although it was dead. I also remember very clearly how delicious that fish was after it was cooked in tinfoil over a campfire with a bit of lemon and some dill.  So we got to chatting one day about getting good sushi in Alberta. Marc Affled, our rockstar producer and News Director at CJSW, mentioned how he had the best sushi of his life at Jasper Park Lodge one time and often wondered what it takes to get the freshest sushi to a place that is hard to get to by car let alone truck, air, or boat. Okay, so you can’t get to it by boat but you catch my drift here. Well, I have a huge affinity for seafood, Marc had the question about getting it here, and then it just evolved to wondering about the demand. And then a few years ago the east coast cod fisheries’ woes happened. Having many friends from the east coast, their industries were basically becoming depleted. So I phoned my friend Eric Geisbrecht, Calgary’s own oysterman and had a great conversation with him. He guided me into the subject suggesting I look further into it other than just Oceanwise. So who did I talk to? Well, of course I spoke with Michael McDermid from the Oceanwise program out of the Vancouver Aquarium about the program itself. Then I heard about this Salmon CSF called Skipper Otto. They started the CSF (Community Supported Fishery), which is essentially the same idea as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and as of last year expanded their membership into Alberta. That means for the cost of a membership, you can get fresh seafood caught ethically, delivered to your door. I spoke with Shaun Strobel who with his wife and his father have built this amazing idea into a reality. A reality that brings together communities who may not otherwise have access to the freshest and most ethically caught seafood. I then spoke with Executive Chef Kyle Groves at Catch Restaurant in Calgary. I know many restaurants serve seafood in the city, however, there are only a couple known for their seafood. Catch is a seafood restaurant in the middle of a farmer’s field essentially, how crazy do you have to be to put that together? Well, obviously not too crazy because it works. Catch is one of the most popoular restaurants in Calgary, and Chef Groves is as passionate about sourcing a sustainable product as he is about preparing them to be super tasty! Then finally I spoke with Brent Petkau the Oysterman of Cortes Island. I had 2 conversations with Mr. Petkau both of which lasted well over an hour. The man is so passionate about his oysters, the seafood industry and agriculture. Y’all only get to hear a fraction of what we spoke about but you can check out on youtube his 6 minute short film called The Perfect Oyster. Keep tabs on this fellow, beause he is working on some really great things.

After all this, I think I am going to plan a road trip to hopefully go and harvest some oysters on Cortes island one day.  And then eat those little babies up.

November 26, 2012 Follow-Up: Well, I did go up to Cortes Island, and I did harvest some oysters. Wow, were they amazing. The oyster is such an interesting signifier of a life system. It is essentially self-sustaining, as well as environmentally friendly as it cleans oceans. It is delicious, delicate and meaty all at the same time. Adorns the tables of the rich and the poor alike. And, is one of the oldest creatures on the planet. Fascinating.

CSA’s, Canning and Preserving

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Fall brings on so many wonderful things: the leaves start to change color, the temperature dips, the air becomes crisp and refreshing even in 20 degree sunshine, people start to slow down a bit and become less manic about getting wasted on patios. You know, that sort of stuff. It is also the time for harvest and a winding down of most vegetable gardens. People tend to go indoors and start preparing for winter. So what did our ancestors do to prepare for winter? They canned and preserved meats and vegetables so that during those frigid winter months they could still eat vegetables and fruits that had been preserved during the spring and summer months. This is not a new craft, not even a little, so when a few years ago my best friend moved out to the suburbs and started having babies. What she also started to do was talk about canning and preserving. I always took it for granted that I would go out to my grandparents place or my parents place and come home with jars of pickles, beets, carrots, jams, jellies, beans, gosh – you name it. So when my friend, who I had known as a young twenty-something living the high life in a very urban setting, started canning, I was sort of shocked into the realization that, ‘whoa. Yea, people do preserve stuff. And it is not only a really cool craft but uber practical’. Alright, fast forward to last year. I met a lady who has a garden near Carstairs. Now this lady is married to a very successful man in the city, they do lots of philanthropic work, and so they don’t have to grow their own food, nor do they have to preserve it. But the story that came out next was how she grows enough food for herself and husband, three grown children who have amongst them 5 children. They get together a couple times throughout the summer to preserve much of the food they procure from a little family-sized garden plot. Thus, I decided to do an episode on Canning, Preserving & CSA’s. So I spoke with Brenda Vrieslaar of Noble Gardens a CSA outside of Calgary, http://www.noblegardenscsa.com/  Bruce Berry of Almost Urban Vegetables just on the edge of Winnipeg, http://www.almosturbanvegetables.com/ about what a CSA is, and really how much produce comes from just a little bit of land. It is pretty incredible.

I wondered what would I do if I had access to all that produce. Well, I think it would be prudent to preserve a lot of it, time permitting of course. So I wanted to find out about canning. I spoke with Brenda Lerner of Jammin’ It, a kiosk at the Kingsland Farmer’s Market  http://kfmcalgary.com/ . Brenda brought in a couple jars of preserves for us, which we have devoured already. I also wanted to talk to someone who has been canning for her whole life as a hobby. Ellen Kelly from the City Palate http://citypalate.ca/ was gracious enough to chat with us about her experience growing up in the Waterton Lake and Calgary areas, and how she learned to can and preserve with her Grandmother. I just loved speaking with Ellen, I felt like I was speaking with a more approachable Martha Stewart.

And then finally, my good friend Geoff Rogers, former Executive Chef at Home Tasting Room, who basically brought back the trend of using preserves in restaurants, chatted with us about how preserves are not just a granny sport or homemaker’s hobby. Chef Rogers is now in the planning and development stages of a new restaurant he is opening on 17th Avenue called Market. It is slated to open in the New Year.

Also, something to note, Julie Van Rosendaal, Geoff Rogers and myself are planning on offering a canning & preserving class.  Truth be told, I will just be there getting in the way most likely, but here is a chance to learn how to can and preserve from the best! Check back for more information.