Monday, November 30, 2009

November 2009: “Terra Madre” (Mother Earth) Day

The Slow Food organization is dedicated to principles that include choosing locally grown food and honouring the producers of that food. It also embraces the idea of food consumption as an important part of life, not just a means of fueling up. To these ends, Slow Food has declared December 10th “Terra Madre” Day, a day to put those principles into action.

Across the world, the members of Slow Food, organized into local “convivia” will be marking the day, each in its own way. That means that some 100,000 members and their friends, in 132 countries will be finding ways to pay homage to the farmers and cheese makers, butchers and winemakers, canners and herders who often are taken for granted as we sit down to our meals. And while honouring the producers of their food, they will be preparing and eating it in the company of friends and family and treating their meal as the social, “convivial” event it should be.

Here’s a chance for all of us to pay particular attention to what and how we eat, by marking this one day down for a celebratory, home-cooked meal featuring local food. Here’s a menu suggestion for December 10th.

Start with garlic soup (recipe below), an astonishingly good soup that tastes not at all of garlic, but packs all its healthy cold-fighting benefits. This is a staple in our house all winter long. We stock up on Ontario garlic when it’s available and keep the bulbs in a cool, dark, dry place that will ensure that it lasts through until spring. With luck, we’ll be able to avoid having to buy that Chinese or South American supermarket garlic that is a pale imitation of the real stuff.

For a main course, choose an Ontario produced meat such as beef, pork, or lamb, roasted in the oven surrounded by unpeeled potatoes and local sweet potatoes that will cook in the juices of the meat. Alongside, serve Brussels sprouts (Ontario grown ones should still be available) sautéed after steaming in a little orange juice and sprinkled with orange zest. A cheese course of one of Upper Canada Cheese Company’s delicious cheeses (“Upper Canada Gold” or “Comfort Cream,” produced in Jordan) served with thin slices of baguette from one of our fine local bakeries makes a great transition to dessert. And dessert should be pie made from Ontario apples or those Niagara cherries you put in the freezer last July. If pastry-baking isn’t your thing, delicious pies made from local produce are available at Pelham’s bakeries.

Wine for this feast might include an oaked chardonnay with the soup, a hearty “Bordeaux” blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon with the main course and the cheese, and an ice wine or late harvest with dessert… all, it goes without saying, from one of Niagara’s world-class wineries. Featherstone’s Canadian Oak Chardonnay (aged in barrels made of Canadian oak) would add a local touch, and nearby Henry of Pelham makes red wines that are consistently among the best in Niagara.

Whatever you decide for a meal on December 10th, raise a glass to our farmers and food producers, and spare a thought for our Terra Madre.

Winter Garlic Soup

1 litre chicken stock
1 head of Ontario garlic, cloves separated and peeled
3 slices of stale (2 or 3 day-old) country bread
½ tsp chili seeds (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the garlic cloves in half and boil them gently along with the chili seeds in half the chicken stock. While they are boiling (about 20 minutes until soft) cut the crusts from the bread, tear it into small pieces, and soak it in a bowl of water. When the garlic is soft, pour it along with the hot chicken stock into a food processor or blender and process until the garlic is integrated into the stock. Squeeze the water out of the bread (it will be quite mushy, almost like a paste) and, with the processor running, add the bread to the soup. When the soup is thick and smooth, put it in a saucepan with the reserved chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the seasoning.

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