From Where I Sit – Baby Steps

Because Hilary was coming to the farm for Easter dinner I knew I could try a more daring menu than what Roy alone would tolerate. I planned the menu and bought the ingredients. When I added an elderly aunt and her bachelor son to the guest list I began to second-guess myself. What if they didn’t like the two salads I was intent on serving?

I decided to stay the course. There would be stick-to-the-rib basics like roast chicken; boxed Stove Top stuffing; and a roasted medley of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts, garlic, and baby potatoes for those unwilling to try something different.

One of my new favourite dishes is caprese salad. Tomato slices, fresh mozzarella (or bocconcini), fresh basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil makes my heart soar. It’s quick and easy and to die for. The biggest challenge for this farm kid has been finding fresh basil but even that is getting easier when I’m in Edmonton.

Another dish I’ve been enjoying at restaurants like Tiramasu Bistro and Glass Monkey is a beet salad. There is something earthy and sweetly succulent about beets.

Maybe it’s the Food Network effect but I believed I could replicate it at home. I’ve discovered it’s also no longer essential to own a cookbook (or twenty) when the Internet exists. I googled beet salad with goat cheese and arugula and found several options. I also had to google vinaigrette to figure out how to make the dressing. The result was, in my humble opinion, restaurant worthy. You can be sure I’ll be trying this salad again soon. It’s almost secondary that my guests enjoyed it as well.

The wealth of resources for an aspiring home cook are monumental. From the Internet to 24-7 specialty channels to reality TV cooking competitions like MasterChef Canada have the foodie in seventh heaven. Food styling and over the top plating have created food porn and remind the conscious eater that satiety begins with the eyes.

One needs to start packing a dictionary of culinary terms when dining out just to help decipher the descriptions. Coulis, comfit, roux, aioli, adobo; our vocabularies and sophistication are growing as the world gets smaller and ethnic dishes from around the globe find their way onto menus here. When did we ditch iceberg lettuce for arugula, kale, endive, radicchio? What wine should we pair with this dish?

Reinforcing this new awareness of what we are putting into our bodies is the focus on farm to fork eating, the 100-mile diet, organic foods, and the eat local movement. Culinary tourism is hot, hot, hot. Some high-end restaurants are identifying their suppliers on their menus to show that their protein or cheese is coming from a farm and not a factory.

Bottom line: This foodie movement has empowered this woman (who really doesn’t enjoy cooking) to try something different. Where might this small success lead? Not sure, but these baby steps felt good, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..

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