Fair warning: I’m going to gush a little about this book. Maybe a lot. Amy Jo Ehman’s Prairie Feast is a hands-down delight. Not so much a cookbook as a travelogue (although there are some yummy-sounding recipes in there that I’m going to attempt), Ehman details her one-year soujourn into local cuisine – and by local, she means “Born (or planted) and raised in Saskatchewan.” With careful research and a whole lot of assistance from friends, she and her husband embark on a seriously inspirational voyage that really gets the reader thinking about HOW we eat, and where our food comes from.
And it’s not just the stories Ehman has to tell about her adventures: it’s the way she tells them. She’s a talented writer with a humourous bent, making each story a delicious treat (yeah, I know, but I’m not going to stop with the food references). Her escapades at the Cherry Festival in Bruno are side-splitting, yet insightful: the information about the cherry-breeding program at the U of S was particularly interesting to me, as I’ve done research about the haskaps that they’ve produced there. And the fact that there is a marketing company in the province of Saskatchewan that sells spices – yes, you read that correctly, spices – to the rest of the world is simply astonishing: it’s not the fact that these products can be grown in Saskatchewan, because that’s really not an issue, with the excellent growing season and soil in the province, but that someone is actually DOING it. Imagine getting your cumin from Saskatchewan, or your caraway or anise seed or coriander? It’s a wonderful prospect!
Ehman covers it all: she goes along on a duck hunt outside the town of Perdue (and in the same chapter, explores that wonderful rural tradition of the “fall/fowl supper”); she undertakes a wild mushroom expedition (with an experienced guide, natch); she expresses her abject, lustful adoration for mustard (another crop that grows really, really well in Saskatchewan). Along the way, she bakes pies and breads, brokers farm-fresh eggs, eats local sausages and beef and poultry and delectable dairy, creates jellies and jams, and learns how to make dill pickles from her mother. All described in mouth-watering detail, so rich and vivid that I’m getting hungry in recollection. And along the way, she celebrates the wonderful province of her birth, exploring multi-cultural traditions in cooking and farming and gardening. She makes it evident that there’s a clear connection between the source of her food and the senses of community and family, something which we all might do well to understand and honour. I am quite taken with her ideas, and while I know I won’t go all out and eat only local products, I am going to watch my labels more closely when I go grocery shopping, and I’m going to definitely purchase more items at the farmer’s markets and head out to the local u-picks. And I certainly intend to celebrate the crafting of food!
Amy Jo Ehman blogs at www.homefordinner.blogspot.com.