As we say hello to a new year, it’s time for me to say goodbye to all my friends and fans at Grainews. This is my last column. Writing a food column is a special joy. There aren’t many things that I’m any good at in this world but writing and cooking. I heart them both.
But I have made a New Year’s resolution to focus on other pursuits, particularly the completion of a book I’m writing on the history of wheat. I’ve had this idea in my head for so long I think there are sprouts growing out of my ears! Time to plow forward and get it done. I usually don’t make such lofty New Year’s resolutions because they are a sure recipe for failure. Who among us hasn’t started out with great intentions, only to fall as flat as a soufflé by the first of February?
Over the years, most of my New Year’s resolutions have had to do with food — not less of it but more of it. For instance, one year I resolved to eat more potatoes. Another year I resolved to eat more beans. One year I resolved to make a pot of soup per week. I didn’t quite succeed at that, given the heat of August, but I did make 52 pots of soup by the end of December.
Another year I resolved to eat berries every day, whether it was raspberry jam or blueberry pancakes or dried cherries in my morning muesli. I picked a lot of saskatoons that year. It felt very healthy. Another year I resolved to eat more flowers. I researched edible flowers and grew them in my garden. They included nasturtiums, pinks, Johnny-jump-ups, borage, tangerine marigold, chive, basil and zucchini flowers. For obvious reasons, that resolution lasted only until fall.
My most ambitious food resolution was the first one: the year my husband and I vowed to eat (almost) nothing but local foods for a year. Though I made the resolution in January, the year started in mid-April, as I thought it best to begin as things were emerging in my garden. It was the chives. That was also the year I became a food writer as I chronicled our experience in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. I’ve been cooking and writing about food ever since. You know what they say, it’s not work if you love it.
Nowadays, my New Year’s resolutions are much less ambitious than that first one more than 10 years ago. This year I have resolved to throw more cocktail parties. Now isn’t that fun? A year of canapés and cheese plates, pakoras and paté — simple and elegant and, as much as possible, made ahead. Another resolution that will stick, at least to my ribs.
Before I bid adieu, I’d like to introduce you to my friend dee Hobsbawn-Smith, who is taking over this space in Grainews. She is a chef, former restaurateur, runner, poet, award-winning author and a way better cook than me! You’re in good, experienced hands.
I leave you with a parting party recipe. I recently had panisse at a food writers’ party at the new Remain Modern art gallery in Saskatoon. It’s an appetizer from the south of France, but perfectly suited to the Prairies as the main ingredient is chickpeas, in the form of chickpea flour, also found in grocery stores as besan.
Happy New Year Everyone! May all your resolutions be fun and flavourful.
- 3 c. water
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1-1/2 c. chickpea flour
- Olive oil for frying
- Salt for sprinkling
In a saucepan, boil the water with the oil and salt on medium-high heat. Add the chickpea flour in a stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumping. Continue whisking as it thickens and comes to a boil. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir continuously until the mixture begins to hold its shape but is still pourable. Pour into a 9×12-inch baking pan that has been rubbed with oil. Smooth evenly and leave to cool. The mixture will solidify. Slice the solid mixture into strips about as long as a finger, about one-half to three-quarters of an inch square. Fry in hot olive oil until crisp, turning to cook all sides. Remove to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Serve warm with aioli or garlic-flavoured mayonnaise.