For the past seven years, we’ve greeted the new year by throwing makeshift curling rocks across the icy lake that surrounds our home west of Saskatoon. The lake arrived in spring 2011, eight months after we’d taken up residence on what has been my family’s farm for decades.
Following the flood, we used a neighbour’s ATV to reach our yard — fields and our half-kilometre driveway under water; poplar groves, garden and the barn and its contents all drowned. Water came to within 50 feet of the house. Within a year, we’d have a berm and a causeway, and we’d recognize all the nesting shorebirds and waterfowl. But when that first winter rolled in, we looked on the icy expanse surrounding our home, and we planned a bonspiel.
You can’t fight Mother Nature, but you can outwait — and maybe outwit — her. So that first winter we curled with a group of friends, using vinegar jugs filled with water as our rocks. We scraped the ice clear, marked rings, lit a fire and heated cider. The ice was crystal clear, and some people brought skates. Others strapped on skis or snowshoes.
When our hands got cold, we ceded the rink to the wildlife and went indoors. What else to do? I’d made bread and chili. Our friends brought pies, salads, squares, tortillas, cookies, chocolates, wine and high spirits. We filled our bowls and glasses and held up winter as a toast.
This year, our seventh with the water, the lake has receded to slough status. The cattails and bulrushes have retreated as well. Today, on 2017’s final day, I’ve marked the rings and set out the firewood. I’ve made the chili. Tomorrow, we look the frozen lake in the eye once more.
Thanks to my friends, in particular Amy Jo Ehman, for their love and support since my return to Saskatchewan nearly eight years ago. I wish you and yours a houseful of friends and the faith to carry on in a frozen world.
Next time: a bit about me, just FYI. But first we eat. Today: chili for a crowd. (see below)
This chili abets a cook’s resolution to reduce the condiment collection that clutters most fridges. Thanks
to my friend Gail Norton, owner of The Cookbook Co. Cooks in Calgary, for this great way to season pulses. Serves 18-20.
- 4-8 c. dried beans (black turtle, navy, great northern, lima, pinto, kidney)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 6 links Italian sausage, diced, or 3 lbs. ground beef or pork (optional)
- 1 tbsp. cumin seed
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander 4-6 tbsp. chili powder
- 3 tbsp. Spanish or Hungarian sweet paprika
- Hot chili flakes or cayenne to taste 1 tbsp. dried basil
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. cracked fennel seed
- 2-4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 28-oz. tin canned tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 1 5-oz. tin tomato paste
- 1/4 c. molasses, pomegranate molasses or maple syrup
- 1-2 tbsp. each of condiments (mustard, pesto, jam or jelly, barbecue sauce, syrup, flavoured honey, ketchup, chili sauce, chutney, herb paste, marmalade, etc.)
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Minced parsley or cilantro for garnish Yogurt for garnish
Cook beans in advance without soaking or salting: soaking strips out nutrients, and salting toughens the proteins and slows the cooking process. Put the beans in a big pot with plenty of water, bring to a boil, then simmer with a lid on until tender, about 2-1/2 hours; older beans may take longer and require more water. Sauté onion, garlic and peppers in oil. Sauté chopped sausage or ground meat. Add cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika and cayenne. Add all other ingredients, including the cooked beans and any cooking liquid. Simmer until thick, stirring frequently. To serve, garnish with chopped cilantro and yogurt.
Our new food columnist
I was sad when Amy Jo Ehman called to say she thought her food column had run its course, and that she needed time to focus on a new project.
I know many Grainews subscribers like seeing at least one recipe in the back pages of the magazine — before Amy Jo started writing regularly, “more recipes” was the most common reader request.
Luckily for me (and you), before she left, Amy Jo suggested another Saskatchewan cook and writer, dee Hobswan-Smith. I think we’re all going to love her.
Dee grew up on a farm, she lives in rural Saskatchewan, and not only is she a cook, she has gone to cooking schools in France, Ireland and Vancouver. Her last food column was with the Calgary Herald. I’m happy to have her on board. Now, I need to end this paragraph so I can head up to the kitchen and try out her chili recipe above.