I have to say this was one of the best days I’ve had for a while. The weather was nice; I went to a coin show where I was probably the youngest person there and one of the few women who were there. Then I went in my quest for ground bison – which I found! And it was only $9.19/lb too! And to top it off, some friends stopped by, and they gave me a Canadian quarter – the bane of American vending machines everywhere (because their slight magnetism jams up the inside of the machines). But since I’ve just started collecting world and US coins a few months ago (which I’ve found that numismatics is really fascinating and extremely addicting), it was perfect because I lost the Canadian quarter I had.
So now that I finally had all of my ingredients, I was ready to get started. The first thing I started with was the baked beans, or fèves au lard au sirop d’érable – it sounds better in French (which reminds me of the quote from An American in Paris: “Back home everyone said I didn't have any talent. They might be saying the same thing over here but it sounds better in French.”). I started with navy beans and added thick-cut bacon, some onions, salt, pepper, dry mustard, and some maple syrup. The recipe called to bake it for four hours, but after two hours, it was already started to develop a crusty edge to it. Any more than that, I’m afraid my smoke detector would end up being my timer. I think it was because I used canned beans instead of dry beans – probably has a LOT to do with it.
Then I got started on the burgers. The recipe was a little different that anything I’ve made before. Of course it called for the ground bison, which is very lean. Then it called to add some cooked wild rice (I used an instant rice mix from a box, not getting too fancy here), shredded smoked gouda (soooooo good, and I shredded all by my own self!), barbecue sauce, paprika, Dijon mustard, garlic, pepper, and salt, and kneaded until everything was completely mixed. The second part of this was firing up the grill. This is a task I assigned to my husband. For some reason, the burgers just wouldn’t stay together when it came time to turn them: only three of the eight stayed together. He felt really bad about it, but I had to assure him not to worry about it. It’s certainly not the end of the world, and it’s not like the police were knocking down our door. (Or Mounties.) However, the flavor of it was really good. I topped mine with more shredded gouda, tomato and onion.
And of course, I served poutine – French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Sounds kinda unhealthy, so this should be a hit in the Midwest. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a dish they eat everyday. I remember watching the Montreal episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and they took him to a restaurant that serves only poutine. There are as many poutine recipes as there are chili recipes in the US. I was just amazed that I even found cheese curds in my local grocery store. I thought it tasted good, even though I cheated the recipe and skipped on making my own French fries. I just bought a bag of steak fries, and it worked just fine. OK, and I made the gravy from a package. I know it’s cheating, but some cheating is justified. I chose to make this solely because 1) it was one of the foods I remember trying when I was in Winnipeg, and 2) it is something kind of iconic of (French-)Canadian food, and I made it for the same reasons I made wiener schnitzel when I did Austrian food.
|Bannock bread. The blueberries were a life-saver. Or a bread-saver in this case.|
And finally, I came to the bread, for this I chose a rustic bread called bannock. It sort of reminded me of the Australian damper bread a little bit, except this one added rolled oats. And I went with one of the suggestions of adding blueberries. This bread is one of those kind of things that’s not eaten normally by most Canadians – it’s more or less the kind of thing eaten when studying early Canadian history and Indian life and such. You can find it at heritage festivals and that sort of thing. (I suppose it’s like eating fry bread and cornmeal mush in the US.) But it is truly Canadian, so this is why I chose it. I have to say that it was pretty rustic, and the blueberries REALLY helped it along. It could’ve used another tablespoon or two of sugar too. Otherwise, I didn’t think it was that bad.
I had a lot of pre-knowledge about Canada, because I had known a few Canadians, been there, read about it, and just simply because it’s so close to us. But even as I knew all of this, there was a lot of new things I learned. But I do know now, as I’m sitting here listening to The Guess Who and Rush, that I would really like to go back and take the family with me. My husband has even suggested in the past that he’d like to move to Canada if it just wasn’t so cold. So while I’m sitting back watching episodes of Corner Gas on YouTube and drinking my Moosehead Lager (one of the oldest breweries in Canada and truly a Canadian-owned company), it gives me time to reflect on all of this to draw these conclusions: 1) this was a really good meal, especially if it were cold outside, 2) perhaps I can convince my husband that Toronto is only an eight-to-nine hour drive from Indianapolis…
Up next: Cape Verde!