A Canadian Love Affair

Well, this month’s CFEP theme is a loaded one, Valerie!

Of course, I spent many moments considering what I might write about with this theme: ‘A Canadian Love Affair’. I found no shortage of inspiration. I thought about foods inspired by love: the love of my mother, the love of my grandmothers, the love I have for my son, the romantic loves I have had in my life. But, I found myself erring on the side of caution, and favouring harmony.

Without cause for stirring any pots, I can safely talk about my Canadian love affair with a place; a place I have written about before. This is a place I’ll always be in love with and will always miss with my heart and soul, so long as I live at a distance (for good or for a time). That place, perhaps predictably now, is Vancouver Island and the Comox Valley in particular. Never have I visited or lived in a place that so touched me to the core and changed who I was in such multidimensional ways.

Indeed, I experienced heartbreak and love there, but it’s not the love of a man and a woman I’m speaking of in this post. I’m communicating the love of nature’s miracles; of glacial peaks, ocean straights, the expanse of pacific coast beaches and year-round temperate weather. I’m speaking of the love of a brief commute along a dyke road with outstanding views few have been fortunate to experience. I’m sharing my fondness of the sincere smiles of friendly people welcoming conversation with a stranger. I’m imparting my love affair with a turn-of-the-century house in what used to be a bustling mining town; a home that exuded the love and relationships of almost a dozen decades of life, boasting hand-made kitchen cabinets made from local lumber, and a back porch with views of the nearby mountains. I’m conveying the beauty of spotting deer resting in residential flower gardens, and getting so close you can almost touch them. And, I’m connecting you to my fondness of living a 4 hour drive from Tofino, one of the most majestic places in Canada that arguably competes on a world stage for beauty.
Cumberland House 3
comox valley
Deer on Road

Having grown up in the Toronto area, I wasn’t much exposed to Native Canadian culture. British Columbia is rich with native culture and on Vancouver Island, this is intensified by a large population of Native Canadians. The Island abounds with Native arts and culture and even food. This culture became even more significant when I married a man who was part Native Canadian and had a son. Although my son is only about 1/16 Native, it’s still a part of who he is (and boy was that wonderfully evident in his appearance when he was born with a head full of thick black hair and gorgeous olive-toned skin).

So, as a tribute to the place that holds my heart in its warm, salty hands, and to the originating cultures of this country, this month I’m making Bannock. And, since fresh bread is one of my absolute favourite foods, this month’s challenge was again both meaningful and pleasing to my taste buds and belly and hopefully yours, too.

Bannock is a simple flatbread, which I’ve discovered is actually found in varieties across the world. The type of bannock I was interested in learning more about was Native Canadian bannock. It was customarily cooked over an open fire, and still is in some cases today. Although some recipes do call for oven baking, most modern ones I came across ask for deep frying. Some of my readings indicated that cornmeal was one of the main flours originally used, but today’s recipes typically employ all-purpose flour. There are many variations and recipes out there, savory and sweet. I turned to my sister-in-law Jocelyn, and asked for her recipe, tried and true. My technique was a little different than hers, but it turned out simply delicious. And, although I opted to stray from my often influential Hungarian roots for this month’s post, there exists a very similar Hungarian food called Lángos, so making this bread had me reminiscing about my childhood foods once more.

Native Canadian Bannock (Fried)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1.5-2 cups cold water
Raisins or currants, if desired. (I opted to keep mine savory – if you’d like a sweeter bread, add 1-2 tsp sugar with the dry ingredients as well)
Vegetable oil appropriate for deep frying

Directions

Combine dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Whisk in water slowly, to make a pasty batter. You can add enough water to be reminiscent of thick pancake batter if you’re looking for larger, flatbread-like results. Or, add less water for more of a fritter-type preparation.

Heat about an inch of oil in a frying pan until a small amount of batter dropped into pan begins to bubble vigorously. Drop batter by tablespoonful (or larger if desired) into the hot oil, and fry until golden on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Can be eaten as an accompaniment to soup or stew, as a snack with jam and crème fraiche, or on its own!

Note: Like most deep-fried breads, these really do not keep fresh long, so they should be eaten right away and preferably warm.

Many different recipes can be found online, with origination in different Native communities.

Enjoy!

Two preparations:

You could make these flatter and larger
20140204_101041

20140204_102032

fritter-style
download_20140207_163910
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Canadian Food Experience Project is Valerie Lugonja’s call to Canadian Foodies and Bloggers alike to unite on the 7th day of each month and creatively discover and share Canada’s unique culinary voice. You can read more about this exciting project here.

Advertisements

Home

They say home is where the heart is. I don’t know who “they” are, but I’m not sure I fully agree with them. It is logical that where you find love, ultimately you should be content. However, I don’t believe that finding the object of your heart’s great love in a place necessarily creates an undeniable impression of “home”.

I grew up in the Toronto area, so technically speaking, it is home. It was my birthplace, is the area where my family resides, and I have many memories there. In 2007, I decided to go on an adventure and take a job on Vancouver Island. I had always felt an innate attraction to BC. Having always had a bit of a hippie side, this wasn’t a surprise to most. I left Ontario in January 2007 and within days of landing on the Island, I felt as though I’d found home.

Jumping over the years between then and now, here I sit, writing this post from a table overlooking the ocean; the Straight of Georgia to be exact. I’m back in the Comox Valley for just a visit, and yet I feel like I’ve returned home.

I used to have a major fear of flying. I never let it stop me from travelling, but I had my share of anxiety attacks before takeoff, during turbulence and landing. At some point I started drinking a glass of wine or two before a flight and found that did the trick. For a business trip from Comox to Phoenix, Arizona, my employer booked my flight from Comox to Vancouver on Coast Mountain Air. CMA runs small planes: Beech 1900D, twin-engine turbroprops. They are 18-seaters, so for someone who does not like to fly, they are terrifying. You can feel every bump, see into the cockpit, and view the runway through the windshield as it approaches. That day I flew at 8am, so I certainly didn’t have any opportunity to drink beforehand. I woke up in the morning in a complete panic, refusing to go. I did get on that plane, and I didn’t enjoy a single moment of it.

Friday, we flew from Toronto to Vancouver first. My two year old son Elijah was an absolute angel the entire 5 hour flight, enjoying the trip quietly and enthusiastically. I marveled at his joy and complete lack of fear about anything out of his control. Fellow passengers commented about his good behavior and humour and the ease with which he slipped into a deep sleep in the seat that was so oversized for him. He found creative ways to play in his seat with his matchbox cars and tank engines, snacked on cashews and dried fruit, and didn’t even watch a movie. I did fine too, having lately found myself worrying very little and letting go more of circumstances beyond my control.

In Vancouver, we waited for our CMA flight to Comox; the one I had personally booked for us months before, long enough before the trip that I could ignore my fear. This was the real test. The butterflies congregated in my belly, flying around and making me feel nauseous. Perhaps my newfound confidence was really just a hoax – of course I could manage a turbulence-free flight on an Airbus 320. We boarded the turboprop and little Elijah sat in his own seat, happily eating apple chips. I felt ok. We took off and were up to cruising altitude in no time for the short jaunt. I watched as my little boy placed his chin on the windowsill and silently, maturely watched the world below.

And me? As we crossed the straight below, I pressed my face against the window like a child, sat in peace and cried. No fear, no nervousness, just awe. This place is simply marvelous; the vast cobalt waters and emerald inlets, the snow-covered mountaintops and glacier, the huge groves of evergreens and the sheer breadth of wild, raw beauty. I can’t accurately express what the West Coast does to me – shivers travel down my spine, goosebumps cover my arms, a warm glow fills my heart. I have been in every province from New Brunswick, west (except the Yukon and Northwest Territories), and I do hear about the loveliness of the East Coast, but to me the West holds some of the greatest natural treasures to be found in Canada, and in the World. My worries and anxiety were absent, perhaps vanished forever, as I gazed out and down and absorbed the majesty of my destination. I was filled to the brim with love, joy and peace in those moments, irrespective the somewhat challenging nature of my life at present.

I may never live here again; I don’t know where life will take me and I’m open to adventures of all kinds. True, I don’t actually live here, but for this week in actuality, and for the rest of my life in spirit, it is here that I am home.
VanIsle from Air

[….I wasn’t intending to write about this trip but I have a feeling, as we enjoy home and travel up to the Yukon next week, there is more to come. ]