Saturday, August 3, 2013

Here We Go Again

Finally home for the summer, a year of cooking deprivation is surfacing with much gusto! I'm glad to find that a year of school away from the farms, markets and kitchens of my 2009 "100 Mile Diet" challenge hasn't seen a drop in culinary prowess. (I wish I could say the same for guitar-playing). Reading a variety of cookbooks or novels by "liberal foodie intellectual," Micahel Pollen kept my interest aflame throughout the months, albiet dimmed on the backburner. Military life forces a very different relationship with food than what I was accustomed to, both by Italian heritage and my own love of cooking.

Prior to attending the Royal Military College of Canada and participating in subsequent summer training programs in other provinces, I would spend hours in the kitchen experimenting with recipes and styles of cooking or baking. Credit to my parents who would help me track down bizarre and obscure ingredients; everything from quince fruit and lemon-balm to goatmeat and organic/grass-fed/free-range/no-doubt-raised-by-Guatemalan-virgins chicken. I would post on this blog 4+ times a week, proudly displaying a dish I made for the family dinner that night. It amazes me to this day how I can see a photo of an apple tart for example, from two years ago, and remember that the pastry cream was perfect, but the crust had slightly too much cinnamon in it, however the apples were delicately floral in taste because I had picked them at the peak of ripeness. The same goes for all dishes, in particular those made with ethnic spices, like the Chicken Masala over barley and lentils with chili and mystery-orange-powder from Tunis, Africa.

Since beginning a new phase of school and work, the militant combination of physical exertion and short-timings ensures that the eater be concerned with how to consume the calories needed ("swallow first, chew later" an army master corporal once told me), in the time-allotted, tasty enough to boost moral to get you through the next mission. This notion I apply to the Mess and not so liberally to rations. I don't think I'll ever love cold Beef Bourignon from a metalic pouch with a McFlurry-esque extra-long spoon for getting the congealed bits at the bottom. On days where we would sweat-out litres of water in the field and run in full fighting gear for hours in 40+C heat, I wish I could have fed the group the most enticing of lunches and dinners, full of fresh ingredients to replenish lost nutrients. But alas, IMPs transport better than tomatoes...

Fast-forward to now, and the first meal at the cottage was crammed with bursts of flavour: lime, chilli, olive-oil, meaty sea-scallops, tender chicken, crispy quesadillas, crunchy vegetables cool sour cream and avocados, fresh basil, sharp cheeses, etc. My taste-buds emerged from a long hibernation. These next three weeks will be a nod to the old days, where I forfeited beach-time for stove-time and everyone played along to mutual delight.

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