International Dinner night was fast approaching and I was clueless at what to make to represent Canada. All I could think of was lobster, fish chowder, poutine, beaver tails and anything pumpkin. None of them took my fancy to make for the evening. With one grocery shopping evening to go I decided to reach out to my girls at home and see if they had any suggestions. Seven years away from home has obviously made me a bit rusty on my Canadian dishes and thankfully as always, they came through for me. There was a list of options – pasta salad, bake beans and fish cakes, maple syrup, poutine again but the last two caught my eye – Blueberry Grunt and Tourtière. Now, neither of these dishes were something I ate in my home growing up and I don’t remember liking either of them when I did have them but I wasn’t a big pie fan growing up and my tastes have changed plus Blueberry Grunt is about as Nova Scotian as it comes and Tourtière is Acadian and from Eastern Canada. So it was settled Canada would be represented by Blueberry Grunt and bite size Tourtières. The pressure was on, I had to make them tasty and memorable!
Decision made it was off to find the best recipe or mix of ones I could find and I found a good few. Select Nova Scotia strangely has a comprehensive list of Nova Scotian specialities. A few strange ones thrown in like enchiladas but everyone does love a good Mexican. Digby Pines, AllRecipes.com, blogs, I read the basics of them all, the reviews, tips and wrote down what I needed and legged it to the grocery store, ridiculously excited about knowing what I was going to make.
Saturday morning arrived and our hostel was one big cooking fest. From 10am onwards it was bustling with preparations for that evening. Pans boiling, onions frying, mixing bowls everywhere, oven dinging! The hostel was filled with delectable aromas, it was a gourmand’s heaven. By the time half seven came around with the dishes laid out for all to see on our ping pong table, complete with country flags, everyone was dying to dig into the grub and take photos.
My plate was a smorgasbord of flavours from around the globe and I wasn’t sure which taste I wanted to enjoy next. German potato cakes with apple sauce or Mapo Tofu – tofu and pork in a spicy sauce, Shepherd’s Pie,Turnip Cake, or Pizza? We gorged out on the mains some conscious, some not that dessert was yet to come, trying to savour every bite. Mixing the flavours and wanting to eat everything seperately at the same time. For me a lot of the food brought back memories – sauerkraut and sausages brought me back to my Nanny’s table. My love of Quiche Lorraine when I was little and my sisters hatred for it. Learning to make Arincini in Beaver Row for a house dinner.
An hour passed between courses, food babies well on the way and we brought out dessert. A Strawberry Custard Biscuit cake, Pear and Almond torte and my Blueberry Grunt. I was so nervous and excited about the Grunt. I didn’t have a clue if it would be ok. My Tourtières had gone down a treat and I hoped that the Blueberry Grunt would be the same. Thankfully it did and expelled my childhood distaste in an instant. It was a taste of home for me – the summer and blueberry picking in the woods, for others it made them think of cold countries and being wrapped up warm in jumpers and scarves. Whatever the memory or feeling it did the job it was supposed to do – give everyone a taste of my home.
I recently read “The Hundred Foot Journey” and in it one of the characters when asked if he was too full for the rest of his meal stated “My dear man, a gourmand is gentleman with the talent and fortitude to continue eating even when he is not hungry” (Morais, p230) and I think for our night we let the gourmand in all of us shine and excelled in our chance to share a small slice of our native homes. Here’s to the next International Dinner!