“Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Henry David Thoreau
I’m doubly inspired to share one of my favourite quotes with you..
For all the winter haters out there, I’m tired of hearing you whine. Get out there and enjoy it! Soak up some of that bright sunshine, put on a pair of snowshoes or skis, play in the snow, and relish how sweet the crisp, fresh air feels.. Spend time in the kitchen cooking comforting dishes; share a hearty wine-soaked meal with friends next to a fireplace. Visit a Nordic spa. Snuggle up on the couch and read a book. Like ‘The Kitchen Daughter’ (a novel I loved). Root through your bookshelf and you're sure to find a long lost treasure such as my latest retrouvaille, ‘The Great Chefs of France’. Pick up a glossy, inspiring cookbook such as Jerusalem, Toque, Joe Beef or anything by Thomas Keller. Maybe some heartwarming foodwriting (Ruth Reichl), stimulating (Taras Grescoe) or laugh out loud (Jeffrey Steingarden). Or how about one of those 'Canada Reads' picks..
I love winter for all those reasons, and also because my cooking takes on a different tone, the kind of food that only feels right at this time of year. Less inspired by all the fresh and local produce, it’s more about going back to the classics and creatively using inventory, making the most of my preserves. There is less green crunch and more duck fat. I dip into my freezers, reorganizing them. I spend time admiring my gardemanger as I pull out a jar of pickled beans, smoked shrooms or crinkleroot canned tomatoes, enjoying all that hard work of putting up in summer. With a lot more time alone in the kitchen too, I have time to take stock, to look back and think ahead, to play catch up – be it with cleaning, operation details or recipes. To work on new and parallel projects – like my blossoming apothecary!
Back to the second trigger for the Henry David Thoreau quote..
Another annoying thing that has occasionally interfered with my good winter mood is all the premature maple talk, which seems to have started right after Christmas – in the media, themed dinners and events all over. Granted, there is nothing wrong with celebrating one of our national treasures anytime if it makes you happy. Rather, it’s the undercurrent relentless rush to 'the next thing' permeating our culture that bothers me. Perhaps led by journalists and wannabe trendsetters who need to be the first to showcase what is new and hip.. Definitely, there is the commercial machine wanting to cash in on Valentine fervour as soon as the X-mas trees are down and on Easter bunnies as of Feb.14th. Go to a boutique in winter and you only find summer clothes – this has always baffled me. And local ‘market cuisine’ restaurant menus that follow someone else’s seasons?!!
Why can’t we just savour the moment and take things as they come really. Like enjoy winter now and get excited about maple syrup when the sap is running in earnest in a month or so. Next thing it will be morels, peas and asparagus on menus, magazine covers and blogs two months in advance.
Trust me, following our own seasons tastes better. And every season is beautiful if you take it in, pay attention and live it fully. If there’s anything I’ve learnt living and cooking on the wild side in the country, it is this and I’m happy for it.
For myself anyway, I honestly cannot be inspired on an artificial timeline; I don’t ‘feel it’ until it’s in the air. I have a hard time putting out a menu in advance, yet from a business point of view, I have realized I have no choice. I still wait until the last appropriate minute and inevitably make changes when the day arrives so that it absolutely rings true. With a job/vocation fuelled by passion, integrity, and so much blood, sweat & tears, I just couldn’t have it any other way. Besides, I just love the seasons, I don’t want to be thinking about the next one until it’s time, life is too short.. It would feel like a betrayal. Maybe it is my way of staying grounded and paying tribute to nature and ‘God’ and all my blessings..
So, in the dinosaur spirit of hanging on to the moment, I will be cooking my Wild & Aphrodisiac Valentine’s menu until Sat. Feb.23rd, and then we close in March (at La Table, not the market), a break to take advantage of winter’s end and regroup. And when the maple season is actually peaking and we have fresh sap and syrup, we will start again with a wild maple themed menu!