My spring rant on the seasons and the BS PSC
Although spring greens are still a far-off dream, I had my first taste of fresh snowcrab and head-on Nordic shrimp last night, what an early Easter treat!
‘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
This is a favourite quote that is never far from my mind, my life being so intimately entwined with the seasons at Les Jardins Sauvages. Nothing resonates with me more, gets me fired up like the changing seasons and their accompanying treasures. So on the flipside, this quote recalls a recurring pet peeve of mine at the dawn of spring in recent years – that of the Premature Seasonal Celebration ..
I’m talking about the phenomenon of Maple menus all over town in February and March - not weeks, but months before the sap runs. For the record, it is now April and the season has barely started with a trickle, on the verge in most regions of Quebec - yet the theme seems unfairly tired. Similarly, chefs who claim a local, seasonal cuisine have already launched their spring menus featuring morels, fiddleheads, ramps, asparagus and lobster when hello! there is still a foot+ of snow on the ground, and another snowstorm or two on the way. In this food obsessed age and supposed reverence for what is precious and local, why the hell is it cool to follow some other country’s seasons? Why is everyone in such a rush?
Understandably, the endless winter has gotten people antsy, so anxious for spring that restaurants, purveyors, journalists and eaters can’t help but jump ahead. It’s also normal that restaurants want to fill the dead season following Valentine’s day and the Montreal Highlights Festival with some kind of event, so why not maple.. The media naturally aims to be a step ahead. But c’mon, it’s out of control; perhaps we could use a little collective imagination instead of propagating the PSC and BS, or BullShit Seasons .
The thing is, when the real time comes for the real thing that is fresh, at its peak and local!, when there is something to earnestly get excited about and celebrate, people are blasé, already moved onto the next thing that isn’t in season yet. Like crowds flock together to gorge on last year’s maple syrup, the first taste of asparagus for many at the hotspot comes from Peru or wherever.. Fiddleheads and dandelion no longer seem exciting in May when they are at their best. By the way, Strawberries and Rhubarb won’t be any good until June; Forget about Fava beans, Peas, Chanterelles and sea asparagus until July.
Is it because everyone wants to be the ‘first’, ahead of the game or what? It feels so phoney-baloney, like everyone is disconnected from the land and who cares. Beyond spoiling the beautiful notion of the seasons, what really gets on my nerves is not cooks purchasing imports, it’s the pretense of a seasonal approach and lack of respect for what is really top notch quality, that no one seems to care about authenticity, agreeing to play this ridiculous game of BS seasons.. I can see how this can easily happen to an urbanite who innocently has no clue what is growing on the farm or in the woods, relying on magazines, bloggers (who are equally disconnected) and stores and suppliers (who import most of what they sell) instead of nature for seasonal cues . A good reason to get to the countryside and to the farmer’s market more often for a dose of fresh air and grounding reality.
Hence a cry from an annoyed country girl who loves her seasons and food, enough of this nonsense.. Seriously. Why can’t we all just chill out and enjoy the seasons as they pass, live a true connection with nature instead of a fake one. Everything in its time. So, it’s still cold out, bundle up and go soak up the last of the winter with some spring skiing and a French onion soup or Cheese fondue, get out to a cabane à sucre when the sap is actually running next weekend for some cuvée 2015. Fine if you’re dying for some green crunch, add some imported asparagus or greens to your dinner plate, but for goodness sake, wait for our local harvest before making them the star of the menu..
The real thing tastes and feels better, and should be valued as such.