Saturday, April 20, 2019

City Living: Europe vs Canada

I am looking forward to being home in Saskatoon next week, but I’m also bracing myself for the culture shock of residential streets wide enough to be highways, parking lots bigger than some English villages, and being compelled to drive because of urban sprawl and lack of good public transit.

I’m currently in Lyon, the second largest city in France, and yet it’s easy to get around. I’m staying in a residential neighbourhood just outside the city centre. There’s street after street of high-rise apartment buildings, which wouldn’t appeal to North Americans and their insistence on single-family dwellings. And yet, it comes with huge advantages.

I have access, within 2-3 blocks, to metro, tram, bus, or train. I have a choice of two markets, 5 days of the week, with everything from cheese and bread to fruit and vegetables. There’s an abundance of small supermarkets as well as bakeries, pharmacies, cafés, and restaurants.

I’m staying in a two-bedroom ground-floor apartment with a lovely garden. Most of the apartment buildings have central courtyards and green spaces. European apartments tend to be better sound-proofed than North American ones and some are really large and beautifully designed. In Canada, people often assume that I own a house, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I rent an apartment. That wouldn’t be the case in Europe.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to coming home, but oh, I do so wish, we had some of the amenities offered in European cities.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Exploring Aix-en-Provence

The sun seemed to shine the whole time I was in Aix-en-Provence. That isn’t exactly true, but it’s how it felt.

I had a comfortable small apartment in an 18th century family home with a wood-beamed ceiling and a large window looking out over the courtyard garden and the tower of St. Sauveur Cathedral.

The old town was just a two-minute walk away and I went in most days to shop at the daily fruit and vegetable and flower markets or to admire the architecture.

Hȏtel Caumont has been beautifully restored so I could catch a glimpse of what life was like in Aix a couple of centuries ago.

I took a couple of guided walks and learned so much about the Aix's wealth of 17th and 18th century mansions. The town has 130 fountains, another sign of wealth in a hot, dry area. 

I walked up to Cézanne’s atelier in the hills overlooking Aix. It had been left untouched after his death and I found it very moving. The house was surrounded by a wild garden full of spring blooms.

Cézanne used to head further up the hill to paint Mont St. Victoire. It was cloudy so I couldn’t see the famous mountain, but I still enjoyed the view.

Bandols wine is aged in large barriques

Cassis is a very small French wine designation

I also took a half-day wine tour and visited two wineries – one in Bandols and one in Cassis. We also had a brief stop at Cap Canaille with a view down over the town of Cassis and the Mediterranean.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, April 15, 2019

Local Happenings
Kids ages 8-12 are invited to learn how to make soup on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm, May 8-29, at the Mayfair branch of the Saskatoon Public Library.

If you’re at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, check out the new vegetarian pie options from Scratch Provisions: Caramelized Pearl Onion with Gruyere and Fresh Thyme and 5 Bean Chili and Cheese. Or, you can order quiche, such as Spinach, Dill, and Goat Cheese, from Prairie Pie Company for pick up on April 20.

In the Kitchen
Here’s how to tell if your eggs are still too good to eat: “If eggs sink to the bottom of a bowl of cold water and lie flat on their sides, they are very fresh. If they are less fresh but still good to eat, they will stand on one end at the bottom. If they float to the surface, they are no longer fresh enough to eat. This is because as the egg gets older, the size of the air sac inside increases, making it float.”

Never got around to making a gingerbread house for Christmas? Then why not make a gingerbread birdhouse for Easter?

Add some international flavour to your Easter dinner with a spinach and egg pie from Italy or custard tarts from Portugal.

Food for Thought
This is impressive. A zero-waste supermarket, a dairy farm, and a restaurant are pioneers in eliminating plastic – not only from their products but in how they run their operations.

It’s about time! The federal government is planning to lift trade restrictions making it difficult to move alcohol from one province to another.

I’m delighted to hear that mushroom broth may soon replace bone broth: “This plant-powered broth has comparable nutritional benefits, helping to improve gut health, boost the immune system and remineralize the body. Mushroom broth also has a beautiful savoury, nutty umami flavour. Delicious as a hot or cold drink, it can also be used wherever you would typically use stock, such as making soups and cooking grains.”

“It’s taken me a while to get there, but finally I’ve reached a conclusion: where food and drink is concerned, luxury is hell,” explains Jay Rayner, moving from the “deformed miseries of breakfast in bed” to tasting menus, “The truth is that few chefs have enough good ideas to sustain that many plates and if you do get something good, it’s tiny and therefore gone far too quickly” to fancy hotel afternoon teas, “those assault courses of patisserie, finger sandwiches and bloating that leave you overloaded with carbs, and facing up to the reality of a long, unstructured evening because dinner is now out of the question.”

And – for fun – a poem that is also a recipe for a hearty salad dressing.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events.

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Photos: Aix en Provence markets

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Avignon, France

The old part of European cities is always a delightfully tangled maze of narrow streets and alleyways, and there is nothing I like more than simply wandering the streets, admiring the architecture and finding surprises around every corner.

That's exactly what I did when I visited Avignon.

My first surprise in Avignon was to find such a large city still surrounded by a tall stone wall.

I particularly enjoyed the park on top of the Rocher des Doms with its view over the Rhȏne River.

I visited the Palais des Papes and shuffled a few dance steps on the Pont d’Avignon, but my happiest moments were spent simply wandering the back streets.

Of course, I found time to visit Les Halles, the indoor market, as well.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, April 8, 2019

Local Happenings 
The Saskatoon Food Bank is in urgent need of baby food and baby formula. If you choose to donate in person, powdered Similac is the preferred option.

Check out the new vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Treasure House Bakery is selling traditional Mexican pastries on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Bannock Heart is offering bannock on a stick.

I am incredibly fortunate to be enjoying a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables that aren’t yet available in Saskatchewan – there were locally grown shelling peas at the market today as well as delicious strawberries. But Saskatoon isn’t completely left behind as its greenhouse growers are all hard at work. Grandora Gardens is selling cucumbers and hopes to have grape tomatoes for Easter, while Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens transplanted their spinach a couple of weeks ago and the radish seeds went in the ground this past week. Floating Gardens has heated greenhouses so they already have beet greens and cucumbers and their tomatoes have started to change colour.

Gud Eats sells a small but interesting collection of vegan food, including some excellent vegan cheeses. They now have an aged Petit Cam from Happy Heart made from cashews. Happy Heart is based in Ottawa and uses compostable, recycled packaging.

Food for Thought
It’s easy to forget how much hard work and expertise goes in to growing our food. Our Farm posted an account of what’s involved with growing cauliflowers – I was impressed and will take the time to savour the next cauliflower I eat.

Growing cauliflower here is not an easy task. Constant vigilance and care are taken every step of the growing cycle to have a wonderful end product. Our season is too short to direct seed in the field. We need to start the sprouting of seeds in mid-April to have Brassica plants a reasonable size to place into the soil once we are past the danger of frost sometime in May. Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family and here in Saskatchewan we have to protect them from pests right from sprouting to harvest. . . . We protect the plants in a couple of ways: We have a 100% bug proof sprouting room and nursery greenhouse. When we plant them out in the field, we immediately cover them with a fabric row cover that is specially designed to keep pests out but to let in most of the sunshine and rain. . . . On top of all this effort, cauliflower are space hogs in the field. We space them at one plant ever two feet and each plant will only produce one head of cauliflower! Once the head is harvested, the plant is done. It will not regrow a second head.”

 A reader was disappointed that I included an item last week about wine tastings at the Co-op since the employees are on strike. I had mixed feelings about posting that item. On the one hand, it was poor timing given that the workers are on strike. On the other hand, the Co-op is one of the few places in Saskatoon with a good selection of quality wine. In addition, the Portuguese wine tasting was being organized by Doug Reichel, who is the only locally-based wine distributor in Saskatchewan. I know he struggles at times to compete with the larger companies and I strongly support local. We don’t always have clear-cut choices; we just do our best to cope with ambiguity.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, April 1, 2019

Flavourful Saskatoon, April 1, 2019

Local Happenings
Doug Reichel Wine Marketing will introduce you to 5 wines from 5 different French wine regions at 7 pm, Apr. 17, at Metro Liquor.

Speaking of French wine, I've been drinking wine from the wine region closest to me – Ventoux. Now that's one I've never seen in a Canadian liquor store! And I'm in Provence so I'm making sure I drink at least a little rosé.

I’ve heard good things about the wine selection at the new Co-op Wine Spirits Beer at 2010 8th Street East. Here are a few of the upcoming tastings at the 8th Street location:
Apr. 13 – Wines of Germany & Austria
Apr. 17 – Mad about Malbec
May 8 – Medeiros wines with Figueira de Chaves, the winery’s co-owner

City Perks is now accepting wholesale cake orders. Pretend you’re having a party, order an entire cheesecake, and indulge!

I’m looking forward to trying Spruce Cheese once I’m back in Saskatoon. It’s great to have two different locally produced cheese products available at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Jenn Sharp comes out fighting in her support for independent restaurants over chains. Way to go, Jenn!

I've been eating a lot of eggs lately. I suspect it has something to do with these lovely ladies who live at the back of the garden.

Food for Thought
High schools are introducing agriculture programs to encourage students to consider careers in that field. To interest as many students as possible, they’re looking at various forms of agriculture from aquaculture to flowers. Even if they don’t choose a career in agriculture, the student will have developed a greater understanding of how food systems work.

Ancient Jewish traditions of leaving land to sit fallow every 7 years and sharing the harvest with those less fortunate can lead to sustainable agricultural practices.

Spirits, wine, beer, and sake – 10 businesses are turning food waste into alcoholic beverages. Australian farmers are using ugly carrots to make vodka. Dairy Distillery in Ontario is using a sugar-rich by-product of cheese and yogurt production to make Vodkow, and a research team in Singapore is turning tofu whey into a sake-like beverage.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan nature/environmental initiatives and events.

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Stone Walls & Fountains: Provencal Villages

This is my first time in the interior of Provence and I was delighted to be taken for a drive around some villages near Monteux.

Pernes Les Fontaines 
Pernes les Fontaines has over 40 ancient fountains as well as lovely old stone houses, ramparts, and gateways.

Fontaine de Vaucluse 
A spring flows out of the cliffs surrounding the town of Fontaine de Vaucluse. It’s a very pleasant walk between tall cliffs along the river Sorgue to the source.

There are traces of the forts that used to guard the area on the clifftops.

L’Isle sur la Sorgue 
Downstream from Fontaine de Vaucluse is L’Isle sur la Sorgue which has become renowned for its antique markets.

There are several small streams running through the town making it a very pleasant spot to sit and enjoy a cold drink on a hot day.

See also: Monteux Murals