Tag Archives: Candace Fertile

Book showcases local chefs, ingredients

On the Flavour Trail; Recipes by Island Chefs’ Collaborative
Edited by Christabel Padmore,
Touch Wood Editions, 184 pages, $29.95

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

The richness in variety and flavour of locally sourced food on and around Vancouver Island is undeniable. The Island Chefs’ Collaborative (ICC) was founded in 1999 to promote sustainable local production, and this cookbook is a lovely homage to what is in our backyards (literally and figuratively). The editor, Christabel Padmore, invites readers to learn more about the ICC by checking out its website.

The nineteen contributors to this volume are all chefs dedicated to creating tasty dishes with local ingredients. The recipes cover a wide range of foods and are organized by where the main components come from: sea, orchard, forest, field, and farm. As food writer Don Genova notes in the Foreword, the chefs are continually working on behalf of local food: “Without exception they have always been generous with their time and their knowledge and, above all,  their willingness to take part in fundraising efforts that protect, defend and promote the framers, fishers, foragers and producers who provide the excellent ingredients they use towards achieving their daily goal of pleasing our palates.” Buying this book and using the ingredients of the recipes helps this organization and, by extension, anyone with a love of local food.

As can be expected, food from the sea plays a large role in this book with such delicious-looking recipes as Porcini Crusted Halibut (Dwayne MacIsaac) and Thai-Flavoured Spot Prawn Bisque (Bill Jones). Someone who likes to get finicky with food will enjoy making Pumpkin and Side Stripe Shrimp Stuffed Phyllo Parcels (Cosmo Meens), but the time-challenged will find many possibilities in this volume. The very first recipe, Cosmo Meens’ Crab and Rockfish Cakes with Caper, Red Onion and Preserved Lemon Aioli, will set taste buds aflutter, and Meens’s precise directions makes this recipe doable for a variety of home chefs.

Cory Pelan’s Braised Pork Cheeks with Potato Gnocchi is another complex but meticulously explained dish that looks terrific, and the book includes relatively easy recipes such as James McClellan’s Meatloaf that clearly depends on specific ingredients such as Moonstruck Beddis Blue cheese and Quist Farms lean ground beef for its impact. Heidi Fink’s Roasted Green Bean Crostini is easy and shows the genius of roasting a vegetable for maximum flavour. Some recipes need a bit more precision. Anna Hunt’s Kale and Bacon Pie looks yummy, but how much kale is “two bunches” Fortunately, the picture of this pie gives a sense of what it should like when finished.

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of food, but many of the pictures are of the ingredients in the before state or have nothing to do with the recipes. If a recipe book has pictures, it’s helpful if they are of the finished dish or a complicated step. The photos are decorative rather than practical.

It’s critical to remember that Vancouver Island is an island. It’s huge, and it has abundant food sources. But we must nurture and protect those sources, and the Island Chefs’ Collaborative is certainly doing its part to draw attention to nutritious and delicious local food.

Remarkable exhibit a ferry ride away

Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Van Dyck: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London
Seattle Art Museum until May 19, 2013
$20 adult, $17 senior, $12 student and teen; free for 12 and under

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

Fabulously rich people can afford fabulous art collections, and the First Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) (yes, that Guinness) apparently had a budget to match his exquisite taste in paintings. The current special exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) features 48 works from the collection usually on view at Kenwood House in London. Renovations at Kenwood House have created the opportunity for the collection to be exhibited at various US museums. Art lovers going to Seattle in the near future should pay a visit to SAM to see these remarkable paintings.

Before you go, you can download an app to your phone and then listen to experts discuss various works or you can use the free audio guides at the museum. Listening while observing is a good time-saver: you don’t need to read the descriptions as you feast on the images.

The key painting, which is also featured on the PR material, is Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist ca. 1665. Rembrandt painted numerous self-portraits, and this one done about four years before his death in 1669 shows him holding the tools of his trade. Rembrandt’s mastery of light and shadow is evident, and in the plain background are two circles that have puzzled critics for ages. One theory is that Rembrandt was simply showing his ability to draw circles. I listened to the docent’s talk about this painting (free talks are scheduled at various times), and she commented that Rembrandt kept a stash of self-portraits in his studio, ready for sale to visitors. And in that way the collector got “two for one”: a Rembrandt painting and a portrait of the artist.

My favourite portrait in the exhibit is Frans Hals’s 1633 Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke (1585-1640). Hals’s jaunty depiction of the merchant breathes life into a man who has been dead for centuries. And that perhaps is why I love portraits: a skilled portrait painter, such as Hals and Rembrandt, shows the humanity of his or her subject. The clothing could change, and the person could be walking down the street today.

The Kenwood House collection includes more than portraits, but they are the ones that captured me the most. But other paintings are also arresting. The first that comes to mind is Albert Cuyp’s View of Dordrecht (ca. 1655), a seascape with splendid and precise detail. You can even see the time on the clock in the background, and the flat Dutch city seems to cower behind a meticulously detailed sailing ship. I fell in love with Cuyp’s landscapes many years ago as he often includes cows in them.

Many of these 17th and 18th century paintings have never been shown outside of Britain before, so having them just a ferry ride away is a treat. Plan for a couple of hours, and your ticket will also get you into the European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle exhibit and the rest of SAM.


Wagamese’s novel delivers sorrow – and hope

Indian Horse

by Richard Wagamese
Douglas & McIntyre
221 pages, $21.95

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

Richard Wagamese’s fifth novel, Indian Horse, is a must-read for Canadians as it marries two aspects of the country, one full of glory and one full of shame: hockey and the residential school system. Saul Indian Horse is a young boy when he is taken to one of the worst schools of a largely sorry lot, and he finds some salvation in the wonder of hockey.

Wagamese did not experience the brutality of a residential school, but his parents are survivors, and he has heard countless stories from others who endured horrific treatment, which everyone in the country needs to know about in order to have some small grasp of the challenges First Nations people face. Indian Horse offers readers the chance to see the harm caused by trying to erase another’s humanity, and this harm is not going to vanish quickly.

Saul’s early years are with his family in the bush of Northern Ontario, living a largely traditional Ojibway life. Naomi, Saul’s grandmother, is convinced that the family must hide the children from white people or they will be taken away. She’s right, of course, and the despair felt by Saul’s mother at the loss of children is heart-breaking. That Saul’s parents turn to alcohol is unsurprising. Their addiction further weakens the family even though Naomi tries her best to save Saul. Stories about his great-grandfather, who brought the first horse to Saul’s people, give him a sense of pride in his heritage, which is systematically destroyed when he ends up in the school. And Saul’s own story—the novel—may be his personal path to healing.

Wagamese excels at description. Saul’s narration of the harvesting of wild rice reveals his people’s connection to the land. It also reveals the split between his parents who have adopted Christianity and Naomi who maintains Ojibway beliefs. When cultures collide and one tries to crush the other, massive pain ensues. A belief system, such as Christianity, that celebrates suffering, tolerates and even encourages the infliction of suffering on others. The treatment of the children at the residential school is heart-breaking, and Saul shows how the degradation, both physical and emotional, affects the children and through them, whole cultures.

Relief for Saul comes through hockey, and the mysticism of Saul’s great-grandfather reveals itself in Saul as an extraordinary ability to see plays in hockey. The beauty of hockey motivates Saul to work hard, learning to skate, to pass, to shoot, and to move with an agility and grace that is the hallmark of the greatest hockey players. He does all this on his own after getting up early to clean the ice at the residential school. A kind young priest allows Saul to play hockey, and it’s clear that Saul has a gift.

Hockey becomes his salvation for a while. As Saul says, “We never gave a thought to being deprived as we travelled, to being shut out of the regular league system. We never gave a thought to being Indian. Different. We only thought of the game and the brotherhood that bound us together off the ice, in the van, on the plank floors of reservation houses, in the truck stop diners where if we’d won we had a little to splurge on a burger and soup before we hit the road again. Small joys. All of them tied together, entwined to form an experience we would not have traded for any other.”

Clearly having a community is central to happiness. When Saul moves away from his community, things change. On-going racism and the festering wounds caused by the crimes committed against him at the residential school take hold of him, and an excoriating anger results in alcoholism.

This novel had me on the verge of tears at several points, some full of sorrow and some full of joy. Throughout the novel, Richard Wagamese delivers an aching sensitivity and a wondrous hope.

Candace Fertile is a Victoria reviewer and a contributing editor to Coastal Spectator