Who know we’s be right here – new and improved consolation meals – Completely satisfied Gourmand

Kristin Peturson-Laprise – | Story: 346064

Photo: Contributed

If you told me two years ago that food trends in the coming years would include a boom in breadmaking, the return of breakfast cereal and fusion cuisines like Mexican Korean, I would say you’d been watching too much Netflix. But then, who knew the last two years would be all about watching too much Netflix?

I read an article this week about the boom that Kelloggs is facing since people working from home began eating their cereals again to start the day, and it got me thinking. I discovered there were some interesting evolutions in our eating behaviour through this crazy time.

It will not surprise anyone, I’m sure, to know that snack food consumption rose in the first year. But then after sitting at home and gaining “the quarantine 15”, we evolved to a healthier pattern with these new trends:

Low-carb snacks, fueled by the keto movement (avocado fries, cauliflower crust pizza)

• Streaming home fitness programs and superfood nutritional supplements that support mental health too (green tea, kefir, and all kinds of powders and capsules)

Alternative sugars that are less processed (maple sugar, cane sugar) and more honey

The trend towards plant-based eating was already underway, but it has advanced dramatically. It has expanded far beyond burgers and Buddha bowls to include these creative ingredients:

Mushrooms, herbs and roots have become a popular addition

Seed and nut butters have exploded in use and variety – have you heard of watermelon seed butter?

Chickpeas are not just for hummus anymore, but used in everything from snacks to dessert

Plant-based substitutes for meat and cheese are expanding into new options (plant jerky, anyone?)

These trends are rather easy to predict. I was especially interested to read about the more innovative developments that occurred. Here are just a few:

Cooking oils now go far beyond olive oil, canola and coconut. Perhaps you used avocado or hemp oil already. How about pumpkin seed oil? Different flavours and health benefits are making people venture past the usual.

Fusion cuisine has taken on new popular members that may not seem obvious combinations until you remember we have been sitting at home dreaming of going…. Anywhere. Then a Korean taco sounds like fun, and Chinese Peruvian stirfry could be a great new comfort food.

Restaurants diversifying in new ways became the norm. Survival instinct led to grocery store operations offering ingredients, pantry items like signature condiments and spice blends on offer, and even meal kits to go.

The trends I was most happy to see were the ones that led us back to connect with our food and our community. I truly hope these won’t be fads that fade out, but rather a new lifestyle we adopt.

Eating and supporting local farms and restaurants became a familiar slogan that gathered steam. Understanding sustainability is now more at the forefront of many conversations.

• We took the concept of outdoor dining to a whole new level. Social distancing made us get creative; eating in bubbles when the weather didn’t cooperate and enjoying everything from picnics to haute cuisine was on the menu.

Destination meals have also jumped in popularity. For whatever options are available beyond our own communities, we are heading out for unique experiences to make up for being cooped in so long.

There are not as many people baking sourdough bread (I see banettons on sale right beside the hand sanitizer now). I don’t know if the uptick in home canning will continue. I’d like to think so, but we all have our priorities. I just hope that the focus on food we got from not having much else to do but cook and eat will stay positive.

Thanksgiving this year could be a very profound occasion.

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Kristin Peturson-Laprise – Sep 11, 2021 / 6:00 am | Story: 345366

Photo: Contributed

“Yes, we have no bananas”

Are you familiar with this song lyric? Maybe you didn’t know it was a lyric, but rather as a silly expression. Either way, it’s catchy, and it does seem to sum up those ridiculous times when you think things are going along tickety-boo, and then suddenly they aren’t.

The song was written in the 1920s and was apparently based on a New York shopkeeper who started every sentence with the word “yes”. He tried to be the consummate greengrocer, but he often didn’t have exactly the right item. The songwriter was struck by his combination of enthusiasm and the melodic rhythm of his sales pitch.

One could simply admire the shopkeeper for staying positive in the face of adversity. It is a signature trait of a successful entrepreneur. But I am giving him much more credit; this fellow was a poster boy for food security and sustainable farming.

You see, bananas are perhaps the best example of a monoculture crop—almost all of the world’s commercial supply of bananas is a single type. Up until the 1950s, this type was called Gros Michel.

The Gros Michel bananas of Central America were the dominant strain for almost 100 years. But in the 1950s, a fungus called Panama disease, or fusarium wilt, devastated the crops. When it began to spread to southern American plantations as well, work began to find another disease-resistant strain.

Now the bananas you and I eat all the time are the Cavendish variety. It did very well as a replacement, being immune to Panama disease.

World markets have done nothing but expand and for a sturdy crop like Cavendish bananas, that meant more interest. In the 1980s, Malaysia entered the banana market, planting what people wanted—more Cavendish. (One of the desirable characteristics of bananas is their ability to reproduce asexually, as in no pollination needed. This provides a consistent product.)

Unfortunately, as we all know now, diseases like to mutate. A new version of Panama disease was found in Malaysia and it was discovered the Cavendish bananas were not immune to that strain. (Note: Bananas produced in infected soil are not unsafe for humans. The infected plants just stop bearing fruit, according to a National Geographic 2019 article.)

The new variant was called “tropical race 4”. It spread throughout neighbouring countries. In Latin America in 2013, the regional organization for plant and animal health met to devise a contingency plan against this new strain but there still doesn’t seem to be any measures in place. (The consequence of a consistent product bred asexually is that it is hard to modify.)

In 2019, Colombia, one of the world’s top exporters of Cavendish bananas, announced it detected the disease. There is no known way to stop it and unlike in the 1950s, there is so far no alternative banana that can fit the bill to provide a product that will work on the international market.

This may mean we will see prices starting to rise on bananas. Perhaps some exotic varieties will appear in more stores but either way we will have to get used to paying more for what used to be the cheapest fruit in the store.

For countries where the banana is a more crucial part of the diet and the economy, that means more hardship than a new ingredient in a smoothie. Latin America will feel the 1-2 punch of this banana pandemic.

I wonder if the greengrocer in New York knew what was coming. Were his efforts to convince people to choose something else a foreshadowing of our fate?

Is it sustainable to think we can have anything and everything on our plates? Maybe this is an example of “too much of a good thing”.

So hold the banana – I will be having fruit from the market down the road on my cereal instead.

Kristin Peturson-Laprise – Sep 4, 2021 / 6:00 am | Story: 344750

Photo: Contributed

Our first granddaughter turned one-year-old this past week. There was much fanfare with the occasion—balloons galore and decorations with a bee theme. Her name is Brynnlee and so “Miss B” has become one of her nicknames, and of course it was her “b(ee)-day”. But if you ask me, the item most worth mentioning was the cake.

There is something very special about a birthday cake. It seems to sum up the idea that a celebration is occurring. Julia Child even said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Cakes have been around a long time, and birthdays have been celebrated for millennia. This party was a worthy representation of the evolution of the tradition.

The ancient Greeks put candles on round cakes that paid homage to Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The candles were supposed to emulate moonlight, and when they were blown out the smoke was supposed to carry your wish up to the gods.

Birthday cakes were first used by the ancient Romans, but rarely (only for famous men when they got older). Obviously, a more inclusive celebration was in order.

Other countries have developed other traditions like Russia with a birthday pie and China with longevity noodles to celebrate a life thus far, but in North America we have taken on the German tradition that began with Kinderfeste.

In the Middle Ages, German children would have their birthdays feted with a cake that had as many candles as they had years, plus one to hope for another fulfilling year. The catch was, the candles burned all day long; they were lit in the morning and the honouree was not to blow them out until after dinner.

It occurs to me that this ages-old tradition may see a revival, as the layer of wax from the candles would mask the cake for when the candles were blown out. In a pandemic world, this might be the only way we can manage to keep making old-fashioned birthday wishes.

When I was a kid, birthday cake was a necessity at a birthday celebration. Birthday parties had a handful of kids entertained by such fun as a pinning game (I do recall one year pinning a bee on a flower, as we had one painted on the basement wall. That made it easier then trying to find a store-bought donkey and tail game. The bee wasn’t a theme, just a part of the game.

The cake was one made by my mom (in the flavour that I chose, which in my recollection was always chocolate). It had swirls of homemade icing, and candles, and plastic-wrapped nickels and dimes (and maybe one quarter for a lucky person) inside – one for each piece to be cut. Often it was served at the party with vanilla ice cream.

My granddaughter Brynnlee’s cake was professionally made. It weighed about 20 pounds, and was ordered for a garden party with 40 people in attendance through the afternoon. It had real roses, and bee decorations and a band of fondant formed like honeycomb around the middle. It was truly spectacular.

Inside the cake was a work of art, too. Layers of lemon sponge cake were nestled between blueberry buttercream and blueberry compote. Needless to say it cost more than the few dollars my mom had to spend on ingredients, and the pastry chef who constructed it didn’t volunteer like my mom and other moms did.

Everyone “oohed” and “aahed” at this masterpiece. Brynnlee was overwhelmed by the paparazzi who took pictures of her with this work of art. She got to try a small piece of one layer, which seemed a serious undertaking; it was as if she were judging a competition, the way she slowly chewed each little bite.

I sent screenshots to my mom of Brynnlee with the cake. The reply came back: “Was that all the cake she had?” I said yes, she was only a year old and sugar was not something on the menu yet. “I seem to recall you had your whole face in your chocolate cake on your first birthday”, she said, and I could hear the nostalgic smile in her voice.

“Well, there were no nickels inside of it either,” I answered. Times have changed.

I certainly don’t begrudge my stepdaughter or my granddaughter an extravagant cake. Perhaps if professional cakes had been the norm when I was little, I would have had them too. This is merely a commentary on how things have changed over the generations.

There was a box at Brynnlee’s party for people to write note of advice or predictions for her, as they were going to be sealed in a time capsule, to be opened on her 18th birthday. I wonder what celebrations will look like then.

I just hope we don’t give up on cake. I’ve been to plenty of meetings in my life. More parties is definitely what we need.

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Kristin Peturson-Laprise – Aug 28, 2021 / 6:00 am | Story: 344159

Photo: Contributed

Have you ever wondered why food dishes are named the way they are? Have you heard some of the crazy stories of how or why namesake foods were invented for famous people? As I was eating a sandwich this week, I was thinking of the story behind its creation, so I dove down the rabbit hole to share a few more tasty tales with you this week.

Many people know about the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who in the 1700’s needed a meal that he could eat at the card table. He was a serious gambler and didn’t want to stop the games for lunch, so his creative chef (who remains nameless as far as I could tell) served him meat between two slices of bread.

The sandwich made for a handy meal, and the Earl kept it up as a midday snack. It became popular in London as well, and as they say, the rest is history.

The French have many dishes with people’s names, but I chose a dish that is created by a famous French chef instead, Auguste Escoffier. He was known for naming dishes after his famous patrons while at London’s Savoy Hotel, and Dame Nellie Melba got not one but two dishes.

Escoffier created Peach Melba as a light dessert for the famous Australian singer after a show – the peach with vanilla ice cream and raspberry purée was a big hit. When she became ill on tour years later, he made her double-toasted bread slices. Yes, that’s where Melba toast comes from.

There are many Italian dishes that have fun namesakes too. Did you know there really was a chef named Alfredo who created that well-known fettucine dish? He made fettucine Alfredo first for his pregnant wife at his restaurant in Rome. His recipe had no cream, just butter and Parmesan. The cream was added later in America as it became more of a commercial success.

In America, the concept of naming a rich tasting dish after a rich person is perhaps best represented by Oysters Rockefeller. They are served on the half shell with a rich and creamy sauce topped with breadcrumbs, a creation of chefs at Antoine’s in New Orleans. Their exact recipe has never been revealed, but if you like cooked oysters this is a decadent dish to try.

Eggs Benedict has a recipe many people know, but its many components make it a popular restaurant choice. Poached eggs on an English muffin with ham, nestled under Hollandaise sauce is said to have been made as a hangover cure for a Mr. Benedict in New York city. (As a side note, hollandaise sauce is not named for a person, or for Holland. It is commonly recognized as a French sauce.)

In case you’re thinking Canadians are being left out, I want to include the Caesar cocktail. It was created by Walter Chell, a bartender at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin). A drink with vodka, tomato juice and clam nectar had been around since the 1950’s, but Mr. Chell wanted to kick things up a notch and so he spiced it with Worchestershire sauce and spices.

Mr. Chell was inspired by Italian spaghetti al vongole (with clams, often in a tomato sauce) and so he chose Caesar as a powerful Italian namesake. In the beginning it was often known as a Bloody Caesar to distinguish it from a Bloody Mary (vodka with tomato juice and spices). The stories associated with that drink are far too many to mention here.

Lastly, I want to mention a tale that is indeed tasty, but the story that goes with the origin of this dish is hotly disputed. Zabaglione is a delightful concoction of eggs, sugar and Marsala wine whisked together quickly in a pan.

The story goes that a Count Baglioni was on a military campaign, in the field and hungry. It is not made clear why those are the ingredients he had at hand, but his inspiration was to mix them over the fire in his helmet, where a classic dessert was born.

The romance of this story epitomizes the kind of charm that makes many of these names memorable. I shall remember the Italian count now every time I taste Zabaglione. (In France the same dish is called sabayon, but I found no tale of a General Sabayon…)

You may have the next famous dish in your family annals. Who’s to say that Plum (insert your name here) Tart won’t be the next viral recipe this fall? If you feel like sharing, you never know what wonderful things could happen.

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