I spent the majority of the Civic Holiday in the kitchen and I couldn’t be happier. The lax schedule of a long weekend means there’s more time to not only make, but to also appreciate, more labour-intensive family favourites, as well as try out a few new dishes to see if they’ll make the cut into the regular rotation. Cooking from scratch is not only a sensory pleasure, but an emotional one; it feels good to feed my family real food.
It helps that I have an appreciative audience. I’m not talking about Charlotte, who is still in the “picky kid” phase, but rather, my husband. Andrew is always quietly appreciative of whatever he is served; there are never any weird looks, suspicious questions, or sarcastic comments (even to my more adventurous offerings), just plate-cleaning gratitude. And in case you’re thinking that I’ve browbeaten him into submission, he’s the same way at any dining establishment or kitchen table. He can feed himself just fine, but he realizes the care and concern that goes into cooking.
On a break from the oven this weekend, I came across a cartoon that made me chuckle. Two women are seated at a chic outdoor patio, perusing the menu. One says to the other, “I can’t have anything that’s a food.” The context doesn’t reveal if she’s being sarcastic, but it doesn’t matter: we all know (or even are!) someone who has restrictions on what we are willing to consume. Sometimes, it’s for purely medical reasons — but these people tend to be the least annoying in voicing their limitations.
I’ve waxed on about our culture’s food obsessions many times, but I heard a different take on it this weekend. At church this Sunday, the Gospel was the well-known story of the feeding of the 5,000, in which Jesus turns a boy’s meager offering of five loaves and two fish into enough to satisfy a sea of his followers who had spent the day with him.
I silently mused whether any of the followers had declined the meal because the fish weren’t sustainably harvested or because the loaves weren’t whole grain (coincidentally, in Biblical times, both would have been). Father Philip rightfully took a different tack, lauding the boy’s generosity while acknowledging that the crowd ate what was given to them because — shockingly — they were hungry.
We can get so caught up with our “First World” food concerns — where it’s made, how it’s processed, what it’s made from — that it’s easy to forget that there are still hungry people in this world. From the Syrian refugees to farmers being frightened to be in plain sight in their fields in South Sudan due to ethnic cleansing, there are so many people going without, and not by dietary choice. Locally — and especially as we approach another school year — there are families who can’t make ends meet. Food prices are forever inching upwards while wages stay put, and children suffer as a result.
I don’t want to disparage anyone who takes a keen interest in food; I’m one of them, after all. But occasionally (such as when we’re granted the luxury of a holiday for the mere sake of being civic, whatever that means), we need to let the pretenses drop and just be thankful that we have easy access to food that’s safe, delicious and satisfying to the body and soul.
On the scale of food concerns, meat remains a major player. There’s the ethical matter of eating animals as well as the environmental question of factory farming. Then there is the cost; pound for pound, it’s cheaper to stick to vegetables and grains.
So, if you choose to eat meat, honour the privilege of being able to do so. Homemade condiments are one such way; this sauce has a crowd-pleasing Asian influence and is a cinch to whip up for lazy summer barbecues.
Pineapple Barbecue Sauce
(Adapted from House & Home, Aug. 2014)
¼ cup chopped fresh ginger
½ cup rum, preferably dark
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup ketchup
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
Place all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth. Bring to a boil in a large pot over high heat, then reduce to maintain a gentle simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often. Cool and transfer to airtight container. Refrigerate up to one month or freeze up to six months.