Monday, March 26, 2007

Digesting the American-Canadian Cooking Project

The dishes have finally been put away in New York and Ottawa, and we’ve finished off the last of the Nanaimo Bars and Sweet Potato Pie. With a chance to step back, Jill and I begin to reflect on the outcome of our American-Canadian Cooking project. Perhaps without realizing it, we concocted a recipe of distinctive ingredients – one part culinary detective work, one part cultural exchange, and one part oral history. It was a tasty cross-border collaboration So, what did we learn? Jill and I compare notes:

TW: First of all, if you're going to get involved in a major cooking project, you should clean the oven first! But beyond that, I thought it was fascinating to track down the history of several dishes. I knew nothing about the menu items you suggested, and with the exception of pea soup, had never heard of any of them before. It was sort of like a culinary treasure hunt with only a name as an initial clue. Everywhere I looked I found a new story linked to each of the food items on my Canadian list.

Jill: And if you're going to make clam chowder, you should really invest in a large stock pot to avoid a tidal wave of clam broth in the kitchen! While I had heard of the dishes you selected, I had never made any of them and knew little about their background. Along with learning about the history of the menu items, I got caught up in all sorts of interesting side-tracks, making for a combination culinary and American history lesson. I also made the (pleasant) discovery that my pre-conceptions about some of the dishes were wrong.

TW: There was tradition and history layered into every dish, and lots of local variations. While I ended up picking some of the more classic versions of each recipe, there were many distinctive versions that had grown out of specific cultures and communities.

Jill: I found it fascinating to look at some of the early recipes for the American dishes and see how they had evolved over time. It seems that recipes have changed or new versions been created as a result of the availability or popularity of certain ingredients, changing tastes, and to adapt to different cooking methods.

TW: It was surprising to discover how passionate Canadians are about certain dishes. I mean, there is actually a national dialogue about the qualities of butter tarts, and everyone drinks Bloody Caesars! In the U.S., there are certainly debates about regional foods, but I'm not sure Americans are collectively vocal about a single dish, unless it's pizza or burgers and fries.

Jill: Maybe it's because our population is so much smaller - there's room for everyone to get involved in the butter tart debate. I certainly discovered a very lively discussion about the various types of chowder, including some particularly vehement commentary on the merits of Manhattan clam chowder. By the way, while it's well-known that we all eat doughnuts, I can't confirm that all Canadians drink Caesars.

TW: Lydia at "The Perfect Pantry" blog noted, with good humor, that all of the Canadian foods were brown. Would you care to comment on that further, Jill?

Jill: Don't forget about the red and green Caesars! Still, I can't deny that I picked a decidedly neutral-toned menu. Your choices produced a much more colourful meal. But T.W., let me assure you and Lydia that not all Canadian food is brown. We grow apples, blueberries, and peaches, to name a few colourful foods, and we really do have fresh veggies.

TW: It seemed like most of the Canadian foods had roots in Europe, and actually have a certain longevity. The stories of the food become part of the fabric of the culture in each province. However, some of the American foods may have fallen out of fashion.

Jill: I found it curious that Country Captain, which seems to me to have quite "modern" ingredients and appeal, has come in and out of fashion. New England Clam chowder, on the other hand, appears to have consistently maintained its popularity. It's certainly an essential part of the region's culture.

TW: I was just as interested in what you were discovering about American foods as what I was learning about Canadian cuisine. I had never heard of the story of Oscar Tschirky and Waldorf salad, nor Cecily Brownstone's passion for Country Captain.

Jill: I agree. I think I learned as much about Canadian cuisine as I did about American dishes. Walter Chell's creation of the Caesar, the official Naimano Bar recipe, and the history of the butter tart were all new to me.

TW: There were some subtle connections between countries and cuisines that started to emerged as we shared our individual research.

Jill: With the proximity of Canada and the U.S., it's not surprising that our foods share many connections. It was interesting to discover that some of the dishes we chose may have particularly close ties, for example, chowder first being brought to eastern Canada and then down to New England, and the theory that butter tarts descended from the pecan pie brought to Canada by American slaves. I even found a recipe for tourtiere in a New England cookbook, reflecting the French Canadian influence in that region.

TW: Of course, you didn’t tell me until after the fact, that you were not a great fan of tourtiere! I was impressed with your investigative skills, the trips to the library and the detailed Internet searches. At one point, I was pressed for time, and just ordered several Canadian cookbooks on the Barnes and Noble website.

Jill: Until we started this project, I wasn't aware of the amazing historical cooking sources that exist electronically. For instance, I could have spent hours (in fact, I did) browsing through the Historic American Cookbook Project at the Michigan State University Library. I was impressed by your research as well, but also by how whole-heartedly you and your guests immersed yourselves in the Canadian experience. You may have to celebrate Canada Day this July 1st!

Well, I’m always game to add another day of feasting to the calendar. When we first started this exploration, Jill listed burgers and fries when I asked her what came to mind when she thought of American cuisine. We’ve certainly learned that there is some deep history, tradition and a bit of legend attached to the foods of Canada and America. Jill has confirmed there is more to American cuisine than burgers and fries, and I’ve come to appreciate the therapeutic value of starting out a good Canadian meal with a round of Caesars, and concluding with the esteemed butter tart!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 23, 2007

How Do You Get to the Carnegie Deli?

Spring is in the air in New York City, and my colleague Splint McCullough breezes into town to spend a couple of days at HQ. We decide to get a running start on the weekend with a little lunch excursion to the world famous Carnegie Deli on Seventh Avenue.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Splint has consented to this pursuit of Pastrami. He's always been more of a bologna guy in my mind. I've been fasting and doing extra time on the stationary bike in anticipation of this event. Splint, on the other hand, is not nearly as diligent, and considers the definition of fasting to be an extended absence from Las Vegas.

“This is the carnivore’s marathon,” says Splint as we queue up under the signature red awning with a gaggle of tourists, hoping to avoid a brief rain shower. “If you can finish one of these sandwiches, you’ve really accomplished something.” I point out that the week has been rather heavy on meat consumption. “Glad I could help,” replies Splint.

Here’s a little historic perspective. The Carnegie Deli was established in 1937. It is famous for the biggest sandwiches in the universe – roast beef, corn beef and “New York’s Best” hot pastrami. Since I am a pastrami neophyte, I needed to do some additional research. The newly published “Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink” says pastrami is a Yiddish word derived from a Romanian word for a preserved food. It’s usually a brisket that is rubbed with kosher salt and spices like brown sugar, garlic, and black and white pepper corns and then cured and smoked. Some pastrami may be soaked in brine for a number of weeks.

We quickly move to the front of the line. Inside, patrons are crowded around the meat counter, and several folks are having their photos taken alongside a giant Kelly green pickle. Splint points to a sign in the window indicating that the Carnegie Deli is featured in the book “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.”

“This has to be the unhealthiest of the 1,000,” notes Splint.

One man in line announces to his companions, “No diet today, ladies.” The line is almost as congested and stressful as airport security. A loud alarm bell keeps going off. “Do we win something?” asks a man behind us.

“Yeah, a free angioplasty,” replies Splint.

In due time, we are hustled inside, and squeezed into a prime table on the main thoroughfare of the restaurant which Splint describes as “orchestra seats.” There are hundreds of celebrity photographs on the wall – from Adam Sandler to Ziegfried and Roy – bolted in place to discourage sticky fingers. There is even a portrait of Santa Claus, who presumably stops by every December 24th for a quick snack before getting on the road for the night.

We place our orders. I go traditional with New York’s Best Hot Pastrami on Rye and a diet cream soda. Splint, a veteran of the deli, orders roast beef as a change of pace. There is a bowl of giant mutant pickles on the table. “Antipasto,” smiles Splint.

The seating is tight and the patrons are a bit on the raucous side. “We’re stacked elbows to buttocks. Oh, the humanity,” Splint intones. At one table, a crowd of wait staff produce a cheese cake and sing “Happy Birthday.” We strike up a brief conversation with a couple seated next to us from Oklahoma City who are waiting for the remains of their sandwiches to be put in doggy bags. They ask a lot of questions about the cost of living in New York which is understandable coming from people who have just invested more than 25 dollars in two sandwiches. As the woman squeezes behind my chair to exit, she mutters under her breath, “I could get through here before I ate that sandwich.”

Our sandwiches arrive and we survey the challenge before us. My pastrami sandwich, or “The Holy Grail” as Splint calls it, is pink and glistening and stands about eight inches tall.

Splint’s roast beef resembles a mid-sized Manhattan office building. Within minutes, my sandwich has collapsed and I’m forced to resort to knife and fork. Splint’s technique is amazing. Not a shred of beef falls to the plate. He handles his sandwich with the precision of an impresario. He’s so neat, it’s almost a little prissy. He might as well be partaking of afternoon tea. It’s the Felix Unger School of Sandwich Consumption.

Splint is a little under whelmed with his sandwich and finds it a bit ordinary (“It’s a Norman Rockwell versus a Mona Lisa.”) but my tower of pastrami is the genuine article, smooth, briny and buttery with just a hint of flint, smoke and spice. I start to experience an intense protein buzz. “That’s the blood struggling to get to your brain,” suggests Splint.

I make a valiant attempt to try and finish the remaining debris on my plate.

Splint’s platter is nearly spotless.

As we prepare to leave, a group of four has taken the seats next to us. “This is a double Lipitor moment,” remarks one of the women.

It turns out this is just an appetizer for Splint. Tomorrow, he’s got reservations at Peter Lugar’s Steak House. Me – I’ve only got nine-hundred and ninety-nine of those fascinating places left to see before I die.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The American Feast in Canada

Jill’s preparations for the American Feast in Canada on March 18th are characterized by a relaxed, smoke-free morning, a search for appropriate wine (always an admirable goal) and a ticking clock. She writes:

I begin the day of the American feast at a leisurely pace. After all, my guests aren't arriving until 6 p.m., so I have lots of time to prepare the remaining dishes.

I spend the morning rolling out and chilling a rich, buttery pastry and baking sweet potatoes for the pie. By noon, the house is filled with the candied aroma of the roasting potatoes.

In honour of the day, I decide to pop out to the coffee shop to pick up a butter tart for lunch. Unfortunately, with its cakey crust and meagre filling, my Canadian tart doesn't compare to your American-made rendition.

Back home, the preparations continue. I brown the chicken, and prepare a fragrant sauce of tomatoes, red bell peppers, wine, curry, onions, garlic and currants, with a dollop of mango chutney, for the Country Captain. Heeding Waldorf salad creator Oscar Tschirky's instructions to dress the salad with a "good mayonnaise", I whip up a batch. No problems so far: the mayonnaise stays together and there's no smoking oven at my end. The sweet potato pie comes out perfectly, and all appears to be going smoothly when you call to report on the unfolding Canadian feast.

But as the clock ticks toward 6, I begin to worry. The table isn't quite ready and I've forgotten that the Boston brown bread needs to steam for a full two full hours. Where has the time gone? I blame it on my last-minute late afternoon trip to the wine store for a final attempt to find a bottle of wine from the eastern U.S. While I'm rewarded for my efforts with a bottle of Finger Lakes Riesling from New York, it's cut into my prep time. I have to laugh, though, at the thought of running late for a meal that's been nearly two months in preparation. A quick call to my guests delays their arrival for a half hour.

As I'm putting the final touches to my red, white and blue table, my dining companions arrive promptly at 6:30 - so promptly I suspect they've been waiting outside since 6. Fitting for our tour of American east coast specialties, most of my guests have roots in Canada's Atlantic provinces. They come bearing bottles of California wine to add a west coast touch to the meal. We enjoy a glass of the New York Riesling, then move on to begin sampling the dishes.

New England Clam Chowder served with Boston Brown Bread is our first course. Overnight, the chowder has thickened and the flavours combined, while the clams and potatoes have remained tender. I serve it sprinkled with chives and salty pork cracklings. There's approval all-round, and most of the table dips into the pot for a second helping. The bread, fresh from steaming, is warm and moist. My guests also think it tastes similar to a bran muffin, and one picks up the taste and texture of the cornmeal, suggesting that it is like a molasses-spiked cornbread.

Next is the Country Captain, served with rice. Almonds and coconut provide a crunchy topping for the sweet and savoury dish, perfumed with curry spices and chutney. No wonder those "country captains" - and Cecily Brownstone - liked this dish so much.

Waldorf salad is a pretty green and red, from a combination of Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples. Together with the celery, they produce a sweet-tart, crunchy and refreshing dish. Several Waldorf salad-savvy guests inquire about the absence of walnuts, but I've chosen to go with the original walnut-free recipe.

Sweet Potato Pie is the hit of the evening. It's reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but lighter and fresher-tasting. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves complement the sweetness of the maple syrup and the potatoes. No marshmallows for this pie, just a little vanilla-scented whipped cream to add to the decadence. It may replace pumpkin pie on my next Thanksgiving menu.

With that, our culinary tour of the eastern United States is complete. We've sampled dishes with links to the soup cauldrons of France, the Puritans of early New England, the heyday of an elegant New York City hotel, colonial India, and the traditions of African cuisine. I say goodnight to my guests and savour a final bite of sweet potato pie before heading off to sleep...behind schedule, of course!

The American-Canadian Cooking Project comes to a close, but not without a final tête-à-tête to compare notes on what we learned. Keep watching.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Canadian Feast in America

The morning of the Canadian Feast begins with a desperate attempt to clean the oven. Last night, while preparing the butter tarts, the oven decided to do a vivid imitation of a smoke stack and wouldn’t stop spewing gray fumes into the kitchen and living room. The smoke alarm was piercing and I was forced to admit that one should really use the self-cleaning function on the oven more frequently than once every nine years.

The house smells like a pioneer campfire, which might be a nice touch of cinema verite for my Canadian Bannock Bread, often cooked on an open flame. I open the windows, letting in the balmy 27 degree morning air and set the self-cleaning function which operates at the peak of efficiency – it takes a mere 4 hours and 20 minutes to complete its task. Immediately the oven begins belching smoke again, so I retreat to the basement to save my lungs and watch DVDs.

After several hours the smoke dissipates, and I return to a chilly kitchen and sparkling clean oven. I set the table with Canadian colors of white and red and the traditional Maple Leaf and roll out pastry dough for the Tourtiere. The dough is a little temperamental at first, but eventually it bends to my will and I’m pretty confident that I will have a buttery, flakey crust.

My guests for the Canadian Feast are my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and my friend “Lee Sloan,” a grande dame of food and wine on the New York scene, who has been following this project with great interest. At 1:00 p.m. I pick up Lee at the train station. She comes bearing Canadian Riesling from the Niagara Peninsula and a satchel full of venerable cook books that might offer insight into our meal. I tell Lee about my problems with the oven, and she smiles wryly. “That’s why I don’t cook anymore,” she says. “I just call the caterer.”

Back home, the rest of the party is arriving, and I set up a round of Bloody Caesar cocktails which hail from Alberta. My brother Ken offers a toast, “To the successful celebration of Canadian cuisine.” The combination of vodka, Clamato juice and Worcestershire and Tabasco is smooth, spicy and tastes of the ocean on a hot summer day.

Everyone has taken to the Canadian theme. On the stereo, we’ve got Canadian musicians of all types – Diana Krall from Nanaimo, Gordon Lightfoot from Ontario and Michael Buble from Burnaby. My mom wears the pin my older brother brought her from a visit he made to Expo 67 in Montreal. Ken is sporting a plaid shirt for the “lumberjack look.” Lee has brought a cookbook published in 1972 called “Cecily Brownstone’s Associated Press Cook Book.” You may remember that Jill came across Cecily’s name during her research of the dish Country Captain. Lee was good friends with Cecily, a food editor at the Associated Press, and they would dine together. We find Cecily’s recipe for Country Captain on page 76, and talk about the fact that Cecily, who campaigned for recognition for the dish Country Captain which was popular in America, was actually born in Canada!

I prepare a recipe of Bannock in the skillet and serve the flat bread with blueberry preserves and butter. This time, I’ve fried these bread biscuits – popular among Canadian pioneers and First Nations People – in butter and they have a crisp golden coating and a tender crumb.

The French Canadian Pea Soup is a lovely flaxen color, mild and silky, with an herbaceous aroma and smoky flavor. This dish will provide the majority of our vegetables for the meal, which is just fine with my sister-in-law Pam who is not a fan of vegetables, but is quite taken with this intriguingly yellow pea soup.

Next, I pull the Tourtiere from the oven, the traditional pork pie served by French Canadians after midnight mass as a centerpiece of the holiday supper celebration. The domed crust is nicely bronzed thanks to an egg wash, and I’ve decorated the pastry with Canadian Maple leaves. The recipe from Canadian Living is a winner – festive, aromatic spices of cinnamon, pepper, savory and cloves tickle our senses and we relish the flaky pastry and robust filling of tender pork and earthy mushrooms.

Before dessert, we check in with Jill by telephone to offer our impressions of the menu she designed for us. Overall, it has met with resounding approval. Jill tells us her house is filled with the caramel aromas of roasted sweet potatoes for the finale to her American Feast, the sweet potato pie. Lee mentions another interesting connection in this cross-continental culinary exchange. Acadians, who populated Nova Scotia, eventually migrated to Louisiana, where the yam (cousin to the sweet potato) is a staple of the local cuisine.

We retire to the living room for our buffet of Canadian sweets. The bite-sized, honey-colored butter tarts, baked in muffin tins are delicate and just slightly runny. I’ve made two varieties, some plain and some with raisins. We sample each and join in the national butter tart debate of Canada over which type is superior. My dad and Lee vote in favor of raisin tarts. Dad likes mince pie, of which this is reminiscent and Lee likes the additional flavor and consistency. Ken, Pam and my mom support the unadorned version, rich and buttery with notes of vanilla. I sit squarely on the fence. I like them both.

The Nanaimo Bars threaten to send us all into sugar shock, but in a good way. Dark and sinfully rich, and dotted with almonds and coconut, are they brownie, or are they fudge? Whatever the label, Nanaimo Bars are a chocoholic’s dream.

In one Sunday afternoon, our armchair culinary journey has taken us across a country that is the second largest in the world. We have sipped cocktails in Alberta and tasted the foods of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. And with each bite, comes a story of history, ingredients, individuals and ingenuity.

As we begin to clean up the dishes and I hand out butter tarts and Nanaimo bars for all to take home, Jill is just about ready to welcome her guests for the American Feast in Ottawa.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Clamming in Canada and Sleuthing Sweet Potato Pie

Jill is pulling together the final details of her American Feast in Canada, which requires a snowy trek in search of shell fish. She writes:

The storm has made its way north to Ottawa, with what's hopefully the last gasp of winter. As the snow continues to swirl, I counteract the frosty scene with comforting thoughts of southern sweet potato pie. But before turning to pie, I venture out to pick up groceries for the American feast, including the 8 pounds of clams the recipe I've chosen calls for. In looking at recipes, I've been a bit overwhelmed by the different types of clams. My choice is made easy: there isn’t any. The only clams I can find in Ottawa are littleneck. Most recipes call for cherrystone or quahog, but the smaller littlenecks should be fine. The man behind the counter at the fish store looks at me skeptically and asks several times if I really want 8 pounds, but reluctantly hands them over. I ask where the clams are from, and am told "East coast". I don't inquire any further, so I can maintain the belief that the clams hail from the American East, for a truly authentic New England clam chowder.

Back at home, I steam the clams, producing a briny, faintly herbal broth. The recipe I've selected is simple: salt pork, onions, garlic, celery, bay leaf and thyme, potatoes, cream, and the clams and their broth. In surprisingly little time (with a few interruptions to prevent my cat from devouring the clams), I have a creamy soup, with salty ocean-clam flavours accented by the thyme. Topped off with crunchy bits of salt pork, it's delicious. Perhaps a little thinner than I'd expected, but I'll see how it comes together overnight.

With that completed, I turn to sweet potato pie, a classic southern dish. I refer back to the questions you posed when we first began this project: how did the dish emerge, why were the ingredients important, and how were they characteristic of the region? Well, this dish is a wonderful combination of the old and new worlds, blending the pie-making traditions of Europe with sweet potatoes, a plant indigenous to the Americas. Sweet potatoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century and there is some evidence they may have been included in pies there in the 1600s. Henry VIII, for example, is said to have eaten sweet potatoes in heavily spiced and sugared pies.

However, there's no doubt about the close association of sweet potatoes with the American south, and particularly, with African-American cuisine. Sweet potatoes have been cultivated in the southern states since the 16th century. Most sources suggest that they became an essential part of the cooking of African slaves in the south due to the sweet potato's similarity to the yam, which was native to Africa. (Sweet potatoes are often called yams, creating confusion, but the two are different vegetables). Many southern sweet potato recipes developed from traditional African cuisine and today, sweet potato pie is considered a cornerstone of African-American soul food.

Sweet potato pie recipes are legion. Most share common features of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes, milk (or cream or evaporated milk), eggs, and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Some are sweetened with white sugar and others with brown sugar or maple syrup. In the early 1900s, marshmallows became trendy, and sweet potato pies were not spared this adornment (nor were other sweet potato dishes, thinking of mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows). Some pie recipes include a pecan or a meringue topping. I also found (shudder) some low-cal versions.

I decide on a recipe in the New York Times Dessert Cookbook, from the Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, mostly because I can't resist an ingredient list that include both bourbon and maple syrup, but it also seems fitting since I once lived in Durham. Now to see if the recipes tastes as good as it reads.

Meanwhile, back in the states, my Canadian Butter Tarts manage to survive a near kitchen disaster and after sampling one I can confirm they are more than edible. The cross continental culinary feast is straight ahead!

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved
Whodunit?? Canada’s Nanaimo Bar:

The last item on the menu provided to me by Jill for the American-Canadian Cooking Project on March 18th is the Nanaimo Bar. I kick off my investigation and all roads immediately lead to the City of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, incorporated in 1874. If you’ve not heard of this port city in Western Canada, an interesting piece of trivia is that my favorite jazz singer, Diana Krall was born there.

It is also the birthplace of the legendary Nanaimo Bar, a no-bake layered treat consisting of chocolate, graham wafer crumbs, nuts, coconut, butter, cream and melted semi-sweet chocolate. Now here’s a recipe I can get excited about. Growing up on suburban Long Island, no-bake treats were part of our DNA. From Wheaties Ting-A-Lings to Kix Comets, we earned our cavities on these and other no-fuss sugar bombs from the pages of the Betty Crocker Boy’s and Girls Cookbook.

I quickly discover that while the Nanaimo Bar’s pedigree is clear, its origin is another one of those “shrouded in mystery” stories. There are any number of sugary tales on how the Nanaimo Bar came about. One source claims it emerged in the 1930s, and there’s a story that a ladies auxiliary in Nanaimo found a version of the recipe in the Vancouver Sun, where it was called “chocolate fridge cake” and renamed their version the Nanaimo Bar. But, no one has been able to locate the recipe in the newspaper’s archives. The city of Nanaimo suggests the theory that these bars were sent by miners families to work sites to brighten their day, and presumably to provide a high-energy boost. Either way, the recipe seemed to propagate in local cookbooks and through recipe swaps and became particularly popular in the 1950s. The city of Nanaimo held a contest in 1986 to find the definitive Nanaimo Bar. Local resident Joyce Hardcastle submitted the winning recipe, which is available on the city website as the
Official Nanaimo Bar Recipe, and also distributed in brochures and on tea towels. Nanaimo Bars can be found in local cafes and coffeehouses throughout the Pacific Northwest.

There are also all kinds of recipe variations with some suggest flavoring the middle layer of butter cream with mint, and even tinting it green (Holy Saint Patrick’s Day!!!) .

I may never find the truth, but since I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I choose a recipe called “The Original Nanaimo Bar,” If you want proof that this is the original – proof that will hold up in court – you’ll have to look elsewhere. In fact, the recipe looks suspiciously like Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe, so I abandon any hope of historic accuracy and forge ahead.
The process is simple. The bottom layer consists of chocolate, cookie crumbs, chopped almonds and coconut. I’m a little dubious about mixing an egg into melted butter and Dutch cocoa, but the result is a thick glossy dollop of chocolate Grenache that is mixed with the dry ingredients and spread in a 8 x 8 pan.

The next layer is nothing more than butter cream icing! I do a little happy dance and spread the sweet fluffy layer across the pan.

The final step requires melted butter and semi-sweet chocolate combined and cooled which is then spread on top. At this point, the calorie count must be astronomical, but I guess those Canadians need fuel to survive the harsh winters.

I give the spatula the requisite lick and pop the pan into the fridge to chill. It may be time to put my feet up. Right now, Jill is hauling eight pounds of clams across the city of Ottawa to prepare her New England Clam Chowder for the American Feast. Here in New York, the research is complete, and nearly all the recipes are assembled for the Canadian Feast on Sunday.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Salute to Country Captain:

It seems that Mother Nature is determined to provide an authentic environment for the Canadian Feast on March 18th, and pounds New York with a late winter storm of snow and ice. I pick up several items at the supermarket – mostly fat and carbohydrates – for for the dinner, and must drag the grocery cart through a parking lot that is not yet plowed. It’s challenging, but like the Canadian Mounties who “always get their man,” I always get my ingredients.

Meanwhile, Jill has returned to Ottawa from sunny Florida, and is focusing on her final preparations for the American Feast in Canada, the centerpiece of which is poultry with a distinctly nautical flair. She writes:

Back from the South, and I see that you've plunged head-first into the stewpot of Canadian cuisine. While catching up with recent posts (and comments), I discover that there is some skepticism about the Caesar. My Canadian sensibilities are shocked! How could anyone doubt that a drink containing clam juice and Worcestershire sauce would be anything but delicious? Really, they are very good, especially with extra-spicy Clamato juice. I fully support your decision to stick with the traditional butter tart, so you know where my allegiance lies in the raisin/no-raisin debate.

You have certainly uncovered some things I didn't know, particularly with regard to pea soup. I had no idea that the soup pea capital of Canada is in Manitoba. In fact, I wasn't even aware that Canada had a soup pea capital. I suspect I'm not alone. I'm afraid I can't solve the mystery of the whole yellow peas, but I'll do some sleuthing from this end to see what I can uncover.

My American cooking investigation has moved to the next item on the menu you've put together - Country Captain. I first encountered this dish of chicken stewed with tomatoes, onion and curry years ago while working in an outdoor cafe that featured Chicken Country Captain on the dinner menu from time to time, so I'm familiar with it. However, I had always wondered about the origins and the story behind the rather jaunty name: what exactly is a country captain, and what does it have to do with chicken?

I delve into the recipe books, to discover that there is no one answer. According to legend (of which there are many variations), this popular Southern recipe originated in the late 1700s or early 1800s, during the era of ship trading between American ports and the East Indies. One colourful version of the story suggests that a ship's cook, tired of the bland fare on board, dipped into the cargo of spices to liven up the evening meal of chicken. The cook later recreated the meal in Savannah, a major port for the spice trade, with great success. Another variation proposes that a British sea captain who had been stationed in India shared the recipe with friends in Savannah.

Two things seem clear: the association with India, and with the shipping trade. So, the name could be linked to the notion of a ship's captain. But where does "country" come from? A little more research sheds some light. Various sources suggest that the dish originates from a Bengal curry or more likely, from a Madras recipe for spatchcock dressed with onions and curry. The Oxford Companion to Food describes Country Captain as a dish of "mysterious origin" and explains that the term "country" was used during the British colonial period to refer to anything of Indian, as opposed to British, origins. The "country" trade was conducted by "country ships", commanded by "country captains." However, "country captain" was also the name given to captains of Indian troops (or sepoys) employed by England. So, the dish may derive its name from the sepoy officers who likely introduced it to British tables, or from the ship captains who are said to have brought the recipe to England and the American South.

Whatever its true origins, Country Captain has become a Southern classic, although it has come in and out of style over the years. A 1991 New York Times article by Molly Stevens (excerpted on"") described the efforts of culinary maven and foodwriter Cecily Brownstone to promote and preserve authentic Country Captain, her favourite dish. She apparently "blew the lid off" the assumption that Country Captain was invented in the American South and crusaded for the inclusion of her favourite recipe in dozens of cookbooks, enlisting the support of her friend James Beard. She's also said to have chastised those responsible when she discovered variations in the recipe in restaurants or cookbooks. For my Country Captain, I decide on a version sweetened with currants and mango chutney, and topped with a generous amount of coconut and sliced almonds. Hopefully Cecily would have approved.

As the snow and freezing rain pelts the house, I’m now dreaming of a cruise to India and a spicy serving of Country Captain. But, I still have one dish left to research – the legendary Canadian Nanaimo Bar.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Canada’s Christmas Pastry:

Deck the Halls? In March?

The day of the American-Canadian Cooking Project approaches and the next item on the menu suggested by Jill in Ottawa has the puzzling name of tourtière. She’s offered no clues, just a very French-sounding name. My instinct and culinary training suggests a few routes to take in my investigation. Perhaps there’s a connection to a torte or pastry of some kind?

I head for my culinary reference books and begin to put together a profile. Larousse Gastronomique actually lists the term, but it describes a round ovenproof mold that is used for cooking or serving pies. The term is also used in France to describe a pie dish, tart mold or flan ring. Okay, that’s odd. I thought I was researching something edible.

As I comb the Internet, I start to find references connecting the tourtière to Christmas, but with St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools Day and Easter approaching, I tend to dismiss these. My obstinacy is perhaps the product of a weary mind chilled by sub-zero temperatures, cranky co-workers and lack of sunlight. Yet, the holiday references continue to surface.

I find an ancient connection to a little bird. The tourte is the Quebec name for the passenger pigeon and there was a pie called a tourte with the meat of the little birdie baked into it. Meat pies were prevalent in antiquity. The Roman cooking manuscript, called Apicius, written around 400 AD, mentioned a version of a meat pie prepared in a bronze pot. In the Middle Ages, the pasty was a dish that resembled a large turnover and was filled with seasoned meat or fish. I spurn any thoughts of Sweeney Todd or Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie and continue my investigation.

When I finally stumble across the Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations, I being to make progress and understand the relationship of the tourtière to the Canadian Christmas celebration and something called the reveillon. The word reveillon means “awakening” in French, and refers to a celebratory banquet that follows Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in France. It traditionally marked the end of a four-week Advent fast. The tradition came to the New World with the French Canadians of Quebec, where it is still celebrated today.

The centerpiece of the reveillon supper in Canada is the tourtière, a savory pork meat pie wrapped in a flaky crust, which is indeed named after the ovenproof pie mold. While there appear to be more versions than the Twelve Days of Christmas, ground pork seems to be the most traditional and beloved filling. There are wide ranging discussions online about the type of pastry used, the consistency of the pork filling, and the aromatic spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – are characteristic of the Middle Ages where this style of pastry was first popular. The meat is simmered in a pot with broth and spices to infuse it with flavor and can be bound with bread crumbs or oats. The Quebec-style tourtière contains ground meat, but the Tourtière du Lac Saint-Jean is a deep dish variety with cubed potatoes and meat. These days, Canadian gourmands are also making merry with turkey tourtière and pastries filled with beef, veal and venison. No matter how you slice it, a tourtière is a hearty way to ring in the holiday season in the dark days of winter.

Now I’m feeling all festive. I think I’ll wrap a few stocking stuffers and jingle some bells. Only 286 shopping days until Christmas!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 12, 2007

Like Buttah:

In true American fashion, (those who want to have their cake and eat it) I’ve skipped ahead to dessert in my research for the American-Canadian Cooking Project with Jill in Ottawa.

My sweet assignment is the classic Canadian butter tart. “The Pioneer Cook: An Historic View of Canadian Prairie Food” by B. Barss says the recipe reflects the simple ingredients found in the pantry of the prairie cook. I locate a number of references saying the butter tart was invented in Northern Ontario around 1915. There is even a dictionary that lists the butter tart as a “Canadian invention.” There is a certain fervor about the butter tart. There are stories of dairy-deprived Canadians searching high and low outside their country for butter tarts in vain.

A typical list of ingredients includes butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and eggs. Many recipes call for lining 12 or 24 muffin cups or tart molds with pastry and adding the filling, so this is a one or two bite confection. The amber-colored filling bears some similarity to a pecan pie, minus the nuts, and some theorize it descended from the style of pecan pie that was brought to Canada by American slaves. Others speculate that the Canadian butter tart is similar to British treacle tart or the Ecclefechan butter tart made in Scotland.

Now here’s where opinions start to differ. I quickly learn that butter tart may, in fact, be more controversial than religion, sports or politics. Do you add currants, nuts or raisins? The purists say no, while some pastry iconoclasts claim a handful of currants add a special touch. In one recipe it is suggested that the nuts or fruit be spooned into the bottom of each tart shell and then covered with the buttery filling before baking. It seems you can’t be on the fence on this one. You are either for, or against raisins in your butter tart.

The topic prompts significant debate. I even discover a spirited discussion on
CBC Radio between a food writer, an artist and a “butter tart expert” from 1991, lasting almost 15 minutes that thrashes out everything from the proper consistency of filling (runny, chewy or firm?) to the best physical position to take when eating a butter tart.

I experience a strange sense of relief and nervousness. No matter what configuration of the butter tart I choose, someone will agree with my choice, and someone won’t. It’s good to know where you stand in life and culinary pursuits. I’ll probably stick with the traditionalists and eschew the fruit or nuts for the Canadian feast on March 18th.

Clearly, the butter tart is part of the Canadian psyche, and even a part of the Canadian topography. For the true aficionado, there is even a
Butter Tart Trail in the township of Wellington North, where you can visit more than a dozen Mennonite kitchens and bakeries and sample the confection along the way. In late 2006, those who completed the trail and had their map punched at each of the 13 sites were eligible to win a one-night stay at a B&B and, you guessed it, one dozen butter tarts!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I am a Curious Yellow:

It appears that Canadian cuisine can be color blind. For some reason, that I have yet to uncover, French Canadian Pea Soup is traditionally made with yellow peas.

What would the Jolly Green Giant do with this revelation? Perhaps start a spin-off company? Designate a golden cartoon side-kick?

As I work towards the culmination of the American-Canadian Cooking Project, I’ve come to the next menu item on the list provided by Jill in Ottawa – French Canadian Pea Soup. I must rid myself of the normal assumptions. Apparently, yellow is the new green, at least in Canada.
I start by investigating the culture from which this dish originated. There are roughly 6.5 million French Canadians, descended from French explorers and colonist, who live in Canada and most live in the province of Quebec with some residing in the Maritime Provinces. Those who live in the Maritimes are often referred to as “Acadians.”

For some reason, French Canadian Pea Soup, or soupe aux pois, is the leading dish of French Canadian cuisine, although I have trouble determining exactly why. I find some speculation that pea soup can be tracked back to the daily meals of sixteenth-century fishermen. Author Habeeb Salloum writes of French Canadians being taunted with the name, “Peasoupers.” Another writer says it’s a traditional dish for Friday reflecting past religious practices. There’s a passage in the 19th century novel "Maria Chapdelaine", where author Louis Hemon describes pea soup as a part of the ritual of daily farm life. Even the Campbell’s Soup Company got into the act starting in 1918, offering a brand in Canada called “Habitant French-Country Pea Soup.” The soup pea crop prospers around the town of St. Jean Baptiste in Manitoba, which is called the soup pea capital of Canada. I suspect that this humble, golden bowl of soup may actually go back as far as the 16th century, with origins in the French country kitchen.

The recipe is quite simple and not far removed from the typical green variety. It consists of whole yellow peas, salted pork, onion and seasonings – often the herb savory – simmered together. Salt pork, or a ham bone, is cooked in the soup, and then can be chopped and put back into the soup. Some recipes recommend pureeing a portion of the peas before serving. A regional version in Newfoundland can include diced turnips and carrots, topped with dumplings.

The idea of using whole yellow peas is stressed time and again, and one writer even goes so far as to explain that there is a marked difference in flavor between whole and split yellow peas. Split peas are mild in flavor and soft in texture with an earthy flavor. A whole dried pea is similar to a lentil. Yellow peas are part of the legume family and are derived from spring sown field peas (pisum sativum). They are sown in March and normally harvested in July and August. Whole dried peas have been used in cooking for more than 10,000 years, originally emerging in the Middle East.

The massive reference book, Larousse Gastronomique, includes a French recipe for traditional peas, called peas a la bonne femme, which might be distant relative. It includes pearl onions and bacon sautéed in butter and then simmered with fresh shelled peas, herbs and consommé. I decide on a recipe for the March 18th Canadian feast that includes the herb savory, since I have very little experience with it. Larousse Gastronomique says that savory is an aromatic herb from southern Europe that has a scent similar to mint and thyme.

Alas, I may not be able to produce the authentic dish. Having searched high and low in gourmet shops and grocery stores, I have yet to find a whole yellow pea. They are all entirely split.

But the true reason that yellow peas are used, and the explanation for why the soup has become such a part of French Canadian lore, remains a culinary mystery. I hope that Jill can provide the

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Salad for a Grand New York Hotel:

As our research on The American-Canadian Cooking Project continues, Jill has shrewdly decided to spend a few sunny days in Florida. I’m truly envious as I brave sub-zero temperatures in the Northeast. Before her departure, Jill sends in another installment in her research into American regional cuisine. She writes:

Next on my list is Waldorf salad. I'm pretty sure I know something about it....mayo, apples, celery, named after the hotel? And I know I've heard Ella Fitzgerald sing about it on my Cole Porter songbook CD. It also occurs to me that unlike Boston brown bread or New England clam chowder, which evolved from traditional English or French techniques and recipes, adapted to the kitchens of early New England and incorporating ingredients plentiful in the region, Waldorf salad could be "truly" American. I do a little digging to test this hypothesis.

My research confirms that Waldorf salad appeared on the culinary scene in the late 19th century, when Oscar Tschirky, the maitre d'hotel of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, is said to have created the dish for a party to celebrate the hotel's opening in 1893. The original recipe consisted of chopped raw apples and celery mixed with "a good mayonnaise" (to quote Tschirky's 1896 cookbook). The dish quickly became common in other hotel restaurants, and walnuts soon became a standard ingredient.

As for the origins of Waldorf salad, none of the sources I found indicated any particular history or connections. Fruits salads are said to have emerged as a dish in the mid-1800s, so presumably Waldorf salad comes out of that heritage. Given the mayonnaise base and crunchy vegetables, it reminds me a bit of the classic French salad, celery root remoulade, but I didn't find anything to suggest that was Tschirky's inspiration. So, on the basis on my not-so-extensive research, I've decided that my hypothesis is confirmed.

Today, there seem to be endless variations of the dish, building on the classic trilogy of mayonnaise, apples and celery. Raisins or grapes are frequent additions. I found recipes for chicken Waldorf salad, Asian Waldorf salad, and cranberry Waldorf salad, just to name a few. At its best, Waldorf salad appears to be a crisp, refreshing side dish. And, at its...well, more creative... it can include whipped topping and Jell-O, conjuring up images of 1950s luncheons.

What is so interesting to me about this American-Canadian Cooking Project is that Jill is discovering information and anecdotes about my national cuisine that I never knew. We have yet to decide if I’ve uncovered anything surprising for Jill about Canadian cookery.

Jill’s current investigation intrigues me. The Waldorf-Astoria is just a short distance from my place of business on the east side of Manhattan, and I decide to take a walk over. After some additional sniffing around, I discover that Waldorf Salad is still served, now 114 years later, at Oscar’s American Brasserie at the Waldorf-Astoria. Oscar’s honors the memory of Tschirky, who became synonymous with the style and hospitality of the Waldorf. “Oscar’s Waldorf Salad” is priced at $9.00 and comes with Granny Smith and Gala Apples with Creamy Walnut Dressing, and no Jell-O whatsoever. Mr. Tschirky, or “Oscar of the Waldorf” as he was called, would be proud.

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved.
Et tu Caesar?

One if the menu items mentioned by Jill for our American-Canadian Cooking Project is a curious concoction. She suggests that I quench the thirst of my March 18 guests with a Caesar. What can she mean? Is this a Shakespearean reference? A tragic cocktail? What is the connection between the biggest emperor of them all and a Canadian beverage?

I delve into Internet research that’s as wide and deep as the Seven Seas – or just about. All evidence seems to point to a drink called “Clamato.” I contact Jill to find out if I’m on the right track, or following a red herring. She writes:

Yes, you’re on the right track. Caesar is the Clamato drink – not a red herring, although red and a bit fishy-tasting!

What is Clamato? It’s a spicy tomato-based drink invented in 1969 in California by the Duffy Mott Company. The marketers of the world say it’s a leader in the “Seafood Blend” category of beverages, because as you might suspect, the secret ingredient is clam juice.

Clamato is a key ingredient in a cocktail called the “Bloody Caesar” which is considered by many to be the national drink of Canada, and the country’s number one selling cocktail. More than 250 million Caesars are sold every year.

It all starts to come back to me. The memories of my car trips across the Prairie Provinces, the roadside hotels and many a Caesar consumed in a dark hotel cocktail lounge. The Caesar is a relatively new invention, credited to a bar tender named Walter Chell. Chell invented the drink in 1969 when he worked for the Westin Hotel in Calgary, Alberta. He was looking to create a cocktail for the opening of a new restaurant and developed a drink that was a mixture of mashed clams, tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Adding a celery stalk for garnish, Chell dubbed the drink a Bloody Caesar. Chell’s invention is held in such regard that he even gets a mention on the website devoted to “Famous, Should Be Famous and Infamous Canadians.”

Later, the Mott Company developed its Clamato Juice and after an initial dispute, hired Chell as a consultant to promote the drink.

Here’s the classic recipe for a Caesar:

1 ounce Vodka
Clamato Juice
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce
Celery salt
Celery stick

Rim a tall glass with celery salt and fill with ice. Add vodka, fill glass with Clamato juice and add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Garnish with a celery stick and enjoy.

Now, all I need is a proper Canadian toast!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


As we move towards the culmination of our American-Canadian Cooking Project, Jill’s research is all about shell fish. She writes:

According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, chowder was a staple dish of early New Englanders. The term "chowder" appears to derive from the French word for cauldron, chaudière, after the large cooking pots into which sailors from French fishing villages would throw part of their catch to make a communal stew. Chowders were popular in coastal France and England, a custom that carried on to the eastern provinces of Canada and down to New England in the 17th and 18 centuries. (As I've been wandering through the cuisine of the eastern U.S., it's been interesting to note the commonalities between some of the traditional dishes of New England and Canada's Atlantic provinces - not surprising, given their shared coastline and historical ties.) In Jasper White's book of chowder lore and recipes, 50 Chowders, he notes: "It is in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England that chowder making flourishes and where chowder becomes an integral part of the diet and culture."

The oldest-known printed recipe North American chowder appeared in the Boston Evening Post in 1751. Chowder or "chouder", as 18th century cookbooks labelled the recipe, featured fresh fish, salt pork and ship's biscuits or crackers and sometimes onions -- all ingredients readily available to the sailors from whom the soup originated. Early New England chowders typically included fish such as haddock or cod. Clam chowders were known in New England, particularly in Boston, by the mid-1800s, but did not become popular until the early 1900s.

I've discovered that there are many different regional types of chowder and definite views on their merits. For instance, in 50 Chowders, Jasper White writes: "All of northern New England abhors the tomato-based chowders from Connecticut and New York...". There is also much controversy over the "right" way to make a New England-style clam chowder. While the basics of clams, salt pork and potatoes seem to be fairly constant, there are innumerable recipe variations. More on those later.

Having had too many bowls of gummy, so-called chowder that tasted more of flour than fish, I'm looking forward to making my first "chaudière" of authentic New England-style clam chowder. Apparently chowder is best prepared a few days before serving, so it will be a great make-ahead dish for the March 18 American feast.

Meanwhile, I’m after the history of Canada’s number one cocktail, which might be a distant cousin …

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Canadian Bannock Bread for Beginners:

Jill’s productive trial-run with Boston Brown Bread reminds me that perhaps I should practice a bit before my guests arrive on March 18th to taste the results of our American-Canadian Cooking Project. I’m just back from another long flight, and not feeling particularly ambitious, so I decide on Bannock Bread for my maiden Canadian culinary venture, since the ingredients are all at hand.

First, I make a critical decision. While Canadian Bannock is often traditionally cooked over an open flame, I will not be lighting a camp fire in the kitchen – it’s bad for the homeowners insurance and is likely to wreck the countertops. Fortunately, frying is an acceptable option, so I haul out the skillet and choose a recipe from Canadian Living, attributed to the Cree writer Terrance Armstrong.

I’ve done some additional research on Bannock which helps my overall understanding of the recipe as I assemble the simple selection of ingredients. Harold McGee says in On Food and Cooking that thin flatbreads were the original breads of history, and mentions an oatcake called Bannock that originated in Scotland. The Oxford Companion to Food also traces Bannock back to the highlands of Britain and says an English-Latin word book of 1483 translates the term as “hearth bread” or “baked bread in the ashes.”

Dorothy Duncan writes in Nothing More Comforting: Canada’s Heritage Food (Dundurn Press, 2003) that Canadian settlers baked dough comprised of flour and water over an open flame, or on griddles, and the pioneer housekeeper relied on baking powder as a dependable leavening agent. Much like me, people would use what ingredients they had on hand, but wheat was particularly plentiful. In the Native cultures of Canada, Bannock seems to have taken on legendary qualities, remembered for its nourishment, and I even come across the story of one woman who says she was told more than 30 years ago she could not marry a Metis Cree man until she proved to his sisters that she could make good Bannock.

The Bannock dough assembles in seconds with basic ingredients being flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In fact, the ingredients are almost identical to those found in a recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits found in James Beard’s American Cookery. The main difference is that the dough is formed into patties and fried in a greased skillet.

The patties are fried about 4 minutes on each side. Frying gives each loaf a crisp, golden crust that smells slightly nutty. I sample the results. The bread is dense, and even a little heavy. It resembles an English muffin or crumpet and tastes a bit like an old-fashioned breakfast biscuit, so I slap a generous pat of butter on the hot loaf. I’m not entirely satisfied with the flavor, as my loaves taste a touch bland. I’ve come across some recipes that add milk, raisins or currants and cut lard or butter into the dough, which is likely to create a more tender structure. I decide to do a little more prospecting for the perfect bannock recipe.

Meanwhile, I learn that Jill is submerged in research on New England Clam Chowder.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Taste of Munich:

The early morning is raw and gray, and there are just a few pedestrians on the streets of Munich as I wander into the old city center on a pre-breakfast exploration. Munich is the cultural and economic center of German Bavaria. I pass empty beer gardens and ratskellers and eventually I find myself at the Marienplatz, a large open square where the Old and the New Town Hall is located.

I crane my neck to examine the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, a massive clock tower with lively, life-sized figures that perform a marriage ceremony and “Coopers dance” each day at prescribed times. The music-box style tower is silent at this early hour, but the painted figures are poised and ready to dance.

I’ve sampled the classic German dish, Wiener Schnitzel twice during this trip. Veal, pounded thin, is coated with golden bread crumbs and eggs and fried so that the outer coating is crispy and the veal is buttery and tender. This Vienna-style veal cutlet has roots in Austria dating back to the 15th or 16th century, but can also be traced back to France and the veal dish viennoise. One source says the name Wiener Schnitzel first emerged around 1862. My first tasting consisted of three paper-thin cutlets, each with a slightly different breading, and a deliciously tangy vinegar flavor, served with pesto potato salad. The second night, the eggy golden crust was dressed with tiny tart cranberries.

There are all types of savory delicacies in Germany. As I walk, I find myself in a small square off the Marienplatz, where shop keepers stock windows with plump white veal sausages and rich cuts of meat.

There are displays overflowing with vegetables, widows lined with Prosecco, and a colorful flower market with buckets of budding blossoms.

In one shop window, branches decorated with painted Easter eggs signal the fact that the rituals of spring are soon upon us. Auf Wiedersehen!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved