This post has little or nothing to do with art. It is manly about food. It is, in fact, pretty much completely an ode to food.
A few friends and I took a much needed vacation to Salt Spring Island. We spent much of the weekend enjoying fresh, local, organic, seasonal food (from our own gardens and from the island) at a lovely farm where we had rented an old house. The rest of the time was spent wandering the island to chase down other foods at their source – namely fresh goat cheese from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company.
I am not a goat cheese fan. Having spent some time in the presence of actual goats and their goaty barn dwellings, I don’t find the usual pungent musk of goat cheese pleasant at all. I imagine it must be similar to the flavour one would get if one were to lick a goat armpit. However, the cheese we tasted at Salt Spring Island Cheese wasn’t goaty. Perhaps I exaggerate – it was not completely without a bit of a reminder of the source – it just wasn’t infused with barn-billy reek. There was no lingering hint of dirty goat feet on the finish. It was smooth, fresh and exceptionally pleasant, mild on the goat without hiding where it came from – important I think, otherwise it might as well be a cow’s milk cheese. My favourites were the variously flavoured Chevres – and top on the list for me was basil. My friends preferred the Juliette – a Camembert style cheese.
We visited one of the island wineries – chosen because it was the only one open that day. We had run out of wine and the very well stocked wine store in Ganges was too far in the other direction. I’m a little tired of wine tasting spiels especially when I’ve just heard them given to the party standing to my right. It makes me uncomfortable, embarrassed. I’m fine with a factual run-down of the wine. But not with the cute jokes or faux dramatic deliveries. That aside, we made it out of there with a Pinot Gris which worked fine for our purpose and a Pinot Noir which was less so, in my opinion. However, my palette is pretty underdeveloped when it comes to wine, and is just happy with a something that doesn’t taste like sheep, doesn’t smell skunky or like cat pee and isn’t too young. Neither wines reminded me of any sort of animal, though the Pinot Noir could have used a little more time. In any case, we drank them both outside, on a warm summer evening in the company of good friends, in an incredibly quiet setting miles from the city so they were, therefore, fantastic.
I recently broke a 12 year long chicken hiatus because fish choices keep dropping off the sustainable list and my (animal derived) protein options have run thin; there are only so many eggs I can eat. So I’ve turned back to the post-egg choice. Fowl. Specifically the non-medicated, free range, hormone free fowl, but fowl nonetheless. It was a difficult decision, softened by Darren’s homemade dry rub, a bbq and a tall boy (for chicken steaming, not for drinking). So I put chicken on the menu this weekend. Fresh, organic and locally purchased by my Pitt Meadows friends from Hopcott it was expertly roasted by ubercook, foodfancier and foodist Boris (which was fortunate because I haven’t quite managed to wrap my head around cooking chicken myself). After feeding 6 people on night 1, both Boris and the chicken went on to feed everyone again with curry on the second night. There was an accompaniment of Boris’s impromptu apricot chutney, spiced with his purchases from the Monsoon Coast stall at the Salt Spring Island Saturday Market. I can’t describe the dish, however, because it contained ample amounts of quarrelsome onion, my most dreaded foe. But I hear it was excellent. And spicy.
The evening ended with delicious mint chocolate torte, expertly baked by L and paired with Port, of course.
There was salad, chard and herbs from my garden, potatoes from L’s, and variety of vegetables purchased from the farm we were staying on, as well as fresh eggs from the farm’s lovely chickens. The tomatoes tasted like tomatoes are supposed to and the raspberries were heavenly and fragrant. Boris brought perfectly tart and crunchy homemade dill pickles and baked bread to top off with homemade jam.
Last summer at around this time, my boyfriend and I were in Orkney, staying with my family. It was an incredible visit to a very beautiful part of the world. We returned back to my cousin’s house one evening, exhausted and parched after a long day out photographing and painting on the only blazing sunny day of the visit and were greeted on the lawn by my cousin carrying a pitcher of Pimms. It was an incredibly simple thing but it was one of the elements that formed one of our fondest memories of the trip. Long shadows, low gold light, Scapa Flow just visible through the hedge, my cousin’s big black lab lolling on the grass, the fresh smell of the cucumber garnish… To honour the memory of that trip and the wonderful hospitality of my cousin and her husband, we included the same drink in our Salt Spring weekend, with the addition of a garnish of crushed raspberries from the farm.
So what has this got to do with art? Simply, nothing. More abstractly, everything. I wanted to create a weekend that had been bouncing around in my head for a while, something to pull my focus back from just work, to restart creative ways of seeing, to get me excited about things again, to spend a good chunk of time with friends I don’t get to see very often. I’ve been very careful to avoid expectations on any of my travels. But I had expectations for this. And this was a vacation. Not travel. I wanted the light to be a certain way in the evenings, the air to feel just so, the location to be somewhere where my friends’ child could run around safely and play and I wanted the food and my friends to be the center of it. And it was all of those things, down to the tarnished silverware, the weather-worn picnic table, the swallows chattering on the rooftops and the love seat that matched my friends’ daughter’s dress.