Monday, December 20, 2010
“The guests are met, the feast is set.
May'st hear the merry din.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The beeswax candles were lit and twinkling, casting shadows and warm, golden light in dark corners.
The veggies were roasting in the oven. Carrots, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes from the garden, local onions, burdock root and potatoes, all seasoned lightly with oil, dill, rosemary, salt and pepper.
The big enamel pot simmered on the back burner filled with spiced, organic apple cider.
On the table the pickled beets and sour dills flashed the colours of the season: red, green, red.
Out came the homemade quince paste, gleaned from a bush growing nearby. It went on the board with mostly local, artisnal cheese.
Into the ice box went the locally made hard cider and white wine. A bottle of red was opened up to breathe.
Two bowls of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds went out into the sitting area. The pumpkin pie roll ups would be set out later for dessert.
The last kernels of homegrown popcorn exploded in the pot and were quickly transferred into a bowl to be buttered and salted, as the first guests arrived.
Greetings and welcomes were exchanged, snow was stamped off and boots removed, coats were taken into the bedroom.
More dishes came with the guests. This was a potluck after all. But not just any potluck. It was a pantry raid to celebrate the season of short days and long nights, when the farmer's fields and backyard gardens lay empty and covered in snow. It was a gathering of people bent on turning modern conventions and accepted practices upside down. At a time of year when it gets harder and harder to eat locally and seasonally if you depend solely on your nearest bigbox, foodmart for sustenance, these guests bravely took up the challenge of bringing a dish with at least one local ingredient. They dug deep into their larders, pulled produce from the freezers, home canned bits of summer captured in jars came off the shelves and stores were plundered in search of the most local ingredients to be found. Soon the table was full to overflowing with the most delicious array of food and two pots of soup were warming up on the stove.
Adding to the snacks were tortilla chips and home canned peach salsa and salsa verde. More tortilla chips came, but these were special. They were homemade and almost all the ingredients were locally sourced. Beets and garden greens were used to add seasonal colour in, you guessed it, red and green. They were an impressive masterpiece and their simplicity belied the care that went into making them.
On the entree list there was a Martinique goat curry- the local, vegan version. It was delicious and enjoyed by all.
The roasted roots were served with a mushroom gravy. Bowls of squash and apple and squash and sweet potato soup made the rounds, served with fresh, crusty bread from a local bakery.
People inhaled the tasty dish of potatoes, leeks and eggs.
Oohs and aahs could be heard above the conversation as the homemade beet and squash ravioli came out served with a white sauce.
The fresh, green salad and chocolate mousse were enjoyed as a luxury and rarity.
People tucked into in the food in earnest, going back for seconds and thirds. This was a celebration of abundance and richness, a reward for hard work and a relishing of harvests. Plates were balanced on knees. Stories were told in between bites. The laughter was loud and long. The food kept coming.
Suddenly the desserts appeared. There was the green tomato cake that everyone fell in love with, an unbelievably good ice cream made with fresh cream from a cow share, flavoured with acorn squash and finally the dessert that made us all feel like kids again, apple cider toffee drizzled over snow.
Slowly people relaxed into full belly postures, sated on food, but not yet on conversation and good cheer. Old friends sat together companionably and new friends were made.
Eventually the first couple got up to leave. Food was packed up and portioned out, and one by one, two by two, coats were returned, feet slipped into boots and the guests were on their way with fare wells and good wishes.
The rest of the food was put away, dishes cleared up and a grateful and happy hostess closed her eyes on the couch while a very Awesome Dude Guy washed up most of the evidence. The flickering candles were gently blown out. The little apartment so recently the scene of such great feasting, was now left in peaceful silence, full yet with lovely memories and a quiet knowing that, more than just a festive gathering of the season, this celebration held a promise for a different way of coming together at the table and sharing food. A way that is rich, varied and abundant, yet gentle and restorative to the land, while nourishing people, and where nothing is wasted and no one goes hungry.