Great Plains Bison – photo – Karen Anderson
I love to ask the people I meet, What is Alberta’s food? Inevitably the answer is, “Beef – of course”. I bring this up because I think it illuminates our lack of knowledge of our food heritage.
Beef is not an original Alberta species. It is an exotic import. It was brought to Alberta from Scotland via Montana before there were fences – about 150 plus years ago. The Great Plains Bison, Elk and White Tail deer evolved with this land and are perfectly suited for it. They are Alberta’s indigenous species. They have been here for tens of thousands of years.
Alberta also grows great grains. Red Fife Wheat is one of them. We are one of the world’s largest honey producers. We have really sweet root vegetables and Prairie hardy fruits like Saskatoon berries. Our Canola oil is as luscious gold as its flowers when it is cold-pressed and organic. And, yes, we really do grow the world’s biggest and tastiest beef.
We’ve discussed the WHAT, WHO, WHERE and WHEN of Cook it Raw, this post will explore the WHY> If Cook it Raw were only the chance to have more people at home, and around the globe, realize the bounty of wonderful products in Alberta, that would be enough of a WHY for me. Still, I asked Alessandro Porcelli of Cook it Raw for his answer to WHY and I asked Fraser Abbott of Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance as well. This post gives their answers as well as a few recipes inspired by the world-class produce of Alberta.
Mount Engadine Lodge – photo courtesy of Karen Fitzgerald at Mount Engadine Lodge
Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis Country near Canmore, Alberta is WHERE the 22 chefs of Cook it Raw’s #rawAlberta are gathering.
I spent a few days there this summer. The Lodge holds exactly 22 guests and sits perched over a meadow where a moose comes each evening to a natural saltlik. He’s not exactly like clockwork but he shows up and is nonplussed by the fuss he creates as the lodge guests watch in fascination as he lowers his heavy rack of horns between sprawled knobbly knees to taste the earth. He is vulnerable to be sure. I hope 22 hungry chefs don’t take on a moose hunt as part of their “raw” experience. Right now they actually have a lot in common. They’re putting themselves out there and they are bringing us a taste of this place.
This post will share some photos of WHERE the #rawAlberta chefs are sequestered. And, it will also share the details of a Public event WHERE you can meet all the #rawAlberta chefs and taste the dishes they’re creating using 7 great Alberta ingredients.
Alessandro Porcelli, the founder of Cook It Raw in the garden at Rouge Calgary – photo – Karen Anderson
In the previous post I answered the question, WHAT is Cook it Raw? This post looks at WHO is involved in Cook it Raw. Future posts will answer the other W’s in W5.
If you have no idea WHAT Cook it Raw is, this blog post is for you.
Watching the video above is a great place to start learning about Cook it Raw. Check it out and see if, while you’re learning about WHAT Cook it Raw is, you can also find seven Alberta food products that you might be quite familiar with but that the rest of the world might know very little about. That’s a pretty big hint about the answer to WHAT this is all about, by the way.
Don’t have time to watch the gorgeous video by Edmonton cinematographer Kevin Kossowan? Nah – go back and watch it. It’ll make you want to get on a plane to Lac LaBiche, Alberta – even if you have no idea where in the world that is. Hey, wait, that’s another clue to WHAT Cook it Raw is all about! Let’s cut to the chase.
Cook it Raw is a group of local and internationally-renowned chefs who gather to discover and articulate the essence of diverse and emerging culinary locations throughout the world. They are just winding up six months of intensive work in Alberta this very week. This is only the ninth time there’s been such a gathering since the inception of the program in 2009.
To learn more, read on and as an incentive to do so, I’ll give you the answer to exactly WHAT the seven truly Albertan ingredients are at the end of this post.
The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence – photo courtesy of the centre
Last week, while researching my monthly Alberta at Noon column, I had the opportunity to visit The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence. Beef prices have hit a record high this year. They are up by 36% and drought is a big factor. Ranchers across the Prairies are having to buy feed instead of it growing in abundance. With favourite beef cuts like steaks and prime rib roasts at such high prices, it’s a very good time to explore lesser known cuts of meat.
Necessity is a great incentive program but that doesn’t mean that when the going gets tough, your meat has to as well. In today’s Alberta at Noon podcast I talked about the The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence staff’s emphasis on teaching consumers to use the whole animal in a nose to tail (everything is delicious if you just know how to cook it) fashion. Read on for a more about the centre and its role in the beef industry.
This post is a roundup of inspiration to utilize more than just expensive cuts of beef. The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence and Organic Alberta have the perfect workshop to get you thinking outside the burger box. The “beef connoisseurs” workshop will be Saturday, September 26, 2015. Attendees will learn lots of tips and recipes and have a chance to ask true experts for advice.
Since not all of us can make it to the workshop, this post shares some inspiring recipes from a couple of my favourite cooks – Ede Rogrigues of Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue and Noorbanu Nimji of A Spicy Touch cookbooks. While Canadian cooks are still learning about using more affordable cuts of meat, industry chefs and other cultures have made it their practice to be frugal.
I love to cook with my Mom Gerri – the expert pie maker in our family. How about you? Who makes your favourite family recipe? – photo – Karen Anderson
Thanks to all the CBC Radio One listeners who called, emailed and tweeted to Alberta at Noon today to join the conversation on ways of Preserving Family Recipes. Here’s the podcast from the show. I’m on at the 24 minute mark.
I hope you’ll be inspired to record your own family’s recipes while you’ve still got a mentor to share them with you. Or – maybe it’s up to you to share your own recipes with the future generations of your family. Preserving family recipes is an important way to preserve our heritage.
Besides, cooking with a great recipe comes with a built-in reward – great food to help us savour it all.