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.
For Alessandro Porcelli, Cook it Raw’s four principles are a lifestyle. He lives according to the principles of respect for tradition, sharing through collaboration and creativity and making sure that life is sustainable. His reason for orchestrating Cook it Raw mentorship experiences all over the world is to inspire humanity to respect the soil of our lands, the people we live and work with and the produce the earth provides for us. He asks himself every day, What can I do to make things better?
A few years ago I watched a great TEDTalk about the difference between people who complain and people who contribute. The expert had determined that complaining and being critical is no longer a sign of intelligence. It is now, in this point of human evolution, nothing more than a reflex. He put forth the idea that in our world, intelligence is measured by the contributions we make in our lifetime.
I think Alessandro is empowered to contribute and create daily. I asked him for an idea for something anyone of us can do. He suggested that a powerful way to gain empathy for the soil, people and produce of your locale is to grow something. Get your hands in the dirt. Connect with how long it takes to grow something and then connect with how good that food tastes.
I asked Fraser Abbott of The Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance HOW he thinks Alberta will be affected by this experience of having Cook it Raw and he told me that he thought we would have, “a better understanding of all the underpinnings of Alberta’s food scene and that there would (at last) be an increased spotlight on Aboriginal voices, traditions and food heritage”.
Food travel has become one of the pillars upholding the tourism industry. Cook it Raw leaves a legacy of content and imagery to inspire people to come and experience the land, people and food products we have to share with the world. We do have a unique cultural identity, astoundingly beautiful land, people with traditions to honour and respect and soil that is young and vibrant and able to give us incredibly delicious products.
The aboriginal voice often goes missing in our society. Here’s the voice of narrator Eric Daniels talking about Cook it Raw and the aboriginal philosophy of our human need for connection to land and her people and of the need to look at Alberta’s produce as gifts from the abundance of nature.
We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We have a lot to help us savour it all.
“Kindness tapped them on the shoulder and blew love into their hearts”. This is what our aboriginal people feel the chefs at #rawAlberta will take home. This is what we can all take home if we slow down enough to allow respect for all that this land has to give.
Here are a couple of easy recipes to help you enjoy and be thankful for this great Alberta life we live.
Boxwood Cafe’s Red Lentil Hummus
Legumes are another great Alberta crop and canola is prominently featured in this quick and easy take on traditional hummus. Use an assortment of freshly cut vegetables or pita chips to dip into this creamy hummus and savour it as a snack or appetizer.
1 cup red lentils
1½ cups cold water plus water for washing the lentils
2 smashed and peeled cloves of garlic
½ tomato, diced
1 teaspoon freshly ground, toasted cumin seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground, toasted coriander seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ cup of organic canola oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
Rinse the lentils under cold water and sift through the debris.
Place the lentils in a pot with the 1½ cups water, garlic and tomato.
Simmer until cooked and lighter in colour – about 20 minutes or once the lentils have absorbed all the water and are quite dry.
Remove from the heat and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor, add the cumin, coriander, paprika, canola oil and lemon and pulse until smooth and combined.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy with a drizzle of canola oil or splash of lemon.
Wapiti Ways Irish Elk Stew Recipe
This recipe comes from Craig Armstrong, owner of Wapiti Ways Elk Ranch. The photo above is Wapiti Ways Elk Pie.
2 lbs elk stew meat, washed and dried with a paper towel
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 stalk of celery
1 clove of garlic, mashed and diced
2 potatoes, cut in quarters
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon sage
2 bay leaves
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 can of Guinness
Heat the oil in a large pan and sear the meat – browning it on all sides.
Remove the meat, add in the onion and celery and cook and stir them until they are soft and translucent.
Add the thyme, sage and bay leaves.
Return the meat to the pan, add 1 can of Guinness beer and let the meat simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until meat is tender.
I don’t have a recipe for these amazing doughnuts with Saskatoon berries that I snarfed down after a completely exhilarating hike on Tent Ridge at Mount Engadine Lodge last summer but I but I do have a Canadian Living video with a great recipe for Bannock that I think would be very tasty with a Saskatoon berry sauce and whipped cream topping.