From Vanessa Currie, of Guelph Ontario.
During recent upgrades to my kitchen, I had to take down the wooden wine crates that serve as bookshelves for my cookbooks. It gave me a chance to revisit some of my old books, and consider their contributions to my daily menu. One of my old favourites is Vikki Gabereau’s “Cooking Without Looking”. It was a collection of the recipe contest winners submitted to her CBC radio show during the 1990s. Maybe it’s because I remember hearing their stories at the time or because I had young children and was always looking for interesting things to cook, but that cookbook really worked for me. It had a good mix of exotic flavours along with tried and true family favourites. It was real Canadian cooking.
When I opened it again this summer, one recipe really stood out. Al Zahawiq-Yemeni Hot Sauce. I had even written a few notes on the page. “Excellent!” and “Use less water”. Use less water, maybe, but my mouth was watering just thinking about it. My mouth remembered! It had been so alluring at the time. Now our kitchens have become so enriched with flavours from other countries, I didn’t even need to source out exotic ingredients. I just looked forward to making it on the weekend. Again, the CBC is involved, because I love to listen to it while I am in my kitchen. How apt that the news reports were filled with stories of revolt and uprising throughout the Middle East. I might name my sauce Flames of Rebellion, or Hot Arab Spring.
Over the ensuing weeks I made the sauce several times. I followed the recipe to the degree that I follow any recipe. It was still delicious. It was fresh, smooth and gave a warm belly heat. We ate the whole bowl with some pitas. I knew was on to something, but it wanted to tweak it a bit more, just to make it mine.
So what do I have to do to put my stamp on a recipe? You know where this is going. I add potatoes. All summer long, while I have been pureeing, chopping and slurping back this spicy sauce, Ontario potatoes have been doing their thing, growing leaves, blooming flowers, and building tubers. This means that there will be a fresh crop of new Ontario potatoes ready to jump into my sauce on Food Day Canada. Maybe I will change the name to Hot Canadian Summer.