The Anita Stewart Memorial Food Lab
The kitchen plays a central role in the fabric of our food culture in Canada. From Newfoundland kitchen parties (aka Cèilidh) to a BC backyard BBQs, or around the campfire, no matter where you are from the maritimes to the Rockies the kitchen is a focal point for families and social gatherings.
I have many memories in the kitchen as you can imagine. As a foodie since I was young, I have often contemplated, “why can smell or taste trigger such a strong memory or feeling from the past?” Remembering times cooking with mom and grandma for me evokes feelings of warmth and togetherness, such great memories. Just the smell of strawberry jam or roast turkey stuffing with sage and rosemary brings me back to my childhood in the kitchen or around the dining room table with our family.
The sense of smell is strongest in triggering memories according to recent research from Harvard. But that same research builds on the idea that imprinted smells seem to be most resistant to memory loss. So in part, our minds are wired to remember smells more than any other sense and we are less likely to forget an experience if it is anchored by scent.
Our family kitchen was almost always filled with amazing aromas. Learning how to recreate or preserve these was always paramount for the cooks in our family. However, most times in our family kitchen was also time to be learning about family traditions and the recipes. Grandma had a huge collection of old recipe cards handed down from her mom with the occasional article cut out of a magazine or the daily newspaper. These recipe cards were meticulously organized with her hand written notes for improvements.
Those same recipe cards formed the idea behind one of mom’s books, “From Our Mothers’ Kitchen”, where she collated a collection of historical and traditional recipes from home cooks across Canada.
Collecting recipes preserved the knowledge and heritage of our traditions while honouring our family stories. That is exactly what Mom did for her first book, The Farmers’ Market Cookbook, co-authored with Jo Marie Powers. The pair travelled the back-roads and highways of Ontario talking to farmers at local markets about their peak harvest and their favourite recipes. Mom took her four boys on many of those trips helping along the way. She even took turns giving us the camera to try our hand at taking photos of vendors, farmers and their harvest bounty. What Mom and Jo Marie discovered was that our family tradition of recipe collections was not uncommon across many cooks from generations past. What better way to introduce cooks to new fresh quality ingredients than by cooking what’s at peak harvest and who better to know that than the people who grow it.
Platz aka “pie by the yard” is a perfect example. Mom was introduced to Platz by a vendor at the Windsor Farmers market. It is a versatile complement to the harvest of tender fruit and berries that are abundant from June through October. Apple, pears, apricots, peaches, plums, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb or any combination can be substituted to honour your harvest. It is great as a dessert with ice cream or in the morning with a cup of coffee. You can find the recipe here on Food Day Canada.
Fast forward three decades into Mom’s writing career and we arrive at Anita Stewart’s Canada. This recipe adapted for today, miso salmon, is so simple and delicious.
Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander get credits for this combination of Canadian ingredients with a nod to Japanese heritage. They cooked this dish for Mom with salmon my brother Mark caught on Salt Spring Island. My preference is BC salmon, preferably wild, line caught in a sustainable fishery which is so incredibly important to maintaining our coastal environment.
With a nod to our temperate climates in the south of Canada like Niagara, the BC lower mainland or the gulf islands, tree nuts are plentiful and expanding in availability. Northern pecans, heartnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts add richness and complexity to flavour while providing a good source of plant-based protein.
Miso and many other naturally fermented macrobiotic products are now made in Canada by artisan producers. Kudos to Shinmeido Miso on Denman Island which was the first miso Mom ever tried that was made in Canada. Traditional Miso, north of Toronto in Claremont is one of only a select few companies in Ontario that process miso. Fermented locally and made with soybean, brown rice, barley or chickpeas. It is excellent.
Miso Salmon with Roasted Hazelnuts
Yield: 4 portions
- ¼ cup (60 ml) miso
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) off-dry Riesling or similar
- 1 tsp (5 ml) canola oil
- 1 salmon filet (2 lb/1kg) boneless with skin on, cut into 4 portions.
- ½ tsp (2 ml) crushed black pepper
- ⅓ to ½ cup (75 to 125 ml) chopped roasted hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine miso and wine and spread it over top of the salmon. Sprinkle with pepper and hazelnuts. Heat a frying pan over high heat and add the oil. Place salmon skin side down in the pan and cook for medium-high heat for one minute. Transfer the pan to the over for 4-5 minutes or until opaque and beginning to flake. Carefully remove the salmon flesh from the skin. Serve immediately.
Serve with a nice wild rice pilaf and lentil salad with heaps of local greens for a great main course followed with platz for dessert.
As a Guelph alumni, my first university course in Applied Food Science was in the Macdonald Institute Food Lab. Shout out to my professors Valerie Allen and Jean Hume. What great memories at Guelph from times long ago. That same food lab has now undergone major renovations this year to become a state of the art cooking facility and culinary broadcast studio honouring mom. Food Day Canada looks forward to helping inspire the next generation of food leaders in Canada and beyond.
If there is one thing that sticks in my mind, make sure to take the time to show your children new skills and teach your traditions. If you’re lucky enough to still have parents and grandparents with you, take some time to cook and dine with them, learn your family traditions and continue their legacies. Mom always encouraged her sons (and daughter-in laws) to have fun in the kitchen, experiment, and of course, cook locally!
Food Day Canada is a national day to celebrate the bounty of our north. We encourage every Canadian to shop, cook, and dine locally. Always mark the Saturday of the civic holiday weekend. This year, July 31st, 2021.
Join the party at www.fooddaycanada.ca @fooddaycanada #fooddaycanada