The Prairie Messenger Review - Prairie Feast

Reviewed by: Peggy Durant

Anyone who remembers eating a delicious free-range chicken dinner likely longs to eat another one. It is possible to repeat that fare.

Amy Jo Ehman, food columnist for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Prairies North magazine and CBC commentator, is the author of Prairie Feast: A writer's journey home for dinner. Her book came about from a year-long pledge she and her husband made to eat locally. With humorous anecdotes, sound research and mouth-watering recipes, Ehman offers a feast on many levels. 

She was able to find farmers who raise free-range poultry, and she found beef from a farmre near Meecham who lets his cattle free range on grass. Ehman tells her readers that the fuel energy used in the production of beef to the stores produces three times more green house gases than the production of fish, grain, fruit and vegetables combined. An alternative is to buy beef from organic farmers who raise free-range cattle as opposed to cattle that are finished in feedlots where they are injected with growth hormones.

People who don't drive or who are not able to grow a garden can buy locally grown food at farmers' markets across the prairies. When the farmer who sold organically grown lentils and split peas at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market stopped coming to the market, Ehman phoned him and he mailed her a supply.

Ehman discovered that sour cherry sauce is a popular food item at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. It was what prompted Ehman to drive to the Cherry Festival in Bruno, Sask., held on the grounds of the former Ursuline Convent. While there, Ehman learned where she could pick sour cherries rich in vitamin C. 

Ehman also searched for "u-pick" raspberries, strawberries and apples to can and freeze. Almost everything she and her husband ate, including some spices, had to be obtained from local producers. It was interesting to learn that Elrose, Sask., is the spice capital of Canada. Gary Schweitzer, an Elrose farmer, began growing spices as a means to continue farming. The spices grown in large quantities include coriander, cumin, caraway and mustard. He now markets 24 spice crops on behalf of 150 farmers to a global market.

Zucchini plays a big part in Ehman's plan to eat locally. She grows them, beginning the harvesting season picking the tiniest zucchini with flowers on them. She stuffs the flowers with herbs and cheese, rolls them gently in a batter and fries them until crispy and golden. Anyone who wants to grow zucchinis takes kindly to Ehman's warning to limit the number of plants unless you want to feed an army.

In this delightful book, Ehman shares her stories of travel to different parts of Saskatchewan as she looks for organically grown food. The book also offers a feast for the eyes with its colourful photos and tasty recipes.

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