Next to travel, food is my other great love, so its no surprise that my writing often turns to cooking, eating, and recipe-collecting.

Last week I was lucky enough to combine both in a quick jaunt over the border to Toronto. Ok, it wasn’t so quick. We spend 11 hours in the car, conveniently divided by a stopover in Pennsylvania.

But Toronto is a great city for people who like to eat. Our first night there, we went to Little Italy and gorged on homemade pancetta, pasta, osso bucco, and red wine. After that, we had to stop into one of the neighborhood’s numerous gelato shops for dessert. The next morning, we were off to the St. Lawrence Market for a famous peameal bacon sandwich and hot coffee. Delicious! Thus fortified, we set off for the Toronto Islands and spent a lovely afternoon nattering around on bicycles, soaking up sunlight along the shores of Lake Ontario, and finding quaint little cafes for lunch. Come dinnertime, we were back at the market buying up sweet corn, fresh asparagus, basmati rice, a few bottles of a local vintage, and $5 bacon-wrapped filet mignon (Seriously? Canada, I love you.) We then cooked up our feast surreptitiously on my friend Lori’s grill. Lori, if you noticed anything amiss, that was us.

Idyllic, n’est pas?

Back home on the ranch, we’ve been taking a far more pragmatic approach to food. We’re eating what has been raised, caught, or foraging either by ourselves, or someone we know. Case in point: one of the backyard chickens that had been “harvested” was transformed into a pot of adobo con pollo. It has been the most successful preparation of a backyard chicken so far. It actually tasted like chicken, and overall was pleasant enough that we could stomach leftovers the next day. But these birds, even at the tender age of 5 months, are chewier than a bran muffin composed of wood fibers.

Next up was some halibut, caught in Alaska by relatives and shipped to us in dry ice. I’ve never cooked halibut before, but thanks to this recipe, we grilled those filets up and had a blast messing around with the accompanying herbal pistou. I didn’t even bother with the walnut butter. Anything that requires fennel pollen is just a little too precious for this gal.

Finally, the foraging. Just like Willoughby and his wildflowers in Sense and Sensibility, I acquired some blackberries from an obliging field.* These were duly baked into a cake, which will be consumed momentarily.

There is something very satisfying about food that is acquired through effort, and not just dollars spent at a grocery store. If I’m honest with myself, my efforts at this point don’t amount to much more than dilettantism.  But my curiosity has been piqued. A subscription to Organic Farming may not be far off in the future.

* The neighbor’s yard. But they weren’t using them.

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