Disconnect, learn to say no. Don’t buy on credit. Ask yourself: “Do I really need it?”
Maynard van der Galien
One of the good things about winter and cold days and nights, is enjoying some of the favourite traditional foods we grew up with and trying new ones. Many of the popular foods we eat on occasions began as peasant food — food our ancestors lived on.
A few years ago, while in northern Quebec, a group of us outdoorsy folks enjoyed a dinner that consisted of wild game meat. It was different and certainly not for everyone’s taste buds. The bear balls were not what I thought they’d be. It was ground-up bear meat mixed with hamburger and was still rather strong tasting. I also tried small portions of caribou, venison, moose and fish. Caribou was my favourite. I also had caribou or reindeer when up in Finland some years ago.
When traveling up to James Bay in northern Ontario, I ate bannock and bacon cooked over an outdoor fire. Bannock is a simple bread that was once a key staple in the diets of Canada’s Aboriginal people.
Most people have eaten poutine at fairs and other events. Few Canadian dishes are as world-renowned as poutine. Crispy fries, squeaky cheese curds and rich gravy all combine to create this French Canadian food that will really fill you up.
I was at a Robbie Burns Day Scottish dinner and had haggis for the first time. It was a very delicious dish and I went for seconds. Haggis, Scotland’s national dish, began as a peasant food. Folks back then couldn’t afford to let any part of the sheep go to waste, so they made a hearty meal by boiling scraps of heart, liver, and lungs in stomach lining. It’s somewhat similar to making headcheese from a pig’s head.
Sauerkraut, bratwurst and schnitzels are popular German foods and if you’ve been to an Oktoberfest celebration, you’re sure to enjoy these foods, the beer, and the entertainment — and ahhh, the polka music.
Pierogi or perogies was considered peasant food in eastern European countries (Poland, Ukraine, Russia) going back to the 17th century. Made of unleavened dough, usually shaped in a semi-circle, most commonly filled with mashed potatoes, it is popular now and served at many festivals, playing an important role as a cultural dish. I’ve eaten them.
I’ve eaten Indonesian dishes in Amsterdam that were very hot and spicy and mild dishes such as the popular Nasi Goreng (fried rice).
If your family came to this country from The Netherlands, you’ll remember the Dutch foods that the immigrants ate. The old favourites like Stamppot are still eaten by the Dutch Canadians. Stamppot, which is boiled potatoes mashed with vegetables and served with a meat or sausage, comes in a number of varieties such as:
Hutspot, made with potatoes, carrots, and onions served with meats like rookworst (smoked sausage), slow-cooked meat, or bacon.
Andijviestamppot, raw endive mashed with hot potatoes, served with diced fried spek (a kind of bacon).
Zuurkoolstamppot, sauerkraut mashed with potatoes. Served with fried bacon or a sausage. My favourite.
Boerenkoolstamppot, curly kale mixed with potatoes and rookworst sausage. It is one of the oldest and most popular Dutch dishes.
Boerenkool (farmer’s kale) was mentioned in cookbooks going back centuries. Mashed potatoes were not used in this dish yet, although the sausage was already served with the cabbage in this dish. Boerenkool is high in carbohydrates, which makes it a popular meal for cold winter days.
Snert (pea soup) is a very thick pea soup that is traditionally eaten during the winter. Snert has a very thick consistency and often includes pieces of pork (pork hocks) and rookworst and is almost a stew rather than a soup. The thick consistency of the Dutch pea soup is often described as that “…you should be able to stand a spoon upright in a good pea soup.”
Gehaktballen (big meatballs) are usually made of half pork, half beef and are a big favourite with folks any time of the year.
My father used to make headcheese when we butchered a pig. It was the best headcheese I have ever had.
Herring has been a staple food source for centuries. There are numerous ways the fish is served and many regional recipes: eaten raw, fermented, pickled, or cured by other techniques.
Herring is part of Scandinavian, Nordic, Dutch, German, Polish, Baltic, Eastern Slavic and Jewish cuisine. I have eaten herring in many of the European and Baltic countries that I’ve visited over the years. It’s a favourite.
Isn’t it wonderful being able to eat all the great traditional foods from places you’ve visited?
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and a newspaper columnist for the past 35 years.