Anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes knows that I enjoy good food, and I don’t care what it is or where it’s from. Fortunately, I am married to a woman who shares my sense of culinary adventure and will try anything. Which is good, because as she’s traipsed around with me she’s had to eat things like iguana eggs, monkey, various glands and guts and some unfamiliar varieties of vegetation. To be fair, she’s also been able to enjoy Argentine and Uruguayan beef, fresh empanadas, homemade mole, and wonderful breads, soups, coffee, cheese and tropical fruits. When I mentioned to Donna that I’d like to include the occasional piece about food on my blog, her reply was, “Of course! Why am I not surprised?”
Until last fall we had never experienced Vietnamese cuisine, but on a blustery October day while we were house hunting here in Ottawa we decided to try a Vietnamese restaurant. We ordered soup–it was that kind of day–and I foolishly chose the large portion. This was not a bowl of soup. It was a caldron of soup. In fact, if it were powdered and boxed it would have to be called, “Tub-of-Soup”–I ate about a litre and a half. It was delicious, though, and we also enjoyed some iced Vietnamese coffee. Our server even came to our table and explained how to make it and where we could purchase the raw materials and machinery. If you’ve never had Vietnamese coffee (they got coffee from the French, I suppose) you’re missing a treat. It’s made with sweetened condensed milk. Need I say more?
Well, tonight Donna was not feeling well, so I walked across the street to a Chinese-Vietnamese take-out place and ordered a different style of soup, pho, and brought it home.
If you’ve never tried pho, you must. It’s composed of a special broth and whatever meat you wish. We got a pork-shrimp combination with one broth and rare beef with the other. In addition, we received a generous portion of noodles, fresh basil leaves, a three-alarm hot sauce and a fistful each of crunchy bean sprouts. It was hot, savoury and satisfying. We’ll be back.
Another recent discovery is red fife flour, which we found at our local Bulk Barn when the kids were with us last week. Anneke, our daughter, took some home and baked bread with it the other day. (Our kids were raised on their mom’s home-baked bread and Anneke and her sisters-in-law are all scratch cooks.) She raved about it, so yesterday Donna bought some herself and today she baked a magnificent artisan loaf with it. It was in the oven while we were having a meeting in the next room, and it was torture to smell it and not be able to carve off a thick, warm slice and drape it with cheese or slather it with jam.
Red fife wheat is a Canadian heritage variety which has recently been re-introduced and is being grown in various parts of this country. We were told by a friend that it’s available in SC as well, and can be ordered online. Perhaps it will become more available as time goes on. But if you’re a bread baker and can get the stuff, by all means–do it. If you can’t find it, come and see us! We’ll take you to the Bulk Barn and Donna might even bake you a loaf…