This was the highlight of my summer! Vanja and I escaped the summer city heat and drove through the prairie grasses, south of Edmonton, breathing in the country air, enjoying the landscape. As we turned into this 10 acre specialty farm, I started to vibrate. This was a “real” farm, and I hadn’t set foot on one for too many years. The gravel path wound past theÂ tiny treeÂ shadedÂ stucco home, the run-down sheds, and the beautiful big red barn to the more modern quansit structure at the end of the road. We parked and stepped out to Mr. Billygoat Gruff’s haughty look of insult and invasion, and his counterpart’s inquisitiveness.Hello, sweetie!
Then wound back down the trail to meet Michael, the master chef of the day, roasting the most delectable Cornish game hens over the open fire. I AM IN! This is TOO exciting! Look at the caramelization on those birds… and then I see steam rising from a massive pot on a burner nearby.
VOILA! BABY CORN CHOWDER in fresh and lovinglyÂ rendered duck’s broth! (Michael, I am your new best friend. You are too much, Really.)
Oh my GOD! Camera! Action! Nose! Smell that! Oh my GOD!
The smells, the feeling, the rustic reality of this moment was quite overwhelming. I felt grounded, yet off the ground. Memories of my childhood at family farms flooded through me. How have I become so out of touch with thisÂ farm life that frames the foundation of my youth and drives almost everything I do? I am home.
I am standing on a farm in the Canadian Prairies literally feeling my roots dive deep, deep, deep into the soil. …and Michael is roasting chicken on the open fire, making soup in the open air “from scratch”. I am truly in heaven!
The food was prepared by Michael and a couple of chefs from Jack’s Grill.Â It was past spectacular. The produce was harvested, and prepared on the spot. it doesn’t get any better than that. Mary Ellen and Andreas were the warmest of hosts. They show cased their farm goods in the best possible light. Under the prairie sun, on the grass, in their yard. Plastic table cloths. Massive enamel metal bowls. A gigantic shaggy dog sniffing your plate with giantÂ amorous doe-eyes. This is casual Canadian at its very best. The Alberta Prairie experience. Sacred to those of us that don`t set foot on the land that sustains us often enough. Sharing food prepared by those with a fervour for the small farmer; with a commitment to sustain small farms; and within the spirit of the underlying whisper of this desperate necessity.
We visited, ate, and then toured the farm.
Visit Mary Ellen, Andreas, and their two daughters at the Downtown Farmer’s market: City Market, every Saturday morning from 9 am to 3 pm.Â It is a trip well worth making. Their lettuce and spinach greens are phenomenal and the best in the city. They carry specialty carrots and beets as well as duck eggs and the best duck breast “prosciutto” that I have ever eaten. (But I have to have it fried. It is like candy!) They also have guinea fowl in the early summer, goose, Cornish game hen, and several other specialty items that are well worth making the trip downtown for.