Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New Brunswick Food

When we came to Fredericton, we discovered some wonderful bargains in food. One was butter. The dairy industry had persuaded the government to enact a bill that protected butter so that it was just as cheap as margarine. What is more, it was delicious butter. Butter now is more expensive than margarine, but after years of real butter, I can never go back to margarine. A brand of Sussex NB butter has consistently been named the best butter in the world in international competitions.

Another bargain was smoked salmon, in the US an unaffordable luxury. I concocted a dish which I fed to every American visitor. It was really just a cream sauce with smoked salmon, modeled on creamed finnan haddie, a dish my father loved. I found out that there were two kinds of smoked salmon. Cold smoked salmon is like lox, smooth, sliced thin, put on bagels, or crackers with cream cheese. Hot smoked salmon is more like cooked salmon, thick. I used the hot smoked salmon, served with boiled potatoes. It is one of my favorite dishes.

I discovered fiddleheads, available in May and June, picked along streams and rivers. They are the unopened fern buds of the fiddlehead fern, shaped like the head of a fiddle. Boil them; serve them with butter, or butter and lemon juice, or hollandaise sauce. When we would go to visit my parents after university got out, we would take my father a big bag of fiddleheads.

We discovered the Saturday farmer’s market. Mr. Merrithew had delicious liver. The liver was so good that people lined up at his stall as soon as the market opened. Eventually, getting Mr. Merrithew’s liver involved the strategy the three pigs used, getting up earlier and earlier to beat the wolf, until finally people would drive out to Keswick to his butcher shop Friday evening. He was a tall man with the largest hands I have ever seen.

Twenty years after we arrived, the Patels began to sell samosas at the market. Since I first tasted Mrs. Patel’s samosas, I have had those of many other cooks, but none ever compare. The Patels are now threatening to shut down their operation because others at the market complain that their long lines interfere with other businesses. Unbelievable.

For a number of years Bill had a garden plot in a community field presided over by Dr. Dorothy Farmer. From that plot we had tiny new potatoes: the essence of potato.

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