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Cooking Essays

Prairie Feast

a writer's journey home for dinner

by (author) Amy Jo Ehman

Coteau Books
Initial publish date
Jan 2010
Essays, Natural Foods, Marriage & Family
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2010
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2010
    List Price

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A year of eating locally results in a gastronomical journey through prairie food festivals, local food traditions and the infamous community dinners. A humorous, light-hearted chronicle of the writer’s love affair with good food, prairie traditions and flavours from her childhood with recipes peppered throughout.

Fueled by nostalgia and her taste buds, she set out to rediscover the flavours of her childhood – the flavours of natural, local, farm-fresh prairie food. When she vowed to serve only locally produced food at her own dinner table for one year, the pursuit took on a life of its own.

Beautiful photographs enhance Amy Jo’s mouth-watering menus, recipes and her adventures in the pursuit of home grown prairie food.

It is not about miles, but a way of life. It is our community, our history and an opportunity to find ourselves in the food we eat. Prairie Feast is a love story, a celebration of every good thing this bountiful land has to offer. It will inspire all conscious consumers to follow their taste buds home for dinner.

Go to the Prairie Feast page for event details and much more. Also, check out the author's blog.

About the author

Amy Jo is a freelance writer based in Saskatoon and is a regular contributor to CBC’s “Blue Sky” and Prairies North magazine. She also has a monthly column for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and has written for Harrowsmith Country Living. Her blog chronicled her “year of eating locally” and continues to showcase the local food scene.An accomplished speaker, Amy Jo is invited to local food festivals across the province to speak on the advantage of local eating.Amy Jo Ehman grew up in Craik, Saskatchewan surrounded by big gardens and vast fields of wheat. She left the farm for university, studying first at the University of Saskatchewan then completing a BA in Journalism at the University of Regina.

Amy Jo Ehman's profile page


  • Winner, Saskatchewan Book Awards, First Book Award
  • Winner, Book of the Year, Saskatchewan Book Awards

Editorial Reviews

As a Prairie girl, Amy Jo Ehman knew the moment would come. It would be the dead of winter, with not a cob of local corn, nor a tip of fledgling asparagus for inspiration, and she'd be staring down at a bag of lentils. Luckily, in a moment that would have made Laura Ingalls Wilder proud, there was that can of pears Ehman had put up months earlier. Soon, the pears became an elegant dessert, teamed with an entree of local pork loin in a (jarred) cherry sauce. Along with a wild rice pilaf, the result was a meal that reflected the summer's bounty, even in January. In her new book, 'Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner, Ehman chronicles the challenges of trying to live, for a year, on a diet of food grown or raised in Saskatchewan. No bananas. No avocados. That's not to say every single thing that went into her mouth came from local farms and ranches. Just almost everything. (Even salt, which is mined by Sifto near Unity from a 350-million-year-old, dried-up seabed.' It was extremely challenging and it took a lot of work, but I found a lot of joy in the work, so I never begrudged it,' says Ehman, a Saskatoon native. 'But I certainly wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't prepared.' Ehman is one of dozens of authors in town this week as part of LitFest: Edmonton's Nonfiction Festival, running until Sunday. She will read from her book on Friday evening, along with Edmonton food writers Julianna Mimande and Gabe Wong ('We Eat Together), and Brian Brett ('Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life).The reading will be followed by a four-course, fundraising meal called Savouries, being held at Kids in the Hall restaurant. Ehman's book is an excellent read, and not just because of its 'Little House on the Prairie ethos. More than a diary of what went into her mouth, the book shows Ehman's commitment to the people who created the food. Tracking them down was an experience she found as nourishing as the chanterelles, the wild blueberries and the trout she discovered along the way. Ehman travelled Saskatchewan far and wide, visiting country bread-baking contests and fowl suppers. Most of the 12 chapters describe those journeys, and each one comes with a few recipes that reflect the story.' The thing I value the most (about the experience) is the connection that I've made in the community between myself and the agricultural heartland of this country all around me,' she says. Born and raised on a farm, Ehman knew exactly what a chicken looked like when it was butchered, and understood the sweat necessary to collect enough saskatoons to bake a pie. But then she grew up, moved to the city, and year by year, she grew more distant from her most visceral memories. The way it felt to wipe down a warm egg with a wet cloth to get the straw and feathers off. The smell of foraged, wild mushrooms saut?ed in butter. When a friend on a small farm decided to raise his own pigs, Ehman asked him to raise one for her. Later, the taste of that pork reminded her that eating local food was worth the effort. Ehman began the Year of Eating Locally with a good-sized kitchen garden, potatoes galore from her farmer father, and easy access to the year-round Saskatoon Farmers Market, which not only sells well-preserved root vegetables, but also hothouse produce into the winter months. She grew and dried her own herbs and froze dozens of bags of Roma tomatoes from her backyard to plump up a winter's worth of soups and pasta sauces. It was easy to tuck own paper packages of locally raised meat into her freezer. And she sprouted greens at home for something fresh and crispy to use in wraps or salads. She worried that a longing for berries might lead her astray come winter, so she canned dozens of jars of cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons and cherries.' I swear we ate the berries almost every day,' she recalls. 'Dried, in muesli, in a smoothie - we even canned rhubarb and ate it with yogurt in the morning. 'Ehman isn't preachy about the experience. She and her husband, John Bertolini, don't have children, but friends said their children might die without peanut butter and white rice. Ehman acknowledges a local diet takes a great deal of time to execute. 'I didn't keep a budget, but I would say it wasn't more expensive if you're talking money, but it was way more expensive if you're talking time, and your time is money. There is very little takeout or processed food made with local ingredients.' On the other hand, she thinks it's much easier to eat a local diet, even on the Prairies, than it was five or 10 years ago. The proliferation of farmers markets and directories of local food make everything easier to source. Increasingly, people understand that eating local helps protect the environment and the regional economy. But for Ehman, it was always about the food.' If you love the food, you can go to the grocery store and get great food,' she says thoughtfully. 'But if you want food to connect to the place that you live and the people you know, and even the generations of your own family, that's where local food can take you.'

Edmonton Journal

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