I grew up hating baked carrots. The only kind I had ever eaten were super sweet, sickly, maple glazed carrots, baked until they were completely mushy. I can’t tell you how much I disliked those. Because of that, for a long time, any time anyone mentioned baked or roasted carrots I immediately explained that they were one of the few things that I didn’t like. Somehow though, I have been introduced to the real glory of roasted spiced carrots. Most of the time, they snuck onto my plate as a side dish at a restaurant (and I am more opposed to leaving food on my plate than eating some less than tasty vegetables). It’s also funny how much your tastes can change as you get older. Sometimes the version you had as a child is not a very good representation of what the dish could be and sometimes your taste buds just evolve (olives!). Either way, I try to remind myself to stay open to things that I think I hate, just in case something changes. The other night, I was reminded of the change in my opinion of roasted carrots when I went out to a spanish tapas restaurant and I had delicious roasted spiced carrots: perfectly spiced, ‘al dente’ and slathered in a flavourful sauce.
Sometimes I feel like I forget about the most obvious meals. The other day I thought of chili, and I am pretty sure that it has just never occurred to me to make it before (maybe I’m forgetting? It almost feels impossible that this was my first time making it). Either way, it’s not something that I normally think of and the other night, it kind of just occurred to me: vegan chili would be a great one pot meal! I totally committed to it (i.e. my boyfriend who can be pretty picky with dinners approved) and then I realized I had no beans. Luckily, I was able to run to the corner store which is pretty well-stocked with canned goods, grabbed some beans and corn (which is such a nostalgic part of chili for me) and I was all set! It’s pretty amazing that a bunch of beans, some basic vegetables, and a few dried chiles and spices can make something so hearty and delicious.
I’ve been trying to be more conscious of eating locally lately. I’ve been frequenting my local, organic market more and more recently. Not only does the produce taste better but I like knowing where it comes from and supporting more small-scale producers. Even though I was always aware of the produce available (and not available) according to the different seasons, it becomes so much more obvious when the large majority of the food isn’t being imported from elsewhere. It is such a shift from summer into more truly wintery produce. Needless to say, there is a lot of squash, parsnips, and potatoes around. It always takes my brain some time to re-adjust and think about the things I normally make with these ever present winter vegetables that I largely ignore over the summer months. One of the biggest problems I have, especially with squash, is that they are so big. Just one squash is way more than we ever need for any meal and unless I want endless leftovers, I have to think of multiple dishes to make with the same ingredient. While my go-to is usually soup, a couple of weeks ago, I used some acorn squash to make a delicious quinoa salad. So, when I saw a half of a squash being sold at my local market, I wasn’t only thrilled that I wouldn’t have to eat an entire squash by myself but I also knew what I was going to do with it right away. I could picture what a beautiful side dish, or even meal, a quinoa stuffed acorn squash would make, especially at this time of year.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to Montreal to attend a conference. Of course, on top of all of the work, I was busy seeing my friends and family. It’s always a whirlwind when I go back. Part of me feels like Montreal is still home but at the same time, I don’t feel connected to the city. I don’t have places that I always go visit or restaurants that I love. I never really feel like I know what’s going on, the landscape of the city changes so much, so quickly. So, when I go out with my friends, I rely on them to choose where we will eat, drink and relax. One night, my friend pulled together some suggestions for dinner, I chose one that sounded good, and we headed off to have a nice meal. We had both never been to this particular restaurant before. The food looked great but when we sat down and saw the prices we walked straight out. After a couple more interesting choices, which involved hastily drinking a margherita and walking out of a second restaurant, we finally landed on a winner.