Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home For Dinner
by Amy Jo Ehman

Coteau Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-550-50413-2.
Reviewed by Becky Lane
Posted on 11/11/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

Much has been written in recent years about what we should eat and why. Most articles approach the subject from a health, environmental, or sustainable point of view. In this book, however, Amy Jo Ehman takes a different approach. "Prairie Feast taps into a universal desire to find ourselves, our community and our history through the food we eat. It's not about miles or greenhouse gasses or 'doing the right thing' (although that is a bonus), but about rediscovering the roots of a daily ritual that nourishes us body, mind and soul." For Ehman, those roots were to be found on the prairies of Saskatchewan.

It all started with a pig. Though she was raised on a farm, where they grew vegetables, picked berries and raised chickens, by the time she had her own kitchen, Amy Jo Ehman was "as far removed from the source of my food as the next urban working gal sidling her grocery cart up to the till." When a friend decided to move to the country and raise a few pigs, Ehman and her husband laughingly told him to raise one for them while he was at it. That led to their epiphany over a pork chop. "From that day forward, I vowed to stock my freezer with meat from farmers who raise their animals in a smaller scale, where sunshine and grass are part of the program."

One bite led to another, and before long Ehman realized that they were buying much of their food from farmers and producers in their general vicinity. She then challenged her husband to "go all the way" with her, and spend an entire year eating locally. "I welcomed the personal touch of meeting the people who produce my food, commiserating over the weather or discussing the merits of this variety of tomato and that variety of corn. Best of all, I love the way it tastes. Eating is not a matter of choice, but eating well is."

So their adventure began. Her chapters cover quite a bit of territory. We travel through all the seasons of Saskatchewan's bounty, get a glimpse of what it was like to grow up on a prairie farm, learn some history about the area and how it developed, and then we are gifted with wonderful recipes for many of the foods that are rooted in its traditions.

I was drawn to this book, and to Ehman's journey of rediscovery, because my own family have been city folk for several generations now, and I've often bemoaned the fact that, not only did I not have a single recipe passed down to me "from the old country," I didn't even know what that old country was! It made me feel very unrooted, this lack of food traditions. Now I realize those roots have not disappeared. We have merely distanced ourselves from them, and I need only do a bit of digging if I wish to reconnect.

Amy Jo Ehman is a writer, speaker and forager with a taste for prairie foods. She is a food columnist for several publications, produced a documentary called "Our Daily Bread", and blogs. She and her husband live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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