M is for the Maritimes

For this week’s stop on our alphabetical trip around the world we explored an area that hold’s a special place in our family’s heart; the Maritime region of Canada. My husband spent the first decade of his life living in Nova Scotia and used to return almost every summer to visit his grandparents in the Annapolis Valley. Shortly after we got married we both travelled there to visit family and see where he grew up and it was very special to me to be able to see the area from a local perspective. Someday soon I look forward to visiting Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces with my kids to show them that part of their father’s personal history.

With a lot of pre-Christmas activity going on we kept the craft simple, making lighthouses with cups and battery powered tealights. I told the kids about the role of lighthouses in the past and for the first time my kids actually noticed the lighthouse in the Peter Lik photograph of Peggy’s Cove we have hanging in our living room. Which is a little strange since the picture takes up an entire wall in the main room of the house they’ve lived in their entire lives, but who knows why kids notice one thing and not another.

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(This is the eight by three foot picture on our living room wall that our kids apparently never noticed!)

I found a playlist of Cape Breton music and we also read a book that I got my husband shortly after our daughter was born. I also found a similar book about Prince Edward Island at the library and we watched a Canadian Geographic Kids episode about Lunenburg, It was a bit too old for them, but I did get to show them that the Bluenose ship from the show was the same one as the ship on the dime. 

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For our Maritime meal I had hoped that I could use my husband’s memories to create an authentic Nova Scotia dinner. However, one thing I had forgotten is that my husband’s memory is very good, but it’s a little selective. Here’s a summary of a few food related conversations.

Me: So what are some memories of the kinds of foods they had in Nova Scotia when you were a kid?

Him: Well, they used to have these things called Strawberry Suppers that the churches put on. There was one almost every Saturday night all summer. The seniors all loved it and would talk about them and compare the different churches. You bought tickets and then waited until your ticket number was called, then go in to eat in bunches.

Me: So, what kinds of food would they serve at these Strawberry Suppers.

Him: Ummm…….. Strawberries? Other stuff, I guess. I don’t know, church lady food.

Me: Okay, did your mom cook any special things?

Him: She made Shake and Bake a lot.

Me: Was that a Nova Scotia thing?

Him: No, it was just easy.

Me: How about your grandmother?

Him: She used to cook something called Hodge Podge which was a real Nova Scotian dish made with vegetables in a creamy sauce.

Me: That’s great! Anything else?

Him: My grandmother once made an apple pie but forgot to core the apples and it was full of seeds and hard bits.

Me: Was that a Nova Scotia thing?

Him: No, I think she just forgot.

Me: Okay…….I think I’m going to go do some research now.

So, I decided to go with the Hodge Podge since it was the one dish he could remember. It’s usually a dish cooked in spring using the first new potatoes, small carrots, peas and beans. My husband told me that it was usually a meal on it’s own, but I felt that a Maritime meal wouldn’t be complete without some seafood. Lobster would be an obvious choice, especially since my husband had grown up close to the famous Hall’s Harbour where locals and tourists flock to eat freshly caught lobster, but despite this, or maybe because of it, he really doesn’t like lobster that much. I decided instead to serve a small side dish of pan seared scallops with the meal along with a green salad and a dressing made from a Taste of Nova Scotia website.

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On a bit of a side note, one conversation I remember having with my husband’s grandmother in Nova Scotia was about the role of lobster in the local diet. After a visit to Hall’s Harbour she told me that when she was a child, lobster was considered a nearly worthless byproduct of the fishing industry. She said that children would hide the fact that they had brought lobster sandwiches to school because it meant that their parent’s were too poor to afford bologna like the richer kids ate. Funny how tastes change.

It wasn’t too hard to choose a beverage, since one of my husband’s favourite beers has “The Pride of Nova Scotia” plastered right on the label. I had hoped to find some wine from the Annapolis Valley since I remember visiting a winery while we were there, but apparently BC liquor stores don’t really sell any Canadian wines made west of the Rockies. Oh well, beer it was.

And the verdict? As usual, my husband and I enjoyed the meal. My daughter ate a small plateful, but didn’t ask for more, and my son ate the bread I served as a side dish plus one carrot under protest. So much for him liking the potatoes and peas combination from Kenya week. Today he had the same foods in a different combination and wouldn’t touch them. Oh well, more for us.

For dessert, I made a recipe called blueberry grunt. It’s made by cooking a sauce with blueberries and sugar, then dropping spoonfuls of sweet dough into the sauce and cooking them like dumplings. It was really easy with the end result being like a sweet biscuit covered in blueberry sauce. We all liked it, especially after I decided to improve on the recipe I had by adding a generous portion of whipped cream. All except our little Mr. Picky, of course. 

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So that was our M is for the Maritimes week, which was really more like Nova Scotia week. But of course I couldn’t do that since I already have big plans for the letter N next week. See you then!            

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