Prairie Books Now Interview - Prairie Feast

Good Eatin': Book tempts taste buds with Saskatchewan fare
Reviewed by: Linda Alberta

Saskatoon writer Amy Jo Ehman believes in starting small before building big - and the publication of her first book, Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner, is a testament to that philosophy.

From a 2005 food blog, to a food newspaper column, to a series of CBC Radio food broadcasts - Ehman decided that adding a food book to this flavourful mix would accelerate her freelance world to the next level. To navigate that step, she applied for a writer's grant through the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

"I was happy with the nwspaper column, but I felt like there was something more," explains Ehman. "Basically you start something, you work on it, and you build on it. Being a freelancer allows a person to pursue their passions, and of course my book was in that category.

Receiving the grant was a surprise go-ahead and an ah-ha moment. It was such a positive affirmation, and it confirmed that the subject matter was interest."

Prairie Feast is a bright, five-star salute to all things Saskatchewan. Chronicling local pickle making, down-home recipes, berry picking adventures, and road trips to Saskatchewan food festivals, this book blends a variety of disparate food subjects into one wholesome volume. Capping the friendly narrative is Ehman's decision to eat only local food for one year.

"Yes, it was a challenge to see if I could eat locally for one year, and then it was a challenge to see if I could write the book," said Ehman. "For my year of eating locally, I had three rules. One: it's only in my own home; I won't impose it on others, The second: it wouldn't apply to beverages. The third was I could cheat every now and then. This was a celebration, not a sacrifice. So, one of my cheats was lemons. For a nice vinaigrette, you need lemons in your life."

When it comes to local bounty, Ehman explains that Saskatchewan boasts "half the farmland in Canada." She adds that eating it, enjoying it, and writing about it is a great way to celebrate where you live. And you don't need big-box supermarkets to join the celebration.

"When people buy directly from a farmer, they can ask: How did you grow this food? How did you raise it? How did you produce it? These are the questions that empower consumers to make informed decisions that can't be made in grocery stores."

According to Ehman, if your local grocery store can't provide natural foods, there are other options.

"I have a connection with a fellow who lives near a forest, and he uses a bus to transport items. So I go to the bus depot and pick up baskets of mushrooms and fiddleheads. The farmer I buy lentils from uses Canada Post. It is a different way of shopping and it's not as convenient as going to a grocery store," she says. 

"But it's healthy. And fun!"

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