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Edible Nonfiction: Today's pick

Don't You Like Our Food? by Jorlene Thiessen

The bowl makes a complete circuit, no takers this time around. "What's wrong? Don't you like our food?" It's a standing joke in our family now, but it originated with my grandparents, who took it personally when someone dared to refuse a third helping of their hearty Mennonite food.

Much of the time spent on my grandparents' acreage during our annual summer visits when I was a child revolved around the preparation and consumption of food. Grandpa tended the large garden and orchard, protecting his ripening crop from opportunistic birds with his shotgun. Grandma spent her time almost exclusively in the kitchen, cooking, baking and canning. I played a small role in this alimentary production, occasionally shelling a 5-gallon bucket of peas when I wasn't plundering the raspberries.

At supper, the table was spread with the fruit of that days' labours: a pot of schaubel zup (green bean soup) and a mound of zwieback (two-part buns made with potato water). The top portion of the bun, about the size of a Timbit, pulled away from the bottom, leaving a divot suitable for holding a dollop of strawberry-rhubarb jam. Dessert might be pluma moos, cold fruit soup made from dried apples and apricots, prunes and raisins. Or maybe rollkuchen, pillowy morsels of deep-fried dough, the perfect accompaniment to juicy slices of watermelon. Just ask my sister, who ended up in the fetal position on the back seat of Grandpa's car after overindulging at a picnic.

Months later, in the early evening darkness of a northern Alberta winter, I'd be dispatched to the basement cellar at suppertime to retrieve dessert. I'd select one of the quart jars of Grandma's canned cherries or peaches we'd brought back with us, disappointed there was only enough for one helping each.

Jorlene Thiessen is from Cochrane, AB

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