It`s a special weekend in my `home and native land.“ And although I am far from the `far north,`I am taking time to celebrate Thanksgiving,
Canadian style. For those readers who were unaware, this annual celebration of the harvest takes place on the second weekend of October, and is not to be confused with the larger festivities of the same name that our American friends celebrate on the last Thursday of November. In Canada, the primary purpose of this holiday is as it says, to `give thanks“, in both sacred and secular ways. Thanksgiving was proclaimed an official holiday in 1957, but has actually been celebrated since the time when European explorers traversed the northern terrain in the 16th century. It`s a weekend when families gather together and eat a huge meal (or more) in anticipation of the dark winter days ahead. The harvest is now in and it`s time to savour it.
While I think of my brothers and their families in Ontario, my aunt and cousins in Nova Scotia and other friends scattered across Canada, I will be with them in spirit as I dine on a divine Thanksgiving feast that I have prepared at my home in Dominica. I also feel that it is timely to personally express gratitude for all the good things that life has to offer me on the Nature Island, and to thank all the people in Dominica who have helped me in various ways, both personally and professionally. I am also thankful for opportunities that I have had here that I perhaps would not have had in Canada. My life is that much richer due to the fascinating people I`ve met and the adventures I`ve had on the Nature Island, many of which are documented in this blog!
As I write this piece, Tropical Storm Gonzalo is in the area, but the sombre weather does not deter my excitement about the home-cooked meal that awaits me. Of course, in Dominica, with its rich volcanic soil and temperate climate, the harvest is endless! Part of the fun is the enjoyment of different types of produce in different seasons. For example, in the rainy season (now) avocados are found in abundance. However, free range eggs are harder to find because the hens prefer a little drier ground for their laying endeavors. Suffice to say that it would be extremely difficult to starve on Dominica!
An added perk, which is a bonus to me due to numerous food sensitivities, is the establishment of a “health food“ store on Great George Street in Roseau. It`s called Fresh Vitamins and apart from stocking a variety of supplements, they sell gluten-free flours and dairy-free products, among other healthful items. This year, I baked my pumpkin pie with gluten-free flour (a mixture) and rice flour. The pastry turned out well, although the consistency is a little denser than with regular flour. I substituted almond milk for dairy. I really like the flavour! But I do confess to using Libby`s pure canned pumpkin. The local variety of this gourd is lovely and sweet, but I find its texture is stringier than northern varieties and can be too wet to bake well. Yes, I have tried it before!
When I shopped for produce at the Saturday Roseau Market, I was delighted with the abundant finds. My first stop was the stall of Roots Farm, where I found a selection of greens, as well as buttery lima beans, the best bananas and the uncommon fruit called mangosteen, a treat from organic farmers Karen and Roy. They are very serious about their sustainable farming practises and I always enjoy their nutritious offerings to the max. You can read about their successful venture here. Then I purchased other local fruits and vegetables from trusted vendors who offer the freshest produce at the best price. I always appreciate tangy watercress from the river banks in the island`s interior, and I like to sample different `provisions,` that is, starchy root vegetables. For my T-Day (Thanksgiving) dinner, I chose very sweet sweet potatoes. I also found some young beets, which are not so common on the tables. I also picked up a package of hibiscus flower sepals, to make a spicy red drink called sorrel, with fresh ginger, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon sticks. This particular ` red flower`seems early this year. Perhaps humid rainy weather is too its liking!
I was lucky to buy the last locally grown chicken in the cooler at the Whitchurch IGA grocery store in Roseau a few days ago. They are small and tasty, even more so (I think) because I stuff them with herbs and coat them with a little olive oil, lemon and salt. I wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and roast them while the chicken cooks. The lima beans, carrots and arugula are steamed lightly.
It may not be a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, but it`s a Dominican feast, for sure!
Before I `break bread“ and partake of my delectable meal, I once again give thanks for the goodness that grows so easily on the Nature Island and for the numerous opportunities I have had to grow as a person here. `We are indeed blessed,`to use a local common expression.
As for the calories sustained, an abundance of walks and hikes are planned for the near future. You`ll read about them soon.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, wherever you live on the planet!