I’ve been missing Northern Canada a lot these days. The other day while walking home I saw a small illuminate cloud out of the corner of my eye and my brain immediately thought it was Norther Lights. Perhaps it’s the holiday season approaching, the ever present nag of missing my family is coming to head. But its also about the weather – this warm fall drags on too long, and I long for chillier mornings, cosier evenings, more layers and most of all – SNOW.
My first year at university I left Yellowknife for the most ‘temperate’ Montreal. The two winters were incomparable – and I found myself struggling in late November when the weather, while undeniably cold was grey was also dirty and there was no snow anywhere. By contrast, Yellowknife is clean and clear – with snow that settled in mid-October until early May. I was used to the clean frozen beauty of the North and wrote a lot of angsty piano songs in my residence’s basement piano room about it all in the way only an 18 year old can.
Today it was foggy and chilly in London and for the first time I felt a little tiny muscle inside of me that had been tensed up for months just relax. I operate differently when chilled, apparently.
Over time I got used to it, but nothing makes me happier than a good dowsing of snow. Than seeing all branches and individual pine needles coated in beautiful snowy frost. Facebook doesn’t help matters, with my friends going for sunny frozen walks and posting photos of all the beauty. I just want to hear my boots squeak in the snow. To walk across a lake where all you hear is your own breath, crunching boots and perhaps the distant drone of a snowmobile.
My last trip to Yellowknife was all about autumn foraging and hunting. We picked cranberries that we turned into sauce to be saved for Christmas dinner, Labrador tea, hunted wood grouse. I shot my first grouse – but left it to my brother to clean. Adora Svitak, a precocious 12 year old and published author defined the difference between children and grown-ups as ‘those who still get excited when they see snow’ and I couldn’t agree more. Living in London has at times made my heart sink when I saw these falling flakes but I’ve resolved to change that. I don’t care about traffic, flight delays, I just want it to snow.
So here is the food craving that is accompanying this longing for snow.
Home-Smoked Grouse Breast with Capers, Crème Fraiche and Onions
This is a really simple dish that simply aims to highlight the gamey flavours of the grouse. In Canada we don’t have formal starters at dinner parties, instead opting for plates of nibbles when people arrive and one large main course. This is a perfect snack plate – though it doesn’t last that long.
1 smoked grouse breast
1 red onion finely diced
100g capers, drained
150 mL crème fraiche/sour cream
½ box fine savoury biscuits or oatcakes
Finely slice the grouse breast, fan out and arrange on a tray. Lay out the onion next to it. In 2 small bowls put out the capers and crème fraiche with small serving spoons. Leave out with biscuits for guests to assemble themselves and munch over pre-dinner drinks while the snow melts out of their hair and their mittens dry over the radiators.