Canada 150, Saskatchewan

Continuing the journey across the country, here are some excerpts from “Queen of the West.”

It’s game five of the Stanley Cup final and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks are leading the Ottawa Senators 4-2. We’re flying into Regina and the captain has just announced that although the seat-back television sets are normally switched off when the plane drops below ten thousand feet, he’s leaving them on so that we can enjoy the end of the game. Enjoy? There are groans from tail to executive class as the Ducks go ahead 5-2. It’s over. No way back now…

It’s 6-2 when we touch down, and the chatter around us indicates that most of the passengers have given up on the game. Still, the talk is all hockey, especially the irony of the fact that most of the people on the plane are rooting for the guys from our distant capital, despite the fact that there are more Canadians playing for Anaheim, including a hometown Regina boy, than for the Sens…Over 425 NHL players have come from Saskatchewan, more per capita than any other province, state, or European country…

It was at Battle Creek in the Cypress Hills in 1873 that drunken American whiskey traders and wolf hunters massacred at least twenty Nakota Indians, including women and children, in a dispute over a stolen horse. The slaughter prompted the government of Sir John A. Macdonald to dispatch troops of the newly formed North-West Mounted Police to the region to secure law and order.Thus began the famous, arduous Great March West by the Red Coats as they constructed a string of garrisons, including Fort Walsh, in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, from which they could chase away the whiskey traders and horse thieves, and provide protection and support for new immigrants, refugees, and the hapless First Nations people, who were struggling to survive in the wake of the slaughter of their buffalo. From 1878 to 1883, Fort Walsh was the headquarters of the NWMP…it played an important part in ensuring that, in the opening up of the Canadian west, unlike in the United States, the police arrived before most of the settlers, firmly establishing from the outset the principles of peace, order, and good government, hallmarks of Canadian political culture…

Before heading to the Cypress Hills we visit the newly opened RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina. Designed by the renowned Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, this striking building has a sloping roof that waves like a field of wheat or barley, and walls that are largely made of glass–an ironic, although unintended, reflection of the fragility of the force today…

As we leave Regina to travel across the prairies by bus…Dot and I are glued to the windows throughout fascinated by the subtly changing character of the prairie, which sprawls to the horizon on either side of the road. Around Regina it’s flat as a pan of brownies cut into large squares, with lines of spring-green icing where the banks of tiny creeks knife across it. By the time we get to Moose Jaw the prairie is gently rolling, but the fields are still planted with grain. Shallow lakes to the south, with broad white beaches of salt, make me reach for my water bottle; it’s been a wet spring, but the menace of drought looks ever-present. Beyond Swift Current we move into cattle country; farms gradually yield to enormous ranches and homes are rarely visible. In some fields, lean young horses run with abandon in wide circles, their manes flowing behind them as if they’re long-haired hockey players warming up for a game. Clusters of cattle gather at shallow watering holes and under solitary trees. Oil wells pump rhythmically like earnest fitness fanatics working out on stationary bicycles. The sky is a mix of blue and, in the distance, grey and black, where thunderclouds, etched in gold, are gathering; it’s as if the elements are posing for a classic prairie painting.

Two young women at the front of the bus who didn’t know each other when they boarded are chatting incessantly, and we catch snatches of their conversation. It seems they work in Regina but prefer their hometown of Moose Jaw, where the pace is distinctly more placid. One of them is a close pal of the girlfriend of Ryan Getzlaf, who has just won a Stanley Cup ring playing for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. It’s clear that their whole life revolves around hockey and the team. Back to the provincial–and national–passion.

To read about all of Canada, you can purchase a copy of Roaming The Big Land: Flavours of Canada by going to: Personally autographed copies are also available by contacting the author at:


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Canada 150, Manitoba

On the long trek westward, some excerpts from “Manitoba On My Mind” are up next:

We stand in the covered porch of Dalnavert House (built for Hugh John Macdonald, only surviving son of Sir John A.), waiting for a torrential downpour to recede. It doesn’t, so we make a mad dash south in the direction of the Assiniboine River and the park on its banks where the 1920 beaux-arts Legislative Assembly sits in all its majesty. Rivulets of water are rushing down the sidewalks and across streets making puddles that stretch from curb to curb. The Assiniboine and the Red are once again overflowing their banks…Winnipeg is Cree for “muddy water.” Now we understand.

While we are looking up at the Legislative Asembly Building from the riverbank, the rain miraculously stops and the sun peeks out, bathing the 3,640-pound Golden Boy atop the dome in brilliant light. Our eyes shift to the ground in front of us–to the over-sized statue of a middle-aged man wearing a

a long coat, bow tie, and waistcoat…It is a statue of Louis Riel, the first of several such monuments we encounter throughout Winnipeg…While admiring this forceful image of one of Canada’s most famous and controversial figures, I think…about how passionate Manitobans (have) always been about their politics…When you gaze at the determined visage of Riel, mouth drawn tight, eyes narrow and penetrating, you are face to face with the very embodiment of this Manitoban passion. This is the face of a man who fought relentlessly to defend and promote the interests of his people…

Near the cathedral is the Saint Boniface Museum, the oldest building in Winnipeg. It was erected…for the Grey Nuns, the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, who arrived at the Red River in 1844 after a fifty-nine-day voyage by canoe. I spot a poem in a frame on the wall; it was written by John Greenleaf Whittier…

The voyageur smiles as he listens

To the sound that grows apace;

Well he knows the vespers ringing

Of the bells of St. Boniface…

Happy is he who heareth

The signal of his release

In the bells of the Holy City,

The chimes of eternal peace…

I strike out on my own to wander through St. Boniface…following the course of the Red, I pass through fields leading to Whittier Park, where there is a replica of Fort Gibraltar, built by the Northwest Company in 1810. I’m several hundred feet back from the river, because the forest along the bank is covered in a thick coating of mud that accumulated a short while ago, when the river was running even higher. The broad band of trees along the bank look like long, slender fingers digging into the icing on an undercooked chocolate cake…

I’m hurrying now, because I’m running late in getting to The Forks, the famous spot where the rivers meet…After the fort, the river bends sharply to the left, and there is a long, straight stretch running to the Esplanade Riel,

where an airy suspension bridge over the river provides a pedestrian crossing from the centre of St. Boniface to the Forks. I’m alternately walking and jogging to save time. But now swarms of mosquitoes attack me. They’re buzzing about my arms and ears like bucksaws cutting logs in the wilderness. I’m sweating profusely and I’m very thirsty. But then, at last, I hear a distant ringing, and it grows steadily louder and clearer. A smile lights my face. The bells of St. Boniface have signalled my release.

It’s at The Forks that we first encounter Winnipeg’s Aboriginal roots, for this has been the traditional meeting place of the First Nations for six thousand years…In the 1880s The Forks became a centre for the railways, and an industrial wasteland. Winnipeg residents had no access to it for a century. But in 1989 one of Canada’s most successful urban renewal projects was launched, reconnecting people with the waterfront, so that today this thirteen-acre parcel of land along the banks of the two rivers is once more Winnipeg’s principal gathering place…Some four million people per year visit The Forks, making it the city’s principal attraction. A Torontonian can only marvel at the speed and creativity with which the restoration was undertaken…

I am particularly taken by the Oodena Celebration Circle, in the heart of The Forks, the principal reminder of the Aboriginal origins of the area…the Oodena Celebration Circle is a stirring symbol of the spiritual strength of our Aboriginal heritage, and The Forks overall is a reminder of the First Nations’ pride of place in our early history. But the reality of Aboriginal life in Winnipeg today is much different…

Winnipeg has the highest proportion of Aboriginal people of any urban area in Canada…Large numbers have gravitated toward the city over the past two decades to escape the poverty of the reserves. But many have failed to find life in Winnipeg any better; perhaps it’s even worse given the discrimination they often face…

Another neighbourhood where First Nations congregate is Winnipeg’s North End, again a district where poverty is endemic. On Selkirk, we pas the tottering Merchants Hotel. It’s the “Pride of the North End,” the sign says. A door lies open to a room stacked full of empty beer bottles. Tough-looking young men dressed entirely in black are loitering at the corner, leaning against the hotel wall or squatting on the ground, eyeing us like hunters assessing unsuspecting game. Some shops on Selkirk are boarded up; others look like the last thing they expect is for someone to stop in and make a purchase.

At Pritchard and McGregor, we pass the Ukrainian Labour Temple, which was built at the end of the First World War…and has long served as a rallying centre for the trade union movement. It also has the distinction of having been raided by police during the famous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. On the facade is a carving of hands clasped, reaching across the globe, and the words, “Workers of the World Unite.” For many years Winnipeg North was the constituency of the distinguished and much respected NDP Member of Parliament, Stanley Knowles, at one time the longest-serving member of the House. How far Winnipeg and the rest of Canada are from the socialist Nirvana his party once sought!..

Can we build the perfect society, one that will shine as brightly as the aurora borealis, visible in Churchill, Manitoba, for over 240 days per year? Or is this notion just an ephemeral dream?

The recipes for this chapter are for Bison Burgers and Low-Fat Fries.

To cover Canada in full, please order a copy of Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada by going to: Autographed copies with personal messages are also available by contacting the author:

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Canada 150, Ontario

Given the physical and population size of Ontario, this post includes excerpts from two chapters of Roaming the Big Land, one focusing on the urban and the other the rural character of the province:

First an excerpt from the chapter, “Coming Home”:

Peter Ustinov once described Toronto as “New York City run by the Swiss.” If that was once an accurate description, it certainly isn’t today. The virtues we once shared with urban Switzerland are slipping, and the vices we have in common with (a vastly improved) New York are mounting. Nor are we now, like New York, a “world class” city–if we ever were. Indeed,I think most Torontonians have the uncomfortable feeling that in terms of global ranking we have been slipping for the past twenty years or more, that we haven’t kept up with the pace of urban improvement in Western Europe, parts of Asia, and even the United States. Gone are the empty boasts one used to hear regularly from Nathan Philips Square about Toronto’s elevated status in the pantheon of cities. In their place is an atmosphere of anxiety and doubt about the long-term health of the city.

Flying home not long ago from Vancouver, I was sitting next to an Alberta businessman who, over drinks, observed, “You know, I can always pick out the Torontonians on a flight. They always look so damn smug.”..Another Albertan writing a piece in The Globe and Mail…asserted “As a Calgarian, I suppose I’m wired to despise Toronto…No amount of discovery on past visits has softened my instinctive animosity.” This hostile attitude seems to be widely shared, not only in the West but in other parts of Canada, even in areas of Ontario that are on the periphery. It is a product, I suppose, of the intense regionalism that has always characterized our country, but it is misplaced and unfortunate…

In Europe, people take pride in their principal cities, recognize that they have unique attributes that only a few urban areas in any country can possibly attain, and view these assets as important for all the country, not just the cities’ residents. It follows that, generally speaking, Europeans have a more generous attitude than Canadians toward the expenditure of public funds on the facilities of their largest cities, which is why most of them are flourishing while Toronto languishes. You cannot ask a city, as Canadians do of Toronto, to absorb forty per cent of the immigrants arriving in the country and to assume responsibility for an expanding range of services, and then starve it of the financial resources necessary to fulfill its obligations. Metropolitan centres such as Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver need the support of people and governments at all levels to make them work and prosper the way their counterparts do in other countries.

The recipe for this chapter is for “Pete’s Marmalade,” an 1853 Ontario recipe.

Now a piece from “After the Last Portage” about canoe-tripping in Georgian Bay and Killarney Provincial Park.

We launch our canoes into the Chikanishing River and paddle out onto the open Bay outside the boundaries of the park. First, we head north in the direction of the town of Killarney and camp on one of the humpback islands of polished granite and pine. Then we turn south for a trip up narrow Collins Inlet, where waterfalls of gleaming rock rush headlong into the deep, blue

gorge. The Bay is calm, silent, deserted. We have our pick from hundreds of possible campsites on the mainland and on the islands that are strung out for over 150 kilometres along the eastern shore of the Bay. With typical Canadian modesty,these are known as “The Thirty Thousand Islands,” although, in fact, there are many more than that, most of them uninhabited and many uncharted. For centuries, they offered shelter from the infamous wild storms of the Bay for First Nations, explorers, and voyageurs. Today they are destinations for picnickers and campers who come by outboard, canoe, or sailboat. Their rocks serve as tables and chairs, their leaning pines act as umbrellas that shield out the sun, and their clear waters offer refreshment for swimmers, and enticement to fishermen to try and land a bass, a perch, a pike, or a pickerel. Water, rock, and trees. What is special is not so much the elemental simplicity of this basic attire, but the stylish way nature has arranged these simple garments, especially when the Bay wears blue.

The recipe for this chapter is for “Portage Pasta.”

To read more, you can order a copy of Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada by going to: Personally autographed copies are also available by contacting the author at or via the comment box on this website.










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Canada 150, Nunavut

Here are some photographs of Nunavut along with excerpts from  the chapter, Of Limits Unknown, about Canada’s youngest territory established in 1999:

While it comprises a third of the entire country and is roughly the size of Western Europe, its population is just over 30,000; that’s one person for every sixty square kilometres…This is a vast, majestic land; as an independent country, it would be the thirteenth largest in the world. Its people have lived here for over four thousand years. They are skillful, resourceful, affable, entertaining and proud of their culture and traditions. Yet, clearly, their homeland is changing rapidly.


…the highlight of our trip to Nunavut is to be a hike along the Akshayuk Pass, on Baffin Island, a lonely, 97-kilometre trough through the mountains between Cumberland Sound and Davis Strait traditionally used by the Inuit to move from one hunting ground to another. Today, Auyuittuq, “land that never melts,” is a park that covers 19,000 square kilometres of glacier-carved terrain…

Pangnirtung (is) the gateway hamlet through which we are to enter Auyuittuq National Park…an hour and a half up Pangnirtung Fijord, by outboard…After dinner we stroll around Pang, past the Hudson’s Bay Company’s old blubber station on the rocky shelf above the fjord.


A photogenic replica of a red and white whaling boat rests beside a restored company building, reminding visitors of the days when ninety-ton bowhead whales, now an endangered species, were killed with abandon in Cumberland Sound. Pang’s population of 1,325 is mostly Inuit, and they live in simple, box-shaped homes, most of them with snowmobiles pulled up beside them, attached to traditional wooden sleds, sleeping through the brief weeks of summer. The yards are littered with junk, especially anything made of wood, clearly a precious commodity here, where there are no trees, only hydro poles and criss-crossing electrical wires that fashion a surreal forest…

You can walk from one end of the hamlet to another in a little over half an hour. After that, in either direction, you are out on the tundra, alone with rocks, moss, sedge, and spreads of cotton grass, the little white tufts traditionally used to make wicks for the kulliq, the lamp that’s used to light igloos. Tramping around on foot is not, however, the preferred mode of transport in Pang.

…the tide is low when we finally set off in two outboards for the park. The wind is blowing hard, and it’s cold motoring up the inlet. The mountains are shrouded in fog, but on the black cliffs lining the fjord a torrent of bubbling white water suddenly tumbles out of the mist, twists as if on a downhill ski track, and plunges to the sea, a finishing line that turns from blue-black, to milk, to brown the closer we get to the park. At one point the clouds lift and we can see the front edge of a receding glacier in a mountain trough, but when we look up the river that twists beyond the head of the fjord we see no sign of the “glacier snout…about 200 feet high” that was recorded by an anthropologist in 1883…


(we) start looking for a place to land several hundred metres before we reach the park entrance. But the tide, which varies by as much as ten metres here, is whipping the water along the shore, and the ocean bottom is riddled with boulders that risk damaging the engine shafts and keels of the boats…There’s a clear majority in favour of heading back to Pang, and Joavee (our guide) seems relieved…Our hike in Auyuittuq National Park has been aborted before it began. Our plan to camp was already thwarted by the weather, but now we can’t even enter the park, because of the tide–and because of our neglect of the basic principle of living in Nunavut: the need for time, and for the patience to adjust to the rhythm of the Arctic…Joavee senses our frustration…”Okay, so tomorrow: I have a party I’m taking out to Cumberland Sound to see the icebergs. How is that for you?”

It’s sunny again at last, but the wind is still blowing strongly as we board our boat and motor out to Cumberland Sound…But then, when we reach the open sound, the wind surprises us by dropping completely, and before us is an enthralling view…a deep blue ocean without a ripple, heavily splattered with slabs of pure white ice. They are of every imaginable shape and size, like pieces of a very large, complicated puzzle laid out randomly on a gleaming sapphire board…Near a small iceberg that’s perhaps six metres high Joavee cuts his engines and we drift–alone, as far as we can see, in every direction, and in a silence broken only by the tinkle of ice against water.

Photo taken before the Sound was reached

We cruise to another iceberg not much higher than our outboard, but perhaps fifty metres in diameter. Joavee sidles up to it carefully and then throws his bow anchor onto the ice. He takes a pole and knocks some loose ice off the edge of the berg and then invites us to climb onto the floe…It’s a transcendental experience. We’re actually standing on an iceberg on a vast, empty, and silent sea. Looking around, there is no question that we are in the Arctic, and yet it’s warm and sunny with not a breath of wind, like a summer day in Ontario cottage country. We feel no motion, either; there’s nothing to remind us that we are, in fact, drifting slowly southward toward Hudson Strait and Labrador, on ice that has presumably broken away from the massive, melting shelf on Greenland. We’re not that far in time and distance from the nineteen men, women and children, including several Inuit, who floated down Davis Strait past Cumberland Sound in 1872, trapped on an ice floe for 196 days…Now we have had an experience as awesome as a hike to the Arctic Circle in Auyuittuq National Park would have been…at least we had an extra day left in Pang. Time is after all our ally, and the weather our friend…

Our first day in Iqaluit we walk farther east to the village of Apex, where the Hudson’s Bay Company established a post in 1949. When we get to the end of the road we climb a hill of spongy moss and strike out across the naked tundra along the Apex River. Snow buntings flutter low against the cliffs and sprays of purple dwarf fireweed and and yellow Arctic poppies light up the hard ground at our feet…


photo taken in Iqaluit, not along Apex River

The next day we hike the trails of Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, beyond the western end of Iqaluit…It was in 1576 that Martin Frobisher first sailed into the mouth of this bay, thinking he had found the Northwest Passage to the Orient. He reported his finding to Queen Elizabeth I, who claimed for England the area he described, and named it Meta Incognita, “of limits unknown.” What particularly fascinates me is that it was not until 1861, almost three hundred years later, that the American explorer, Charles Hall, sailed all the way up the inlet to the vicinity of Sylvia Grinnell Park, becoming the first to record that Frobisher was only a bay. How slowly the area changed before the Second World War, and how quickly ever since!

Where Nunavut is going is an important question this chapter addresses

The recipe for this chapter is for Arctic char, the way it is served at community feasts in Nunavut.

To purchase a copy of Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada, please go to:, or contact the author for a personally autographed copy at:


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Canada 150, Quebec

With the weather largely cool and wet in the east so far this summer, it seems appropriate in this cross-Canada tour to picture Quebec in winter. Here is such a view from Roaming the Big Land in a chapter entitled “Taking Stock:”

Like the poet and songwriter Gilles Vigneault, when I think of Quebec, I see winter.


I see my family strung out like fish on a line, herringboning their way up a ski trail…Evergreens at the sides of the piste are swabbed with cotton batten from the snowfall the night before, their broad, drooping branches casting dark shadows across a ski track that glistens in late-afternoon sunshine. White top hats cover the round boulders that rest on the bottom of frozen streams like ushers at a suspended wilderness wedding. It is silent except for the soft pad of our skis and the click of our poles as we gingerly take another step up the slope.

On the twisting streets of old Quebec City I see snowbanks so high they look like a newly erected line of defence against an anticipated Anglo invasion. Yet I can also see our mitten-and-toque-clad family tramping the cobbled, snow-packed lanes and pasageways, undeterred by this intimidating show of strength. Puffing clouds of steam, we’re seeking the best shop to buy our morning croissants aux amandes. Or, after dark, when gaslights somehow mask the cold and warm the heart, we are peeking through the frost-fringed windows of restaurants that invite us into rustic rooms with blazing, open-hearth fires and candle-lit tables. Which one to choose when all are so appealing?

Not global warming. Picture taken in June!

High on the bank of the broad, ice-choked St. Lawrence I see the mighty Chateau Frontenac, and “the best toboggan run in the world” floodlit on a winter night on the hotel’s famous Dufferin Terrace.

If, in my mind, I go inside, I am always in a huge ballroom filled with tables, mostly occupied by large families…Everyone is smartly dressed; there are lots of black ties and evening gowns. For it is Christmas dinner at the Chateau Frontenac, a long-standing Quebecois tradition. I hear music, singing, and laughter…and what is this? I hear bagpipes! In Quebec? Yes, even in Quebec. Bagpipes! What else would do to herald the arrival of a procession of waiters bearing baked Alaska, with peaks of golden egg whites like the mountains of Quebec itself, and the ice cream beneath evoking thoughts of a rich, enticing culture.

The recipe for this chapter is “Marooned Pasta,” a dish you can make from refrigerator leftovers when you are “snowed in” next winter.

Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada is available from Penumbra Press at, or from the author by emailing:


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Canada 150, Prince Edward Island

Happy 150th birthday, Canada!

On this day, it seems appropriate to offer an excerpt from “The Little Prince” about the conference in Charlottetown that set the stage for Confederation three years later:

Even today, the little island “resting on the waves,” as the Mi’kmaq described it, has a population of fewer than 150,000 people. Yet, for its size, Prince Edward Island has been home to a surprising number of interesting and famous people. There’s William Henry Pope, for instance, who was a colonial secretary and a delegate to the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, at which the talking and negotiating began that led to Confederation. When the Queen Victoria, bearing the delegates from Upper and Lower Canada (present-day Ontario and Quebec), unexpectedly dropped anchor in Charlottetown harbour rather than docking, it was Pope who was hastily dispatched to greet Sir John A., George Cartier and the others. A “suavely correct” gentleman, he was humiliated at having to depart from propriety and row out to their ship in a little “flat-bottomed boat with a barrel of flour in the bow, and two jars of molasses in the stern, and with a lusty fisherman as his only companion.” The next day, Pope, an enthusiastic supporter of confederation, hosted an opulent lunch of oysters, lobsters, and champagne, which helped break the ice, and created a convivial atmosphere for the ultimately successful talks. Another figure from that famous week is Lieutenant Governor George Dundas, the host of the triumphal ball on the eighth of September that concluded the conference. Guests arrived at the Colonial Building, the site of the meetings, at 10.00 p.m., danced until one in the morning, ate, then listened to toasts and speeches until four. Hard to imagine it happening on this sleepy little island where, today, everyone seems to go to bed for the winter not long after Labour Day…

St. Peters Bay is one of the loveliest areas in an island that is all about arresting scenery…At the mouth of the bay is the stunning Greenwich Park, which was added to the national park system in 1998. A boardwalk takes us across inland dunes, some of them spotted with reindeer moss, pale grey-green mats of lichen that look like clumps of old snow. False holly, rose hips, and goldenrod provide flares of colour in the brilliant morning sunlight. As the boardwalk crosses Bowley Pond, glittering like a freshly burnished tiara, I am reminded again that it is not just the constant nearness of the sea that makes P.E.I. so lovely, but the shimmering bays, estuaries, rivers, and ponds that appear magically whenever the ocean is not in view.

Beyond the cattails crowding the far shore of the pond we can see giant crescent-shaped “parabolic dunes,” higher than I recall having seen before. Then there is the soft, pink sand of the beach, sprinkled with marram grass, which is vital in holding the dunes in place. And finally there is the sea, with its ripples lapping lazily at the shore. No wonder Jacques Cartier, in 1534, declared the island “the fairest land ’tis possible to see.”…

On the Island there is really only one star–a princess, in fact. And it seems appropriate, for a picture-perfect province that’s a little detached from reality, that the person in question is a fictional character…Anne of Green Gables…

An incredible total of 250,000 people per year visit Green Gables, almost twice the population of P.E.I. No other tourist site in Canada except Niagara Falls comes close in terms of the number of visitors relative to provincial population. And that’s just Green Gables, let alone the full Anne package…

Along with potatoes and lobsters, it’s clear that it’s this spunky, freckle-faced figment of a vivid imagination that drives the economy…Montgomery’s…works have been translated into seventeen languages and published in over thirty countries. More than fifty million copies of Anne of Green Gables alone have been sold worldwide…it’s hard to imagine the Little Prince without the little princess in pigtails–and, at her side, the queen who gave her birth.

The recipe for this chapter is for “Princely Salad,” and it includes shrimp and sea scallops (lobster can also be added or substituted).

Hey, here is another good read for Canada’s 150th birthday year, available only in Canada. Sales to date are somewhat short of 50 million!

To order a copy, please visit:

Autographed copies with a personal message are also available from the author by contacting:


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Canada 150, New Brunswick

This cross-Canada journey continues with excerpts from “Big New Brunswick Dreams:”

Flat red and brown sand beaches run along the eastern coast of New Brunswick like a soft, broad highway from Charlo on Chaleur Bay to the Confederation Bridge on Northumberland Strait. In the official guidebook, these shallow shores of the gulf are described as having the warmest water north of Virginia, and this boast is repeated five times in the ensuing pages, lest anyone doubt the joys of a New Brunswick summer vacation. As we amble one stretch of this shore, I watch sandpipers scutter at the edge of small, curling waves, which, as they break, form chains of white foam that chug earnestly down the beach…miniature reminders of the locomotives that once steamed through the endless spruce forests of the New Brunswick interior. But it is the seagulls flitting above the beach that particularly grab my attention. They put me in mind 0f…Richard Hatfield’s years in office…I am thinking of the futuristic, gull-winged sports car his government financed to the tune of twenty-three million dollars in a vain effort to bring new industry to New Brunswick and help diversify its economy…

Ironically, Premier Hatfield brought a crate of fresh Atlantic salmon to New York with him for a dinner at the unveiling–a product that was symbolic of New Brunswick’s and the Maritime’s dependence on resources, the very condition the Bricklin was intended to help overcome. Wild salmon are in trouble now, too, but they have lasted much longer than the glitzy Bricklin, which fluttered to ground in September 1975, when the company went into receivership…

…we take an isolated road from Doaktown to Bouctouche, back on New Brunswick’s coast…At the intersections of Highways 116 and 126…we come upon several vehicles parked at the side of the road. A cluster of men is gathered around a makeshift stand with several dozen birchbark horns about fifteen inches long hanging from it. We approach the garrulous, moustached vendor, an Acadian dressed in an old camouflage jacket and green pants. They’re moose horns, we learn. Business is brisk, because next week is the annual three-day hunt.

“Here, try one,” the vendor says, and Dot blows gustily, but she produces nothing a moose could possibly mistake for anything other than heavy human breathing.

“You’ve gotta blow like you’re taking a hard shit,” the man explains. Dot tries again and does manage what might pass as the call of a very sick animal. “I sell them to people from all over. I sold one to this guy from England. Next year he comes back. I see him crossing the road, looking mad. ‘That horn you sold me, it’s no fucking good,’ he says to me, and then he grins. Like, there’s no moose in England, eh!”

We’re at Bouctouche now, not far from Petitcodiac. This is the birthplace of New Brunswick’s most famous industrialist, K.C. Irving, who, starting with a car dealership and gasoline bar, built a giant energy, lumber, and media empire. Our destination is the nearby La Dune de Bouctouche, a twelve-kilometre-long sand dune that stretches down the coast and shelters behind it a salt marsh that ‘s rich in flora and fauna. The entire dune is part of the Irving Ecological Centre, a provincial park developed by the family’s commercial empire, which began in the region…Walking along this gift from the Irvings, I’m reminded that New Brunswick’s economic history is not all about fish, lumber, and failed industrial projects. Oil refining in Saint John is one of the big engines of the provincial economy today, courtesy of K.C. and his successors.

Still, it’s Richard Hatfield I’m thinking about again, even as I enjoy this ecological legacy of the Irvings…As the Bricklin fiasco showed, he dared to dream and to dream big. I even like the fact that in the most serious of the scandals that brought him down he wasn’t just busted for possession of marijuana, but for having it in his luggage as he boarded a plane he was to share with the Queen and Prince Philip. Hatfield didn’t do things quietly and carefully. He was open, imaginative, and bold. He had faults, but he also had sass and class!

The recipes accompanying this chapter are: “Home-Smoked Salmon”; “Smoked Salmon Pasta”; and “Fiddleheads.”

To purchase a copy of Roaming The Big Land, please visit:

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Canada 150, Nova Scotia

Crossing from Newfoundland to the mainland, here are some excerpts from “Cruising The Scotia Coast:”

…the tartan of Nova Scotia…has large squares lined in gold representing the province’s Royal Charter, and thin bands of red for the royal lion. The dominant colours, though, are green and blue for the forests and seas that circle the province; narrow white lines depict the surf that relentlessly pounds the southern coast. I’m always happy to visit the charming ports of Nova Scotia, even though my ancestors didn’t land at Pictou in 1773 aboard the Hector. On the waterfront at Pictou, the “Birthplace of New Scotland,” you

can see a full-size replica of this famous ship. Along the harbour road, banners displaying Scottish tartans hang from the lamposts, and the stores sell enough enticing Scottish regalia to empty the sporran of the tightest Highlander.

What I like best, however, are the fishing villages of the rugged southern coast. We’ve visited them from Yarmouth to Isaac’s Harbour, enjoyed their quiet, unspoiled embodiment of bygone years, and admired their stately homes and tempting shops, their simple, weathered wharfs covered in skin-flecked nets and traps, the little fishing fleets clustered like school children waiting to be let out past the sheltering, rocky cliffs to a sea of constantly changing hues. I love as well the curving white sand beaches, backed by dense spruce wood forests, whose trees drip with old man’s beard…

…to understand the province’s evolution–where it has been, where it is going…so far as rural, small-town Nova Scotia is concerned, the tiny Fisherman’s Life Museum at Jeddore Oyster Ponds…provides part of the answer, for the history of the family that occupied this little white frame house


for over a century traces a common thread…A fire is on in the wood stove, and since there are no other visitors at the moment, the two guides invite us to warm ourselves at a table near it…They provide oat cakes and tea from the pot that is always ready on the stove. Sitting and chatting like invited guests of the family, we learn how James Myers established himself here in 1850 and, as was typical in the coastal communities of the time, worked as an inshore fisherman, rowing his one-man dory out to sea to hand-line cod and haddock. …then, in 1907, he passed the farm to his youngest son, Ervin.

Following the pattern of other industrious rural folk in the twentieth century, Erwin not only fished, but turned to the province’s other classic resource, timber, to supplement his income. In the winter he worked as a cook in the lumber camps of the Musquodoboit Valley, and for several weeks each year he would head north to Northumberland Strait to join the fishermen there for the lobster season. Like other rural Nova Scotians, the Myers lived a tough subsistence existence eked out from the natural resources around them. Arguably, however, Ervin and his wife, Ethelda, had to work even harder than others, for in their little white house with the dark green trim they raised thirteen daughters!

It is noon, and we are at the Citadel for the firing of the canon, a tradition in the city that dates back to the mid-1800s…

From the Citadel, you look down on a modern city full of high-rises and glass, but also on old monuments to the city’s important role in Canadian history. It is, however, the harbour and the adjacent Bedford Basin to the west that command attention, intertwined as they are with so much tragedy and triumph…It is in the narrows between the harbour and Bedford Basin…that the Norwegian freighter Imo collided with the Mont Blanc on the morning of December 6, 1917. In flames, the munitions ship drifted toward Pier 6, and then exploded…setting fire to a wide swath of the north end of Halifax…Two thousand people were killed, nine thousand were injured, and six thousand lost their homes. It was the most violent man-made explosion before the dropping of the first atomic bomb…

Better remembered is Bedford Basin’s vital role in the supply of the European allies in the Second World War, for it was in this body of water, thirty-five kilometres long and up to 3.2 kilometres wide, that the convoys gathered before their perilous crossing of the Atlantic…All in all, twenty-four Canadian warships and almost 1,800 servicemen were lost in the battle of the Atlantic, while seventy-three ships of the merchant navy were sunk, and 1,500 crewmembers died.

Into the mist my guardian prows put forth,

Behind the mist my virgin ramparts lie,

The Warden of the Honour of the North,

Sleepless and veiled am I!

Rudyard Kipling on Halifax

The recipe for this chapter is for Fish Chowder.

To order a copy of Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada, please go to:

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Canada 150, Newfoundland

Roaming the big land from east to west, the birthday journey starts in Newfoundland, with excerpts from the chapter, “Salty People:”

Dot and I fly into St. John’s through a storm, sitting in the tail of the plane. As we approach the airport out of thick grey clouds, the steep, barren cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula suddenly materialize, an unbroken, undulating shield of rock protecting the interior from waterborne intruders–though not from airborne “round-trippers” like us, who have come for a look at the oldest settled region of Canada’s youngest province. The plane’s tail gyrates like a new, untested midway ride as we drop low over the runway, and the ninety-kilometre-an-hour wind adds a new, terrifying twist to our final descent as we slam hard onto the tarmac, rain splattering against the windows…

“Welcome to Newfoundland,” Mary says as she greets us at our bed and breakfast…”

“Good to be here. I didn’t think we were going to make it, the way we were tossed about.”

“Ah, everybody has to take a swipe at us, even the south wind. That’s what it’s like living on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic.” Fog, wind and rain–they define St. John’s as much as cod tongues and scruncheons. The local hockey team wasn’t named the St. John’s Fog Devils for nothing. And now I really do believe that in the great gale of 1846 the St. Thomas Garrison Church moved six inches on its foundation.

Unlike Charleston, with its famous “rainbow row” of colourful yet elegant harbourfront homes, there is no official stretch of jelly beans in St. John’s, but the houses, street after street of them, paint the hill in bright pigments that contrast starkly with the surrounding barren cliffs, lending the city a warmth that matches the character of its people. In the distance we can see the bald slopes of Signal Hill and the Cabot Tower. We gaze in awe out to the open Atlantic through a small gap in the cliffs. John Cabot (perhaps), Captain James Cook, Horatio Nelson, and Captain Bligh all sailed through these narrows. During the Second World War 10,000 merchant ships entered the protected waters of the harbour via this passage, naval escorts made 6,000 trips in and out of St. John’s…”When we got to Newfy John,” the sailors used to say, “we were coming home…”

I’m studying the provincial map now, trying to decide where we should go to get some sense of life in the outports. But how to choose from the legion of enticing places that say so much about the history and character of Newfoundland and Labrador? There are some that are simply fanciful, like Venison Tickle, Parson’s Pond, Sop’s Arm, Lushes Bight…Dildo Run, Hares Ears Point, and Jerry’s Nose. Others speak of hardship, tragedy, and misadventure: Cape White Handkerchief, Deadman’s Cove, Confusion Bay…Snakes Bight, Blow Me Down, Hungry Hill…and Job’s Cove. Still others have an optimistic ring: Hopedale, Fortune Harbour, Little Paradise…and Heart’s Desire. And finally there are names that are wonderfully ambiguous, like Comfort Bight, Little Seldom, Low Point, and, everyone’s favourite, Come by Chance…

…we hike from Bauline East along the coastal trail to La Manche. The stony path takes us through woods of balsam and elderberry until at last it reaches the coast again, and spectacular views unfold to the sea far below us. We descend the wrinkled slope by wooden steps to a suspension bridge

over the La Manche River, where, at last, much to our surprise, we arrive in a deserted outport. In January, 1966, huge waves destroyed the suspension bridge that linked the village to Bauline East, and all the residents were resettled. Now all that remains is the stone foundations of their homes, perched on the cliffs in grassy clearings overlooking the narrow mouth of the river. It’s an eerie site, and for us a moving glimps of the isolation and hardships of outport life in days gone by. In 1999, the East Coast Trail Association built a new suspension bridge to link La Manche once more with the villages to the north. Beside it is a plaque with a simple quotation from the Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark: “There are things we will never see, unless we walk to them.” True of Newfoundland. True for all of Canada.

The recipes in this chapter are for “Jiggs’ Dinner” and “Spicy Cod.”

Roaming The Big Land is available from Penumbra Press at

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Canada 150, Introduction to “Roaming The Big Land”

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Roaming The Big Land that provides a taste of the book’s flavour:

“It would be far-fetched to suggest that Canada’s age-old problems of regional and cultural cleavage can be overcome by sitting its people down together to share some meals and good conversation. But perhaps there is something to the notion that it would be beneficial to Canadian unity if all of its people could at some point in their lives strike out across–and up and down–our half of the continent, eating and talking along the way. Everyone should see first hand the effect the collapse of the fishery has had on small coastal communities throughout the Atlantic provinces

“and the impact of global warming on Arctic ecology.


“We should all have the chance to stroll the streets of old Quebec, the loveliest urban landscape in the country, at least once, and to discover for ourselves that the prairies aren’t as flat as conventional wisdom would have it. And at some point in their lives, everyone should gawk at the giant Douglas firs and red cedars of the British Columbia coast, trees that pushed above the dripping forest floor long before the voyages of Cabot and Cartier.

“This book is a collection of stories that are in essence a celebration of Canada. It takes the reader on a vicarious journey throughout the country in the hope that it will whet the appetite for experiencing Canada from coast to coast to coast. The stories cover every province and territory, and attempt in a very personal way to capture the essence of each…The picture of Canada painted here is not complete, for it is impossible in such a vast country to visit every city, town, and hamlet, to paddle every lake and climb every mountain, to get under the skin of every distinct community. But I hope the resulting canvas is reflective of the character and diversity of the country and offers a sense of its multifaceted identity.”

To order Roaming The Big Land Flavours of Canada, please go to

Winner Gourmand World Cookbook Award for culinary travel.

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