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HOME COOKING68

69BY JOHN HORNE, EXECUTIVE CHEF, CANOEor me, Canadian cooking is simply the cuisine of home.I spent a fair amount of time in the U.K. and other partsof Europe cooking traditional French food, and this helpedme understand more clearly what Canadian cooking meansto me. I also think that where you call home in Canada can makea big difference to your interpretation of Canadian food. Growingup in Port McNicoll, Ontario, and spending my summers in ParrySound, this meant local fare, fresh-from-scratch. Much of what weate came straight from the garden, forest or lake --and the verylast bit and bob was always put to good use. My community was surrounded by farmland, and in fact both ofmy parents were raised on farms. As a child, we always had avegetable garden, where one of my chores was to keep it weed-free. As much as I dreaded that job, looking back now I can seethat this really inspired me. I learned very early on to respect howdifficult it is to create those amazing garden-fresh ingredients. Iwas involved in the tilling, sowing and watering, and I enjoyedthose first incredible tastes straight out of the ground. I can also thank my mother and grandmother for teaching me thiskind of respect. Hardly a day would go by when I didn't wake upto the warm, yeasty scent of dough rising at either of their homes.There would always be fresh bread and buttermilk biscuits, andthat meant making the most of the incredible homemade jam thatwe had picked and preserved sometime before. I have a very clearmemory of a day when I picked blackberries in Parry Sound acrossthe road from my grandparent's house, as I watched theSnowbirds practice above me for hours. Good food was a top priority using the ingredients thatsurrounded us. I would go fishing all day to try to catch a pickerelfor my grandmother or mother to cook for breakfast the nextmorning. They would take the leftover boiled or baked potatoesfrom the farm and pan fry them in bacon fat with onions andpieces of leftover bread. The result was cast iron fried fish thatsat on top of the best hash browns I have ever tasted. With thesewonderful ladies, every last bit found its way into a dish, and theresults were delicious. Canadian cuisine evolved naturally from the ingredients thatsurrounded our homes. For me, this meant garden vegetables,wild game (moose, deer, duck, partridge, and rabbit), line-caughtfish, wild berries and forest mushrooms... and of course mother'sbuttermilk biscuits. At Canoe, I would say that our menu draws onfamily ingredients from all across Canada, like halibut and spotprawns from B.C., oysters and lobster from the East Coast, lentilsand oats and wheat berries from the Prairies, and those incrediblecheeses from Quebec --all regional gems that form the roots andfoundation of great Canadian cooking. What is Canadian cuisine? When food isdescribed as being French or Italian orJapanese, it conjures up a very distinctivetype of menu, but with Canadian fare,there seems to be a bit of a grey area.FCanadian Cuisine Defined