OK, that’s a blatant lie. The wine is all the way from Australia and much too good to use for cooking, but who wants to do a multi-hour boat trip just to pick up a cheaper bottle of worse quality? Not me, not Sam, and we expect no more visitors this year who might drop off a bottle of red. So if we want wine sauce with the moose (and we most definitely do), the Merlot needs to be pressed into service.
It’s mostly three-mile meals we’re having these days, if you discount breakfast. All our garden labour and hunting efforts are culminating in an onslaught of tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and potatoes, topped off by moose meat to the point where a 10-day fast is beginning to look like a really good idea.
Ah, life in the North: 10 months of dried and canned goods and eight weeks of fresh stuff, mountains of always the same few veggie varieties, until you’re almost glad when it’s back to the canned goods. Until of course it’s early January and you’d kill for something fresh and crunchy. It is a conundrum.
It’s the thought of January that keeps me going through these endless plates of moose steak with mashed potatoes and carrots, mooseburgers with tomatoes and cucumbers, moose roast with broccoli and potatoes, and finally moose steak again. I suppose it’s the most natural way of eating, all those thousands of years without refrigeration, when you ate what there was when it was in season – and as much as you could because once it went to waste, there was no more of it.
Yet I can’t help but imagine my innards going through a kind of Woody Allen routine when the annual rush of fresh meat and veggies hits, my stomach roused from its carbohydrate slumber in shock at the sudden workload, to say nothing of the colon that is almost overwhelmed with transporting these very different kinds of matter to the end of the factory line.
Not that I’m complaining. Well, maybe a little bit. Because I’m now feeding the remaining broccoli (burst into pretty yellow flowers) to our chickens, which is a hard thing to do when you’ve coaxed them into being, nourished and watered and protected them from the cold. Both the broccoli and the chickens, come to think of it.
But there simply is no way we can stuff more of it down our own gullets when there still is half a jar of it dried left, two years old, that we can’t seem to make a dent into. No, we need to tackle the tomatoes, the cracked and bruised ones, some of which are starting to sprout a white fuzzy mould. And the cauliflower that’s starting to develop soft spots. This is the trouble with the three-mile bush diet, once you’ve canned so much you can can no more: food fatigue and a slight case of vegetable induced hysteria.
I swear I set out to write about the extremely tasty moose in wine sauce we had last night, the joy of such a delicious homegrown meal, utterly organic and free-range. But then reality got into the way.
People wonder what we eat out in the bush, where pizza take-out, a quick trip to the corner store and the weekly visit to the deli are not an option. So this is it, our fall menu: garden veggies twice a day, moose just about everyday, and pretty much prepared in always the same predictable ways. Spices you can store but the cunning little additions of a bit of fruit, an unusual herb, a special sauce, a sharp cheese that let you create variety from the same basic ingredients – that’s what’s difficult to lay in stock.
Sam at least, bless his soul, is foodie enough (I guess you’ve gathered by now I don’t belong to that select club) to still sigh with ecstasy when laden fork meets mouth. “This is the best ever …” carrots, moose, potatoes, you name it. I nod and blush at my sinful thoughts of spaghetti with cheese sauce, cereal with chocolate chips or just about anything without these veggies we’ve been chewing our way through for the last two months.
But there is no need to shake your head at me. Come January, I’ll be eating these very words.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.