When I visited Switzerland seven years ago, I thought that it was pretty, clean, safe, (with stands selling delicious frozen Quark, the only affordable food in the country) and a nice place to visit, but they wouldn’t want you to live there. It’s not what you would call welcoming. But Canada? Now that is a friendly land (and much cheaper for me to get to, and eat in).
Canada has a little more litter than Switzerland (which has none) but not nearly as much as America. I know, I know, Canadian taxes are high, high, high. But listen: B.C.is a place so wildly beautiful, you risk passing out from shock, daily. If you lived there, you would beg the government to just take your money – please! all of it! – out of sheer gratitude for the spectacular views. So let’s tally: gorgeous scenery, nice folks…the only other element needed to sustain life is food. As I mentioned previously, I was suspicious of Canada’s ability to support me in the manner to which I have become accustomed, due to an unfortunate previous encounter with Canuck cuisine.
But that’s all water under the Lions Gate Bridge, now that I have chewed my way through the province. Upon leaving Whistler to head further north, I was the lucky recipient of a tip from a (friendly!) person as preoccupied with meals as I am. Otherwise, I would not have known to stop at North Arm Farm, in the unassuming town of Pemberton. Imagine a farm nestled against a wooded hill, with sheep dallying about, and air so clean it sparkles.
This agrarian idyll is the new home of Solfeggio restaurant. The young people who staff this eatery are a delight. The woman who served me my adorable almond butter cup filled with chocolate ganache told me she’s a committed Freegan, “Hey if it’s free, I’ll eat it!” She had lived and worked within the same 20 miles radius her entire life and summed it up like this: “Why would anyone leave?” Hey, I know I almost didn’t.
Our next stop, 60 miles further on Highway 99, was the Fort Berens Winery in Lillooet. This was a pretty stop in dryer country and if the timing had been right (I had just eaten my delicious wrap from Solfeggio and even I can’t start fresh that quickly) we would have dined there, because the menu looked succulent.
But we did taste their wine, because there was no charge and I had been so inspired by the young Freegan’s impassioned vow to live free. I cautioned the sommelier that I had to drive, so I actually could not taste more than a half teaspoon of each vintage. I don’t know why I have a liver the size of an apricot, I just came that way. Through my microtasting, (sort of a homeopathic wine experience – more the essence than the actual substance) I discovered the delightful libation known as Sparkly. This is Fort Berens’ rendition of champagne. I had, just moments before, reached a point in my life when I was ready to stop pretending that I liked champagne (or rye bread, brie, and any kind of boating- There! I said it!). And then I met Sparkly. I like it with pomegranate juice and it feels healthy, like I should be trying to make sure I have two a day. Luckily, I only bought a four-pack.
Many hours and 300 miles later, we were road weary, pulling up to my uncle’s house, waaaaay out in the country. This area, close to the geographical center of the province, is so rural that here is the sight I beheld on a walk in the cool, lazy winding down of a perfect summer evening: a yard rife with rusted boats, horses, hens and every stripe of discarded apparatus and meandering livestock. Beneath a willow, lay an enormous, slatternly sheep. This immense pile of muddied wool was lounging against a…wait a minute…I moved in for a closer look, sure that I was having a hallucination induced by extremely clean air. No, I was right, it was a piano. A peahen was perched on top of it like a small, disgruntled lounge singer and, unnerved by my nearness, she burst forth in a most unpleasant song.
I was tempted to stick around and pound out a little ragtime, but I had to move on to forage the Lilliputian wild strawberries that were flourishing at the roadside. They are guarded by ants who have a knack for diving between your toes and biting hard. They started in on us the moment we arrived and my aunt said, “Don’t stand still!” But as the sun set, I had to stop moving, just for a bit, because it was so green, and so beautiful, and I didn’t want to fail to regard it. And I knew if I remained motionless long enough, two of those animals would forget I was there and play chopsticks.