A Place of Different Colours
by Darcie Friesen Hossack
It took a bit of time before I adjusted to the particular light that falls over Jasper National Park.
Unlike the bright, winepressed skies of the Okanagan, or the jewel tones of the Pacific, the mountains here seemed brushed in pale washes of blue and grey.
Whenever I took a picture, it felt as though I needed to adjust more brilliance into the frame, to bring it into alignment with what I'd lately known.
But not anymore.
These days, when Chefhusband and I venture into the park, it's with an eye to the watercolours that surround us (and the wildflowers and berries, of course, that dab bright splashes, underfoot, everywhere we go).
And while I'm not an artist, I often think to myself that staying at Overlander, while venturing into the Park to gather in its lines and hues, must be a painter's retreat in the making.
I can't help it. Every place we look seems to demand that someone stop, take out their brushes, and set up an easel.
As for me, I have my pen, and I have my camera, and this certainly is also a place for both of those.
So it happened that, on a drive through the Maligne Valley one afternoon, we stopped to look out over Medicine Lake.
Medicine Lake is a phenomenon unto itself.
The river through this valley, as it flows to merge with the Athabasca, goes underground, where it fills the largest inaccessible system of caves in the world.
Come spring, meltwater pools up from below, and what may have been an entirely empty basin all through the winter, soon begins to sprawl out over an otherwise plain. It creates islands out of tree clusters, and accents the starkly beautiful landscape above and all around. A landscape that includes a long ago rockfall, and the blackened ghosts of beetle killed and forest fired trees.
It's here that I take out my camera, and take a single picture.
And it's here, when I post that picture online, that an artist friend finds herself transported, from her studio in British Columbia, where she takes out her easel and brushes.
Opening Space by Joni Laberge
Joni is also a writer, and I didn't know she was a painter when we first met. In fact, I didn't know she was a painter until shortly before I'd posted my snap of Medicine Lake. Then, a few weeks later, this incredible likeness, capturing not just an image, but the lake and mountains' spirit, and the spirit of its very skies, came to arrive here by mail.
It's several weeks later now, and when I look back on all the photographs from this season so far, looking for these ones to share with you, I can't help but think that this week's recipe has to somehow match.
So after a quick trip to the Jasper East store for the berries and eggs I need, where I also nab yet more art, this time by local artist Claude Boocock, I take out one of my very favourites recipes.
This one, a Prairie Berry Clafoutis, comes from another friend, Amy Jo Ehman, who's cookbook, Prairie Feast, is a staple on my bookshelves. And her recipe, a French custard cake that's perfect for brunch, is as simple and stunning as any piece of art on our walls.
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Prairie Berry Clafoutis
by Amy Jo Ehman
Author of Prairie Feast, a writer’s journey home for dinner
2 tbs butter
2 cups mixed Saskatchewan berries, fresh or frozen (raspberries, strawberries, sour cherries, and of course, saskatoons)
1 tbsp flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
Heat the oven to 350F. In the oven, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or large pie plate. Do not brown. Meanwhile, toss the berries with 1 tbsp of flour. In a blender or food processor, mix the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. With the blades running, gradually add the cup of flour and blend well. Pour the batter into the pan. Scatter the berries overtop. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the centre is set. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with icing sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup.
Cook’s note: Clafoutis is a French custard cake, much like a thick crepe, and makes a perfect brunch or dessert.
For more on Claude Boocock, and the prints available in-store at the Jasper East Store, visit www.cboocock.com