The History Behind Prairie Spruce’s Heirloom Bintje Potatoes

In the last blog, I told the story of how I was introduced to Bintje potatoes. In this blog, I will tell the story of how Canada was introduced to Bintje potatoes.

A long time ago, in a small Danish town lived a man named Gunnar Paulson. He had a loving family, but wanted more out of life. He wanted adventure. He wanted land. He wanted a better life for his children. Some other people in the same small town had family members that had moved to Canada. These new Canadians wrote about the wide open spaces, the cheap farmland, and the beautiful summers…. and how much they missed Danish food. Canada sounded exotic. Canada sounded like an adventure. And as far as Gunnar knew, no one had been eaten by a bear, frozen to death, or died of loneliness. After many discussions with his wife, Gunnar decided to pack up his family and move to Wainwright, Alberta.

Serious-Knud-400x284

Just down the street from Gunnar lived a young Knud Mortensen. He was looking for a job. He was looking for adventure. Canada seemed like a great place to find both. With his parent’s blessing, he accompanied the Paulsons to Canada. Also accompanying the Paulsons were three Bintje potatoes. They were hidden in Gunnar’s jacket pocket as the family passed through Canadian customs. The potatoes, as well as the rest of the family and Knud, survived the trip to Wainwright. They grew and multiplied, both the Paulsons and the potatoes. Soon there were enough potatoes to share with Knud’s aunt and uncle who lived in Tilley, Alberta. Tanta (aunt) Marie looked after the potatoes with the same love and devotion as the Paulsons.

Knud, tired of working as a cook and laborer, returned to Denmark where he met and married Eva. Two boys and a doctorate in plant pathology followed soon after. When the opportunity to return to Canada to complete his post graduate work arose, Knud accepted. He assured Eva it would only be for a year and it would be a wonderful opportunity for the boys to learn English.

That was almost forty years ago. When Knud moved out to the farm, he got some Bintje potatoes from Tante Marie and began growing his own potatoes. When he moves into Prairie Spruce, the potatoes are coming along…but probably not in his pocket.

The one sure way of enjoying heirloom Binjte potatoes? Joining the Prairie Spruce Cohousing community, of course!

Joanne

Prairie Spruce Potatoes in our Garden, and in Bed?

About 20 years ago, when I was a new bride, my mother-in-law Eva saw me peeling store bought potatoes. She promised to bring me in some potatoes from the farm the next time she came to town. Having grown up on a farm with the obligatory giant farm garden, I was none too fond of store bought potatoes and was happy at the prospect of real potatoes.

Potato-Bintje-300x198

As promised, Eva showed up a few days later with a 5 gallon pail of potatoes. I was wondering if they would be red potatoes (best for making perogies) or white potatoes (best for baked potatoes). It never crossed my mind, that there were any other kinds of potatoes. Apparently there are; she had brought me a pail of Bintje potatoes.

They look delightful, don’t they. What you don’t know is that the size you are seeing them right now is pretty close to real size. The big ones are about the size of you thumb. I kept a smile plastered on my face as I thought these were the potatoes we left in the garden in the fall because they were toooooooo small. Keep smiling… I am not peeling those things. Keep smiling… maybe I can bake them or something. Keep smiling…what am I going to do with 5 gallons of teeny tiny potatoes.

I soon discovered that the absolute best way to eat Bintje potatoes is at Eva’s house. She boils them with the peels on and Knud peels them while they are still super hot. The potatoes are then put in a bowl, covered with a potato doily (yes, they have one – don’t you?) and put into the bed under the feather quilt until the rest of supper is ready.

I have become a Bintje potato purist as I don’t bother with butter or gravy, I just eat them plain. Sometimes I even skip dessert and just have more potatoes. Well, on the off chance someone in the family reads this, I guess I should correct that. I eat dessert and then eat more potatoes.

If you ask Eva, I’m sure she would make them for you at our next community shared meal. If you ask Knud, he might even tell you the story of how those potatoes got to Canada. These types of stories are of course best told in community, and around a table filled with great food. Let us know if you’d like to be part of our next community meal.

Joanne

Three Generations Under One Cohousing Roof

Henning-Rototilling-400x284

Prairie Spruce is a multigenerational cohousing community.  This usually means that the community of residents as a whole consists of children, adults and seniors. At Prairie Spruce, multigenerational cohousing takes on a somewhat unique flavour, albeit common within cohousing communities: we have different generations of the same family moving into their own private condo units within the community. Roger will be living there as well as his parents Dave and Lill. Murray is moving in, along with his sister Lois and mother, Loraine.

Erik-Eva-Gardening-e1432235550692-400x284
My family is the only one that will have three generations living in Prairie Spruce. Henning, my husband, and I will be moving in with our son, Erik. Henning’s parents, Eva and Knud, will be moving in also. Before you think I am just the best daughter-in-law in the world, you should know three things. First, I am very lucky that I get along very well with my in-laws. They are very nice people. Second, they will be living on the first floor and we will be living on the second floor. Third, they will be looking after my dog part time as he likes to be outside in the summer and they just happen to have a terrace. We are all looking forward to the benefits of living separately within the same condo; living apart, together.

The three Mortensen generations spent some time last Monday morning working together at the Information Centre, roto-tilling the ground in preparation for planting potatoes and zucchini. We’re looking forward to sharing the fruits (vegetables?) of our labour with the community, neighbours and our extended cohousing family.

Joanne

Global TV – Take Two!

Global News Regina visited our Information Centre over Easter and we got a great spot on the news last Saturday.

http://globalnews.ca/video/embed/1948216/

They liked us so much that they decided to do a more in depth story for this coming weekend. So this past Monday, Raquel Fletcher and her camera crew came to a community potluck at Lois’, for a second round of filming and interviews. Needless to say, it was a super meal! Raquel even said she was tempted to move in just for our cooking.

Global promised us that a longer feature on cohousing and Prairie Spruce will be on  this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 as a part of Global TV’s Focus Saskatchewan. Definitely tune in to watch, and let us know what you think!

Joanne

P.S. For those of you who are thinking I was not very nice as I didn’t bother to get the camera person’s name….well you’re right and I do feel bad.  It was a bit of a faux pas… but in cohousing fashion, at least I didn’t forget to invite him to have supper with us!

Black Sheep Welcome

Black-Sheep-400x284
I wonder if everyone feels (like me) that they are the black sheep of their family.  Not the full on, crazy cousin that you don’t give your address to black sheep, but just some way that you don’t fit into your family. (Yes, I do have a crazy cousin but he is harmless and he doesn’t know my married name.)

I am the curling black sheep of my family. My older sister has gone to the Canadian Ladies Senior Championship twice as lead on Team Saskatchewan. My father has a lifetime membership in the Yorkton Curling club. My mom was a hard core curler until her back gave out. Then she became the driver for her team – very important when bonspieling in rural Saskatchewan.

I don’t curl. There I’ve said it – it’s out there for everyone to know. Growing up, I was the kid sitting at the curling rink reading a thick book. We lived on a farm and ‘going to the rink’ was one way to get into town. I played on my sister’s team one year. At the end of the year, she very lovingly told me that the rest of the team didn’t want me to curl with them next year; they wanted to win at least one game.

So when Prairie Spruce announced that we would be participating in a Curling blender at the Tartan Curling rink, I was torn. I wanted to hang out with my cohousing friends, but curling? Seriously, curling? I usually use the phrase ‘I’d rather poke a stick in my eye’ when asked about curling.

I took a chance and had a great time. Have I returned from the dark side? Has the curling gene finally shown up? Nope. I took my camera along and had a blast taking pictures. Since they were fun four end games, no one cared that I was on the ice taking pictures. It was absolutely the best time I’ve ever had curling. Prairie Spruce fielded (iced?) two teams. Prairie Spruce One was Henning, Warren, Murray, and Suzanne. Prairie Spruce Two was Dave, Lil, Roger, and Knud. We were the only group that fielded two teams, had a team photographer, as well as a cheering section of Kim, Suzanne’s daughter, Laurie and Claire.

The moral of the story? In cohousing, even black sheep belong!

Joanne

How We Define Community

If you google Regina developers or home holders, many nice websites come up. Most contain the word “community” such as “building better communities” or “coherent communities.” As a cohouser, I was curious what other websites had to say on the subject of community. I looked at four or five websites and as far as I could tell, their community was all about the physical space – tree lined streets, bike paths, and parks. There are some nice places in Regina.

But I think community is much more than that. I think the community is about people. Have you ever had a crappy job but stayed longer than you should have because the people you worked with were great? How about a good job that you quit because you couldn’t stand the some of the people you worked with? People are the most important factor in community.

At Prairie Spruce Commons, we are building our community right now. Not the physical building, but the relationships that will make living in the same building easy and rewarding. We are spending time together, getting to know one another. We have had BBQs in the park, house concerts, games nights, and many, many potlucks and community meals. (We have amazing cooks at Prairie Spruce.) I am getting to know my future neighbors. I know who likes dogs and who has a cat. I know who can teach me about art and who I can talk to when I’m upset. I know who likes to garden and who is most likely to have chocolate. I know who wants to learn to make perogies and who will prevent me from cutting off my fingers with a chop saw.

As a group, we have been working on policy: pets (yes, two), smoking (nope, not anywhere on the property), parking (yes, one covered spot). As a group, we have designed and refined the plans for Prairie Spruce Commons. As a group, we have worked through many issues and are still a community. Everyone has their say and everyone is listened to. Sometimes it takes the group a while to reach consensus, but the decisions made that way are always better than what we started with.

Oh yeah, about the physical community space. We’ve got a great building, with a great courtyard, in a great neighbourhood. We are even across the road from a 2300 acre park. I think we got the developer definition of “community” covered too. 🙂

Joanne

A "Tom Sawyer" Turkey Dinner

Tom_Sawyer-238x284Everyone knows the story of Tom Sawyer, a clever young boy who convinces his friends to do his work for him. It is a work of fiction, but the story it seems has inspired many…

About two weeks ago, Murray announced that he was going to cook a turkey for a birthday dinner our community would host while Chris, one of our project managers, was going to be in town. Our Prairie Spruce community rallied behind Murray’s idea and other members quickly offered to make something for the meal. I offered to make extra stuffing. Henning offered to bring perogies. Salads and desserts were volunteered. The Gagnons were going to make some delicious homemade cranberry sauce.

In the lead into the dinner prep, Murray mentioned it would be good to have some help so our host Lois stepped up to help cook the potatoes and Dave volunteered to come early to carve the turkey.3064997632_d930edb767

As with any prairie potluck, there was food in abundance. Jean and Faye brought a spinach salad with strawberries, avocados and poppy seeds. Henning brought perogies whose silky smooth dough and delicious filling drove even those who normally are gluten free or vegetarians to try a couple. Joyce treated us to two types of custard and someone made the best apple crisp I have ever had. Warren offered up cheesecake. Several bottles of wine appeared out of assorted bags and boxes.

Suzanne arrived with a large pan. It was topped with golden brown crumbs and was filled with a smooth, creamy-looking concoction. Hmm, I wondered what it was, some type of delightful potato casserole? Perhaps another dessert? A new vegetarian dish for me to sample? It smelled wonderful. I asked her what it was. Turnip Fluff was her answer. Oh…

I have spent my entire life hating turnips. My mom would boil them to a nasty, pale orange mush and force us to “just try a little.” To this day, some 30 years later, my mom still wants me to “just try a little” of her boiled turnips. As an adult, I can just smile, say “no thanks” and pass them to my dad who really likes them. My dad is English –  you can draw your own conclusions from that.

But life is about trying new things, so I tried “just a little” of Suzanne’s Turnip Fluff. It was delicious. It was fluffy. It was wonderful. I experienced a personal epiphany – turnips are not nasty; they are really quite good. I went back for seconds – a much bigger helping this time. (I wonder what she can do with Brussel sprouts – my second least favorite vegetable?)

When it was time for cleanup in the kitchen, Murray had to retire to the living room to attend the marketing meeting. Fortunately, Ruth came to the rescue. She offered to clean up while the rest of us attended the meeting.

We teased Murray, our “Tom Sawyer of the North”, quite a bit that night about his turkey dinner. But the reality is, we were all Tom Sawyers that night. By splitting up the work, delegating cooking and cleaning, we all benefitted in a way that could only have been possible through group effort. Only one of us had to make the cranberry sauce, only one of us had to bring the turnip fluff and only one of us had to do the dishes. But we ALL had fun. We all got to enjoy the meal and enjoy each others company.

I’m looking forward to Murray’s next party. 🙂

Joanne

 

Cohousing Recipes: Gluten-Free Brownies

In this third of four recipes, we get to the sweet stuff: dessert! As part of Joanne’s role as community meal prepper last week, she wanted to prepare items that reflected the diversity of food values and choices within the community. Being a self-described “meatatarian”, she is somewhat unaccustomed to preparing non-omnivore meals but she wanted to be respectful of her friends’ personal values and dietary requirements. The series is meant to showcase the respect and love we can show one another, simply by caring about what people can, and choose to eat in community.

Joanne says: I couldn’t ignore our friends with gluten allergies. I haven’t eaten very much gluten-free baking, but these brownies have a deep, rich chocolate taste. They are not only good gluten-free brownies; they are just plain old great brownies.

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies

Black bean brownies
Photo courtesy of Mårten Persson on Flickr

Ingredients

  • 1 cup  canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Arrowroot Starch/Flour (couldn’t find it so I used rice flour)
  •  6 oz gluten-free semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mixed nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 8 inch pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler, stirring until smooth. Stir in sugar and then stir in eggs one at a time.
  3. Using a food processor, puree beans until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well (in the food processor) Add flour and mix until no longer grainy.
  4. Stir in 1/2 cup nuts into batter and transfer to pan. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top.
  5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean but brownies are still slightly fudgy in the center – about 45 minutes.
  6. Let cool before cutting.

Cohousing Recipes: Vegan Mexican Bean Salad

This is the second in a four part series of cohousing recipes. As part of Joanne’s role as community meal prepper last week, she wanted to prepare items that reflected the diversity of food values and choices within the community. Being a self-described “meatatarian”, she is somewhat unaccustomed to preparing non-omnivore meals but she wanted to be respectful of her friends’ personal values and dietary requirements. The series is meant to showcase the respect and love we can show one another, simply by caring about what people can, and choose to eat in community.

Joanne says: Our cohousing group also includes a vegan family. I’m 99% sure this salad is vegan and 100% sure it is delicious. It is pretty good the second day too. Not sure about day 3; it’s never lasted that long. This is from the Wealth of Health website.

Vegan Mexican Bean Saladvegan-mexican-bean-salad-400x284

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed (no-salt added)
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) whole-kernel corn, drained (no-salt added)
  • 1 large mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds

Directions

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and mix into salad.

Being Respectful: Food

As practice for living together in Prairie Spruce Commons, three families cook supper for everyone else once a month. Last week, it was my turn to help cook the community meal before our monthly meeting.

Thanksgiving Church Potluck
Photo courtesy of Lars Hammer on Flickr

First, it’s important I let you in on a secret: I was born and raised on a farm, a cattle farm. I knew from a young age where the meat came from on our table, and not to make pets out of the cattle in the pen. There was meat, potatoes and gravy for dinner and supper every day. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free were not a words our family was familiar with.

Since I’ve been married and had a son, I’ve rebelled against my strict meat-and-potato upbringing. What did my mother know? Some days, we have meat and pasta. Other days we have meat and rice. Occasionally we even have meat and bread. In retrospect, my mother must have known something: my husband and son actually cheer when I make a roast with potatoes and gravy.

So back to the community meal… When we joined the cohousing community, I knew some of our members were vegetarians and vegans. Some members are opting to follow a gluten-free diet. Being an omnivore verging on a meatatarian, these diet considerations are a bit out of my comfort zone. But I wanted to make an effort to show respect for their choices and dietary requirements. The next four blog posts are the recipes I choose to follow in my attempt to accommodate my friends and neighbours in community. I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes as much as we did.

Joanne