BELWOOD, Ontario. November 2008. It is minus 27 degrees Celsius. There is no power. I feel powerless. Since growing up in the tropics, I had never seen snow in all of my 38 years, let alone an ice storm of such enormous proportions. It started while I was sleeping. The ice had made tree branches heavy, which broke and downed the power lines in our lane. A noise woke me up during the early hours of the morning. The sound of the branches breaking sounded like gunshots and I felt a little panicked. I thought handguns were illegal in Canada. I switch on a light. Nothing. I lie breathless for a few moments and another branch breaks near the bedroom. I look out the window and realization starts to dawn. I am clueless as to how HVAC works, yet I know if I don’t make a plan, I’m going to be in trouble. We’re on a septic and well in rural Ontario and with no power comes no communications, no heat and no running water. An ugly, square black cast iron stove stands in the middle of an equally ugly unfinished basement. Have wood, will make fire. Six hours later the power is still out, the sun is setting and I’m starting to get hungry. My oven is electric and I’m petrified to drive in these conditions since I have no 4×4, have no experience driving in snow and ice and my husband is away for a week with the 4×4. An enormous Canadian salmon has defrosted and it is time for me to do it afraid. I light the fire in the basement monstrosity, load the salmon in a roasting pan and add some water, salt and pepper. I do not think to let the wood burn down to coals and shove the pan straight into the fire. Smoke starts to billow out of the belly of the beast. There is a knock on my door. I look out the window and in the driveway is a man on a tractor with a beard as white as the snow that he’s busy clearing off my driveway. He appears to be about 80 years old. An equally white haired woman stands at the door. She is my new neighbor. “Are you OK? It smells as if your house is on fire.” I explain. She giggles a little and tells me she has gas if I need to come over to cook. The guy on the tractor is her husband and he is as old as I thought. He makes his own wine from the maple syrup he taps from the maple trees in his back yard and I’m welcome to a glass while I cook. I decide to tough it out. Only way to learn. I pull the salmon out of the fire. It tastes delicious! When my husband returns he tells me the wood I used to make that fire was cedar. In my ignorance I home smoked that piece of salmon to perfection.
Locals will later tell me that those type of temperatures are unknown for that time of the year and it is the worst ice storm they’ve experienced in the history of the town. The power was out for two days and I was forced to learn to cope under circumstances that had me completely out of my comfort zone. After this incident I made sure that I understood the workings of the HVAC and learned how to make a proper wood fire. I learned to drive in snow and ice with great care and have since learned to cook a salmon in a more refined manner by glazing it with maple syrup and putting it on a cedar plank on the grill in a more controlled environment. Maybe not as exciting as my first attempt, but no less delicious and I’m still exploring different ways to make salmon taste great.
The recipe for the maple glazed cedar plank salmon can be found in my book Have Food Will Travel, available on Amazon and at: