There are two red cottages separated by a white picket fence around the corner from my house. Yellow dahlias, honeysuckle vines and nasturtiums spill in and around the fence, hanging on to the warm days of fall. There’s a Chinese food restaurant on the corner, and right next door, nasturtiums stretch from a planter on the sidewalk. Two doors down, nasturtiums fall from a window box. I love this nasturtium trail around the neighbourhood, probably because they’re colourful, whimsical and edible. I dance the flowers over food this time of year, from pizzas to salads to hummus. They add peppery heat, colour and summer to the autumn palette. My friend Gillian taught me to eat the leaves too. She places them on top of tiny open-faced sandwiches, just wide enough to fit the lily pad-shaped leaf. I haven’t tried pickling the knobby caper berries found in every nasturtium cluster, but that’s next on my list.
Aesme Studios recently posted on Instagram that nasturtiums were said to have sprouted from the spilled blood a Trojan warrior, ‘the round leaf was his shield and the flower his helmet.’ A vibrant shield, a colourful helmet. Soft but spicy. Tender but strong.
Tender but strong is the theme this week. I have a new podcast episode out, at last, and my guest, Jennifer Crawford, is exactly that – an athlete, a competitor, a chef, a winner, but underneath, a tender human, cooking in their queer Nova Scotian kitchen facing sobriety, one day at a time.
The Crawford Clan motto is ‘With My Strength I’ll Give You Safety.’ I don’t know if Jennifer wears the tartan the way my fourth generation Cameron family has been known to – a sash across the shoulder at a family reunion, or a swinging kilt at a 1980’s Highland Games, back when I could leap over swords. But I do know that Jennifer’s life, struggles, recovery and effervescent enthusiasm provides safety to many.
The Cameron Motto is Let Us Unite. I’ve never paid attention to those words before. But I see now that The Food Podcast is a place where we come together to share our stories, to learn from each other and to find the common threads that unite us as people.
I clipped a cluster of nasturtiums from a neighbourhood ‘tangle’ today. I see a crimson helmet surrounded by shields. Lily pads supported by wonky stems. Peppery flavours and vibrant colours. Strength and safety, united, right here in my kitchen.