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Salty Crunchy

Martinique Beach, NS

The house was facing in the wrong direction. The dormer stretched horizontally across the roof, the back door flush to the house facing the road. My friend Brian lives next door. His small kitchen window faces the tree-lined ocean; the picture windows face the street. He says all houses out here are made this way. People want them to face the road, to ‘see who’s coming’. The ocean is for work. It’s where lobster fishermen thrash about, and often don’t come home. They don’t want to be reminded of that, said Brian, as the band sang Sonny’s Dream from a make-shift stage on Brian’s lawn. Brian was hosting ‘Pies and Paintings,’ an annual sale he puts on with people from this part of Nova Scotia every September.

Sonny, don’t go away, I am here all alone

And your daddy’s a sailor who never comes home

And the nights are so long and the silence goes on

And I’m feelin’ so tired, I’m not all that strong


Sonny carries a load, though he’s barely a man

There ain’t much to do, yet he does what he can

He watches the sea from a room by the stairs

The waves keep on rollin’, they’ve done that for years

Kitchen Window, Ecum SecumI’m an urbanite, the kind who is drawn to the water. The ocean means play for me, escape, holiday and pleasure. It’s not my job; I haven’t had to depend on it. I see the privilege in this as I stare at that house, its back to the ocean.

I bought a piece of embroidered linen that day, linen that Brian’s great aunt had stitched, perhaps one of those nights where the silence goes on and on. There were a few holes in the linen here and there, but Brian put a white frame over an intact piece.  Now it hangs in my new linen closet, reminding me that holes mean a life lived.

I went to the ocean today and went surfing. I’m a beginner; there was falling and laughing and a few moments of success. I’ve had a cold for a few weeks now, and the waves were one big, helpful neti pot. Now there’s salt on my skin and my hair is crunchy and wild. This is the flavour of my home, my life, today.

My friend Jasmine shared the flavour of her home in my latest episode of The Food Podcast. Her story is full of salt, the kind used for preservation, for tears, for crunchy pickles. She talks about her Polish Grandmother’s dill pickles, a critical ingredient for her pickle soup recipe. The crunchy, carbonated pickles are ‘smothered’ in oil then simmered with vegetables in broth. Brine is added, to your liking.

Brine is usually tossed away. But it’s the secret to so many things – the salty, garlicky, mustardy, dill spiced liquid adds a je ne sais quoi to things like salad dressings, soups, and my friend Nadia’s sunflower dip. The dip looks like hummus, but tastes richer, more interesting, more SALTY. After careful investigation, I learned the ingredients include toasted sunflower seeds, garlic, olive oil, miso and pickle juice, or as Jasmine would call it, brine.

I’m serving this dip, as Nadia does, with thinly sliced small vegetables. They look beautiful this way, but their small size also means a full scoop of dip with every bite, without the worry of double dipping. I know Jasmine would appreciate this detail.

This dip is the flavour of my home tonight- salty and grateful, with a touch of crunch.

PS – you can find Jasmine’s Pickle Soup recipe in the show notes, here.

Sunflower ‘Dill Pickle’ Dip 

1 1/2 cups toasted sunflower seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (use more or less garlic, depending on taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (125ml) pickle juice, or to taste
1/4 cup (70g) miso paste
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
handful chopped fresh dill
juice of half a lemon

In a food processor, blend sunflower seeds with garlic and salt and blitz until roughly chopped. Add pickle juice and miso paste and pulse a few more times. While motor is running, add olive oil until desired consistency. Add fresh dill and lemon juice and pulse once or twice.

Serve as you would hummus – on a vegetable platter, in sandwiches, with a poached egg and avocado…