Normally I like to wrap things up at the end of my posts. However, in case you get distracted looking at pictures of cats on your second monitor, let me start by saying 10 Mile Meal is more than worth the price of admission. Was the transportation disorganized, yes. Was the food worthy of a Michelin star, no. Were the stories life changing, no. So then Chris, why is it so good? Well, the key to remember is that these events don’t have to be life changing, best-meal-of-my-life style moments to be great. It’s the human connection that makes these worthy of our time. The people I met along the way are very real, and very heart warming. Combine that with a hearty meal and you have a winning moment in life.
I had the option to drive myself out for the day or get pampered in a chartered yellow bus. As I haven’t ridden on the highway in a yellow bus for some time, I opted for that bumpy, exciting option. Not sure what to expect, especially as I went by myself, I stumbled on two couples in the South Edmonton Common parking lot who looked like they were lost…or looking for a bus. So I parked my car in their vicinity and confirmed my suspicions. Quite possibly the best decision of my night, these 4 friends welcomed me to their table and made this event better than I could have imagined.
Eventually we found ourselves sitting together with about two dozen folks on our way out to Anchor 7 Ranch and Museum. There we found curator/owner Larry Gitzel, who unfortunately (due to time constraints) had to rush through his massive collection of farming artifacts from his decades-long career as a farmer and auctioneer. Carol Neuman, the lovely lady behind 10 Mile Meal, describes Anchor 7 as “…one of rural Alberta’s hidden gems. There’s a collection of artefacts here that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, and may not be able to find anywhere much longer,”. Larry is getting up in years, one of the reasons the ranch may fall by the wayside, but was able to tell some very touching stories, some off-colour jokes, and his experience with Canadian Pickers. He promises it will be airing this fall; unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it was an enjoyable experience for him.
After wandering in and around his collection, making rope from scratch, grinding wheat, and watching Larry make wood shingles, we packed back into the bus and headed for Sunnybrook. A quick, accidental detour through Thorsby didn’t detour our appetites which were now full blown. Stepping into the community hall in Sunnybrook, we had the great privilege of hearing the sounds of The Provincial Archive. A fantastic home grown band, with two cd’s (a third coming out soon), and a proper European tour on the horizon. Safe to say, 10 Mile Meal hit a home run with their musical selection.
10 Mile Meal gave us the option of trying two locally produced beverages during our meal as well as a selection of Alley Kat brews. The drinks were; Rhubarb Radler: A bright summer blend of 10 Mile rhubarb lemonade and Alley Kat lager and Bloody Gerry: Inspired by Gerhard Neuman, this drink combines stinging nettle infused vodka with 10 Mile tomato juice, in a glass rimmed with house-smoked salt. I had two of the Rhubarb Radler’s and found them to be thirst quenching. The joy of this drink was how much it changed with the type of beer you used; summery and fresh with Alley Kat’s Summer Squeeze to notes of Christmas when combined with Amber Ale
A handful of tables were set up in the back corner of the community, allowing visitors to buy locally produced vegetables and preserves’. Described as a pop-up farmers market, this ended up being a small scale offering of potatoes, beets, jams, jellies, relish’s, and some frozen meat.
It was well past my normal supper hour so when the whole wheat pretzels arrived, I quickly ate my share and then some. Maybe my favourite food item of the night. You can imagine that a bread guy like me loves a fresh baked pretzel and healthy dose of Jam Lady mustard. Yum! A summer salad was up next. The dish was loaded with the freshness of the season including perfectly ripe peas. My only complaint would be that the greens were overdressed. The salad simply couldn’t keep up with the beyond healthy glug of Mighty Trio Organics oil after sitting together for a few minutes.
The 4H beef rouladen was next. Stuffed with bacon, pickles and herbs, it was a touch dry but reminded me of many other small town meals I’ve enjoyed over the years. The beef was served alongside fresh green & yellow beans, and a freakin’ delectable cream potato and dill dish. The potatoes were so good that our table requested another dish. Like creamy heaven in my belly. Wait, did I just write that.
Dessert was whiskey macerated mixed berry fruit crumble with Pinocchio Ice Cream. A solid finish to the meal. The meal was full of nice touches, including the wait staff who were local 4H members. We also had the privilege to hear from local producers and Jennifer Cockrall-King. I like Jennifer’s message, but I feel like she may have been preaching to the choir. I imagine the first handful of these 10 Mile Meals will be visited by people who already care about the food they eat and the people who provide it.
Before we knew it the meal was over and we were given only a few minutes to relax before jumping back onto the bus. I simply couldn’t have been happier. I was full of good food, delicious drink, and even better laughs. There is a real connection to food on nights like this; something that hearkens back to a different time. Where the kitchen table was always open to friends and family. Where you might trade your bovine raising neighbor new shingles for a side of beef. Where everyone for miles around grew zucchinis the size of small boulders, before turning them into award winning chocolate-zucchini muffins. These connections, which I can only assume at one-time were rampant across our land, is what makes experiencing them now so great. I’m not saying we should ditch our current path and pretend to live in a past that is no longer available, but we can’t possibly know where we are going if we don’t at least understand where we have been. 10 Mile Meal did exactly this by giving me a slice of insight into the area and the community. For that, I’m very blessed.