"Candy! You’re not leaving the dinner table until every last mound of squash is eaten. That came fresh out of the garden, and I'll be damned if it's going to waste. Besides, do you know how good that is for your health?"
At six years old, what did I really care about “health,” let alone the pile of vegetables that I nicknamed “slop mountain?” It was still waiting there for me at breakfast, so I held my nose and ate it. My mom’s faith in healthy eating followed me throughout childhood in a small Canadian farming community in Chilliwack, British Columbia (now quite a happening little city). I really wanted Franken Berry or Count Chocula cereal; instead we got steel-cut oats. (How was I supposed to eat oats made of steel?) Before my best friend and I headed out anywhere, Mom would serve up a green smoothie, made with kale, turmeric, and Lord knows what else. My friend and I both knew that the faster we swallowed, the sooner we would get to leave.
My mother came by her philosophy honestly, via her own mom (my now 93-year-old grandmother), who also shot the moose, deer and other meats served for dinner. We were taught that Mother Earth provides pretty much all we need to survive; you just have to know what to look for. When my grandmother came to visit, she always brought a tree to be planted, which usually bore some sort of fruit, nut, or "useful" bud or flower. Mom didn’t carry on the hunting tradition, but she did learn such goodies as fresh rye bread, and dandelion greens were not only used as a salad but also made into wine. Our sweets were likely to be plum dumplings from Grandma’s Czechoslovakian heritage (topped with fresh cream from our cow and honey from our generous and giving bees). We’ve all had a hand in making this dish, and we all have our opinions of whose turns out better, but there’s always something special about kneading the dough, picking fresh plums from the tree, and sitting down to wonderful food and conversation.
Fast forward ten years, and not much has changed about what my mom cooks for me. But now I am grateful, seeing the wisdom in her ways. I've adopted Mom’s "green" skills and feel that they have kept me healthy, happy and energized in a world that has gone in the opposite direction of "whole” and "living" foods.
My husband always teases us when we sit down to eat at Mom's house because it is never a traditional “square meal.” In place of meat, we usually find protein-rich lentils or beans or fresh wild fish, and greens cover most of our plates. I wouldn't have it any other way. As much as I wanted a Kraft dinner from a box, I’m glad Mom and Grandma made me stay at the table and finish that dreaded squash.
Candyce Weir is an actress and massage therapist who lives most of the year in Costa Rica where she and her husband operate Victory Sportfishing.
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
2 T. vegetable oil
plums with pits removed
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add oil and egg with enough milk to make the dough pliable.
Cut into pieces large enough to wrap around the plum, and pinch shut.
Bring several quarts of water to boil in a large pot, reduce heat, and cook dough balls gently until they float.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place in serving bowl.
With a sharp knife, cut a star shape on top of each dumpling (do not cut all the way through) and top with fixings of your choice.