by Lauren Mote
Land hoe? Absolutely. I could see it in the distance, but not the whole time… Not until the 3 hour of my trip from mainland to island did I see its fair westerly coast. It was getting closer, and I was getting excited.
When a good friend, Emily made mention back in April that her father was getting married, I insisted on being there – not to mention Steve was getting married to a Toronto girl, and out on Gabriola Island, where a beautiful ranch style house had just become their residence only a short time before. I was excited.
At the peak of the Vancouver summer, I was itching for a little trip. Steve’s wedding couldn’t have happened at a better time.
At 8:00am Sunday morning, I kissed Johnny good bye, stepped on the express bus to get to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. Having never traveled outside Vancouver, I was craving the independence and the unpredictability of a loosely planned adventure. At Horseshoe Bay, I bought my one way Nanaimo “Departure Bay” ticket, and waited quite calmly for the boarding call. I had about a hour to kill – a foodie never travels light either – in my bag I had more food then clothing! In season items like Pitt Meadows’ blueberries, Osoyoos cherries, bananas, and homemade granola for the crunch. As well, I had my laptop – a writer doesn’t leave home without it – the poets’ Amex.
The weather was perfect on land, and a little windy on the water, but I was really enjoying it. With Vancouver getting smaller and smaller, the water became wider and wider. An amazing sensation especially if you can appreciate the “natural world” a little more. Between snacking, writing and listening to music, I got carried away, and passed out in the sun. Not a bad way to spend the early part of the day.
I awoke to Vancouver Island becoming more and more visible. The cherries were gone, blueberries half eaten, and we were close to shore. I needed a coffee – not the best quality on board, but I could handle it.
Alas, we arrive in Nanaimo. Next, getting the ferry to Gabriola Island. As we reach closer, I am at the bow of the ferry. Excited to see Emily, and have a local snack. The wedding was to commence in 2 hours.
Steve meets me at the dock, and we celebrate this special time with a high-five. Yep. Their house is beautiful – situated amongst hundred year old arbutus oak trees, a pond, a modest garden and open blue sky straight above. The 2 acres of property are torn in two – beautiful white chairs and reception area on one side, and tents litter the back side.
There was Emily! We embrace – so great to see someone from back home. I meet everyone – her 2 new step-sisters, and Barb, Steve’s bride-to-be. All 3 of them are vegan vegetarian. I thought this to be one of the most interesting culinary experiences for a previously “all veged out” vegetarian such as myself – but that was 10 years ago!
And here I thought Osoyoos cherries were good? They pale in comparison to the tiny Gabriola cherries – small, sweet and plentiful! Everything was organic. Everything was flavourful. As it turns out, all the food is homemade – well there’s no catering to the island I don’t think – but Barb’s daughter has done most if not all of the vegan cooking – the lentil loaf, with pumpkin seeds was moist and filling; the carrot “wedding” cake was to die for – and countless salads, and legume dishes to tantalize even this discerning palate. I have always loved and enjoyed GOOD vegan food, so I was delighted to dine on the “lighter” side for 16 hours. When it came time for the toast, there was homemade wine from a skilled winemaker on the Island, and of course, no egg white fining agents were used – it was vegan as well! A pinot noir, and sauvignon blanc, and the guests were delighted that I could name them from aroma, colour and taste – but then again BC wine is not complicated, and wine has rapidly become a huge portion of my studies, and my life.
As if the vegan food wasn’t enough – let me introduce you to 9 salmons, of different fisherman, different species, different cooking techniques, but brought by one lady. The lady of the salmon. King salmo, coho, wild BC, sockeye, etc… salmon baked with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper; salmon grilled with curry; cured salmon gravlax with dill, sea salt and brown sugar; salmon grilled with fresh local herbs and citrus – nothing complex – local, fresh and simple. The way food should always be.
A mountainous 4 tier wedding cake concluded, and as I mentioned a few lines above, the vegan carrot cake was only reserved for a few special eaters. This tall, well constructed cake was made by the neighbour – a surprise. Her name is Susan, she in her 70’s and likes to make dresses out of white towels – or so the girls told me. The brilliant white cake – simply vanilla, spongy and moist, was dressed with vanilla buttercream frosting, spread like a fondant. No holes, not lines, gorgeous. The decorations? No “over-sugared” royal icing flowers, no, these were truly edible flowers from Susan’s garden – roses, ferns, daisies – beautiful. Tasted amazing too. I was put on cake distribution – this is what happens when you know a lot about food, or you’ve studied the cake distribution guide on page 700 in “The Joy of Cooking”. I was honoured to assist. I had 3 slices.
The live band starts their act – consisting of Gabriola’s finest – Steve (the groom – who is also a brilliant pianist – he used to play in the Lion King musical and the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto – he played for the cows to keep them calm), Steve and Veronica – or as Emily calls them – “sssssvvvh” – now that’s phonetics. As the night continues, people are letting loose – Emily’s brother Darren and I are scoring shish-kebob after shish-kebob. The more beer we drink (Victoria Pilsner of course) the more meat and cake is consumed – but not together surely.
The following day, it was time for exploration – I was leaving for the real world that evening. We made our way by car down to the other end of the island – facing east towards Vancouver. The day was so clear that Mount Rainier and Mount Baker could be seen with their snowcaps in the distance. Sea-lions playing in the water and briefly spotted!
Emily and I went back to our childhood ambitions – “digging in the sand and barnacles for stuff”. After discovering the little neck clams everywhere, we dug for more; I must’ve got sprayed in the butt about a dozen times by these little guys. Mini almost microscopic crabs were liberated from their rocks, and the hundreds of bright purple starfish got a cool bath out of the blistering sun. We were nature’s liberation squad. After the large red crab thought to be deceased was lifted and played with by small children in front of us (he was alive and quite “snappy” – no pun intended…) we decided it was time for lunch. Clam frites, fresh fish and chips, and a fish burger. Awesome. I didn’t have the heart to eat the clams I made friends with, but I happily ate the buttery prepared mollusks at the dockside eatery.
The food experiences heading home paled in comparison, but when I arrived home that night, I was delighted to learn there was a fresh piece of halibut waiting for me on the stove.