I’ve been thinking about my Grandmother’s shoes. Millie’s shoes. They were gold, shaped like ballet slippers. And the toes were covered in jewels – rubies and emeralds and diamonds (not really, but really) that glittered in the light. They were the most fantastic shoes I had ever seen. She called them the queen’s shoes. Because when you wear them, she said, you feel just like a queen. She told me to slip them on and I traipsed around the moss green carpet of my Grandparent’s living room. They were like boats on my tiny child feet and I had to shuffle to keep them on. But as I moved they glittered and sparkled and seemed to shine with a light of their own. Do you see what I mean? she asked. I did. They were magic, those shoes.
They lived under the table next to her bed. Her bed that was set up in the middle of the living room, so she could feel a part of things in the house. Part of the living she said. Her bed was controlled by a remote with all sorts of buttons and when no one was in the room she’d let me push every one of them. It’s better than a day at the circus she’d say as her frail frame was jerked up and down, first the head and then the foot rising up to impossible heights as the bed clicked and whirred and clanked. In the afternoon, Grandpa would bring us each a can of Ensure and a straw (vanilla for her, strawberry for me) and he’d tuck the blankets around us while we nestled in to watch her afternoon soaps, the queen’s shoes dangling off my feat. At some point she’d turn to me and smile. We’re like two peas in a pod, you and me.
It was the pomegranate seeds that made me think of them. As I scattered them into the bowl of golden squash and quinoa and toasted pecans -there was something in the way they caught the light that made me think of jewels. And all at once, this strange memory surfaced from the depths. Queen’s shoes. And I felt for a moment that I was laying there next to her again, the sickly sweet smell of Ensure and the muffled sounds of the television. Her matted red hair and her shrunken body, tiny as my own. Two peas in a pod.
But that’s the magic of food. It transports you. So that even when you are thousands of miles from your home, even when the people you love are unreachable beyond any distance, you can scatter pomegranate seeds in a bowl and there you are, home as you have ever been.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
- 3 cups (500g) squash, cut into chunks (about 1 acorn squash)
- 1/2 cup (100g) quinoa
- 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable stock
- 2-3 stalks of celery, sliced into 1/4 inch thick segments
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup pecans (about 50g), toasted and chopped
- 5-6 dates chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 cup pomegranate kernels (or about 1 small pomegranate)
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- pinch of saffron
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the squash on a roasting tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Scatter a pinch of salt and pepper over the top and place in the oven preheated to 375 degrees F for about 35-40 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the quinoa. Let it dry toast for a moment until you get a nice nutty fragrance and then add the stock, immediately covering the pan to trap in the heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until fluffy and tender - about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess water.
- Mix the squash, quinoa, celery, shallot, dates, pomegranate kernels, orange juice and orange zest together in a large bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a small pan over low heat and once it is warm add the saffron, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Continue to heat over a very low flame for a few minutes, then poor the entire mixture over the salad.
- Add about a good teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper and stir well to combine. Check for seasonings and add more salt or a little more orange juice as desired.