In Good Company
First appeared in Grainews on
9 April 2019
We arrived for a preliminary visit at the farm in June 2010, a month ahead of our move-in date. Over-anxious? Eager? Yes, both, but mostly we came early to help my aging parents move out – into a bungalow in a nearby town – and to paint the old farmhouse we were moving into.

I drove from Calgary with my eldest son and my miniature schnauzer. Dave drove from Regina. We all stayed across the road from my parents’ farm, with Ken and Sharon, already friends, and destined to become even closer once we actually settled. A few days passed doing the hard work of getting my parents established in what had been my grandparents’ “town house.” Then we cleaned the old farmhouse, and we bought paint: sunny yellow, to magnify the high prairie light, with red for trim. I’d learn soon enough that such a red required multiple coats to get it just right.

I stashed the cooler I’d hauled along while Dave called in the troops – writers and artists he’d met and maintained friendships with since his days as Writer in Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library. They were people I’d met already too, at readings, and at writing retreats and workshops. Together we’d built quinzhees, shared meals, read early drafts of new work, made music. I’d been welcomed into the community. So it felt okay to invite them to a work bee that included home cooking.

Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
The day of, most of the gang arrived, but one carful of city friends got lost en route and called from somewhere else, they weren’t sure where. But they were at a corner, and could see the road signs, so I explained the ups and downs of rural roads – township and range, and how to interpret their numbering. Eventually they arrived, cheerful and still game to paint. I told them about the countless times I’d arrived with a carful too – kids, cats, dogs – from Calgary, to visit the parents, invariably late in the afternoon or evening as the light was fading, but back in pre-cellphone days, and before road signs numbered each intersection, when all I had to guide me were the crossing points of the hydro line across the south field and a dimly remembered sense of rightness – surely this must be the right road? Sometimes it was, sometimes not. Once I’d driven in circles at moonrise with hungry kids and wailing kittens distracting my highway-fogged brain almost past bearing, hoping to stumble across a stretch of road I recognized, an intersection, a length of fence. Fortunately, I’d finally looked up and found the hydro lines, in the right field, at the right fence, only a few minutes from waiting grandparents.
On our painting date, our friends finally found us, and we spent two days painting the house together. I cranked up my parents’ barbecue, left behind for the occasion, and fed us all.
My fallback salad dressing then, as now, was a vinaigrette-style Caesar dressing. After we cleaned the paintbrushes, I spooned it over salad greens and a glorious mishmash of grilled vegetables, sausages, chicken thighs, salmon and steaks. During this past winter, I’ve used the same dressing on roasted cauliflower, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted squash, roasted onions, roasted peppers, roasted asparagus, roasted eggplant, and occasionally on a variety of salad greens. It feeds artists, writers and farmers with equally openhanded generosity on all manner of food, so make lots. Find that Caesar dressing in the Recipes archive. Fiirst we eat, then we store the extras in the fridge for tomorrow, and prepare for spring.

“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”

~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards, University of Saskatchewan President’s Office Nonfiction Award

“Food is a wonderful agent for storytelling... and Bread & Water demonstrates this brilliantly.”

~ Sarah Ramsey, starred review, Quill & Quire

“[Bread & Water is] An amazing feast... riveting... eloquent.”

~ Patricia D. Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press

“[Bread & Water is a] sensuous experience; she brings her poet’s eye and ear to everything within her purview.”

~ Professor emerita Kathleen Wall, Blue Duets

“A deep love of the art of cooking that includes the language of fine dining (cassoulet, confit) even if the lamb was raised in Olds and she picked the rhubarb herself... she impressively manages this collision of worlds with a wholesome, approachable style.”

~ Megan Clark, Alberta Views

“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”

~ Don McKay, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize

“The writing [in Wildness Rushing In] is honed and textured, the senses so alive that you can practically taste the language. There are moments of brilliance rare in a first book.”

~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards

“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "

~ Lee Kvern, Alberta Views

“[Foodshed is] A rich encyclopedia of facts, farm-gate lore and original recipes... a politically engaging narrative in which Hobsbawn-Smith articulates the challenges and joys faced by small-scale producers... don’ t let the alphabet theme fool you. This is no tame nursery rhyme; it is a locavore call to arms.”

~ P.D. Robertson, The Globe & Mail

Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist
Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist



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