In the centre of Canada
The sky seems to be endless. And underneath the blue sky, which is broken up by ribbons of clouds, the wheat and canola fields are stretching out as far as the eye can see, seemingly going on till infinity. This is the centre of Canada.
I am on my way from the east to the west coast. I decided to travel over land, to get a good feeling of how big this country actually is. And to get to know what is in between the two, much more famous, coastal areas.
The first observation is simple: the distances are gigantic. The trip from Montréal to Vancouver is over 4500 kilometers, but it is interesting to experience the enormity of this country. Crossing Ontario takes a long time, it feels like this province will never end. Parts of the landscape are beautiful, with wetlands and small lakes surrounded by rocks and plenty of trees. Other parts of the road are just lined with trees, and that´s all there is. When finally driving into Manitoba, one of the prairie provinces, the landscape changes. It is flat, there are still some lakes, but also lots of grassland filled with cattle and agriculture. This type of landscape continues into Saskatchewan and Alberta. The cities in the region are quiet and maybe not particularly spectacular, but seem friendly and relaxed. And there are some surprises, like a tiny but amazing Mexican restaurant in Regina and a lively (maybe a bit too aggressive at the end) nightlife in Winnipeg. As is usually the case, meeting people is a large part of the experience. The fact that there are not that many other tourists always seems to help. Not only because you continue bumping into the same people in hostels so that there is some time to get to know each other better, but it also seems easier to get in touch with locals. Like the friendly Mexican chef in Regina who was very interested in seeing Europeans in town. Or the time in Thunder Bay that the owner of the guesthouse was celebrating the birthday of her sister with a barbecue, and the other person in the guesthouse and me were invited as well. It was cool to have a barbecue party with those ladies, with a fire in the backyard after.
Arriving in the province of Alberta I could stay for a weekend with a girl I know from back in the days, from elementary school. It is always great to see old friends, and it was nice to stay in a small village and get a bit of a taste of the life there. Together we went to two nature parks that were more than amazing. It is an almost surreal sight to see the mountains suddenly rising up in the middle of all those flat, agricultural plains. The splendours of nature…
I´m excited to see what will happen once I go even more westwards.
Traveling towards the west not only the landscape has changed. Over time it has also gotten warmer. Where I still had rain and twelve degrees in Thunder Bay, it is over the thirty degrees now. And especially on the days that I´m traveling long distances by bus I have cravings for something that is refreshing, light, and healthy. This salad is definitely perfect for warm summer days. I love it because of the combination of the fresh and sweet watermelon with salty ingredients like the cheese and the olives, and the acidity of the lime. Of course, it is great when having a barbecue or a picnic. But I also used to take it to work for lunch sometimes when I lived in Barcelona.
Ingredients (for about 4 portions as a side dish, or 2 as main meal)
- Watermelon – a piece of around 1500 grams
- Red onion – a small one, or half if it´s a large one
- Black olives – a good handful
- A crumbly goats cheese – around 100 grams
- Olive oil – preferably a good extra virgin one
- 1 Lime
- Small bunch of fresh basil or mint
- Salt and black pepper
This is a very simple recipe, with not much work involved. Start by taking the rind of the watermelon and chopping the fruit in small cubes, about the size of a dice. If it has a lot of the black seeds, try to remove some of them. Peel the onion, cut it in half and slice into very thin half rings. When you are using black olives with the stone in, squeeze them with the flat side of a knife and take out the stone. When you use the pitted ones, slice them in half. Roughly chop the fresh herbs and squeeze the juice out of the lime.
Mix the watermelon, the onion, and the olives together. Add a small pinch of salt and black pepper, and toss most of the fresh herbs through the salad. Dress with about two tablespoons of olive oil, and the juice of the lime. Make sure to taste, in order to see if it has the right amount of sweetness, saltiness, and acidity. Finally, crumble the cheese over the salad, and top off with the rest of the fresh herbs. Serve with some good bread, and enjoy the freshness!
In case you want to take this salad somewhere on a picnic, or take it for lunch to work like I used to do, it is better not to add the lime juice yet. Just take the lime separately and squeeze it over when you are ready to eat.