Small Town Secrets

People assume that big cities are complicated, and small towns are easy.  Not so fast!

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

We hosted many exchange students through the years, my husband and I.  They often hailed from the great cities of the world. Rio de Janeiro, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Berlin...

Landing in South Dundas, they were perplexed by many things.   How do people get around without public transport?  Where are all the people in the winter? How can anyone survive in temperatures that would kill just about anything?  Why are all the trees dead?  Why do people suspend their mailboxes from long poles set back ridiculously far from the road?  Why did their fellow students hoot with glee and rush to classroom windows at the first sighting of snow? Surely this was a disaster of monumental proportions! Why?

The most intrepid of the exchange students persisted to experience the rush and deafening joy of the snowmobile, the rush and silence of cross-country skiing, the rush and, all too often heartbreak of curling, the flat-out craziness of hockey.  The "0h Jeepers!" of sliding into feather-beddy ditches, and fun of helping thankful folks rock out of them. Incredible and incredibly cozy ice huts and fish pulled up through holes. Snowy owls and snow days. Ice fog. Steam rising off the river. 

On the surface, it is all dull and rather terrifying. Scratching the surface, however, reveals a kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria of joy and adventure. 

So too it is with food. 

Remembering my early days in South Dundas, I could relate to the perplexity of the exchange students. 

There was a time long years ago when I lived in a big city, granted, in an even more vicious climate. But yes, we had it all - everything you could dream of!  We had gourmet this and that, fruits and vegetables off season, imported obscure delights.  Truly anything short of hummingbird tongues. Ahh yes!  

And then I found myself in a small Ontario town. The Dominion Store was the epicenter.   Oh my!  Salt, pepper and garlic salt. "How do these people live?” I wondered.  

How to cook?  How could I manage?

I persisted, and, over time, like the intrepid exchange student, I unearthed the hidden joys of South Dundas. 

I found an egg farmer who sold eggs so fresh that they combined with flour to make the most heavenly pasta.  (Incidentally, you picked up the eggs and left the money. Honour system. What???). 

Time marched on, as time has a way of doing.  I lovely found a woman with a fabulous garden and a most generous nature, the good man who would share his (I swear, world's best) horseradish, the woman who would happily to pass along her jam made from hand-picked local fruits and berries, the secret fiddlehead patches, extraordinary honey. Mushrooms!  Asparagus! Garlic scapes! Lovely windfalls that transformed themselves into extraordinary pies!  And oh the maple syrup!  There is the pickle lady and the tomato sauce genius. Antipasto better than anything on earth, goat cheese! And on and on it goes. 

Big cities are accessible to anyone.  You can buy your way in.  

Small towns, on the other hand, are like the many-layered, (and delicious) onion. You have to dig, to finagle, to earn your way in.  Secrets are held firmly and shared sparingly. 

It is a never ending quest and with every discovery - every victory - there is another quest just beyond reach.  

How could anyone live like this the exchange students asked, and I originally wondered?  The answer is, as so many of you have known or discovered before me - very well. Very well indeed!

So if you are new to the area, if you have heard that small towns are so friendly, so easy, so uncomplicated, if you are questioning the truth of these time-worn adages, my message to you is to be patient, be friendly. Volunteer. Jump in. The water is fine! 


Garlic Scape pesto

·      10 large garlic scapes

·      1/3 cup unsalted pistachios

·      1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

·      Salt and pepper to taste.  I like rather much of both.

·      1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. 


Whir the garlic scapes, pistachios, Parmesan, sufficient salt and pepper (to taste) in your food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the opening. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. 

Modify the recipe to adapt to the amount of scape you have.


This is lovely on pasta. It keeps in the fridge for a week easy, or in the freezer for




Make enough to share with friends and neighbours.  You will be surprised and delighted by the delicacies with which they reciprocate!