Maple Syrup season!

Maple syrup. A reflection.

I read somewhere that, when visiting friends and relatives anywhere else in the world, Canadians will tend to heft cans of maple syrup to present as hostess gifts. The article went on to suggest that we include some recipes and suggestions as to what can be done with this mysterious substance or it will accumulate in their cupboards like that Old Spice aftershave that the kids gave to Dad on every gifting occasion.  That is actually, a good idea. (The recipes and ideas, not the Old Spice). Lights go on behind eyes when folks are told of the fine Quebec tradition of pouring maple syrup on yogurt. Or to spin that up to date with a handful of muesli for a trendy breakfast. 

Maple syrup is magic. I use it everywhere.  Sunday morning waffles, pancakes or crepes?  Put some blueberries in a saucepan, pour maple syrup on them. Stir on medium heat until cooked down a bit but not too squooshy.  Throw in a knob of butter, why not, and you have the most divine of toppings. Raspberry season?  Same drill!

There is a story. Local lore. A host in a flurry of hosting a large party, accidentally grabbed maple syrup instead of olive oil when throwing together his salad dressing. Yup.  Maple syrup and balsamic vinegar.  He only realized his mistake when the accolades from his guests started rolling in. Ever since, I have included some maple syrup when making a basic vinaigrette.  Dark balsamic vinegar. Olive oil. And always some maple syrup.  

Many years ago, I was surprised when friends declared that they loved their apple pie served with a nice chunk of old cheddar. And a scoop of rich, vanilla ice cream.  And a liberal lashing of maple syrup. "No, no no!" I cried, blushing at the shameless excess.  Until I tried it, and by golly! 

Maple syrup, as it happens, is the secret ingredient of so many of my cookings.

But, sadly, somewhere along the line, maple syrup had to go underground. First it was supplanted by cheaper imitations, elevated in our estimation by flashy marketing and kitschy bottling. Just when we started to catch on that we had been led astray by an inferior product in a glittery tassels and false eyelashes, all sweets were swept away - the good, the bad and the ugly - by the new game in town: fake sugar. Oh now there was flash and dazzle for you!  Sugar was evil in all its forms. We must shun them, sisters and brothers!  But we are saved!  We can have our cake and eat it too!  In rolled calorie free sweeteners!  And what an enticing show they put on!  You can have sweet without the calories!  You can have it all!  You can be beautiful, thin, attractive, young, healthy.  By George, you might even live forever if you jump on board this bandwagon! 

Sadly, in the end, it came to pass that the emperor did indeed have no clothes. Behind the scenes and all the hoopla, scientists were busying themselves, as they often do, to reveal the truth behind the flim flam.  Turns out, these pseudo food products that could grant the promise of soda pop sex appeal without the calories, were a dream we could not keep. If it's too good to be true it probably isn't. 

Back we go to the wisdom of the ages.  Eat real. Eat sensibly. Moderation in all things. Exercise. And no matter what you do, you're going to die like everybody else. 

Which brings us back to maple syrup. Is it more nutritious than aspartame?  Actually yes. "Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese, which plays an important role in energy production and antioxidant defenses, and is necessary for normal brain and nerve function. A portion of ¼ cup of maple syrup contains 100% of the Daily Value of manganese, provides 37% of the Daily Value of riboflavin, which aids in the metabolic process and contains 18% of the recommended Daily Value of zinc, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Other minerals found in maple syrup are magnesium, calcium and potassium, decreasing the risk of hypertension or stroke."

"Should you drink it by the gallon?  Well, no.  But it is delicious. And in moderation, a good thing to have in your fridge for added flavor on your morning porridge, granola, yogurt or whatever spins your day into high gear. 

I add it to warm water and yeast to start my bread dough percolating. And salad dressings and all manner of sauces. Ice a cookie?  Icing sugar, maple syrup and a blob of butter, stir with a fork. Oh ya!

We live in a beautiful country, every season more spectacular than the last. And it gives us gifts, an abundance that is the envy of the world, (thanks, of course, to the efforts of our farmers, tappers of maple trees and all hands to the pump).  Certainly not the least of these delights is the magic of maple syrup. Let's not assume that anything in a package that promises eternal life can compete with something we already know to be perfect. Let's just settle down a bit. Take the time to be grateful. Try a spoonful of real yogurt, locally produced, with a drizzle of real maple syrup, locally produced. Let's just do that. And then, take the dog for a nice, long "walk sniff and squirt," and be glad that the roar of imitation this and that and zero calorie other has not drowned out the music of the good, the pure and the simple. Let's just defend that.  

Maple Syrup Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil