Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pulse Week

I'm an expert on pulses now. Somewhat. Or, like, I know what they are.

One week ago, if you'd said, "Suzy, what's a pulse?" I would've looked down my nose at you and said, "Pulse. Noun. The regular throbbing of the arteries, caused by the successive contractions of the heart, especially as may be felt at an artery, as at the wrist." And then I would've paused, raised right hand pointer and middle fingers in the air and placed them perspicaciously on my own wrist to demonstrate that I know not only what a pulse is but also how to take one.

A pretentious jerk, is what I am.

You, extending to me much more grace than I deserved, would've shaken your head, laid a hand on my shoulder and said gently, "No, you idiot. I'm talking about lentils and stuff."

Pulse, noun: The edible seeds of certain leguminous plants, as peas, beans, or lentils.

Here's an embarrassing thing: My dad grows pulses--I mean, I'm not embarrassed that he grows pulses. I'm embarrassed that exactly one week ago I was home for a visit on my parents' farm and my mom sent me home with a bucket of fresh chickpeas grown by my own father and still, I couldn't have told you what a pulse was. And I mean, it's not like my dad goes around saying, "I'm a pulse farmer!"...but still. I've just never heard that word thrown around in this context. Is it kind of the same as having a dentist for a father and not knowing what a molar is?

Iiiiii'm the worst.

Anyway, did you know that the United Nations declared 2016 The International Year of the Pulses? And did you realize what a big deal that actually is for Saskatchewan?

Some things I now know about pulses as they pertain to my home province: Saskatchewan exports 99% of Canada's chickpeas. In fact, Saskatchewan exports 90% of the nation's pulses, with our pulses being consumed in about 125 countries. Canada makes up 35% of the global pulse trade, and Saskatchewan is responsible for most of that.

(Feel free to rattle this trivia off at your next dinner party. Especially if there are farmers present. Here's more, in case your audience asks for it, and if you click on the picture it'll take you to even more:)

Look at you, being the life of the party with your pulse facts. If no one ever invites you to a dinner party again, I'm sorry.

Anyway. In honour of the Year of the Pulses, this past week was Pulse Week in Regina. Regina celebrated accordingly - we ate so many beans.

Five chefs in the city even created special pulse-based dishes and served them at their restaurants in something called the Great Canadian Pulse Off, and then everyone could try them and vote for their favourites. There were gift card giveaways every day and it was all very fun and festive and farm-towny. (The winner is being announced on Monday.)

I only got around to trying two of the dishes (next year, I will do better). I went out on Monday with some new friends and tasted the chickpea and lentil tacos at the Lancaster (you can see Justin's video about that here, since he has a real camera and everything), and then I went to Malt City on Friday and tried the chickpea pasta with guanciale, parmesan, and white bean puree.

(PS: I know my calling isn't "food photographer". I really know. But the food was dang good, rest assured.)

I was also invited along on Pulse Week's media tour. A friend of mine was like, "The chickpeas get a media tour?"


So it was that bright and early Friday morning, I found myself sitting beside a journalist from Vancouver on a party bus bound for Riceton, SK to talk to a farmer named Lee Moats (all good stories start like this, don't they?).

(As an aside, I enjoyed that bus ride immensely. The journalist I chatted with has been in the biz for at least 35 years and told me lots of great stories, including one about a time she had to travel to Azerbaijan to write about tourism there and also about a time she had a fireman chauffeur her around Napa Valley. I really liked her and wanted to talk to her for a lot longer. Kate, I think her name was. I wondered briefly what someone who'd travelled to Azerbaijan to write about tourism thought about travelling to Regina to write about chickpeas--but she seemed genuinely interested and I realized that's what makes her a good journalist. She's interested in everything.)


When we arrived at the Moats farm, we did a quick interview with Lee and I mostly watched Kate lean in and furrow her brow and ask very good questions about chickpeas. I learned a lot. When you watch someone who's genuinely interested in something interact with someone who's super passionate about it, it's hard not to get drawn in. When I go home next, I'll have to sit down with my dad and have a good heart-to-heart about pulses.

From there, we went on a tour of AGT, a production facility where pulses are cleaned, sized, split, colour-sorted, and packaged--and the whole thing was actually fascinating. I think I was surprised at how actually fascinating it was. Maybe Kate was rubbing off on me. I felt a little like I was back in elementary school, going on a field trip. I had to wear a hair net and a visibility vest and a hard hat and wasn't allowed to take pictures--you'll have to go see it for yourself I guess. Bring ear plugs for the actual factory.

After the tour, we went to city hall for the declaration: that is, the mayor declared that it was, officially, We Love Pulses Day.

That is a thing that happened.

(An interesting document, right? Basically, "Whereas I'm allowed to make proclamations, now therefore I do proclaim this day to be this thing"? If I were the mayor, I'd make so many proclamations.)

Conclusion: I'm all for this Pulse Day thing. I attempted a recreation of one of the dishes at home and it turned out so good (I randomly met the the wife of the owner of the Lancaster this morning and was so tempted to ask for the taco recipe...I refrained). I used all of the appropriate hashtags generously. I ate and enjoyed a lentil cookie. Barclay and I even went to the Pulse Day afterparty Friday night. I eagerly await next year's festivities. 

Hopefully, this makes up for 29 years of being a farmer's daughter and not knowing what a pulse was in the first place.