It’s Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia.
Viola Desmond was an African Canadian business woman and unwitting pioneer for human rights in Canada. Some have compared her to Rosa Parks and the fateful incident that made her infamous in the eyes of some but admired in the hearts of many, preceded the “sitting at the front of the bus incident” by nine years. (Rosa Parks, incidentally, was a vegetarian!)
It all began by sitting in the ‘wrong’ section of a movie theatre. After purchasing her ticket, Viola sat downstairs but unbeknownst to her, local segregation custom required her to sit in the balcony. She refused to move, was kicked out of the theatre and later jailed and fined for “defrauding the government” for 1 cent-the difference in tax charged on a movie ticket between downstairs seats (reserved for white folk) and balcony seats (for ‘coloured’ folk).
More about Viola Desmond
Black History Canada
Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia
So you’re probably wondering when Meatless Monday and the food come in? Right now!
Though I didn’t grow up in Nova Scotia, many generations of my family did and I have visited there many times. Most recently I spent a week in Nova Scotia in August 2014. Here’s a bit about the food:
There are certain foods, naturally vegetarian, that stand out to me, both from my childhood and also found in numerous Nova Scotia cookbooks: baked beans, molasses cookies, brown bread. The common thread in them all? Molasses.
Molasses is a syrup often made from sugar cane or sugar beets but can also be produced using dates, grapes or carob. It is the byproduct from the boiling process and is vegan. Any bone char used to further process the sugar is added afterwards. The more often the sugar source is boiled the less sweet it becomes. The colour also changes accordingly with light molasses tasting the sweetest, dark molasses less sweet while blackstrap molasses, produced at the third boiling, tastes quite bitter. ‘Fancy’ molasses is the commercial name for a sweet yet darker coloured molasses and is often used in baking. Molasses is sometime processed with sulphur and has often been used as animal feed. In Britain, molasses is known as ‘treacle.’
So what can a vegetarian/vegan do with molasses? I, for one, have been known to eat it on bread (who needs jam?) and eat a teaspoonful when I’m feeling a little anemic. Though there are some trace minerals in molasses it does not contain (unfortunately) the same amount of iron as spinach.
Other culinary applications include but are not limited to:
- vegetarian licorice – molasses, anise flavouring and melted white chocolate. Add a little annatto or beet powder for colouring and you’ve got instant homemade licorice allsorts.
- ginger and everything! cookies, cake, bread…
- baked beans! A can of navy beans, a Tablespoon of molasses (blackstrap works well); a teaspoon each of prepared mustard, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and maple syrup; 1 garlic clove minced; a few drops of liquid smoke; and a sprinkle (or two) of paprika, ginger and summer savoury. Et voilà! you have yourself a meatless meal. Bake in a low temperature oven (250°) for a slow period of time (about 1 hour or more) and serve over Nova Scotian brown bread (also made with molasses) for a complete vegetarian protein.
Other Nova Scotia food facts:
- Step right up and get your antioxidants! Oxford, Nova Scotia is the wild blueberry capital of Canada.
- The phrase “the real McCoy“, meaning ‘the real deal’ or authentic, was said to have originated with the rum running industry to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. Others, though, cite different sources for the invention of this phrase. To learn more about “the real McCoy” in Nova Scotia, click here.