Letter from America 5/5

Nathan on an inner tube with the red 5 gallon shrimp bucket in the foreground

Nathan on an inner tube with the red 5 gallon shrimp bucket in the foreground

The temperature has been between 90-100°F (32-37°C) this past week in Eastern Washington and a little cooler (25°C) on the west side so it was nice to know that we were heading back to a sunny England at the end of our trip! I hope you’re enjoying the summer sunshine and wherever you are, here’s sending beams upon beams of sunshine and light to you.

As I was out helping my Mother harvest her peas and picking bouquets of flowers for relatives, I could feel the warmth of the sun penetrating my back and with that heat, my shoulders dropping, a deep sigh and an overall sense of wellbeing.

This penetrating relaxing heat is the infrared wavelengths coming from the sun, known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR), with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore invisible but absolutely noticeable! You can see on the chart below what a tiny amount of the electromagnetic spectrum we can actually see in visible light but how much of the spectrum we feel and use in our world today. The shorter UV or ultraviolet waves are the potentially harmful part of the spectrum that burns our skin when we stay out too long in the sunshine.


We spent our last days first with over 100 relatives at our annual 4th of July celebration which has been gathering for over 75 years and then on the shores of the south Puget Sound with Mt Rainier overlooking us – sharing the water with black dolphins and seals and being watched over by bald eagles. My cousins dropped shrimp pots and when they pulled them up, also showed me the krill that whales eat, which are about the size of a grain of quinoa. I’d never seen the shrimp or krill before in my life and it’s hard to believe huge whales are nourished by such tiny things!!


The format on our 4th is always the same – people come around lunchtime filling tables and tables of food for an all-day buffet in the shade of the towering pine trees above, (packs of hot dogs for the BBQ, salads and puddings), talk, then perhaps go rowing and swimming in Lake Alder. Later in the afternoon, there are outdoor games and races with the youngest to the oldest participating followed by singing songs around the fire pit in the evening and a firework display to round it all off at 10pm. (My quinoa salad went down a treat, by the way!)


My Dad brought a couple of bags of the Walla Walla Sweet onions over so people could help themselves to a treat from the east side and California cousins brought lemons and avocados from their ranch as well. Here they are under the board of photos from years past.

One of my all-time favourite potluck (shared meal) salads is an oriental cabbage salad, with almonds and ramen noodles. As there are so many Asians with the Pacific connection, West coast food incorporates a lot of Asian influences and this salad always turns up on the “all-American” potluck table – guaranteed.

THE SALAD (makes about 14 cups)
1 small head of sliced green cabbage (I’ve also used very thinly sliced raw Brussel Sprouts with equally awesome results, red cabbage will work too as well as thinly sliced Kalettes)
6 spring onions, sliced thinly
(I like to add living food to everything so throw in handfuls of sunflower and snow pea shoots as well at the very end!)

1Tbsp coconut oil or butter
2 pkgs. ramen noodles, crushed (skip these for gluten free)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (may use fresh almond nut milk pith as well or instead)
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds (remember black are best, then brown with hulls, then white for nutritional value)

1/4 cup oil (I use avocado or olive oil)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon Tamari soy sauce


  1. Combine sliced cabbage and green onions in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt coconut oil or butter in a frying pan and add noodles, almonds and sesame seeds to lightly toast, stirring constantly, until they are all tan in colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl or jar, combine sauce ingredients and keep at room temperature.
  4. About 1/2 hour before serving, combine sprinkles with 1/2 the sauce (to begin with) in the large bowl and chill until serving.

Note: The sauce and sprinkles will keep (airtight) for ages so you don’t have to make the whole portion in one go – for single portions, just slice up the amount of cabbage you want and add a few tablespoons of sprinkles and sauce.
Variation: This year at the picnic, I noticed someone had added a tin of mandarin slices to this salad, which I’d never seen before, and the citrus did taste good with it, although there isn’t much nutritional value in tinned food!

This is enough to be a main meal which you can add your favourite lean protein to – cubes of tempeh, tofu, lean duck or chicken breast marinated in a Teriyaki sauce. 

1/4  cup Tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup (or less)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Whisk together and use as a marinade!

Helena Cavan