A political statement, brought to you by the carrot

Carolyn Best’s Millet and Carrot Pilaf showcases the carrot’s characteristic orange hue.

By Carolyn Best

The carrot – an everyday vegetable with an intriguing history. The centre of diversity for the carrot is Afghanistan, where thousands of years ago the original wild plant was first valued for its leaves and seeds rather than its bitter and spindly root. But carrots “practically invited themselves to be cultivated” in the soil and climate of that land, gradually evolving into the fleshy, sweet, unbranched and edible roots that we appreciate today. Carrots were not orange, however, but rather white, pale yellow or even red.

It was in these diverse hues that they spread to the far corners of the world. Carrots arrived in northern Europe courtesy of the Roman legions and were eventually taken up and improved in the Low Countries (modern Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland). Dutch farmers were renowned for their horticultural skills and it was said of a long list of vegetables that, “there were few or none in England but what came from Flanders, Holland.”* In the 1500s, these connoisseurs of the vegetable kingdom came up with a new strain of purple carrots that proved to be very successful, although their juices left an unpleasant stain on cookware.

Then the politics of the Wars of Religion intervened to create and popularize today’s all-conquering orange carrot. In 1568, Dutch Protestants revolted against the rule of their overlord Phillip II, the Roman Catholic monarch of Spain. The rebellion’s most influential leader was William the Silent, also known as William of Orange because his landholdings included the principality of Aurenja, or Orange, in southern France. As a result, the colour orange became associated with the cause of Dutch national independence. The farmers of Holland, eager to show their support for William and his successors, developed orange carrots with increased levels of the pigment beta carotene. They may have been making a political statement, yet their efforts have benefitted the health of both humans and animals, for beta carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A and plays a crucial role in the health of the eyes, the skin and our immune systems.

As the art historian Simon Schama explains, “the conspicuous display of orange carrots at market was at one time deemed to be a provocative gesture of support for the exiled descendants of William, by the movement that drove out the {Spanish} monarch during the 17th century.” This statement is supported by the names of the car rot varieties that emerged during the period, which highlighted their orange hue. The contemporary paintings of the Dutch Golden Age also reflected the patriotic significance of orange carrots. In Gabriel Metsu’s “Vegetable Market at Amsterdam” (1661–62), they are positioned in the foreground of the canvas, symbolizing both Dutch independence and Dutch horticultural accomplishment; this emphasis occurs in other paintings of the era, such as Gerrit Dou’s “The Village Cook” (1652) and Joachim Wtewael’s “Kitchen Scene” (1605).

From the 17th century onwards, the Dutch grew orange carrots with such enthusiasm that (in Europe at least) other colours went out of fashion. The older white, yellow and purple strains all but disappeared within a few generations, leaving the orange carrot to become the ancestor of our modern commercial varieties.

*Art in History/History in Art: Studies in Seventeenth – Century Dutch Culture (Issues and Debates), edited by David Freeberg and Jan de Vries, 1991

Carolyn Best is the former proprietor/chef of The Pantry vegetarian tearoom.

Millet and Carrot Pilaf

  • 6 medium carrots cut into half-inch pieces, tossed in 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup millet, washed, drained, dry-roasted in a cast-iron frying pan until lightly golden toasted, then cooked in 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • juice of ½ lemon and ½ orange 8 oz. halloumi (about 225 grams), cut into ½ inch slabs
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped mint

Preheat oven to 400° F and roast carrots on a cookie sheet for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender and beginning to brown. Set aside. Place millet in a bowl or casserole dish and mix with spices, salt, and juice. Fluff with a fork to combine, then fold in cooked carrots. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, sear the halloumi slabs for a few minutes until browned on both sides. Cut into cubes and add to millet and carrot mixture. Serve either warm or room temperature.

Banana Bread made by author Marisa Romano from a favourite recipe of Jen Adam PHOTO: MARISA ROMANO

From the kitchen of Jen Adam

By Marisa Romano

The November issue of the Glebe Report announced the then-upcoming 30th anniversary of J.D. Adam Kitchen Co. Yes, 30 years of healthy business in the Glebe. The opening of the store with the “olde tyme country service” was announced in the December 1988 issue of the Glebe Report. The tag line in that ad: “Kitchen and Housewares with a Country Flair.” Fast forward 30 years and the ribbons, silk flowers and pretty house decor items that filled the store back then have been replaced by interesting and practical items like spiralizers and reusable produce bags.

Curious about the kitchen of a kitchen-store owner, I reached out to Jennifer (Jen) Adam, co-owner with her husband John. “We don’t really have a tag line anymore but I guess you could say we are a kitchen and home accessories store packed with everything you need for kitchen, bath, garden and decor,” says Adam.

The Adam’s kitchen is well equipped and “gadgeted” in part with scratch and dents that Adam brings home from the store. Her favourite kitchen tool? A juicer and a sturdy garlic press. The household cooking is shared. Comfortable around the stove, John cooks with no need for a written recipe. Jen likes clear instructions and is more at ease with baking. She mentioned the banana bread that she had made a couple of days earlier, an old family staple, loved by Adam’s kids and the store staff. When I asked if she would share a recipe, she mentioned her successful lasagna dish that she makes often and in large enough quantities to have leftovers to freeze. Here are the two recipes. Congratulations for a successful business and thank you Jen for sharing!

Banana Bread (adapted from an old Company’s Coming recipe)


  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 to 4 very ripe bananas (3 large or 4 medium/ small)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped walnuts


Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time until smooth. Blend in mashed bananas.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, powder and salt. Add to banana mixture only to moisten. Add chocolate chips or walnuts. Do not over-mix or loaf will be tough. Pour into 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 F degrees for 55 to 60 minutes.

Jen uses her Kitchen Aid stand mixer to cream together butter and sugar and then gently mixes in the dry ingredients using the lowest setting. She also uses her Cuisinart loaf pan lined with parchment paper to make it easy to lift out the banana bread once it cools.

Jen’s Lasagna


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef 1 medium yellow onion, minced 2 tbsp oil (olive or canola) 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cans tomato sauce, 680ml 2 cans tomato paste, 156 ml 2 tsp dried oregano 2 tbsp Italian seasoning 1/2 tsp pepper 1 tsp salt to taste 2 dashes Worcestershire 1 package lasagna noodles (20 noodles) 1 container cottage cheese, 500ml, drained 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided 2 eggs


In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion until softened. Add garlic, ground beef and cook until browned. Stir in tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add spices and simmer until slightly thickened.

Cook lasagna noodles as per package directions. Drain and cool noodles. Do not rinse. In a large bowl stir together 2 cups of shredded cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs and the drained cottage cheese.

In a 13×9 inch (3L) baking dish spread meat sauce in a thin layer to cover. Cover with 4 cooked noodles and some of the meat sauce. Repeat the layer. Cover with 4 noodles and the prepared cottage cheese mixture. Cover with 4 more noodles, sauce and finally the last 4 noodles. Top with the remaining meat sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of Parmesan.

Brush foil with oil to ensure it doesn’t stick to the cheese topping.

Cover and bake at 375° F degrees for the first 30 minutes, then uncover until cheese is golden and the lasagna bubbling (5–10 minutes).

Let stand loosely covered 10–15 minutes before serving.

Jen uses her largest Emile Henry lasagna pan, Cuisipro box grater for the cheese and Rosti mixing bowl for the cottage cheese mixture.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods that bring people together.

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