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The International Writers Magazine: Canadian Destinations

Daytrip to Saskatoon
• Habeeb and Muna Salloum
“Welcome to Saskatoon the ‘Paris of the prairies’”, the guide’s voice thundered through the tour bus. He continued, “Saskatoon is magic! If you haven’t already, soon you will be ensnared with its magic.” I looked around to see most of the passengers smiling, apparently thinking that the guide was exaggerating.


Yet, what I was to find in the next few days as I explored this modern urban centre surrounded by nature’s beauty, was that his words had a ring of truth. Flat lush farmland, embrace the city on all sides in an emerald halo. It was the first time that I had toured this city and I was impressed.

This time I had only a day to spare and I decided to spend most of the day at Saskatoon's Saskatchewan Western Development Museum then cap the day by dining at Ayden Kitchen & Bar - Saskatoon’s Culinary Boutique eating place. As my daughter and I entered the Museum, I looked around. The Wild West in all its romance and history seemed to open up before us. One could imagine cowboys, poker players, saloon girls appearing before us in this historic setting. It was as if history was coming alive, a history of Saskatchewan’s pioneering past. Western Development Museum

Promoted as one of Saskatchewan’s ‘Greatest Treasures’ and known as '1910 Boomtown Saskatoon’, this theme of heritage and experience keeps the history of Saskatchewan and the West, generally, alive. The Western Development Museum has branches in several of Saskatchewan’s towns and cities, namely Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Yorkton and Saskatoon. In these museums the history of how the people lived and the tools they used in their daily lives has again become a reality.

Before us, directly inside the entrance, was the main streetscape of Boomtown, an uncluttered roadway. On both sides of the street, replicas of just over 30 buildings in a western town of the early 20th century stood before us. A barber shop, a café, a fire hall, a telephone operator’s house, harness shop, livery stable, general store, drug store, blacksmith’s shop, doctor’s office, a school, a church, and a Royal Northwest Mounted Police detachment and their exhibits keep visitors intrigued especially those interested in pioneer life in the Saskatchewan of that era.

In front of these structures and parked along the wooden sidewalks on both sides of the street, was a fire engine, vintage cars of the era, horse-drawn carriages and buggies, and sculpted horses tied to posts between the antique vehicles.

As we turned a corner at the end of the main street, my daughter remarked, “I guess that’s how my grandparents lived when they settled in southwest Saskatchewan.”

Within a few minutes, we were amidst old type grain binders, steel-wheeled tractors and steam engines that puffed and huffed as they ploughed the land and harvested the grain. Turning to my daughter, I commented, “When I was a tiny tot, these were the machines that many of the farmers used. Steam was the petroleum of the day.”

Back, crossing the main street to the other side, we opened two large doors to enter the Tractor and Farm Machinery Gallery. Before us stood a mass of farm and tractor equipment sprawled in all directions and used during the early 20th century. “Look”, my daughter waved her hand. “A graveyard of machinery.”
I explained to her, “It’s like the elephants of east Africa, they all go to one place to die.”

Saskatoon store Returning to the main street, we weaved in and out of the many structures and their exhibits – some including people at work as their ancestors had done generations before. Sterling Hardware Store, the Drugstore and General Store were especially impressive. Packed with authentic early 1900s objects, for visitors, it puts the prairie pioneering days in focus.

Returning back near the entrance, we took a right and entered an adjoining area that I would consider to be a historian of technology’s paradise.

Exhibits such as: the Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit, also called the ‘Cancer Bomb’, installed in 2011 on the 60th anniversary of the first successful treatment of cancer in the province, it was created by scientists and machinists from the University of Saskatchewan; Winds of Change, an exhibit of wind turbines in Saskatchewan during the 1920s to the 1940s depicting wind as an alternate energy source; Fueled by Innovation, a display of alternate fuel vehicles; the Transportation Gallery, a museum in itself of Saskatchewan’s rural vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles and commercial and agricultural vehicles; and the Ornithopter gallery, sample designs of aircraft powered by wings.

The interactive displays make the Museum an ideal place for families with children. Not only a learning experience but it is a fun one at that. It will teach the generations to come about how western Canada was settled and how it developed until our present day. It is an absolutely great representation of pioneer life in the prairies. It’s a trip in the past, worth taking today.

Ayden Kitchen After resting for a while we made our way to dine at the Ayden Kitchen & Bar - Saskatoon’s culinary boutique of Canadian products served with an international flair. The reason we had chosen this restaurant was because my daughter was an avid fan of Top Chef Dale MacKay, the owner of the restaurant.

Winner of Season I Top Chef, Chef MacKay made Saskatchewan proud on July 4, 2011 as Canada’s first champion in this competition. A native of Saskatoon, the winds and the mystic lure of Saskatchewan beckoned him home and on November 15, 2013, Chef MacKay opened his new Ayden Kitchen & Bar to his home-welcoming community.

An open-concept restaurant with the kitchen staff busily chopping, slicing and stirring, the hostess greeted us as if we were old friends, asking if we had any preferences for seating. I quickly responded that a table with good light would be the best. My theory is: always look at what you are eating because a dim-lit area is conducive to false conclusions. As it turned out, we had our choice of seating anywhere since the restaurant was well-lit. It was apparent that the Chef was not afraid to have his clientele see his culinary creations.

The server approached our table, welcoming us in a friendly manner. She presented a lunch menu that was not overdone yet presented a variety of options. From Starters, to the Lunch Rush and Entrees, the choices represented the best of Canadian and international gastronomy. We opted for the Thai Wings, Popcorn Prawns and the Daily Sandwich.

While waiting for the meal, I surveyed the simple yet elegant grey and white décor, classy yet funky – comfortable and welcoming for any age group. Within a half hour of opening, the tables were all full, some at the bar while others at the tables scanning their menus. Although the tables are small, one does not feel crowded even with a full house.

And then it happened – the server presented our appetizers and their presentation was phenomenal. The wings, hot off the fryer, were spiced perfectly and their sauce, made from Kaffir lime, lemongrass, fresh coriander and garlic oil, tasted heavenly while the prawns coated very lightly with tempura batter were accompanied by a lime and garlic aioli, an unforgettable culinary experience.

After lunch, Chef Dale came over to our table to ask whether we enjoyed the meal, we both smiled and said ‘excellent’ which to me meant ‘superb’.

Chef MacKay should re-consider spelling the name from Ayden to Eden. It indeed was a heavenly experience to end our one-day tourist tour of Saskatoon.

Tips when visiting 1910 Boomtown Western Development Museum:
1. Set aside 2 hours for this fabulous walk-through of early 20th century Saskatchewan.
2. If arriving by car, there is a large parking lot with free parking.
3. The Museum offers a large gift shop and banquet facilities.
4. The Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For further information about the Saskatoon Western Development Museum (1910 Boomtown: 2610 Lorne Avenue South, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7J 0S6; Telephone: 306-931-1910; E-mail: ; Website:

For further information about Ayden Kitchen & Bar: 265 3rd Avenue South, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 1M3; Telephone: 306-954-2590; Website:

© Habeeb Salloum June 2014

Saskatoon in Winter Habeeb Salloum is a Canadian author who grew up in Saskatchewan, joined the RCAF during the Second World War, and then worked for the Canadian Department of National Revenue for 36 years. For the last 30 years he has been a full-time freelance writer and author specializing in food, history and travel.

Besides 7 books and 20 chapters in books, he has had hundreds of articles about culture, food, travel, history and homesteading in western Canada appear in such publications as the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Western Producer, Contemporary Review, Forever Young, Vegetarian Journal and Saveur.

Among his most important published books are: From the Lands of Figs and Olives: Over 300 Delicious and Unusual Recipes from the Middle East and North Africa (Interlink Publishing, 1996); Journeys Back to Arab Spain (The Middle East Studies Center, 1994); Arabic Contributions to the English Vocabulary (Librairie du Liban, 1996); Classic Vegetarian Cooking From the Middle East and North Africa (Interlink Publishing, 2000); Arab Cooking On A Saskatchewan Homestead: Recipes And Recollections (CPRC, University of Regina. 2005) – winner of the Cuisine Canada and The University of Guelph's Silver Canadian Culinary Book Awards in 2006, Bison Delights (CPRC, University of Regina, 2010) and The Arabian Nights Cookbook (Tuttle Publishing, 2010). His most recent books, co-authored with Leila Salloum Elias and Muna Salloum, are Scheherazade’s Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); and Sweet Delights from A Thousand and One Nights: The Story of Traditional Arab Sweets (I.B. Tauris, London, UK, 2013).

Habeeb was awarded the 2013 Saskatchewan Tourism Travel Media Award by the Saskatchewan Tourism on April 10, 2014 for his literary work on travel, tourism and the culinary arts of that province.

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