I went to a Christmas gathering last night with some dear friends. What an array of wonderful dishes! All vegetarian. There was lentil soup to start with homemade artisan no-knead bread (really no kneading!), ratatouille with layers of cheese, old-country cabbage rolls, made with pickled cabbage leaves, and ruby red beets. I made two dishes because I couldn’t decide. I had planned to make festive sushi rolls, sheets of nori spread with butternut squash and homemade cranberry sauce. They were a little mushier than I’d wanted, but still tasty. (I sampled as I rolled.) Then I saw a recipe in that delicious Edible Vancouver magazine (Autumn 2010), cheese stuffed pumpkin. I used a local squash. At least I think it was a squash. Stuffed it with gruyere cheese, herbs and cubed baguette. Now you understand how I couldn’t resist making the second dish. For the hostess, I brought a bottle of birch syrup, yes birch, made in Quesnel, BC, from real birch trees. Less sweet and more delicate than maple syrup, I think. You can buy it at Edible BC, that fabulous local food store on Granville Island. For dessert, we had very gingery gingerbread cake with tiny chunks of candied ginger in it, and delicate eggnog cake. Drinks included soy nog or cranberry and pomegranate juice splashed into sparkling water. Vegetarian food and no booze, and our spirits couldn’t have been brighter.