Friday, October 31st8.5°C
Happy Gourmand

Hallowe'en apples!

When I was a kid, that's what we shouted as we went door to door. Because if you shouted, "Trick or Treat!" then the people opening the door could respond with "Trick!" and then we'd have to come up with one. The standard my brother and I had was to sing "Mary had a little lamb" which was just surreal, dressed up as a Martian and a cowboy or a clown and a leopard. But such are the joys of childhood, right?

Nowadays, many kids don't go door to door. Heck, they don't walk to school, so why would we think they would walk around the neighbourhood in the dark? The norm seems more to have a party, or taking the kids to the mall or other public spot for them to get a bit of swag. My Dad would have said that was a cop out, and that walking down the streets was a right of passage, a badge of honour you earned :)

In Canada, weather alone was always a huge consideration. Costume planning growing up in Calgary involved what could work over a pair of long johns and a winter coat. I think that's why many boys were dressed up as hockey players. Then there was the treat container to be considered. When I was small we had cute pumpkin buckets, but as I got older we discovered that they were a bit small. It took away from our available time to have to go home and dump out our buckets, so we switched over to the less stylish but more common and efficient pillowcase :) In retrospect it was all a bit silly. I don't think I ever ate all the candy I collected.

Speaking of candy... I am actually old enough to remember the days when there were still a few neighbours who gave out homemade treats. One older lady down the block made puffed wheat balls and included a note with her name, address and phone number. That was enough to make it safe to eat. The only thing was, I don't like puffed wheat balls. I prefer chocolate, and maybe the odd bite of licorice. To this day small packets of Smarties are a secret joy. My little brother loved lollipops and sticky candy like Tootsie Rolls so we would trade to maximize our supply. Our games of "Hallowe'en poker" were often as much fun as our trips out on the street!

"Hallowe'en apples" seemed to imply the tradition of bobbing for apples, which I never did until I was in university. It apparently does relate to the Medieval custom of "souling", receiving food in return for saying prayers for the dead as All Souls Day approached on November 2. Dressing up seems to derive from the Celtic tradition called "guising" where people would imitate evil spirits as a way to placate them on the day when they roamed the earth free. Did you know the costumers carried lanterns made from scooped out pumpkins, the forerunner of the modern jack o'lantern?

"Trick or treat" is a modern adaptation, and involves the pranks that have become an intrinsic part of Hallowe'en. I remember my Dad's stories of soaping the windows of the ill-tempered neighbour, or moving outhouses. We didn't dare try such things for fear of being caught, although I think now that my Dad might have had a giggle if the culprit was a curmudgeon.

Whether you are a grown up or more of a big kid, if you are giving out treats or dressing up, I hope you can enjoy the whimsy of Hallowe'en and all its rich traditions. This is one day when I recommend you have more than a healthy apple, regardless of what you shout at the door.


Chef's thanks for hunting season

This week I have a guest post from my other half, Chef Martin Laprise. Since we are in the season of harvest and hunting, I thought it offered an interesting perspective...since this past week we had World Food Day in recognition of family farmers and the need for sustainable agriculture I wanted to look at the big picture in this column.


I own the best kind of dog breed around for hunting, Until this year, I didn't actually own a weapon; my dog Simon was only used for mushroom hunting. I relied on friends to share their meat once they have managed to drag it out of the forest!  Now that I do have a rifle I plan to harvest small game like rabbit and grouse. I don't have any burly friends or a quad to get a deer out of the forest, but I am always willing to go cook a meal with elk, deer, bear or moose, especially if I get to stay for dinner.

I could never become a full vegetarian; I would so miserable! I enjoy the taste of meat so much, but then I also enjoy the taste of fresh vegetables too.

When was the last time you actually seriously looked at your dinner, thankful that someone has grown and harvested your vegetables or killed your chicken and sent it to your butcher for you to simply buy it? I am all for progress and technology, but I am extremely appreciative for all the hard working farmers out there who provide us with extremely good produce and meats. More and more it gets harder and harder to convince young adults that farming is a noble profession. For example, the world sees doctors as a much more noble profession than farmers, but when you stop to think about it, without food the doctor would die and so would all of the patients.

Educate your kids as to where dinner comes from, and maybe one or two will choose to become part of the food industry, ensuring that someone is there to feed us in 100 years.

Hunting for food is great way to get in touch with nature and also a great way to be more appreciative of how easy it is to go to the store and buy food for a meal.

I hope no doctors were offended by this article!

Below is my recipe for venison stew. You can substitute beef if you prefer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Venison Guinness Beer Stew

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/4 pounds of venison meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 cans of Guinness beer
  • Water or beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until brown on all sides, then add the garlic & the venison and brown the meat for about 5 more minutes. (Don’t stir too often while browning - leave it alone).  Add the beer, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Top off with water or beef stock to cover the meat as necessary.

Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer for approximately 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and carrots. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Season with salt & pepper and parsley before serving.

The stew is done once the meat turns soft again. Do not over cook it though, as it will turn into mush! If the broth is not thick enough for your taste, you can thicken it with a roux (a small amount of flour mixed with water to make a paste). Even if you end up with a few lumps, it will add to the rustic flavour of the dish.

Giving thanks for the weirdest things

It's funny, as I get older I find the things I cherish the most from my childhood are those quirky things that I saw as uncool or downright weird when I was a kid. Now I regard them with wistfulness and humour. I long for the days when the biggest worry I had was dealing with the comments from fellow students about what was in my lunch bag.

Leftovers from Thanksgiving was one of the dubious lunches, according to my peers. I was destined to be a foodie, you see. My parents sent me with not just a turkey sandwich on Wonder bread but a masterpiece on hand-sliced sourdough, with homemade cranberry sauce, dressing and red leaf lettuce. (This was before the days of "artisan" food. ) As a side dish, I might have "Apple salad", the Peturson version of Waldorf salad. My Dad had whipped cream with apples as a childhood favourite I think (he didn't like the savoury celery and walnuts - those belonged in dressing). You can understand why I thought mayonnaise dressing was a horrible variation on this recipe, can't you? I also had notes on my napkins, which was worthy of lots of teasing. (The one in the picture wasn't mine but it easily could have been!)

In our house Thanksgiving was a time to share a meal, and over the years I remember various "strays" coming to the table and sharing their stories. That's how I learned of squash with a marshmallow topping, Brussels sprouts and lumpy mashed potatoes (my Mom made the creamiest mashed potatoes ever). I was keen to hear of tales from other people, and reasonably secure in my family's weird traditions (my Dad said Brussels sprouts were the worst vegetable created, and marshmallows at dinner sounded just over the top).

Nowadays I don't have Thanksgiving dinner; my husband and I both work in the hospitality industry so we are either working or we don't feel like cooking a big dinner, just for the two of us. I don't miss the clean up, but I have to admit I have the odd hankering for Apple salad.

Here's hoping you have a weekend for which you can feel grateful. As a token of my gratitude for your loyalty to my rants and raves, I'm offering up my recipe for pumpkin pie. I've heard it rates right up there - my Mom always said it was the best (but then I guess she was supposed to say that).

Happy Thanksgiving!


We live in a "bread basket", one of those bountiful regions of the world that offers a plethora of food grown within arm's reach without unreasonable effort. In our part of the world we tend not to suffer anyway, but in the harvest season we really do benefit from all the goodies. I know that Thanksgiving is still a week off (hang tough for commentary on the joys of turkey and cranberries and savoury dishes that contain marshmallows). But in the interest of recognizing the good life, I thought I might encourage you to partake of some of the toasting that happens this time of year.

In case you might be in a hole and are don't get out much, I'll state the obvious event to start the list: the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival starts this weekend and really does include something for almost everyone. It runs October 1st until 12th. Check out the program for the full list of events happening through the valley at wineries and community venues. Some are even free! If nothing else, this is your last chance to tour the many wineries that dot the valley, offering numerous grape varietals in white and red wines that cover a wide range of tastes. Do yourself a favour and surrender to the knowledgeable staff at many tasting rooms - try a few wines and find a new favourite or stock up on ones that may disappear before next year. A word to the wise: nominate a designated driver or call one of the tour companies to take you around, as those tasters sneak up on you :)

You're not a wine fan, you say? Well there are a few very trendy cocktail bars in town that you can visit, and even an event coming up that highlights locally made spirits, and of course, some food to go with them. The Okanagan Spirits Winetenders Mixoff is happening Thursday, October 9th in Kelowna. This is an interactive tasting event that involves a people's choice element where you get to vote on your favourites!

Okay, I know, you're a beer drinker. Maybe you've even become a trendy craft beer aficionado. Well then, you need to try out the upcoming event at Smack Dab at Manteo. This gastropub in Lower Mission has 12 beers on tap, and their Oktoberfest evening on Thursday, October 16th will feature 4 local breweries on site with specially made casks of beer and a feature menu paired with flights of beer. Tickets are available at Manteo Resort for this one, and for the other Brewmaster's Dinners they have scheduled through the winter months.

Now, just in case you don't imbibe any alcoholic beverages, I don't want you to think I'm suggesting you shouldn't celebrate this season and enjoy a little indulgence. How about this for an outing: head over to the Westside (I know, it's a pilgrimage if you live in Kelowna, but trust me it's worth it) - follow the highway to Paynter's Fruit Market, where they have a lovely display and selection of pumpkins and squash and apples and pears... you get the idea. They also have ice cream, and they make really good lattes. You can sit at a picnic table, or stroll through the orchard, or take a family picture in the hay bales with all the bounty. That will make your relatives on the freezing prairies envious, won't it?

Whatever method you choose to toast your own good fortune and our advantage of living here in the beautiful Okanagan, Cheers to you. Salut, Santé, Prost, Slainté... may your indulgence warm the cockles of your heart and keep any demons at bay, as any good toast is meant to do.

Read more Happy Gourmand articles

BBQ Tips

About the author...

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, being someone who is passionate about people having a good time . Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, marketing and service programs. Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column.

She says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that "sense of place" from where the food has come... the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had.

Happy Gourmand is about enjoying life and living in the moment; sharing that joy with others is how I keep those good vibes going!"


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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