I was thinking about Canada Day coming up, and celebrating our culture, and it occurred to me that there are lots of food days for celebrating too. (Did you know that there is a Tapioca Day, Bologna Day and even Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbour’s Porch Night?)
What would be a Canadian food day? What is the quintessential food that Canadians consume on our national holiday?
Well, as you are no doubt aware, gentle reader, the essence of Canada is tied intrinsically to its complex roots and multi-cultural mosaic of people all woven into one delicious buffet.
There is no one answer for you. But, in case you are looking for a new idea of something to sample or wondering what else is on the list besides your favourites, here is some food for thought (or celebrating…)
Many of the celebrated food days are linked to American business, but they are simple associations: there is no political or historical significance to National Butterscotch Pudding Day (Sept 19 in case you are a fan), and National Horseradish Month was created when the National Horseradish Information Council simply requested it go in a published calendar of events (it is in July, if you are keen to support it).
Interestingly enough though, apples are one of the longest celebrated foods, now enjoying three months of festivities. Apparently they do help sales of apples, so I suppose that is good at a grass-roots level.
But back to Canada, July is Hot Dog Month, but those are known to be almost as American as apple pie, right? The Canadian version of apple pie is to have it with cheddar cheese.
You have probably heard of Montreal smoked meat and flipper pie, and there is sugar pie and Red Rose tea (“Only in Canada, you say? Pity!” Remember those TV ads?)
Of course, we in the West would like something to celebrate too, wouldn’t we? Wild rice from Manitoba is getting closer, or how about the Bloody Caesar cocktail? it was invented by a bartender in Calgary in 1969 but I guess a cocktail is not really food.
Well, how about jam busters? Did you know that is the Canadian prairie donut? If you're not from Manitoba like me, perhaps you call them Jelly Doughnuts. I knew I loved them as a kid. (Specialty Bakery makes delicious ones with jelly that squish out the sides if you bite them in the right place.)
June 8 is their day on the calendar.
You can incorporate some of Canada’s blend of cultures if you enjoy a Chinese buffet or a Lumberjack’s Breakfast. Both were invented in the 1870s in the shantytown of Gastown (Vancouver) when men from various European backgrounds worked in long days and wanted a hearty meal. Or you can celebrate National Picnic – and Grilling - Month (July) and take your family to the beach to ring in the real start of summer.
Any way you slice it, I think the important thing is to remember to celebrate: the idea to “eat, drink and be merry” has been around for a long time, so we should make sure we are proficient at it!
One day I couldn't find was Cherry Day, so maybe we should push for that to be an Okanagan holiday. I know we have plenty of cherries with our one tree. Here is one of my favourite cherry recipes, if you get tired of just eating them out of a bowl.
This is a French classic, a simple recipe that works for dessert, or brunch if you feel like it. Serve it with whipped cream or yogurt, or even maple syrup if you want a Canadian twist. Bon Appetit!
- 500 g/2 cups black cherries
- 100 g/2/5 cup flour
- 125 g/ 1/2 cup fine sugar (fruit sugar, not icing sugar. Regular white sugar will work if need be.)
- 4 eggs, the fresher the better
- 5 mL/1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 g/1 cup milk
- 37 mL/2-1/2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
- pinch of salt
- 10 mL/2 tsp sugar mixed with 1 mL/1/4 tsp cinnamon for dusting
- Wash and de-stem the cherries. Pit them if desired. (The original recipe says not to pit them, as leaving the pits in adds to the flavour.)
In a large bowl or your electric mixer, beat the eggs till frothy. Add the sugar and salt and beat again. Gradually add the flour while still beating, to avoid lumps. Add melted butter and mix. Lastly, stir in the milk.
Butter a baking dish (shallow preferably, but casserole type will do). Pour in cherries, then pour batter over fruit.
Bake at 190 C/375 F for 45 minutes. Upon removing from oven, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over top. Serve lukewarm if possible.
So many things to do, all summer to do them
Life is busy. We all complain about not having enough time to do the things we want. How do we fix that? It’s like the Nike folks said, “Just do it.”
This week, I am urging you, make time to enjoy yourself. If you like, bring someone else with you and make them enjoy the experience too. Then, you can feel good about giving back, and gain some karma points. All kidding aside, we have to make fun as much of a priority as work.
Fun at work is great, but fun outside work is essential to a balanced life. Consider this your homework. You can start with some time spent on Father’s Day to log a memorable time with the male role model of your choosing.
Good Father’s Day experiences
- How about being a tourist in your own town? Try a tour. I’m sure you have done a wine tour – at last count there are 133 licensed wineries in the Okanagan. (Don’t believe me? Here’s the list.)
- Did you know there are also 15 breweries, more than a couple of cideries, a few meaderies and a handful of distillers too? (Here’s another list of cideries and distillers.)
- There are numerous experienced companies in the Okanagan; guided tours are a great way to spend a day and not worry about finding your way. Whether you are lead around or head out alone, please remember to drink responsibly.
- Perhaps you are a foodie? Then, I recommend a new kind of tour, encompassing food and drink and a bit of trivia and history to boot. Nancy Quinton at Okanagan Foodies has three different itineraries available, from pubs to hidden gems to cultural diversity. All of them are a delightful taste of the central Kelowna food and beverage scene. And hey, she is offering a discount for Father’s Day gift certificates, in case you are a last-minute type.
- Like to keep it simple? Ice cream is a good way to go. Bank some quality time with a walk through the orchards at Paynter’s Fruit Market on the Westside, or on the waterfront paths after Moo-Lix on Bernard Avenue, or gelato at Gio Bean in The Delta Grand Okanagan.
- If you’re up for a drive, stopping at Tickleberry’s is fun if dad doesn’t mind standing in line; it’s popular.
Fun festivals and other activities
- Throughout the Okanagan, Canada Day fireworks are a beautiful way to spend an evening. Being on a boat can be fun, but there is plenty of beach and lots of patios to enjoy them from as well! Many communities have goings-on all day throughout the long weekend, like Westside Daze. Tourism Kelowna and the tourism pages for most towns offer calendars. (Here’s a good Okanagan vacation events calendar.)
- Feel like something a bit more active? The folks at Oyama Zipline offer a good thrill, with the fastest rides in the Okanagan and side-by-side racing. (Do I really need to go 85 km/h on a cable?) Or you can visit Zipzone in Peachland and experience the highest zipline in Canada (I’m not sure dangling upside down while zipping along was on my bucket list, though.)
- Maybe you don’t want to be quite that active; you can still burn a few calories at lawn bowling on the course upstairs at BNA Brewing in Kelowna or floating the canal in Penticton.
Quintessential Okanagan summer fun
Talk to friends and family – or locals at a coffee shop or other place you like – and get the inside scoop. This is just the tip of my iceberg, and there is easily a few summer’s worth of great ways to spend a day.
- Walk or cycle the Kettle Valley trestles. (Go ahead, step into Canadian history.)
- Swim in at least two lakes — dipping your toe in the waters is good for your soul.
- Hike up at least two mountains. I use the word mountain liberally, so no excessive training is required for this.
- Enjoy the view from at least two patios. (Try to get the view from both sides of the valley.)
- Listen to an outdoor concert, and dance on the grass if you can. (Most communities have free concerts if the winery events are beyond your budget.)
- Eat some fruit right off the tree.
- Wander through a farmers’ market. I hope you will be inspired to cook something local.
- Get on a golf course and enjoy the walk if not your score (even if it’s only mini golf).
- Have an outdoor meal, you know, al fresco. At a winery, or in a field or on the lake. You can thank me later.
- Stop and smell the flowers. Breathe in. Enjoy the heat. Repeat.
I look forward to seeing you around. I’ll be the one with the ear-to-ear grin, and maybe an ice cream cone.
Father's Day is fast approaching, and they say that the fastest way to a man's heart is through his tummy, so cooking seems like a good idea, don't you think? What does your dad like to eat? Does he like to cook?
Taking mom for brunch or for dinner on Mother's Day is the obvious choice for many families... But wait! Most dads get cooked for all the time, so what's so special about that? Since the dad in our family is a chef, I'm going to speak up for the minority.
Would you believe that it's easy to cook for a chef? I bet not. But the simple fact is, they hardly get a day off from cooking. Many chefs cook for their families on their days off work, and while many do it out of passion, everyone likes to put their feet up now and again.
What do chefs eat? Good question. Many of them taste a lot of fancy food, but most enjoy a good burger or pasta dish too — just like many winemakers I know enjoy a good beer. My husband's favourite homemade birthday meal is spaghetti and meatballs — no kidding, especially if he doesn't have to cook it.
The key, like any meal, is to know your audience. Since cooking is their expertise, don't try something you aren't really comfortable cooking. Put your best foot (your best spatula?) forward.
If you know your roast chicken is something you have mastered and your mashed potatoes. veggie dish or homemade salad dressing is perfect every time, that's what you show off.
Executing the meal with confidence is what will impress such a knowledgeable audience, much more than attempting a spiffy dish like a soufflé and having it fall flat — literally.
Have you ever heard the proverb, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well"? Doesn't that sound like something a father would say? Doing the best you can with the skills you have is all anyone can expect, and any role model would be proud of such an effort.
Whether your dad's day project is cooking (like mine) or making something or even just finding the right card or remembering to call, put your heart into it and dad or grampa or whomever will know.
My recipe for you this week is one that I used to enjoy with my dad. One of my favourite adult father-daughter memories was the Friday nights we spent cooking and eating when we both lived in Vancouver. It's been a bunch of Father's Days since he's been around to share a meal with, but I still smile whenever I make this.
FUNKY FATHER-DAUGHTER PASTA SAUCE (serves 4)
This is all about stepping outside the comfort zone; no ordinary spaghetti and meatballs here. In case your comfort zone is small, check out my Happy Gourmand recipe archives for less adventurous alternatives.
The original recipe called for spaghetti as the pasta, but daddy and I used to like fusilli or campanelle. Fresh ingredients are key; don't substitute dried herbs, cheese from a container or concentrated orange juice.
- 1/4 cup / 65 g butter
- finely grated zest of 2 oranges
- 20 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- juice from 1 orange (about 1/3 cup/85 mL)
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup/a large handful of fresh basil leaves (and flowers, if you have them), chopped
- 1/4 cup/65 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 Italian sausages, cooked (optional if you feel you need a "meaty" dish)
Cook sausages if you're using them. Drain on paper towel, chop into bite-size pieces and set aside. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente ("just done" — you will be reheating it in the pan with the sauce). Drain and set aside.
Make sure you have warm plates ready. (Cold plates will cool off the pasta quickly; rinse them under hot water or warm them in the oven at 200F/90C.)
Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add orange zest, olives and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add orange juice and enough pepper to taste it. Let it cook for another minute. Toss with hot pasta — and sausage if you're using it — then add basil and Parmesan and toss again. Serve immediately.
I am off to Vancouver this week to see a friend who lives across the world. We've been friends since I was 19 years old. I am a godmother to her daughter; she and her daughter were in my bridal party.
Martin cooked some of the food for her 25th wedding anniversary. We have visited on three continents and even after years of not seeing each other in person, it feels like I just had tea and biscuits with her yesterday when I do see her.
My girlfriend and I met on a bus tour in Europe. We made friends the first night, in Paris. All of us were sent out to the Left Bank to find somewhere to enjoy a French coffee. We were informed of the way things work: you will pay more if you sit at a table, and more still if you choose the patio. Well, the two of us came back quite "chuffed" (her South African expression, meaning "pumped," or "pleased with oneself or the situation"). We had managed to not only have a delicious cappuccino, but also spend more than anyone else, as we wanted to watch the people go by and enjoy the view.
Maybe you have a friend like this... Is your friendship linked in part by the food you've shared? Are there recipes that connect you with that person? Way back before there was the Internet, my first exposure to South African cooking was when I received a missive from my girlfriend with hand-copied recipes — some of her favourites. They are now some of mine, and every time I pull out the stationery with her beautiful notes I think of memories we have shared.
Now, we find new recipes all over, with magazines and apps and the infamous Google search. It's fun to have so much information at my fingertips, but I must admit, I especially adore the recipes that have been passed to me by someone I know. I consider it an act of faith that they share something they enjoy and that they trust me to recreate. It brings friends closer together.
My girlfriend and I have shared foods as well as recipes. Some things were more exotic years ago, before the world was smaller and every town had a shop with specialty food from all over. I discovered Roobois tea, and she discovered maple syrup. We traded favourite cookies and chocolate and candies. Different spice blends were exciting to try. She likes using Martin's barbecue spice rub and I have a cook's spice blend she sent that is delicious. We broadened our horizons together.
Of course, we have beautiful shared memories of meals together too. One of my favourite Christmases was with them in Vancouver. Martin cooked the turkey on the barbecue, which they had never seen, and, just to make it magical, it snowed on Christmas night while he was cooking.
While visiting them in England a few years ago, we drove up the lane to the farmhouse and saw pheasants in the field, the picture of English country living. Sitting in the kitchen with the large hearth and stone walls, we were only a bit surprised to find out it was pheasant for dinner (not the one we saw; they can be bought at the butcher). It was a delicious Sunday dinner that felt like something out of a BBC drama :)
On my trip to South Africa to visit her in 1995, we had a most memorable day in wine country. I'll never forget the picnic lunch at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, and pizza on the beach at Gordon's Bay. They were both quintessential examples of South African hospitality and joie de vivre;
After 30 years of friendship, coffee and tea are still a staples of our visits. Sometimes they are a simple cup in the kitchen, and other times they are still a search for something exotic and special. The crumbs of cookies shared has made part of the fabric of our friendship over the years, and the recipes we use while apart help hold the links together. Every morsel of time we share adds to the meal that makes up our relationship.
So this week.I offer up a classic South African recipe that I got in a letter many years ago. It's still one of my faves. In winter, I like it with a cup of tea, and in summer I add a bit of fresh fruit. I hope you can enjoy it with one of your friends.
MERLE'S MILK TART
I write the recipe as she did...
- 1. Make the biscuit base:
- 250 g / 1 cup graham wafer crumbs
- 80 g / 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 30 g / 2 tbsp sugar
- 80 g / 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
- Mix ingredients in a bowl till well mixed. Spread into bottom of a pie plate or small rectangular baking dish. Refrigerate.
- 2. Boil together (bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir):
- 500 mL / 2 cups milk
- 125 g 1/2 cup margarine or butter
- 3. Beat in a medium bowl:
- 2 egg yolks (save whites)
- 190 g / 3/4 cup sugar
- 4. Mix to a paste:
- 65 g/1/4 cup milk
- 125 g/1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 mL/1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 5. Add paste to egg and sugar mixture.
- 6. Add paste mixture to boiled milk mixture. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Bring to a slow boil, then set aside to cool.
- 7. Beat egg whites till stiff (the two whites you saved). Fold into cooled custard.
- 8. Pour custard over biscuit base. Refrigerated till firm — at least two hours, preferably overnight.
- 9. Sprinkle tart with 2 mL/1/4 tsp cinnamon before serving. Serve with tea.
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