We're off on our yearly trip to a sock hop and vintage car show in Washington.
It's a taste of years gone by, back to even before what it was like when I was a kid. Martin and I are now recognized at the sock hop.
The locals at first just couldn't believe a couple of Canadians would come so far for a dance.
Then, they saw how much we loved it, so now we're welcomed with hugs every summer. We love to hear the stories; people remembering when they would see Buddy Holly play at a hall, or what it was like to cruise the roads in those spiffy hot rods.
"Time does fly,” they say, sometimes shocked to think how long ago that was.
But then, we've been going to the sock hop for 10 years.
It is a tough thing to get to the age where you start to think how much things have changed. As I get older, I find that I take great comfort in knowing that some things stay the same.
Sometimes, even though they have changed, there is still an interest for how things used to be (take the music of the ‘60s for example, which seems to be still strong after all these decades.)
I suppose that is where my real soft spot lies; I like to know that people remember “the good old days,” that the memories of times gone by are not lost or forgotten.
Recently, my stepdaughter, Chloae, and I reminisced about her trips to the dance.
I realized that times with friends and family are when we see just how much things change, as we see the same people. The food that binds those occasions is often the glue that keeps all the memories alive, blending the comforts of days gone by with the flair of something new.
The flavour of an Oreo cookie still brings back memories of summer camping trips. My mom always made cookies at home, but for a road trip she would buy Oreos.
In the heat of summer, it was easy to pull the wafers apart and make a double-dose cookie.
Chloae won't be at the dance this year, which is too bad, because she and her dad do a mean bit of East Coast swing.
But I wouldn't be surprised to find out she's making a pie this weekend, to remember days gone by.
The ladies of the Wauconda Country Home Club hold a pie sale during the car show, to help raise money for upkeep of the Wauconda Community Hall. Some of the best pie I've had in my life has been on those picnic benches.
They have a full cookhouse now, with a fryer, so the menu includes burgers and fries, and hot dogs, as well as pie. But we still look forward to upholding tradition.
I have some of the recipes now, as I bought a copy of their cookbook (another fund-raising venture). I've posted my favourite before (Edna's Apricot Pie, last summer).
Here is another really good one from the book, and very easy to do.
My wish for you this week is that you have time to sit back and think on days gone by. If you can't manage that, at least try to capture a moment that you can reminisce about years from now.
We will be toasting to your happiness and fond memories when we come out to cool off from all the dancing!
CREAM CHEESE HUCKLEBERRY PIE
(You could easily substitute the apricots or peaches that are falling off the trees at the moment, and it would be equally as tasty.)
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
- 1 pastry shell, baked and cooled (you could use a graham crust if you like)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3 cups fresh or frozen berries
Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar till smooth; fold in whipped cream, and spread in cooled, baked piecrust. (If the crust is still warm, the cream will melt.)
Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium pot. Add water and lemon juice and stir till smooth; stir in fruit. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let cool, then spread over cream cheese layer.
Refrigerate till serving time.
Have you ever had too much of a good thing?
You know, when you overindulged or expected too much and someone inevitably tells you that’s what you’ve had, like an I-told-you-so comment?
Well, this week, I was prepared to test that theory when our cherry tree announced it was ripe for the picking. If you saw the movie, Witches of Eastwick, back in 1987, perhaps you remember the scene with Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher (the witches) all eating cherries out of a gigantic bowl?
That scene and its ill effects came to mind, but I was willing to risk discomfort in order to enjoy a bit of decadence.
The first of the summer fruit always feels like forbidden pleasure. The fresh tangy zing of the juice on my tongue is like a wake-up call that officially brings the tide of summer.
Then, the thrill takes over and I just want more. I want to savour the taste of the sun as much as possible.
I think that's why I got into canning, as a way of bottling the fairy. Holding some of that freshness in a jar is a fine treat once the season has gone.
Eating fruit by the handful is wonderful, and it makes me understand how Winnie the Pooh felt with his hand in the honey pot — entranced by a mouthful of his favourite taste and overcome with the desire for more.
"Is there any more?" he ask, even as he knew he wouldn't fit back out the door.
But common sense tells me that pacing myself is a much wiser strategy, saving some for later. Over the years, I have made cherry jam, cherry pie, cherry ice cream, cherry juice and my favourite, clafoutis.
I made clafoutis for breakfast this week. It was delicious, warm out of the oven. Does that sound like too much?
It has milk, and eggs, and lots of fruit. How bad can that be? There is also cherry topping (for yogurt or ice cream or pancakes or...) and we have pitted cherries in the freezer and in the dehydrator.
I made gooseberry jelly too. I will make raspberry financiers to freeze this weekend, since those bushes are also groaning with ripe fruit.
I put cherries in my morning smoothie, I ate them by the handful. I even added some to a spinach salad with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. They do say necessity is the mother of invention, and the need to use up a bountiful crop can make for beautiful inventions on the plate.
If we are lucky, there will still be some fruit in the fridge when the apricot tree joins the fray. Apricot mint chutney is one of my favourite preserves, but apricot cherry crumble and scones can make me go weak in the knees.
Then, it will be peaches next, and various plums and finally the pears and apples, not to mention all the vegetables we have to work with.
We ate our first lemon cucumber and cherry tomatoes out of the garden this week, and there are beets already peeking through the dirt.
It's a tough row to hoe, the responsibility of tending such a bountiful garden, but, well, someone has to do it.
And, hey, if you're not the gardening type, fear not. Between gardening friends who are likely over enthusiastic in their planting, as well as their harvesting, along with the proud local farmers and fruit-stand owners who are happy to share their wares, there is plenty to go around.
You hardly have to cook many of the summer ingredients to enjoy their freshness. To complete the circle of supporting local, grab yourself some B.C. wine or craft beer and toast to everyone's success.
In hopes of inspiring you, I'm sharing a new variation on my clafoutis recipe. Traditionally, this French country dessert is made with cherries, but you can use any stone fruit.
- 2 cups / 500 g cherries, pitted
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup / 85 g sugar — divided into 1/4 cup / 65 g and 4 tsp / 20 g
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup / 250 mL milk
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup / 85 g flour
- 1/2 tsp / 3 g cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp / 3 mL vanilla extract
- cinnamon sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 425 F/218C. Place fruit in a 9 x 13 inch/ 20 x 29 cm pan (an oval glass or ceramic pan will work just as well.) Dot the butter over top and sprinkle with the 4 tsp of sugar. Place pan in the oven so butter melts and sugar caramelizes.
Separate the eggs. Mix the milk and vanilla with the yolks, and beat the whites with the salt. Blend the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and add to milk mixture. Fold egg whites into the mixture just until blended.
Remove pan from oven and pour mixture over the hot fruit. Reduce oven to 400F/200C and bake for 15 minutes or until golden on top.
Dust with cinnamon sugar and put on a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm from the dish if desired, or turn out onto a serving plate and cut into wedges like a pie.
It’s good warmed up too, the next day.
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.
More Happy Gourmand articles
- Cooking for dad Jun 11
- A recipe for friendship Jun 4
- Gizmos, gadgets for foodies May 29
- Rainy day eats and treats May 21
- Planting & eating a rainbow May 14
- Running hot and cold May 7
- The evolution of salad Apr 30
- Sticky fingers Apr 23
- You can't get off Apr 16
- Old fears, new tricks Apr 9
- Watercooler talk Apr 2
- Warm fuzzies of spring Mar 26