Not all about the pickle

It’s not all about the pickle, but it helps

When I was little, my Dad used to say that there was nothing that tasted like a homemade burger.

Although he did make a mean burger with special spices and just the right amount of charring on the grill, some of the reason for that great taste was the toppings.

We had garden lettuce, homemade mayo, mustard and cheese and onions… it was awesome. Really.

The only argument in our house was whether one should have the dill pickle on the side or sliced in the burger.

Whenever you go to a franchised fast food place, the burgers never even come close to looking like their pin-up counterparts – they were the sad, soggy cousins, the wallflowers that could not dream to hold a candle to something so vibrant.

(Well, OK, so maybe fresh crunchy lettuce and a slice of ripe tomato aren’t as appealing as a girl in a prom dress, but you get my point.)

Everyone has their favourite burger joint, depending on all kinds of elements.

I remember on summer holidays finding out that my cousins swore by the special sauce that White Spot used on their burgers. Our part of the family was not a fan of any “special sauce” that was part of a chain of restaurants’ formula.

That was when I realized that coveting a special independent joint was something not everyone did.

Perhaps it was part of my Prairie roots — the chain restaurants were not prominent where my parents came from. They both grew up in Winnipeg with independent local diners.

When we lived in Calgary, it was Peter’s Drive-In that had not only great milkshakes, but also the best burgers (if my Dad wasn’t making them, of course).

Just before I moved away from Kitsilano in Vancouver a place opened up called the Moderne Burger. My Dad and I and the rest of the family, depending on who was available, shared many nostalgic lunches over heaping plates of home-cut fries and cheeseburgers there.

It’s still a neighbourhood favourite.

Here in Kelowna, my hubby and I have found a few places over the years, but many have come and gone.

I can happily report that there is a classic diner with burgers in Rutland that re-opened last year with new vigour: The Burger Baron (They put their pickles in the burger.)  If you’re in that neck of the woods, splurge and have a milkshake too; it’s worth it.

If you prefer the more individualistic approach that is common in many pastimes these days, there is a burger joint for you in Penticton: Burger 55.

This funky joint allows customers to choose how they want their burger, even including different meat choices as well as Ocean Wise salmon and portabello mushroom.

Bun choices are multiple too, and there is a “shake of the month” if you aren’t excited by chocolate or vanilla. They even have a “Hipster Burger." (In other words, this is not the place for indecisive folks.)

They list dill pickles as a topping, but I bet you could ask for one on the side if you wanted it that way.

Why am I stuck on burgers this week? Maybe I’m pining for warm-enough weather to sit on a deck and enjoy one. It is warm enough to grill outside if you’re game to make your own patties. But why not take a drive and support a local spot?

If you have any favourites, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my Happy Gourmande Facebook page and post a photo or a location. Or you can send me an email.

Good burgers are meant to be shared. Pickles not so much, but it’s good to know where the good ones are.


Kitchen myths, or are they?

Have you seen the latest news? Do you get to watch the latest silly pet video, and read the funny quote that got posted this morning?

The arbiter of life’s wisdom seems to be Facebook these days – if you see something there, it’s for real, especially if it’s in video form.

Well, I have a good old-fashioned news flash for you, folks: not necessarily so. I am here to clarify a few crucial points for you, at least for the kitchen.

You can thank me later.

First, let’s clear up that old wives’ tale: coffee should not be kept in the fridge or freezer. It makes a better brew at room temperature. You see, coffee beans don’t like a build-up of moisture before you pour the boiling water over them that makes your cuppa joe.

The fridge and freezer don’t have lots of moisture, but there will be condensation that occurs on your coffee as you take it out and it warms up to room temperature. Do keep your coffee beans in an airtight container away from the light.

It should be in a cool spot, but not as cold as the fridge.

Just keep the dairy in the fridge. And while we are on the topic, you can keep your bread out of the fridge too. Bread goes stale in the fridge because it absorbs moisture and the starches crystallize.

Next, there is one that my dad used to swear by, so it has always made me smile. I don’t think he’ll mind after all these years if I explain why it’s a myth.

You can use the dull and shiny sides of aluminum foil interchangeably. Although technically daddy was right — the shiny side does reflect more than the dull side — the difference is imperceptible for cooking. (the shiny side reflects 88% of the total heat, while the dull side reflects 80 per cent).

So use it shiny side in or dull side in for your package of potatoes on the barbecue; they will cook just fine either way.

Have you ever heard that you are not supposed to wash mushrooms? As my Gramps used to say, “Hogwash!” Or rather, wash your mushrooms. Just don’t let them sit in water, as they are very porous.

Unless you are re-hydrating dried mushrooms, just rinsing them and wiping them with a paper towel to get any bits of dirt off will suffice.

Here’s a couple you may have heard from your mom or grandma:

  • Cook chicken until the juices run clear when you cut it with a knife. No! This wrong on a bunch of levels. You should not be cutting into a piece of meat you plan on serving as supposedly whole. Also, if you think about this, going just by the colour of the juice to ensure you eat safely cooked poultry is downright dangerous. Please use a meat therometer. Poultry needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F at the thickest part.
  • Add salt to the pasta water and your noodles will cook faster – Please don't. Salty water will boil at a lower temperature, so this is technically true. But, it would only work if you added enough salt to make the pasta totally inedible.

I’ll give you a few more just for fun. You can impress everyone around the water cooler at work with your wisdom.

  • It’s easier to cut yourself with a sharp knife.” This is silly. It’s easy to cut yourself if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. A sharp knife will make a cleaner cut, but it is also more precise, so technically you’re more likely to slip up if your knife is dull, not sharp. Sharpen your knives to make your cutting go smoothly, and practice cutting to be more familiar with your knife. Think of Julia Child and her pile of onions that needed chopping. That being said, even professional chefs cut themselves once in a while.
  • “Marinades make meat more tender.” The opposite is true, as the acid in marinades interacts with the protein in the meat and makes the molecules squeeze more closely together and release liquid. Furthermore, the marinade is only capable of penetrating approximately one millimetre into the meat. If you want to tenderize your meat, try brining. (link for brine recipe)
  • “Brown eggs are healthier to eat than white eggs.” I have to admit I felt a bit silly myself when I learned how the colour of eggs is determined. Brown eggs don’t come from country chickens or necessarily more healthy chickens; they come from certain breeds of chickens. You see, egg colour is related to the hen’s genetics, not her environment. There are also speckled eggs, blue ones and even green (Dr. Seuss didn’t make that part up).

I hope that helps you on your way to a more well-informed life in your kitchen.

You can sit and watch Facebook videos about the latest recipe for a cheese-stuffed something-or-other while you sip on your fresher-tasting coffee with your less-stale toast.

See, I knew you’d thank me later.

Waste not, want not

Holidays in the tropics are spectacular.

Being spoiled in the sunshine, relaxing my muscles and my mind for days on end – it’s good for the soul.

Once back into our First World routines, I want to keep the good feelings coming, and something that sticks with me is not wasting.

At a resort, we are spoiled. What’s not to love?

You can have anything you want, more if you want it. Someone will pick up after you. In stark contrast to that, the Third World cultures where many of these resorts exist, usually exist in an opposite world.

They do not have much, and they waste very little. What they do waste is problematic, because getting rid of garbage on an island is not obvious. Even recycling can pile up. Do you really need to use all those plastic water bottles?

It takes some getting used to, changing one’s habits. Just like we had to remember to take the re-usable grocery bags out of the car so we didn’t use the plastic or paper ones, we had to add the routine of filling our water bottles too.

Now, my reusable bottle is next to my cell phone for when I leave the house. In the airports, there are water dispensers that show how many bottles have been saved from processing when you fill your own container.

It’s time to move to the reduce and re-use part of the slogan; recycling is not enough anymore.

Hubby and I are conscious of waste on island holidays where we see the lack of infrastructure and the waste in the ocean. Here at home, we must continue that stream of consciousness.

China used to buy much of the bulk plastic for recycling from North America but they have stopped, saying they will no longer import any material for recycling plants.

I have started to think of all that packaging…

  • I don’t buy fruits or veggies that are wrapped, but do I even need a plastic bag for each type of produce I buy? I can wash it when I get home and put it in the crisper.
  • Instead of wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap, why not put them in a reusable container with a lid? When I need wrap, I can use the Abeego beeswax wrap my stepdaughter bought us for Christmas.
  • We plan a “leftovers day” in our week to make sure we are using what is in the fridge. A salad with bits of this and that, or soup/stew that can re-purpose a bit of sauce or the last few veggies – they make tasty meals and mean we don’t throw out food we spent good money to eat.
  • When we buy or cook bigger items, we freeze a portion right away. Meat and bread are often in the freezer. (We have a “freezer day” once a week, too; that way we ensure rotation of the stock.)
  • I think before I buy. Is that deal at the store really a deal, or will I end up wasting the extra? I know cucumbers are each cheaper if I buy them in groups at Superstore, but I don’t need three of them right now.

In France, there is a law preventing retail grocery stores from wasting food. It gets taken by non-profit groups and re-distributed in the communities as it approaches its expiry date or the possibility of spoiling.

In Germany, there are cities that have set up fridges for people to place leftovers that can be taken by those in need. I don’t know why we can’t do similar things in our part of the world, but I do know I can do more to respect my food and drink.

It has been said that one person can’t make much of a difference; we are only a drop in the bucket as individuals. Well, the students in Florida who aren’t even voting yet have helped inspire discussion and even change by corporations and politicians.

If each of us reduces our purchase of bottled water and plastic bags, how many drops in a bucket does that make?

If we each tell one more person about making that change, how many of them will take up the cause as well? I know it’s a big bucket, but we will fill it with drops eventually.

The old adage “waste not want not” dates back centuries, so this is not a new idea. Originally (in the 1500s) it was written as “willful waste leads to woeful want,” which might be more easily understood today. The concept that the lack of one thing leads to the lack of another is simple, though.

If you don’t waste it today, you’ll have some left tomorrow when you want it. It sounds like something Mother Nature might have said, don’t you think?


Holiday in small morsels

We just returned from Jamaica where we put ourselves in reset mode, focusing on storing away some tropical memories for use on stressful days later in the year.

Since we returned home to much more winter than expected, I thought I would share a few tastes of the tropics with you, so we can all forget the blowing snow for a moment and feel the warmth of the sun and the sand.

Starting the day in the tropics is quite possibly the best part. I love breakfast, and I love being warm. Not having to bundle up when I get out of bed puts me in a good mood right away; nibbling on fresh papaya and pineapple feels wonderfully decadent.

Combined with the sweet breads often filled with coconut and fruity Jamaican coffee, this is the breakfast of champions, if you ask me. I think it must have been Usain Bolt’s secret.

My other favourite breakfast is ackee and salt fish. Not everyone likes salted fish, but I suppose, with my Icelandic roots, I have the right palate for it. Sauteed with ackee, a flavourful tropical fruit that can only be eaten cooked, it makes a savoury hot dish that will always remind me of Jamaica. You must try it if you get the chance.

There is a wonderful fishmonger in Kelowna who works hard to offer the best seafood in season. But how can you beat fresh off the boat that day, especially after having seen it live underwater while diving?

We had Caribbean lobster and snapper most days where we stayed, and it was delicious. Caribbean lobster is different than the cold-water variety we are used to eating; it is softer meat and is not quite as sweet. I love it with Jerk butter.

The snapper is tender and delicate, a perfect foil to the tangy escovitch sauce they usually serve it with.

Many people know Jamaica for its jerk spice. This blend of herbs and hot peppers used as a rub or sauce for chicken and pork is as popular as barbecue sauce in North America. That and curried goat are common meat dishes for a main meal, usually served with rice and peas and some kind of squash.

I love the intense flavours and rainbow of colours on the plate.

Dessert is not really sweet in Jamaica, but rather rich. Coconut and dried fruits are common, and pastry is usually quite short and buttery.

Rum cake is what I look for, black as the Caribbean night and studded with rum-soaked fruits and nuts. Gizzaras are delicious too – shredded coconut filling in a tart shell.

Both my hubby and I love to scuba dive, experiencing the wonders of that other world under the surface of the sea. Sometimes a simple taste can be the best culmination of a great experience, and for me sucking on a Jolly Rancher candy after a dive is just that.

The last of the sea’s saltiness and the fruity candy meld in my mind with the memories of nurse sharks, starfish, and eagle rays.

If you are more of a beach lover, then let me paint this picture for you: sipping on a Dirty Banana with your toes in the fine white sand as the waves lap the shore and the sandpipers’ little feet as they run.

The flavours of rum cream and coffee liqueur with milk and ice and a fresh banana are the perfect tropical sustenance.

If you are still feeling peckish, you can always grab a Jamaican patty (the island version of a Cornish pasty, with curried veggies or chicken).

For those who like to venture out, there is the famous Pelican Bar on the South Coast. This rickety shack sits on a sand bar all on its own, and it offers a delightfully rustic environment to enjoy a local drink.

Many choose Red Stripe, but I’m not a big beer fan when it’s hot, so I chose a Dark n’ Stormy (rum and ginger beer).

My thinking was that it’s like carrying an umbrella; nothing will happen if I have one.

In the evening, there is nothing better than wandering down to the dock and watching for manta rays under the stars. You can sip on that delicious local coffee, or a bit of rum cream on ice if you like.

If you’re like me, when you see a shooting star, you wish that you can come back again soon.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin 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."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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