Ready! Set! Summer!

The Victoria Day long weekend is traditional as the unofficial start of the Canadian summer.

“May long," as it’s called in many parts of the country, is when the boats come out on the water and the steaks come out on the grill.

Sometimes, Mother Nature doesn’t co-operate, but in true Canuck spirit, lots of folks still head to their favourite camping spot to christen another outdoor season. A little rain doesn’t seem to do much to dampen the enthusiasm of a nation that spends more than the proportionate three months in winter mode.

When I was a kid, I hated the May long weekend. It meant my Mom would begin her garden plan, which meant I would be put to work.

The veggie garden patch had to be dug out (my Dad’s job, at least until I was tall enough to use the pitch fork). Then, it had to be hoed and planted (my job).

The flowers were put in – that could be fun, discovering new varieties at the nursery and playing with the peat moss (so spongy!) Then, everything had to be watered, gently with the watering can. (I felt like Mickey Mouse with so many buckets of water as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.)

The worst was when Mom got creative… like the year she decided to import boulders from the dam to give “texture” to the landscape. Our favourite picnic spot at Ghost Dam outside Calgary became an excavation site as we filled the back of the family Volvo with the biggest boulders we could carry.

Then, of course, we learned, what goes in must come out – and go all the way up the walk to the back yard.

My poor brother was not immune to the hardships of the yard either. My Dad figured any young enterprising lad could make real money in the suburbs with a lawn mower. I think at the peak of business,

Justin had four or five lawns to mow, including ours. He got a good tan and built up some good arm muscles from lifting the mower around, but he didn’t exactly start an empire with his earnings. I wish he lived closer now; I can’t get anyone to mow our lawn.

Of course, the irony to all this hardship is that I became such an avid gardener. Thankfully, the climate in the Okanagan is such that I can start earlier and so the heavy lifting is done by now.

I do wish I could meet some research scientist who would like to take on my yard as a project, studying all the exotic weeds I can grow. If they could get a grant for their work, perhaps they could pull the weeds out and I could work with the plants I’m trying to grow.

Any takers?

All sarcasm aside, I do have fond memories of the first summer meal off the grill. Once we got our green feet washed and our fingernails cleaned out, we were treated to Dad’s delicious burgers cooked to perfection (always with the cheese melted on the bottom of the bun, please).

Mom would make Kool-Aid, and there would be potato chips. Or maybe it would be a real splurge, with steaks and Dad’s barbecue veggies cooked in an aluminum foil package with herbs and butter.

“It’s important to put the reflective side of the foil in, so the heat bounces back," he would say. Well, not so much, but they were awesome veggies nonetheless.

In honour of this important weekend, I am sharing one of our family’s most coveted recipes with you. My Mom’s barbecue sauce was something akin to summer in a jar in our house. She didn’t make it in the winter, so it’s seasonal quality made it just as precious as the season itself.

As the saying goes, we did put it on everything, but it truly shone on grilled meat.

This is an old-fashioned concept I know – everyone buys sauce in a jar now, it seems; there are enough varieties for everyone to pick their own favourite. But this stuff is divine, with sticky sweetness and a slight tang, and even chunks of onion (okay, you can purée them if you’re not an onion fan).

It is a “finishing sauce," since it has sugar it is not meant to go on the grill or it will burn. It is best served warm though, as is any barbecue sauce – more of the flavour can be tasted in almost any food when it’s warmer.

You can keep any leftovers in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so you can have it on hand when needed.

Cheers to a happy long weekend. May your feet stay up and your stress level stay down as you enjoy time to stop and smell the freshly mowed grass on the summer breeze.


I always thought this recipe was unique to my Mom, but I found out all my aunts had it too, as did most of their friends in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Hence the revised name on the splatter-marked page in my book of recipes. (As any cook knows, the splatters are always the best sign of a cherished favourite recipe.)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup honey OR 1 cup brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp dry mustard (like Keen’s)
¼ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp dried or fresh oregano

In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in vegetable oil. Once they are transparent, add garlic and sauté for a few minutes more.

Add liquid ingredients, then dry, into the saucepan and stir well. Let simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavours to combine. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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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