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Happy-Gourmand

Cool dads like it really hot

With Father’s Day this weekend, it seemed the perfect thing to write an ode to the barbecue.

In this part of the world anyway, dads are generally the ones who own the grill in most houses. I know my dad was the grill master when I was growing up, and my hubby has taken things to another level entirely, having both his grill and his smoker-barbecue rig. 

Perhaps there is a male affinity for that most primal of activities, cooking over an open fire?

I think dads like barbecue because it is straight-forward and approachable. You can try all you like to dress up the barbecue experience, but somehow the down-home nature of it always sneaks in. I think that is much of its charm.

If the non-barbecuer in the family wants to play with the accompaniments and jazz things up, then that seems to work the best; leave the grill maestro to work his own magic outside.

This is another part of the allure for dads, I think. I remember a joke about the only time dad was really in charge was at the grill and on the dance floor.

 For those of you who are buying Father’s Day presents, grilling provides a perfect area to explore, as there are a plethora of gadgets and gizmos to enhance your capabilities and creativity.

Many of them are not even expensive, which is a nice change. Tongs, skewers, grill plates, smoking chips, even aprons and cookbooks are available in abundance. 

Or perhaps you just need to get dad a patio chair so that he can watch his work in progress? (We did that one year; I think that was the summer my dad taught me how to mow the grass… perhaps so he could use the chair even more?)

If your dad is not a barbecue specialist, well then, I hope at least if he gets a tie it is because he especially likes them.

Dads should get spoiled just as much as moms do on Mother’s Day, don’t you think?

My hubby, Martin, has been bitten by the “BA-be-cue” BUG, as in that real down-home style of smoking that requires much more putzing around the barbecue itself.

That means I need a hobby, too. While he is philosophizing about woods and rubs and sauces and cuts of pork, I can be gardening or reading until he brings his delectable fare to the table.

Sometimes it’s best if we each have our own quality time.

This year, for Father’s Day I got Martin a “pig tail” meat flipper gizmo that he can use while prepares his meat over those coals on the rig.

Meanwhile, “in the back 40”, I will pull some radishes from the garden to make a potato salad and wait for him to return with the meat – satisfying that age-old tradition of having the man bring home the bacon.

(If you’d like one of his barbecue recipes, he is happy to share

Happy Father’s Day to all the male role models out there, and to those who benefit from their love and wisdom.



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Eating at summer camp

Soon, the regular daily routine will go out the window as we head into summer.

Kids will be out of school so there are no more bag lunches or after-school snacks.

When I was little, it was the thrill of popsicles and making my own sandwiches that I loved in the summer. Now, many kids aren’t as connected to their food, but we can get them closer to it without too much fuss.

My mom used to tell us that gramma fed her parsnips every time she made mom’s favourite dessert, lemon pudding cake.

It would take almost a quart of milk she said, to get through those parsnips, but she had to clean her plate before she could have dessert. My mom has never touched another parsnip since moving out.

As a result of memories like that, my mom instituted a family rule. My brother and I just had to try those foods we didn’t like each time they came around (the theory was eventually we would like them).

It is possible I was just too much of a hungry growing kid to care too much what I ate, but I did come through my childhood liking almost every food I tasted.

These days, the kids I meet are even more likely to be suspicious of unfamiliar tastes, at least in the savoury department.

The sweets on the other hand, are pretty much universally loved. Some things don’t change from one generation to the next, I guess. Popsicles will always be popular. Maybe at home we could use some sweet flavours to get them ready for more food adventures while away — at camp, or even a friend’s house for lunch.

My theory on this topic is that with so many more choices today, it is easier for kids to be picky. I have never hear of anyone being made to stay at the table to clean their plate. In addition, kids are more used to processed foods that tend to taste a bit sweeter so of course, less sweet things are harder to like.

But it is not a case of kids not liking flavour, For example, one of the most popular foods we have served at Girl Guide camps is Caesar salad. I don’t know that they would have chosen garlic-flavoured lollipops, but I do know that my hubbie’s practice of taking a flavour kids like and using it in other dishes seems to be successful most of the time.

(Next time, I will make sure I prepare a pot of the pasta with the leftover garlic bread-butter for those girls who don’t like tomato sauce.)

Another flavour I know many kids enjoy is balsamic vinegar. You don’t have to serve them a store-bought salad dressing, just a bit of balsamic drizzled over the veggies with your favourite oil will do nicely. Balsamic vinegar reduction is also a tasty sauce for chicken or salmon (a change from barbecue sauce).

You can even pour it over strawberries as a fun twist on dessert.

I know packaged foods offer the grown-ups a chance to provide something interesting for the kids without having to spend so much time preparing it. But perhaps we can mix up the prepared ingredients and the ones that come “as they are." 

Once at camp, the Guides did a great job of packing their own lunches from a table full of ingredients and they also managed to get themselves a pretty healthy meal, too. We could even take it a step further.

I wonder what would happen if we packed their lunch and they packed ours?

The thing that struck me about my mom’s horrible parsnip memory was that food (like life) should be fun. When you are a part of the process, things are almost always more fun.

If the only thing you have to do is unwrap a package, then where’s the fun in that? It’s almost as boring as parsnips.



The wisdom of Pooh

Isn’t it funny how some things keep coming back to you throughout your life? I have a good friend who says that life keeps presenting lessons to us until we learn from them.

I was reminded of her expression amidst the sound bites of speeches by famous people talking to college graduates.

Life is all about what we learn from it.
 
I have always liked a simple version of how to look at life, much like seeing the glass half-empty or half-full. I am a fan of Winnie the Pooh and his simple wisdom (often likened to the Eastern philosophy of Taoism).

I love the fact that Pooh saw not just a glass, but rather a pot of honey. 

Conversely, I have often thought that those who seemed to feel a storm cloud followed them were a bit like Pooh’s friend Eeyore the donkey. “Poor Eeyore”, as he was often known, always seemed to be awaiting impending doom, and of course, he was rarely disappointed.

He lost his tail, he got broken birthday presents… this guy really had bad luck.

What point am I getting at, you ask? These are great examples for life. I am reminded of one of my favourite speeches given to students, and it referred to Pooh and his friends. Have you ever heard of Randy Pausch?

Pausch was a professor who had terminal cancer and decided to give his best advice to his students, not on formal education but on how to learn to enjoy life.

He told his students they should decide whether they wanted to be a Tigger or an Eeyore. (Tigger was even more bouncy and positive than Pooh – more of a North American motivator than Eastern, like a Richard Simmons to Pooh’s Buddha.) You can look it up – it’s called The Last Lecture.

In a more every-day sort of vein, with all the rain we have had and everyone feeling rather gloomy lately, it made me think of Eeyore – what cheered him up?

Let’s look at how the world worked for A. E. Milne’s characters….

Theirs was a simple life – Pooh enjoyed a bit of sustenance in a pot of honey, Piglet enjoyed his “haycorns," Rabbit enjoyed his garden, Owl enjoyed his books, Tigger enjoyed bouncing, Kanga enjoyed taking care of little Roo.

The best part of all was they enjoyed each other’s company. 

Even Eeyore was happiest when his friends remembered his birthday. Despite his burst balloon of a perfect size and colour, he got a big thrill of putting it in and taking it out of the empty honey pot Pooh gave him.

After all, if you have friends to share your experiences, then even the storm clouds seem not so bad.

So, here’s to a week filled with your own sunshine, even if it rains outside.

Share a pot of honey, take time to bounce with your friends… and remember to learn the lesson life puts in front of you. (This means if you enjoy it, you need to do more of it)

For those who like honey, here’s a recipe to keep you going. It tastes best when served among friends.

BEST FRIEND BANANA BREAD

  • 1/2 cup / 125 mL butter
  • 3/4 cup / 375 mL sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 125 mL honey 
  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups / 500 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp / 3 mL baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp / 3 g ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp / 3 mL baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp / 3 mL vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup / 185 mL milk
  • optional: 1 cup chopped nuts and/or 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C. Grease a loaf pan or bundt pan.

  • Sift flour and mix with baking powder and cinnamon. Mix in nuts and/or chocolate chips if you are using them.
  • Cream sugar, honey and butter in a mixer or large bowl. Beat in mashed bananas and eggs until well blended. Add in dry ingredients at low speed and mix just until smooth. Add vanilla and baking soda to milk in measuring cup, then mix gradually with batter.
  • Pour batter into pan and bake on middle rack for 1 hour, turning halfway through. Loaf is done when a knife inserted in centre comes out clean.
  • Loosen loaf from pan with a spatula and turn out on wire rack to cool.


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Salad by any other name...

As things heat up, I am encouraged to see the garden grow, and know that soon we will have our own veggies from the garden.

Salad is a staple at our house during the warm season, and I love being able to gather the ingredients from the back yard. I remember as a kid that the usual salad was with iceberg lettuce before we had a garden.

That got me thinking about the evolution of salad…

My Gramps used to talk about lettuce like it was a wild plant, which seemed pretty strange to me. He spoke of using dandelion greens in a salad, a not very appealing idea in my book.

As a five-year old, I thought he was teasing me when he said the kids were sent out to pick them, trying to get me to do the dirty work in the yard.

Gramps also talked about “lamb’s quarters,” which sounded equally suspicious. I would learn later that what we now eat in many mesclun salad mixes had that earlier name because it has a “leg of mutton” sort of shape to its leaf.

I am not sure why I didn’t search out those greens earlier in life, as I was never much of a fan of iceberg lettuce. I figured it must have that name because it tasted so watery. They say the name comes from the mountains of crushed ice they transported it in when it became popular in the 1920s.

So, how, you may ask, did we get to where we are? I think we can pat ourselves and our free-thinking parents on the back, allowing adventure and curiosity to take over from routine and familiarity.

Don’t get me wrong; a good dose of familiarity once and again helps one keep their sanity. But salad is so much more than iceberg lettuce and bottled Kraft dressing.

No offence to Kraft is intended. I ate Catalina dressing and other similar concoctions as a kid, but they were akin to thinking that watching a movie on one of those portable players is the same as being in a theatre.

Embracing new ideas and creative quirks has brought us into a new age, where we can hold our heads high and say we know our stuff.

Just think – today, salad doesn’t even have to include lettuce…

  • I have had watermelon, cucumber and radish salad that was a far more exciting tribute to crisp, crunchy, clean tastes than plain iceberg lettuce.
  • Wedge salads with iceberg and homemade flavourful dressing can be very homey, and Mexican bean salads and Thai noodle salads transport you clear across the world.
  • Adding candied nuts to a simple green salad really takes it uptown, and adding tamari-roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds lets me think of what it must have been like to be a hippie.

At this rate, you can understand how salad has become dinner all by itself.

I leave you this week with a recipe I found that resurrects one of those dressings that became a representation of mass-produced blandness, but here it is elevated to a level where it has almost become the salad itself.

The suggestion was to serve it with iceberg lettuce, but I will leave you to choose your own canvas to paint on.

Happy munching!

THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING

There is a debate whether this recipe originates in Canada (the Thousand Islands are in the St. Lawrence River), or in the U.S., where a chef in Chicago is said to have first whipped it up.

Some say it is named to represent the thousand little chopped up pieces.

This homemade version is certainly a far cry from the mass-produced condiment that has now become “special sauce” for many a fast-food chain.

Fold together:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped white onions
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cooked beets
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped hard-cooked egg
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped pimientos
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Season with:

  • ½ tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper

Mix gently with a rubber spatula and serve over lettuce.



More Happy Gourmand articles

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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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