The simple salad has come long way from the days of iceberg lettuce and bottled dressing

What's in your salad?

As things heat up, I am encouraged to see the garden grow, and know 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 backyard.

I remember, as a kid, the usual salad was iceberg lettuce before we had a garden. That got me thinking about how far the idea of salad has gone.

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. Nowadays it’s big kids called “foragers” who sell them at farmers’ markets.

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. Globalization has also helped, as we see more ingredients that come from far-flung places that have become popular.

Don’t get me wrong, a good dose of familiarity now and again helps one keep their sanity. But salad is so much more than iceberg lettuce and bottled Kraft dressing. No offence to Kraft– I ate Catalina dressing and other similar concoctions as a kid—but I believe we have come farther in our evolution with preparing meals.

Making salad dressings from scratch is one place we can easily avoid extra preservatives and often extra sugar and fat, without sacrificing flavour.

I hope this encourages you to step outside your regular routine. Sometimes we don’t even have to go outside the comfort zone to mix things up but if we do, it can open a whole new world of experiences.

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. 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 on whether this recipe originates in Canada (the Thousand Islands are in the St. Lawrence River), or in the USA, 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.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

When does Canadian summer start?

Summer memories

In Canada, we pride ourselves on our climatic toughness.

We like to trade stories of the worst winters and compare the endurance we have against those from other cities. Across the country, there are historic tales of brutal storms and enduring horrible extremes, which only seem to be worsening these days.

This general prevalence of less clement weather (dare I say winter?) makes us fiercely proud of what summer we do get. We make the most of every warm day that comes our way.

Despite the fact there are still ice hockey games being played, the weather is signalling more summer temperatures and accordingly, more summer activities.

Canadian tradition says that summer starts unofficially when the May long weekend arrives. If you are in my generation born in the 1960s, then I imagine the smell of burgers or ribs on the barbecue might be the memory of Victoria Days past. Or perhaps it is the sound of the boat on the water, the smell of that first campfire. Maybe it is the feel of the wind in your hair as you ride with the top down for the first time.

I have been reminiscing about past summers and what made them special. As a kid, I used to dread the Victoria Day weekend as that was when the garden work went into full force at our Calgary home.

My mom loved to have an outside space that offered some variety and colour. There was of course a veggie garden planted out back, where most people would have parked their second car or camper. She also designed a rockery garden with flowers, and rocks brought from the countryside.

Can you guess who my mom’s chief labourer was? I was the eldest, so I carried the heavier rocks and hoed the garden rows. My little brother carried what seemed like pebbles and planted the seeds. There was no lazy start to the Canadian summer at our house, I thought. But then my tale of woe wasn’t unique. I had friends whose moms who had gardens too, or large lawns to mow.

Funny enough, as an adult I followed in my mom’s footsteps, creating my own little world in the grounds at Rabbit Hollow. I now look forward to the first sure weekend of garden work, which here in the Okanagan is often earlier in May.

I remember the first trip the ice cream truck made was usually this weekend. I haven’t seen one of those in a while, but we live a stone’s throw from the ice cream counter at Paynter’s Farm Market on the Westside, and they have Tiger Tiger (my favourite summer flavour).

Once the lawn was mowed that first time, it was open season for the sprinkler too. Many an afternoon was spent running through the one at our house, or whomever had the biggest yard on the street (meaning more kids, more splashing. You get the idea.

There is a great episode from The Vinyl Café about a hose in the yard on a summer day if you want to reminisce.

I haven’t seen kids in a sprinkler recently, but I know from looking over to the market that eating ice cream outside is still popular. The next time we have friends over with their kids ,I might invite them to run in the grass, get a few grass stains and drink from the hose.

Here’s to a happy summer.

(Editor's note: This is the start of Kristin Peturson-Laprise's column in its new regular spot. Look for it each Wednesday morning from now on.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Celebrating Mother's Day without a mom

Remembering mom

Sunday, May 12 is Mother’s Day in Canada and the U.S. (The U.K. celebrates “Mothering Sunday” in March, in case you were wondering.)

But what if you don’t have a mom to take to brunch, make a flower pot for or send a card to? Since I’m in that boat, I thought I would share my feelings on the subject this week.

First, let me say I want to keep this positive. I don’t want to trigger any negative emotions. So, if I do, I offer my heartfelt apology. My aim in this column is always to add a bit of joy, and this week it’s to find some where it might take a bit more looking, that’s all.

My mom passed away last year, as regular readers may remember. I have two girlfriends who also lost their mothers in the spring, so we talked a lot about it recently. The poignancy of the season, with all its colours and rebirth in nature, is even more striking when one remembers somebody who’s no longer here to share it. But there are so many wonderful memories.

My mom was the one who shared her love for food and cooking and helped turn me into the gourmand I am today. She used to say there isn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure, and she was right. Her passion for having a family garden didn’t shake me of developing my own—not even when one summer I had to help haul rocks from the banks of a dam to turn our backyard into a rock garden.

I do wish I’d had the opportunity to be a mother myself, but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s a big reason why I love mentoring young people. My time with Girl Guides and much of my tutoring in ESL is so I can share my experiences with younger generations and hopefully empower them.

When I hear a cheery voice yell, “Hi Poppy!” in the grocery store, or see a smile after a tough test at school, I know I am leaving a small legacy behind.

My nurturing also happens with my many “brown girls” throughout my life—my chocolate Labrador retrievers: Tigger, Roo, Satchmo, Ella and now Freyja. All of them were well-named, one of a kind and they all taught me something special.

Tigger reminded me about the importance of having self-confidence in one’s actions (she once ate a bar of soap on the edge of the tub, and didn’t even burp.) Roo was a wonderful companion, always willing to play along. Satchmo taught me what a wonderful world this is when she went blind and Ella taught me how important it is to share our wonder and joy with the world. It’s ironic that a dog can make one a better human, but it’s so true.

I am a firm believer that positive energy is much more important than the negative stuff. I refuse to dishonour the memory of all the female role models who’ve nurtured me by not enthusiastically passing along their wisdom and their love for life.

I learned this first as my furry soulmates moved on over the “rainbow” bridge. One by one they showed me that although grief never goes away, neither does love. Loving unconditionally is hard for us humans, but to dogs it comes easily. I’ve aspired to be like them as I’ve gotten older.

So, for all the people out there missing someone this Mother’s Day, and every other day too, I send out a communal hug. Let’s share the best of them through us.

Mumsy, thank you for all the wonderful memories, and for letting me discover myself (even when I didn’t want to). To my Amma, condeblessa (God bless you in Icelandic) – you gave me my link to my strong and humour-filled Viking heritage. To Grandma Helen, thanks for showing me confidence is worth its weight in gold. And to Gramma Chris (my very Scottish step-grandmother), cheers to you for showing me blood isn’t required for a strong family bond.

(Editor's note: Starting May 15, Kristin Peturson-Laprise's column will move to Wednesday mornings.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The three M's of spring—May flowers, moms and mint

May flowers, moms, mint

I’ve got you thinking, haven’t I? What in the world do the items in this week’s column headline have to do with each other? They are all things I love, and in an interesting set of circumstances, they all happen to represent this time of year.

In case you are still stumped about this connection, follow my train of thought.

May flowers—There is, of course, the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” That does seem to be true in a literal sense in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and it also brings to mind the concept of looking on the bright side.

April showers and the slow approach of spring put many of us in a bit of a funk. Grey days can be depressing and not much sprouts until things warm up a bit more. People tend to be in a soggy mood that empathizes with the weather.

The month of May allows for a kinder temperament for both people and the environment. The appearance of spring blossoms is a welcome rainbow of colour after the drab monochromatic landscape of winter. Similarly, we tend to smile more easily as the days get longer and the flowers to sniff get more prevalent.

In France, delicate and fragrant Lilies of the Valley are still given on the first of May in celebration of May Day. This ancient celebration of the transition of winter into spring is now known as a holiday honouring workers. I find it interesting that those honoured on this day were once farmers and gardeners and now they are labourers.

Moms—In our part of the world, May is about Mother’s Day. It has been a huge celebration in North America for the last two centuries, but the appreciation of mothers has been an important holiday since the time of the ancient Greeks.

In some countries, they use International Women’s Day in March to celebrate moms. In the U.K. they do their celebrating on “Mothering Sunday,” which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, a symbolic tribute that started in reference to Mary Magdalene and now includes all mothers. It also became known as “Simnel Sunday,” a day that was an easing of Lenten fasting to properly honour moms with a feast. Simnel cakes (like modern fruit cakes) were a signature treat.

Many people aren’t fans of fruit cake, but brunch is a popular modern Mother’s Day treat. I love biscuits as a part of brunch, and so I’m sharing my favourite recipe for them, from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. They are easy to make and the recipe makes enough to share with a small crowd. Best of all , mom will be impressed.

Mint—This lovely herb is one of the harbingers of spring along with the early blossoms. Its fresh flavour is a burst of life in any dish where it is included. It’s delicious with rhubarb, another spring feature. Added to a salad, it can make you forget that many vegetables haven’t sprouted in the garden yet. And if you’re looking to celebrate, take a cue from the folks in Kentucky and try a mint julep. (For those of you who don’t keep up with sports, the Kentucky Derby horese race is held on the first Saturday in May.)

Be forewarned: The mint julep is a sipping drink. Muddled mint leaves and a bit of simple syrup is all that stands between you and that chilled metal cup full of bourbon. If you prefer a milder version of the derby day festivities, perhaps simply wearing a flamboyant bit of headgear is more your style. I plan on wearing my best hat to the farmer’s market and maybe I’ll indulge in an iced tea with mint if the day is warm enough.

If you do want to bet on a horse and clink glasses, here’s a great recipe for a classic mint julep.

Maybe you’d prefer to bet on a sunny day than a horse. Farmers’ markets are open now outside. My neighbourhood market, Paynter’s Farm Market in West Kelowna, re-opened for the season May 1, so I might go for ice cream.

Whatever you’re doing, I wish you a happy new month.

(Starting May 18, Kristin Peturson-Laprise's Happy Gourmand column will move to Wednesday mornings on the Castanet website.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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