Side Dish - Memories beat recipes.

Short notice invitations and long anticipated celebrations keep our summer days filled with questions of what to bring and where to go.

It brings me joy to unveil a homemade four layer birthday cake and share simple recipes that are always the biggest hits.

I’m writing this month from a family cabin on the lake in BC’s Cariboo. Eight of us converged from our three points on the Canadian map, helped plan the menu, prepare the food and gather water for dishes. I brought coffee, craft beer, cider, BC wine and STUMP Coastal Forest Gin by PhillipsFermentorium Distilling Co. to pair with meals and afternoons. The others brought the history of this place (my partner’s Dad built this cabin in 1970), and talk of meals their parents made here. The plates, wood stove, coffee on the deck, each tied to a vivid memory and tremendous sense of place. Their Dad’s handwritten pancake recipe adorns the kitchen wall.

Where we feed our families, raise our glasses, and what we take to share with friends can live long past the meal itself.

For inspiration or foolproof guidance on what to take or serve at summer gatherings, try some of my favourite resources like smittenkitchen.com, itstodiefor.ca, theforestfeast.com and guiltykitchen.com. Do not be afraid, make something new. Remember, no one else saw the photos in the recipe.

One of my favourite summer salads is a cabbage salad. Use half a head each of green and red cabbage, cut in half and sliced as thinly as you can, 2-3 carrots and 1 apple grated on the large holes of a box grater, 4-5 green onions chopped in rounds (use the white and green parts), 1-2 avocados quartered, peeled, roughly chopped, 1 lime squished over the apple so it doesn’t brown, a palm full of roughly chopped fresh cilantro if you like it, 2-3 cap fulls of good apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Chop it all on one board, scoop it up, toss it into a large bowl (for a crowd-sized double batch, use a clean sink to mix it). Mix it with your hands, squish the avocado into the cabbage and toss it all together. Serve heaping out of your favourite bowl. Keeps great in the fridge or the cooler for a few days.

If you’re taking your celebration out and want casual patio seating, try the Adirondack chairs at Big Wheel Burger, Rock Bay’s Wheelie’s Motorcycle Cafe, sidewalk tables at Cascadia Bakery or Bard & Banker, or the sunny courtyard of Market Square at Wannawafel. For larger menus, try CanoeBrewpubIl Covo TrattoriaBubby’s KitchenPrima Strada Cook St. Village, or Lure Restaurant and Bar.

Try it you’ll like it:

Strawberry Milkshakes at Big Wheel Burger, $5.
Gnocchi at Stage Wine Bar in Fernwood, $13.75.
Joie Farms 2014 Rosé available at Private Liquor Stores, $22.

Originally written for and published in Monday Magazine, August 2015.