Summer has definitely shown its face over the past few days. With virtually no spring this year we went from umbrellas to air conditioning without any sensation we’d transitioned from one season to the next. The good news is that California residents and those of the surrounding areas dependent on us for water, won’t have to suffer through a drought this summer.
Perhaps because I grew up in Nova Scotia, virtually surrounded by ocean, there’s a part of me that needs to cohabit with the sea on a regular basis. I found that living in West Virginia and other points inland, what I missed most was access to the coast. Just to be able to sit on the sand and dig my toes in the gritty warmth, the familiar smell of salt in my nostrils, and the gulls dancing on the palette of wet sand before the next set of waves move in to erase the memories of their last steps. I like it all.
When I was about six my mother and I visited relatives who at the time owned a home in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Victoria is located on Vancouver Island and accessible by boat. We boarded the ferry in Vancouver early on a foggy and blustery western Canadian morning. I remember looking out at the dark ocean and thinking that I’d rather be home watching Captain Kangaroo and enjoying a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Mother and I stood at the rail often during our trip to ease the hint of nausea prompted by the relentless rise and fall of the ferry attempting to maneuver the choppy seas. I believe I developed my first real dose of respect for the ocean on that trip. Growing up in Halifax boats werea part of my life early on, and the youngsters in our family were well versed in safety procedures when on board. For all its beauty and magnificence, the sea will extract its pound of flesh from those visitors who make the mistake of treating it casually. Feeling as though my legs would never adjust to solid ground again, I was relieved to finally see shadows of land appearing and disappearing through the veil of fog before us.
At the ferry we were met by my mother’s cousin and her three children. After stopping for lunch, we took a tour of the city itself as well as the surrounding areas. As the morning passed into early afternoon, the cooler weather lifted and was replaced with warm sun as if to effectively show off the incredible beauty the island has to offer. Flowers seemed to grow wantonly in every available patch of soil. There were grand hotels with fabulous grounds, a trademark of the city. Their home, where we were to stay during our visit, was a stilted two-story perched high on a hillside. From the deck the view overlooked a large cove and marina seemingly overflowing with sailboats. It was explained, as with the majority of the locals, one of the boats was theirs. Plans were shared for boarding the following morning. Sailing was not a new activity for me, but one I always looked forward to with great anticipation. No formal lessons under my belt at that age, or this one for that matter, I could help hoist a sail and knew enough to duck when a member of the crew shouted “prepare to come about”.
Weather cooperating, we began our day with the sun shining brightly overhead. The man of the family was a member of the Canadian military and an accomplished sailor. The younger crew members were well seasoned and crewed effectively. Large as recreational boats go, measuring out at 38 feet, the yacht was equipped with a full galley, head and sleeping quarters. Lunch was geared toward the younger members on board. An excellent cook, the hostess served gooey grilled cheeseburgers, chilled pasta and three bean salads, and an icy pitcher of fresh lemonade, this all finished with watermelon and fresh berries heaped on shortcake and topped with whipped cream.
Vancouver Island, with its endless coves, sandy beaches, and intricate network of waterways was a source of wonderment to my young eyes. At one point, we dropped anchor in a cove and bailed into the dark blue waters popping up and down like bobbers in our orange life vests. If you would have asked me at that exact moment to move there, I would have packed a bag. Truthfully, if my family wasn’t so embedded in living the California lifestyle, I could happily purchase a houseboat and float about the world for the remainder of my time here.
These are great burgers, definitely not cholesterol free but sometimes you just got to go for the gusto. Smile. I’ll be serving these on 4th of July with all the sides. Can’t wait.
Stuffed Mushroom Cheeseburgers
2 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup crushed Saltine crackers
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped fine
6 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp. Neufchatel cheese, softened
6 Onion hamburger buns
In large mixing bowl combine onion, crackers, egg, jalapeno, ranch dressing, Worcesterhire sauce, garlic, and pepper. Mix well. Crumble meat over the top and using your hands mix well. Do not overmix. Shape into 12 flat thin patties. Place six on a cookie sheet.
In separate bowl combine mushrooms and cheeses. Spoon 1/6 of the mixture in the center of each of the six patties. Top with six other patties and pinch edges firmly to seal tightly.
Grill over medium heat for about 5-7 mins. each side or until cooked as desired. Place buns flat side down on grill until lightly browned. I serve these with grilled red onion slices, tomato, arugula, and chunky salsa. Yum.