The fourth of July is my grandmother’s birthday. Although she’s been gone for some years now, my mother and I always celebrate her on this holiday, even if she was Canadian born and bred.
As I’ve said many times before, I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In my formative years summer was always an event I associated with swimming in the Atlantic, pots of boiling lobster on the beach, and a glorious break from homework and the school room, which at that age I abhorred. Ahhhhhhh, I loved it. Double scoopers in Point Pleasant Park the strawberry cream melting over your hand before you could get in your mouth, and exploring what was left of the fortresses and cannons that originally protected that end of the city back in the day when it needed protecting. I lived with my maternal grandparents and my mother in those days. My grandmother, although achieving many things in her life, never had a driver’s license, so during the summer months as a youngster I spread out around Halifax with the help of public transportation.
My four best friends as a child were two sets of twins, one identical girls, and the other fraternal, one of each gender. The Bobsey Twins books ranked among my favorite reading choices back then so possibly this motivated me to seek out two of a kind siblings or maybe being an only child I was intrigued with the idea that they came into the world with a built-in sister or brother, either way we were tight. My mother and grandmother could never tell the girls apart as physically they were mirror images, but to me one was very much a girly girl, with her sister leaning towards, or fully embracing, being a tomboy.
A different time back then with children less cloistered and life, possibly only in perception, seeming a little more safe during the summer, we took the bus unaccompanied by adults on a fairly regular basis. My grandparents held a membership in the Waegwaltic Club, and during the summer “the Waeg”, as we referred to it was often our last stop along the bus route. The club was a wonderful place for little people with tennis courts, pools, a boathouse, and a large clubhouse where you could use your change to buy an ice cream or a hot dog. A canoe was available for our use there and many warm days were spent eating our sandwiches and fruit while rowing along the northwest arm of Halifax. When I think of it now, we wouldn’t allow our youngsters to enjoy this pleasure today, and perhaps it was dangerous then, but we were taught early on as humans in the maritime provinces to respect and understand the power of the ocean surrounding us, and for us being part of it was just a way of life. Changing hands at the oars we would row across the arm to The Dingle, which was a tower built in 1912 to commemorate the convening of the first elected assembly in Nova Scotia in the early 1700’s. That being said, for us it was simply a fabulous stone edifice guarded by huge bronze lions that we loved to explore.
I think of this before the 4th of July every year, as well as my grandmother’s influence on my life. Although Canadians traditionally do not celebrate July the 4th as it is an American holiday, we do celebrate Canada Day on July 1st in much the same way. For us it was a picnic on a blanket sitting high on a hill at The Waeg, followed by the excitement of waiting for the sun to sink behind the hills and the fireworks to begin exploding high above our heads. I can still picture seeing their reflection in the water down below and hearing an occasional sizzle as a hot remnant connected with it.
We all have our traditions that we value. I share a love of both countries, so find myself embracing those cherished by both. Have a safe and happy 4th!
Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks with Ranch Dressing
32 chicken drumsticks
1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp. garlic salt (I much prefer Lawry’s)
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 cans 8 oz. tomato sauce
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 oz. butter, melted
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Dash or two of Tabasco sauce
Olive oil for deep frying
1 Bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (or your favorite)
Skin the chicken and cut of knuckle with heavy kitchen knife. Wash chicken well and dry with paper towels.
Combine black pepper, garlic salt, onion powder and paprika. Rub well into each drumstick. Place covered in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Fill a deep heavy-based pan with oil. Heat oil to 180 degrees C. Cook chicken in batches for 2 mins. each batch. Drain on paper towels.
Transfer chicken to glass casserole dish. Combine tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, butter, sugar, red pepper flakes and Tabasco and mix well. Pour half of sauce over chicken stirring to coat well. Reserve remaining sauce. Refrigerate overnight.
Heat barbecue 1 hr. prior to cooking, oiling grill prior to heating. Cook chicken over hot grill for 20-25 mins. until heated through and juices run clear. Marinate with remaining sauce several times during cooking process. Serve with ranch dressing.