Red Sangria with Limes Oranges and Apples - Detail -

COVID-19 Lock Down Cooking Fun: Labour Day Classics!

Here we are at Labour Day, already – after a spring and summer of COVID-19 lock down living and one unsuccessful attempt to re-open the economy. Like the month start/month end long-weekend fêtes that bracketed and punctuated our unofficial summer season, this one will be… subdued.

Beyond Meat Burger - © Beyond MeatClassic home-grilled Burger: The centrepiece of the all-time classic Labour Day Menu.
Use any Meat or Substitute you like, dress it any way you like. Share with family…

First and foremost, I think it’s safe to say, we learned that the Grill lights and cooks the same as it always did, even if we’re grilling for a smaller crowd. A back yard cookout is just what the doctor ordered, to provide us all with a much-needed breath of fresh air, and to observe the great North American grilling tradition one last care-free time before heading into wind-down season (which will officially end for all but the most intrepid grill masters on U.S. Thanksgiving).

What’s on the menu?

What does America (and Canada, by association) traditionally eat off of its multitude of grills for Labour Day? I just completed a two-hour survey of web pages whose collective title could be summed up as: ‘Your Top Menu Items for the Big Labour Day Grill-Out 2020’.

I just want to take a moment to preface the post with a few observations:

First,  I think just about as many average folks out there will be surprised by at least some of the items on the menu as will say, “Yah. That’s about what I figured…”

Second, I don’t think anyone, from any walk of life with any particular cultural, racial or religious background will disagree too strongly (if at all) with the Big Menu’s recommendations.

Third, there’s not a single menu item on the faves menu that can’t be tweaked to suit any taste or dietary preference/prohibition.

Fourth, I’d bet a quarter that none of the items on the unofficial Labour Day Composite Master Menu is totally unfamiliar to you. Further, I’ll bet you have your own favourite ‘family’ way to prepare most if not all of these classics.

Here we go!

Drum roll, please…

The top choice for Main Dish of the 2020 Labour Day Grill-out is: the Hamburger! Enjoy the Great American Bun-based Sandwich any way you like – Beef, Chicken, Lab Meat, Faux Meat, Vegetarian, Vegan or whatever. With all the partly prepared or fully-prepared grill-and-eat variations available these days, it couldn’t get any easier, either. Topping options can be Googled ad infinitum and many can be grouped together to celebrate your particular preferences and cultural traditions.

Runner up for top Main Dish is the classic Hot Dog. Though more strongly associated with the beginning-of-July national day observances of both the U.S. and Canada, the humble (yet ubiquitous) Frankfurter, Wiener, Tube Steak or whatever you want to call it is really another glorious icon of the Great Summer Cookout. Like the Burger, styles/toppings can be Googled until the cows come home…

Experienced Grillers will also be thinking about Skewers: This is the weekend to plan for Skewers featuring any kind of marinated Meat (or Meat Substitute), punctuated by chunks or slices of any fresh Summer Veggies you can get: Tomatoes, Sweet Onions, Sweet Peppers, Hot Peppers (optional or to taste), Zucchini, Eggplant, Full leaves or Sprigs of fresh Summer Herbs.

Cole Slaw and Potato Salad tie for Third place on the Labour Day Master Menu. Make (or purchase freshly-made) lots of both. Everybody comes back for ‘just another spoonful’. Don’t worry about leftovers; these classics go with everything, sit comfortably alongside any Sandwich and can actually be served as healthy summer snacks by themselves in a bowl.

Corn on the Cob comes in right after Salads of all kinds on the Big Menu. You’ll probably have a better choice, greater abundance and fresher Sweet Corn overall if you live farther south, where the season falls later in the year or just lasts longer. Down around the mid-Atlantic states and further south they commonly plant sequential rows of Sweet Corn in home and market gardens so that there’s a small but not over-bounteous harvest every 2 weeks or so through the summer and fall. All you need to serve is lots of Salt and Butter!

Some Sides…

The following are worthy of your consideration, to serve before, during and/or after any Labour Day Grill Menu: ‘Restaurant’ Style Corn Chips and Soft Wheat Flour Wraps/Pitas (for ripping and dipping), Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Hummus, Tzatziki, Baba Ghannouj – whatever you deem appropriate.

Some Beverages…

Beer is the top adult quaff of Labour Day. Few would argue with that. Wine (even if it’s out of a can or box) comes second. Special mention to Sangria (see photo, top of age), which is my personal fave. Have some individual bottles of Perrier or Pellagrino on ice for the non-drinkers. Plan for Coffee for after the big meal, with Tea for any Coffee deniers on your list.

For the kids, Soda/Soft Drinks wins by a mile. Flavourerd Waters may turn some kids’ cranks (the athletic ones), and Chocolate Milk is always in there somewhere.

So there you go!

Tons and tons of choice and possible variety under a few simple classic generic category names. Make the Traditional Labour Day Grill-Out one of your family traditions! You can have as much fun preparing it as you will eating it! Next year – maybe – you can share your vision more widely…

~ Maggie J.