This month, we’re leaving our boat in the salt and heading inland to the houseboat capital of the world. Halfway between Vancouver and Calgary and tucked into the mountains lies sunny, glacially-formed Shuswap Lake. It looks like a spindly, wobbly letter H lying on its side… sort of. Our goal is to decide whether renting a houseboat and hosting a family reunion on the lake next summer is a good idea. This will be a new adventure.
Surrounded by forested hillsides, the Shuswap, named for the most northern of the Interior Salish people, is gorgeous. And along 1,000 kilometres of shoreline, there are more activities than we could possibly cram into one short week. Golf will be important for my nephew from Winnipeg, orchards and farmers markets for a couple of my nieces, fishing for my husband and most of the kids. Visiting a wild bird sanctuary, winery tours and waterfalls are all on our list of possible adventures. Besides that, at various access points, there are biking and hiking trails of all levels of difficulty. Kayaks and small boats with outboards are available. And, hey, we’re on a boat after all. What’s wrong with cruising along, chatting and sipping a cold beverage? We could sit back and enjoy the sunny beaches, pristine waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains as they slip by, and keep watch for beavers, moose and birds of prey.
But is a floating reunion a good idea? On line, I have found a lot of information. Houseboats of all sizes are available, and most of them appear to be well-equipped, in fact luxurious, and inviting. Some of our questions are, how fast do the houseboats go, where can we beach it to spend the night? And most important, will we make ourselves crazy if we try to accommodate everyone’s favourite activity?
I want to see the boats for myself, talk to the rental agencies. Sicamous seems like a good place to start. Once we have picked out a couple of possibilities, we will explore the area, try to decide on an itinerary before pitching the idea to my family. Right now, it seems complicated—too many choices. Hmm. Maybe I should just tell everyone what to do and what to eat, and I can laugh because I’m the older sister. Just kidding.
A plaque hanging on the wall in my workroom reads, “I smile because you’re my sister. I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.” What is it about families? The people to whom we’re closely related are better equipped than anyone else to drive us crazy, yet they are the most precious people in the world.
After years of living apart, scattered all over Canada, when we get together, my siblings and I fall into the patterns of behaviour that we established when we were children. At our most recent reunion, my younger brother, impatient with something I proposed, said I might as well just tell him what to do. I always had, after all. I was totally surprised. But it’s probably true. I was one of the big kids and he was one of the little ones. I baked custards for him when he was a toddler. But I suspect that’s not all I did. There’s a remote possibility that I was bossy.
I’m trying to reform. Honest. But I can’t help it. Good food is one of the most important ingredients of a good time. Already I’m scouring my brain for recipes that use common ingredients, are easy to prepare and always popular with kids and adults—things everyone will like.
The other day, I found a stained, dog-eared recipe card that I haven’t seen for years, a favourite from my university days. With it, I found memories of fun times. Once a week, a group of my friends would get together at an apartment shared by four guys. They had the biggest apartment, with a nice balcony and a barbecue, not just a hibachi. The day before, one of us would traipse off to Pike Place Market and buy a flank steak or two, slice it against the grain into strips, and marinate it overnight. Although the marinade varied slightly, on the whim of whoever made it that week, the version below was my favourite. Whenever it was my turn, I jotted the ingredients, crossed them out and made changes until it became what it is today.
In a couple of days, on our way to Sicamous, we will visit my younger brother, the one who thinks I’m too bossy. We’ll spend a day on his boat on Okanagan Lake, and I’ll try the recipe out. If he likes it, everyone will like it—guaranteed. He’s a picky eater. The recipe is easy, uses few ingredients, and is quick to cook. I like to mix the marinade in the morning, or even the night before, and let the meat soak up the flavours.
For approximately one kilogram (two pounds) flank steak.
Note: This is also good with pork or chicken. It is not necessary, but I like to brine chicken breasts in one tablespoon of salt mixed with two cups of cold water. Stir to dissolve the salt, add the chicken, and refrigerate. If using chicken tenders or cubes of breast meat, half an hour in the brine will plump them up. If using whole or half breasts, three or four hours is better.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons sherry
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (OK to substitute olive or avocado oil)
- Mix all the ingredients together in a glass or stainless container or Ziploc bag.
- Add sliced beef or pork and marinate all day or overnight. Stir once or twice, or turn bag.
- If using chicken, after brining it, pat it dry and marinate chicken tenders or cubes of breast meat for 30 minutes to two hours.
- Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
- Thread beef or chicken on bamboo skewers.
- Grill to desired doneness.
- For a large group, think about using some beef, some pork, and some chicken. Steam some rice to soak up the juices. Toss a salad. Voila! You’re there. Enjoy!