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March/April, 2000:
Jane Harris
"What's for Dinner Alberta"

Consider the Simmons family. In 1976, Basil and Hilda and their daughter, Margaret, arrived in Lethbridge from Guyana, South America. Last fall, their family specialty, Basil's Fire and Brimstone Hot Sauce, made it to the shelves of Save-On Food Stores in both Alberta and British Columbia, a desired item for Albertans who may have only the vaguest idea where Guyana is.
Though, at first blush, it may not seem that South American hot sauce could be called an Alberta regional food, Basil's Fire and Brimstone Hot Sauce does fit into our regional cuisine tradition. From the time the first white settlers arrived, new waves of immigrants have borrowed and shared favorite dishes - bannock, Scottish scones, Ukrainian perogies - with neighbors. The Simmonses have adapted their traditional sauce for the Canadian market, incorporating mangoes and cucumbers to give it a unique flavour and golden colour suited to the taste of Albertans. And it can be used, they point out, on almost any type of food: curries, potato salad, salsa, barbecue sauces, chicken wings, and soups - even strawberry dip.
Only as recently as 1998, the family began to share their sauce with visitors to the Heritage Day Ethnic Food Fair in Lethbridge. Soon after they took it to the farmer's markets and specialty shops. Their big break, into the Overwaitea chain, came when staff in Lethbridge's Save-On Foods asked Margaret why she was purchasing large quantities of Scotch Bonnet peppers. Discovering the family was manufacturing a hot sauce, staff asked to test it, loved it, and moved quickly to get it on the store shelves.
Part of the Simmonses' success is undoubtedly due to Albertan's growing love for ethnic foods, but it is also a result of the family's determination to get through all the licensing, labeling and testing hoops and regulations. Plus, well, the Simmonses just have a passion for showing Albertans how to use this spicy sauce. Explains Margaret, "We demo it. That's part of our education process."

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Last Update 08/02/2005
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Simmons Hot Gourmet Products Corp. 1999

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