Thanks for the Labor Day holiday is owed to Peter J. McGuire. According to the "American Book of Days--Third Edition" by Jane M. Hatch (H. W. Wilson: 1978), he was the founder and general secretary of the new Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. At a meeting of an early labor organization in 1882, McGuire proposed the idea of setting aside a day to honor labor.
He suggested that this labor holiday be celebrated on the first Monday in September, a pleasant time of year just about halfway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. His idea was enthusiastically approved, and the first holiday was celebrated in New York on Sept. 5, 1882.
It quickly spread to other parts of the country. A bill to establish Labor Day as a federal holiday was introduced in Congress and both houses gave it their unanimous approval in 1894.
Marks End of Summer
Labor Day traditionally has been celebrated with parades and picnics. In the early years an important aspect of the holiday was the opportunity to bring workers' problems to public attention, but this has diminished during the 20th Century.
For most today, Labor Day seems to mark the end of summer (even though we know our weather will remain warm for several weeks). With school about to begin, this probably will be the last long weekend until Thanksgiving. It's no wonder so many plan leisure activities for the backyard, the beach or campground.
To assure that this is a holiday for everyone, plan a menu that is prepared mostly in advance. Outdoor grilling will no doubt fit into many plans, so select recipes that marinate the meat or poultry in advance. The meat or poultry can be transported with the marinade in a cooler, then quickly grilled before serving.
A Chicken Flavor Enhancer
Bottled teriyaki marinade, lemon, hot pepper sauce and cinnamon are combined and used to enhance the flavor of chicken in Caribbean Lemon Chicken. Place the marinade and chicken in a plastic bag for convenience.
Lamb-Vegetable Kebabs assemble marinated meat and vegetables on a single skewer. They grill in just eight to 12 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness desired.
Flank steak is another prime choice for marinating and grilling. The marinade tenderizes as well as flavors the meat. It then can be thickened and served as a sauce.
To round out an easy holiday menu, pasta salad or potato salad can be prepared a day in advance or purchased. The same is true of baked beans and cake or cookies for dessert. Other easy and/or do-ahead ideas include molded salads, coleslaw, interesting breads or rolls, fruit salads and watermelon.
CARIBBEAN LEMON CHICKEN
1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) chicken, quartered
1/2 cup bottled teriyaki marinade and sauce
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place chicken quarters in large plastic bag. Combine teriyaki sauce, lemon peel and juice, hot pepper sauce and cinnamon and pour into bag over chicken. Press air out of bag and tie top securely. Turn over several times to coat chicken.
Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning over bag occasionally. Remove chicken from marinade and place on grill 5 to 7 inches from hot coals. Cook 40 to 50 minutes or until chicken is tender, turning frequently. Makes 4 servings.
2/3 cup dry Sherry
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds lamb, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces
8 small white boiling onions
1 small sweet red pepper, cut into 8 (1-inch) pieces
8 medium mushrooms
Combine Sherry, olive oil, salt, Worcestershire, pepper, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Place lamb cubes and marinade in plastic bag. Tie bag securely, turn to coat meat and marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Parboil onions in boiling water 8 minutes. Blanch red pepper pieces 2 minutes.
Drain marinade from lamb cubes and reserve. Alternately thread 4 lamb cubes, 2 mushrooms, 2 onions and 2 red pepper pieces on each of 4 (12-inch) skewers. Brush kebabs with reserved marinade.
Place on grill 3 to 4 inches from coals. Cook 8 to 12 minutes or to desired degree of doneness, turning and brushing occasionally with marinade. Makes 4 servings.
MARINATED FLANK STEAK
1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) flank steak
1/2 cup maple-flavored syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup dry Sherry
1 teaspoon grated ginger root or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Score meat diagonally on both sides. Combine syrup, soy sauce, green onions, orange juice, Sherry and ginger. Place meat and marinade in plastic bag. Tie bag securely and marinate in refrigerator several hours or overnight, turning at least once.
Remove meat, reserving marinade. Place meat on grill 6 to 7 inches from coals. Cook 6 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.
Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade into small saucepan. Bring to boil. Dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Stir into marinade and continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Serve with flank steak. Makes 8 servings.