This month, my travel from home trip was to the great white north: Canada. A friend sent me a Canada photography book for my birthday for my fake travels, which I actually read a week or so earlier than the rest of the trip. It’s been many years since I last visited Canada, but the book brought my previous trips to mind. I look forward to another visit to Canada some day when the borders are back open and it’s safe for all. It took me a long time and lots of research to figure out what to enjoy for my fake trip, but I’m happy with the choices I ultimately made. I would have liked to have watched Anne with an E, but it’s a series not a movie.
Book: This month, I read Canada by Norah Myers. It’s a collection of photographs and commentary celebrating many wonders of Canada from ice fishing to mountains, from the Hockey Hall of Fame to Stanley Cup Park, from the CN Tower to the polar bear capital of the world. I recognized a number of photos from my travels, such as the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec and Gastown in Vancouver, British Columbia. There was even a photo of poutine, which I was planning to make this month. In addition to enjoying the variety of photos, I learned a lot of facts about the history and culture as well.
Meal: After extensive research, I finally found a few vegetarian-friendly options of Canadian food.
- Poutine: This dish of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds originated in Quebec and can be found in hockey arenas as well was fine dining restaurants. My first step was to find extra crispy fries (aka chips) that wouldn’t quickly get soggy, and this turned out to be the easiest step. Next, I hunted for cheese curds. The internet warned me that they wouldn’t be easy to find and that I could substitute mozzarella cheese if needed, but I was on a mission! After 4 grocery stores, I found some bright orange jalapeno cheese curds in a store. I was getting closer, though those were definitely not what I was looking for. It took me 7 different grocery stores, but I finally located one that had cheese curds. Upon spotting them, I threw my arms up in the air in triumph, amusing the other shoppers who were shopping in the cheese section. After trying a few local stores, I ended up ordering the gravy packets online and now have enough to probably make poutine every day for a month if I want. I was worried at first by the predominant peppery smell and because I’m not a fan of sauces and toppings on any dish, but it turns out I really liked the taste. The cheese curds didn’t melt as quickly as I thought they would, but otherwise I think I nailed it. I actually look forward to making this again.
- Split Pea Soup: I found split pea soup buried deep down on a list of Canadian foods. Soup isn’t my go-to summertime food, and I was burned a few months ago by an absolutely dreadful split pea soup. So I was a bit hesitant as I heated up a can of Amy’s split pea soup. It surpassed my low expectations. I ate it all eagerly, even after having my fill of fries.
Dessert: I was almost instantly drawn to the idea of making pudding chomeur or poor man’s pudding. Maybe it’s because I was unemployed or the fact that the recipes warned that it was almost too sweet, but I knew I had found the dessert for my trip as soon as I saw it. What I wanted was to use a boxed cake recipe and add maple syrup, but I couldn’t find a recipe like that anywhere (I must have looked at dozens of different recipes). So I finally settled on one from Allrecipes and used real Canadian maple syrup in it (luckily, it took me only 3 different grocery stores to find that). My guess is that I didn’t use enough syrup, because the resulting cake was not at all “too sweet.” In fact, it tasted like boring bread. As it was supposed to, all the syrup I added on top soaked through to form a layer on the bottom, but the top didn’t have much flavor at all. So I ended up pouring maple syrup on the final product and topping it off with some vanilla ice cream. That was much better. I think if I were to make this again, I’d double the amount of syrup I used and maybe even double the amount of sugar. But I’ve also never called anything “too sweet” in my life.
Music: For personal reasons, it had been a while since I listened to the Barenaked Ladies, so I am a couple albums behind. I first listened to a joint album featuring The Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions. Hearing some of my old favorite songs redone with this talented group of street corner-esque acapella singers was magical. I had a great time singing and dancing along as I cooked. I then listened to their album Fake Nudes where I experienced a mix of emotions. I fell in love with several songs, including “Bringing it Home” and “Invisible Fence.” However, I didn’t love the reference to one of my least favorite hockey players in the first song of their album. I get it; they’re Canadian and mentioning a famous Canadian hockey player was important for their song “Canada Dry” but why couldn’t it have been Wayne Gretzky? Apart from that, it was a fantastic album and one I look forward to listening to more.
Movie: I did consider bending my rules in allowing television shows instead of movies, but watching just one episode of a show didn’t seem like enough, and I had too much going on to watch a whole season. In the end, I did some more research and found a Canadian LGBTQ+ movie on someone’s “best of” list: C.R.A.Z.Y. Out of Quebec, it was subtitled in English, and had a distinctly Canadian feel to it. It was strange and a little more religious than I was hoping for, but I also couldn’t help rooting for the main character. We watch him grow up and find himself while dealing with a sort of crazy family life. In fact, the word “crazy” popped up a few times, including the repetitive reference to the Patsy Cline song. However, it wasn’t until the very end that I understood the title (and felt foolish for not having noticed earlier). Definitely an interesting movie. My favorite part was all the David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust appreciation.