Hello and bonjour from Canada, our great neighbor to the north! Just like our previous globetrotting destination, Cameroon, Canada’s official languages are English and French. But unlike the African republic, Canada was a country that both Jess and I had visited on multiple occasions—including on our weekend getaway to Halifax (above) earlier this year. We’ve also had Canadian relatives on both sides of the family. Given our familiarity with the Great White North, we looked forward to revisiting some favorite foods and activities while also making time to discover something new. We weren’t disappointed!
Our Saturday morning got off to a delicious start when Jess cooked a breakfast of French Canadian crêpes, which we enjoyed along with our bottle of Canadian maple syrup:
We weren’t terribly surprised that the maple syrup had been harvested in Canada, since the province of Quebec alone is said to produce 75% of the world’s supply. Nevertheless, we soon realized that we had quite a variety of Canadian items close at hand:
Canada is the world’s leading supplier of lentils, though we hadn’t expected to discover that the country also produces cranberries and Sour Patch Kids. (We bought the candy especially for this occasion.) We managed to locate plenty of Canadian coins, too: some collected as souvenirs from our northerly travels, others simply the consequence of living next door to Canada in New England. I’ll explain the box of macaroni and cheese later.
To remind ourselves of what makes Canada so special, we then watched an hour-long vacation travel video guide from Expoza Travel:
The video showed us around Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, the Canadian Rockies, and finally Vancouver.
For lunch, we headed to Assembly Square in Somerville to eat at Earls Kitchen+Bar, an upscale Canadian “burgers and beer” chain first established in 1982 in Edmonton, Alberta. Their menu was surprisingly diverse, but we stuck to tradition by ordering a couple of burgers:
On the right is Jess’s Forager veggie burger, while on the left is my royale with cheese. (A royale is another word for a quarter-pounder, used in many international markets.) The burgers left us pleasantly full.
On our way home, we stopped in Boston Common to visit the city’s official Christmas tree, which is donated each year by the grateful citizens of Nova Scotia in commemoration of Boston’s timely assistance after the deadly Halifax explosion of December 1917.
In the midst of World War I, an ammunition ship collided with another vessel in Halifax harbor, triggering a massive explosion that destroyed block after block of the city’s waterfront. Boston was one of the first cities to respond with rescue workers and supplies. In return, the province now sends us a towering Christmas tree every December.
Sticking with the holiday theme, I located this humorous song called “A Moose in a Maple Tree – The All-Canadian 12 Days of Christmas,” accompanied by a cute animation:
For dinner, Jess cooked a vegetarian version of another French Canadian recipe called pâté Chinois. While the word Chinois is indeed French for “Chinese,” this hearty shepherd’s pie isn’t Chinese at all. It’s believed that Chinese cooks began making the dish for French Canadian railway workers during the nineteenth century, who then took the recipe home to their families. Jess modified the vegan recipe provided above by using real butter and canned creamed corn, and it tasted délicieux!
That evening, we watched Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001), which has been called the greatest Canadian film ever produced. It was also the first film to be written, directed, and acted entirely in the Inuit language of Inuktitut. Using the Inuktitut script, the film’s title is written ᐊᑕᓈᕐᔪᐊᑦ. Here is one trailer that I found on YouTube, although its condescending tone hardly does the film justice:
We ate another helping of Jess’s French Canadian crêpes for breakfast on Sunday morning. Amidst some chores and errands, we watched a brief documentary from Vice International about some of the alcohol-fueled social problems that now face Nunavut, the autonomous territory in northern Canada that many Inuit call home:
For lunch, I prepared what to us Americans looked like a simple box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. To many Canadians, however, a box of “Kraft Dinner” is practically the national dish. To make our meal a bit healthier, I also sautéed a side of winter vegetables.
We kicked off the afternoon with a stroll to Union Square Doughnuts in Somerville, where I purchased a maple and bacon doughnut that (you guessed it) most likely contained maple syrup from Canada:
Returning home, we settled in to watch a short documentary called L. M. Montgomery’s Island, which introduced us to some of the Prince Edward Island locations that inspired Montgomery to write the beloved Anne of Green Gables and its sequels in the early 1900s. We were delighted to learn that the books had been originally published by L. C. Page & Company of Boston, Massachusetts!
We also watched a National Geographic documentary called Moksgm’ol: The Quest for the Spirit Bear, which took us to the lush temperate rainforest along the northern coast of British Columbia. The forest is home to a population of black bears, ten percent of which possess a creamy white coat. These are the Kermode bears, known to the locals as spirit bears.
After another delicious helping of Jess’s pâté Chinois, it was time to draw our weekend in Canada to a close. Though we had known a fair amount about our neighbor to the north before starting our globetrot, we concluded that this familiarity had helped us to dig even deeper into Canadian culture as we discovered a rich diversity of food, landscapes, and traditions. Au revoir and goodbye!