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Jul 2, 2009 10:27 AM

Oh Canada! NYT acknowledges Canada exists with amusing op ed pieces

Happy Canada Day yesterday to all. The NYT had an amusing bunch of famous Canadians' reminiscences and observations about Canada on their op ed page yesterday, including Bruce McColl's ode to that most delectable of chocolate bars, the Coffee Crisp (makes a nice light snack). Other observeres touched lightly on the topic as well.

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  1. How do you like your coffee? Crisp.

    And don't forget MacIntosh Toffee, eh?

    5 Replies
    1. re: sbp

      My other favourite. How DO they get that wonderful texture?

      1. re: buttertart

        Re MacIntosh, I love that it's chewy, but if you slap a bar on the table, it shatters into bite sized pieces.

        1. re: sbp

          That is the best aspect and the one I meant by texxture. It's unique to that product.

          1. re: buttertart

            Reminds me of Bonomo's Turkish Taffy

            1. re: rich in stl

              Yes a similar sort of plasticity, only thicker and caramel.

    2. I have to agree that Canadian pizza is usually terrible, especially compared with New York slices, which I think are tremendous street food.

      And certainly, there is a chocolate bar divide at the border. Things like a Hershey or Clark bar are very hard to find in Canada, while, as with Coffee Crisp, Mr. Bigs and Sweet Maries rarely make it to the lower 48. Still, as a child, on our shopping trips from our cottage in rural Quebec down to Vermont, I remember being amazed by the strange and wondrous varieties of American candy. The whole "Sugar" family - Daddies, Mommies, and Babies - were completely alien to us, although just the thought of them makes my blood sugar rise today. Heath bars, $1,000 bar (is that the $Million bar today? - inflation, I guess), Milky Ways, Three Musketeers - we'd never seen them before, although we might have seen commercials for them on Saturday morning TV.

      And, of course, beer. Although I don't drink it at all, my friends all stoutly (sic) insist that Canadian beer is stronger, better flavoured, and in every way superior to US beer. Then I see everyone drinking Bud and Coors at parties. Go figure. However, one beer brand, Molson Canadian did a famous commercial on some of our differences. It's quite amusing:

      9 Replies
      1. re: KevinB

        KevinB, my experience of sweets was reciprocal to yours. As a child in California -- already well briefed by relatives near the Canadian border about wondrous confections to be found there -- I was amazed at the toffees especially, and other products unheard-of in the US. That honeycomb crunch bar, whatever it was called -- still recall its slightly caramelized flavor decades later. Brought back quantities of these novel sweets.

        I learned that many of the interesting ones were British in origin. (NB, that region had the highest modern sugar intake in the world, peaking in Scotland at 175 lb or 79 kg per person annually -- 40% more than even the US!). In beautiful traditional Victoria BC was an "English Sweets Shop" with the widest possible inventory, which got plenty of my business when there.

        1. re: eatzalot

          The "honeycomb crunch" bar was/is simply called "Crunchie". I used to love those too, even though the honeycomb would get stuck on your teeth, and you'd spend half an hour afterwards probing various crevices with your tongue to get your teeth clean.

          Some waggish teens would carefully excise the "r", and glue the remaining two parts of the wrapper together. The result would then be affixed to notebook covers, clothing, etc., and would usually be subject to extreme parental/teacher disapproval.

          1. re: KevinB

            Well KevinB, your recollections above are the first I heard of anyone outside the US taking interest in our candy bars. Which have quietly, systematically narrowed in variety to around six (all made by Mars I believe, the Snickers-Musketeers-MilkyWay people), who contract with retail chains so that, for instance, in a large supermarket or chain pharmacy around the Hallowe'en holiday, you now see shelves overflowing with all kinds of candy bars -- all six kinds. Even when you and I were kids, with more variety in the US, I think more still was found in Canada. Even the chocolate there was better (less cocoa -- itself a dry product, almost a waste product, onto which the US public was weaned -- and more of the fatty "cocoa mass"). Germans nickname the Swiss border the "Rösti-Grenze" from the potato dish popular in Switz., and likewise I grew up thinking of the US border as a sort of Chocolate Curtain, protecting powerful mediocre domestic manufacturers from the free market of sweets available outside.

            This does not extend to all manufactured foods. 20 years ago as a wine enthusiast I sampled a Canadian Pinot Noir that was very cheap in a Toronto restaurant, and with reason. "Ice Wine" was more the thing, though if we can credit Haeger's Pinot Noir book, at least one good PN growing zone exists in Canada.

            1. re: eatzalot

              I can't remember a Canadian wine that I thought was more than just drinkable, I am sorry to say. There must be some (and apologies to my countrymen and women if I am underinformed).

              1. re: eatzalot

                As far as chocolate bars are concerned, we used to buy Hershey's in bulk on trips to the States. It had a certain élan and was cheaper than Canadian bars. Crunchie is another one in my pantheon, as is teh sponge toffee it's made from - which I prefer without chocolate coating but which is all but unavailable anywhere I've looked in the States.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Hershey's cheaper? Not surprising. US mainstream chocolate-bar labeling I saw as a kid (including Hershey I think) cited not just chocolate, sugar, etc., but also cocoa and other extenders like non-chocolate fats. Brands more mainstream in Canada, had a deeper, richer flavor. Friends from Canada also commented on it.

                  Growing up in a food-obsessed family I got interested, as a child, in how chocolate's made. Made my first batch -- starting from raw cacao beans -- in 1967. (Beans from local coffee - tea - spice importer called Peet's; years later Mr Peet sold the business; later still, it became a chain. Neighborhood became known for its later specialty food businesses -- a charcuterie, the Cheese Board, later Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, etc.) My reading said that commercially the beans were heated and ground, then separated -- cocoa butter and a flavorful liquid called "cocoa liquor" were extracted by solvents if I recall; the fiber residue with faint flavor was sold as "cocoa." I became aware of differences. In US, cocoa powder was heavily marketed, even displacing chocolate in "hot chocolate," historically made from just that -- whole chocolate.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    I lived on Berkeley Way for 13 years in the 70's / 80's so I know exactly where you're talking about. And miss it! Did your chocolate work out?

                    1. re: buttertart

                      Yes, but I was more interested in learning about the stuff than doing anything useful. The main part of the Peet's beans -- anyway the part that interested me -- were the "nibs," or kernels, aptly named. I roasted, then ground by hand for a crude "cocoa mass" and was pleased it tasted like chocolate -- a little more complex, spicy, than commercial chocolate, as I recall. I'd been reading about separation of components, but had neither chlorinated fat solvents nor interest in using them. I did conclude it was a lot of work. (My parents had pan-roasted their own coffee beans since the 50s, an easier process, little waste, doable in quantity.) So for brownies etc. I went back to ordinary cooking chocolate.

                      Since the late 80s there's a renaissance of quality specialty solid chocolate sold in the US, for cooking or eating. Also, US cooking recipes routinely use unsweetened chocolate while Europeans use "sweet chocolate" ("bittersweet" or "semi-sweet" in US). That and hot milk make hot chocolate, the original main use of the stuff. I made some this morning.

          2. re: KevinB

            I grew up in a small town in Newfoundland in the 70's, but we had Milky Way bars, because my grandmother would sometimes send me to the store for a Birch Beer and a milky way bar, bless her. We also had sugar daddy's at the corner store. Alot of what we had at the corner shops though, was British confectionary, Tunnocks, Cadbury.....etc. I think we also had some of the US stuff though too, as we lived near a naval base.

            I'm not much of a beer drinker either, I do like microbrews and stuff, but I do see the point about the Bud drinkers. Alot of people will say that US beer is watery. However there are an AWFUL lot of Keith's brewery faithfuls down this way that outnumber the Bud drinkers down this way.

            One thing I will attest to is the virtual absence of the Caesar drink in the US. Try ordering one in alot of places and you get looked at like you have ten heads, until explaining that it's like a Bloody Mary with Clamato etc. It's good stuff, and a brunch staple.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                Poutine is a relatively recent addition to mainstream Canadian - other than Québécois - food. In my part of Ontario you could always get chips (French fries) with gravy but I never heard of poutine before reading about it here on Chowhound.

                1. re: buttertart

                  I was born in Montreal, and even though we moved to Toronto in 1960 when I was four, I spent virtually every summer from 8 to 17 at our cottage in rural Quebec (from Dominion Day to Labour Day). We visited chip wagons ("casse croutes" as they are known) from the Ontario border to Lake Champlain, and although "frites avec sauce" - fries with a chicken gravy - was quite common, I don't remember seeing poutine until the 1980's. So, in the context of a 400 year old culture, I'd say poutine is a relative newcomer to the Quebecois as well!

                  1. re: KevinB

                    That's what I thought - I spent a lot of time in the summers in the 70s in Laval with my "visites interprovinciales" exchange girlfriend and don't remember any thing about cheese curds much less poutine. Her mother was a great cook, however - the first time I ever had rare meat (my mother was of the if not shoe leather then inedible school) and oh, the bread....

                    1. re: KevinB

                      Most food historians trace poutine's origins back to the late '50s. Warwick, Drummondville and St-Marc-sur-Richelieu have all claimed to be the original source. I don't recall encountering it in Montreal until the late '70s.

                      1. re: carswell

                        I remember my first visits to Toronto. I'm veg and my buds would keep trying to force poutine on me declaring that there's no real meat in Canadian gravy. lol

                        1. re: rozz01

                          Sidebar on poutine: I read that the St Hubert gravy mix used on some poutines is in fact meat free. Anyone know? I just tried it for the first time and it is very tasty regardless.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            A lot of mixes for poutine sauce are meat free. Especially the cheaper ones. The most popular brand for restaurants is Berthelet. They make both meat based and meatless bases. I'm pretty certain they are the ones who make the St-Hubert packets.

                            1. re: SnackHappy

                              Thanks, SnackHappy (livin' up to your handle!).

                2. On the other hand, does Canada acknowledge that NYC exists?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Surely you jest...but of course, we are very cosmopolitan...If you are within media range of Canada you know that a great deal of the news on the CBC and CTV networks is from the US. I would venture to say that the average Canadian knows a hell of a lot more about the States, US politics, etc. than vice versa. After all as Trudeau put it you are the elephant in the room, unignorable. You are hard put to find a news story even in the NYT that touches on Canada, which, being the number 1 trading partner to the US, is a rather important entity after all.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      I seem to recall that, years ago, the NY Times' winner for most boring headline was "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative". But we're really polite, eh?

                      1. re: FrankDrakman

                        Indeed, perhaps too much so! Incidentally am being amused by the excitement caused by Tim Hortons replacing several Dunkin' Donuts in added to the things Canadian known to NYers (along with hockey): the doughnut...but will they say honey dipped instead of g;azed?

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Actually, I'd like to go to a Manhattan branch, and see how their counter service compares to that in Toronto, where the glacial slowness would seem to belie the global warming theory. I remember when I worked in Manhattan - if you didn't have your order ready the instant you go to the front of the line, the counterman would look past you shouting "Next!", and the speed with which things were delivered and cash exchanged was quite astounding.

                          1. re: FrankDrakman

                            I think you are going to the wrong Toronto Tim's. Any of the ones I have gone to in the downtown core run so fast that they are calling next while still taking money from the previous customer. I can be in a lineup out the door and still be out of there in 5 minutes.

                            1. re: FrankDrakman

                              True. I moved here from very upstate NY - near Cornwall - (having moved there from California after leaving Toronto) and my first job here was in the World Trade Center. We used to go to a place across from the WTC that I called the Shouting Restaurant: you were greeted with "Whaddaya want???" at top volume the second you crossed the threshold. I had to have my friend from Staten Island order for me, I was so taken aback. No longer the shy fading flower I.

                      2. re: Passadumkeg

                        Does anybody in NYC really care if we do? Does anyone in NYC know where we are?

                        1. re: tuttebene

                          I care. I'm in NYC. And there are apparently other Canadians among us. As to the average person in NYC, you may well be right.

                      3. Canada? Where's that? Isn't it a Ginger Ale company?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          I hope your Canadain knowledge isn't limited to this fact alone ;-) LOL

                          (for a good laugh I suggest you view Rick Mercer's show called Talking to Americans - can be found on youtube)