Do you know why I’m not a perfect woman? No, it’s not—only—because I like muffins (a lot). It’s a much deeper secret. Still don’t know?
Let me put in simply. I’m French. And I’m a lousy cook.
Hey, hey, don’t put all the blame on me! Have you ever tried grocery shopping in a foreign world? First, there’s the vocabulary. French love their Crème Fraîche and I know quite a few recipes with it. I looked for “Fresh Cream’ for days, till some kind soul directed me to the sour cream aisle. How was I supposed to know “fresh” was “sour” here?
Then, the not-so-metric system. A pound of potatoes. Sure, how many kilos is that? Yep, “they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is… “. And I have to cook my pizza for 26 minutes, oven to 450º Fahrenheit. Whatever that is. Canadians use both metric and imperial systems (sometimes even in the same sentence). I miss by miles (ah ah!) most of time… “Well, a Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it le Big-Mac”
Finally, even if I could find the same ingredients, they wouldn’t be the same. I sobbed over cakes failing to rise, botched by Canadian flour, I cried over some bread I bought which went hard as a rock the next day and mayonnaise… mayonnaise isn’t just the same.
No worries, we won’t starve. After all, this is North America, the land of plenty blah blah blah. Food is everywhere, even if you’re not hungry.
Fast food, for a start. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, A&W etc. etc. Names, just names. I tried them all. I felt that I had to, just to overcome years of French brainwashing about fast food which destroy the food industry, kill innocent animals like rats and slave young people like me. Verdict? The food is gross, the French were right. The grossest of all probably being KFC, which made me avoid all chicken products for several weeks after buying one of their meals. Who enjoys eating deep fried food out of a greasy bucket? This is beyond my understanding. While my diet isn’t probably the best at times, it is also beyond my understanding why people keep on buying beverage they can swim in, and food that give them instant heart-attacks. Can’t you feel your arteries begging for mercy, clogging as you swallow a triple bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut? No? Well, you should.
Fortunately, most of the fast-food extravaganza is US only. We, in Canada, just hang out at Timmies. What, you don’t know Tim Hortons? The great Canadian cultural fixture? Tim Horton’s, which sells brown water (= burning hot coffee) and pastries (that is donuts, donuts’ dough dubbed as “Tim bits”, left-over donuts etc.). Tim Horton’s can be found just about anywhere: airports, downtown, suburbs, gas stations… Frankly, I’m surprised I don’t have a Tim Horton’s in my kitchen yet. If you don’t have a Tim Horton’s in your town, it means the federal government secretly sold you to the USA. But no matter how many Tim Horton’s we have, there’s always a huge line-up, both inside the store and at the drive-through, where people quietly (after all, we’re Canadians) wait for their “double-double” and sour cream glazed timbits. Canadian crack, I’m telling ya.
But since I work full-time in a very respectable industry (I whip students with a lash to make them learn French, if you wondered), I can now afford restaurants. Proper ones.
Canada, like many English countries, happily acknowledges that it doesn’t really have a cuisine and welcomes immigrants in order to have nice restaurants. Therefore, we’re more likely to eat Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Greek, Lebanese, Russian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, French etc. food than poutine. Lucky us! Restaurants are usually pretty affordable, plus you improve your foreign vocabulary at the same time.
But they are times when I have to cook, and frankly, it’s not as bad as a French-Italian like me could have thought. Canada has some great ingredients, like maple syrup, a nice sweetener for yogurt or a spread for pancakes and bread. The bacon is usually pretty tasty (that’s one thing France doesn’t have… only thing available is lardon) and Canadian cheese are well worth a try. The salmon is great and pretty cheap, and so is the smoked meat. A bagel is better than a baguette. And I’ll kill for a butter tart or sugar pie (yes it’s a sweet as it sounds).
Moi, betraying French cuisine? Oh well. Between us, I’ve never been a fan of the 30€ plate with three green beans and a piece of meat the size of my thumb.