By Janeen Wagemans
Sure there are jokes about Canada. And they generally center around a tremendously high politeness factor. “Question: How many Canadians can you fit in a Volkswagen beetle? Answer: Four. Two in the front and two in the back.” “Question: How do you get 200 Canadians out of a swimming pool?” The answer: Say, ‘Please get out of the swimming pool’.”
Although many Canadians are annoyed by such gentle barbs, I say that there are way worse traits to have in excess. Yes, perhaps there is a tendency to say “sorry” as a knee jerk response to just about any circumstance. We all do it. But my personal favorite is “Eh”. I’ve heard parents correct their children for saying Eh. Why? It is the verbal equivalent of the Canadian Shield – the rock upon which the distinctive politeness of Canada is built. It’s not just noise, a verbal pause. It is a question. “Do you agree?”. It renders the command form impotent. “Close the door!” is a command. “Close the door, eh?” is a request. Eh is the glue of consensus. Do you agree? Do you mind? Please. Somehow a policeman is less confrontational when he says, “You were going pretty fast there, eh?”. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get a ticket, but you will be far more likely to say Sorry.
I don’t know if anyone knows from whence this politeness sprang. My guess is that somewhere at the intersection of history and geography, the fact that Canada can kill you on a whim became abundantly clear. People who came from hither and yon to this vast wilderness with its black flies and sucker punch of winter, figured out quite promptly that their very survival depended on their few and quite possibly crazy neighbours, who had also reached the same conclusion. A little politeness could be the difference between life and death. Not that your neighbour was a direct threat, not necessarily, but that pulling together was a benefit to you both. Best to get along, eh?
And so it was that a ready “sorry” and the consensus of “Eh?” resulted in a conglomeration of cultures that was too polite to insist that we become a melting pot, but rather allowed a respectful distance and a comfortable interdependence. And, tease all they like, there is no shame in that.
Even before those early days, 150 years since the first provinces decided to overcome their differences to form a defensive coalition, and let’s not forget those who were here before the rest of us got up to our shenanigans, people in this vast, dangerous, beautiful, unforgiving land shared their cultures through their food. What is distinctive Canadian cuisine? We often say there is none, save a few odds and ends, but I say that the polite and generous sharing, the pot luck of it is what makes Canadian cuisine distinctive. And that’s a good thing, eh?
Yes, yes, I know you know how to make a great burger, but since this one, thanks to foodnetwork.com, throws a few distinctively Canadian favorites into the mix, it’s a good idea to to take it out for a spin! Though, in my observations, bacon tends to be bacon in Canada. Not sure about the famous Canadian Peameal…..And he Panko did sneak in….
CANADIAN CHEDDAR BURGERS WITH PEAMEAL BACON
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp (45 mL) maple syrup
1 Tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
½ tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
¾ cup (175 mL) shredded cheddar cheese (about 3 oz/90 g)
¼ cup (60 mL) Panko or dry breadcrumbs
1 lb(s) (500 g) lean ground beef
4 slices peameal bacon
4 leaves lettuce
4 slices tomato
4 slices red onion
- In a bowl, beat egg with garlic, half of the syrup, the mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and breadcrumbs. Mix in beef; shape into four ¾-inch (2 cm) thick patties.
- Place patties and peameal bacon on greased grill over medium heat; brush bacon with half of the remaining syrup. Close lid and grill, turning once, and brushing bacon with remaining syrup, until bacon is firm and cooked through, about 4 minutes total (remove bacon and keep warm). Cook patties to your preference.
- Split and toast buns on grill. Top with lettuce, patty, bacon, tomato and onion; top with bun lids.
So when we gather to celebrate the birthday of this great, wild, generous, crazy conglomeration of cultures, with a wide-ranging assortment of culinary delights, let us not try to restrict and define it in an effort to make it “distinctive”. Let us instead celebrate the improbability of such a variety of intrepid neighbours, standing in this forbidding place, held together by the world’s strongest glue: good manners.
To see more from Janeen or to contact her go to: www.cookwithjaneen.com