Girlfriend, who’s that with you?

THE perfect stranger’s brother sent me an email.

“He doesn’t speak much English. Do you speak French?”

“I can follow along somewhat. I know how to talk food. But no,” I wrote back.

He replied, “He’s the same way with English. It’ll be fine.”

The other perfect stranger I was to drive was a soon-to-be medical student at McGill but, meanwhile, during summertime, would be coming with me to Boston to learn genetics while working for free at some professor’s lab.

Continue reading “Girlfriend, who’s that with you?”

Arrival

photo by Kelly Mitchell http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1392552

 

[dropcap]People Ask Me[/dropcap] “What’s different for you between Canada and the US?  What are American / Canadian cultural differences?”

This conversation happened every week, when I drove strangers (soon to be friends) in my car between Boston and Montreal.

IN the late ’90s, when I was in grad school in Vermont I was friends with a few Montrealers.  They were francophones; their work was not about differance.  But there were a couple of other Canadians at the school, native English speakers, who made it clear that they were Americans, too, though not from the US.  Some of their writing contained comparisons between the US and Canada, certain pronunciations and spellings of words, or wourds.  And brands of food: for instance Oreo cookies sold in Canada are made by Mr. Christie and not Nabisco. Of inferior quality, I must note, but having the ability to kill you more slowly with the poly-sorbitant hydrogenated concentated oils from the peel of a banana rather than the requisite rim of an old tire.

I queried my pack, my Montrealers, about this and they said, “Yes, this is the difference.”  Maybe something was lost in translation.  It could not be so superficial.  Maybe it was just the beginning of the conversation to be continued.  But I dropped out shortly after for non-Canadian reasons, and so, perhaps, missed out on further discussions.

TEN YEARS LATER I began my own exploration of the differences between my giant country directly south of the quieter northern neighbor.  Thus began conversations with people from everywhere, on my drives from my life in the US to my new life in Canada.  For the first couple of years the drives were pretty much a darkened solo effort.  It wasn’t until I looked for the hundreth time at Craigslist, making yet another electronic purchase for the magic lottery number of $20 that I finally saw the rideshare link, which thus changed my life forever. Continue reading “Arrival”

When I was another person

mad props to Russ Merit for use of this photo http://www.sxc.hu/profile/russmer

 

[dropcap]I start the fire[/dropcap]

in the morning, before the grape cherry koolaid in the sky makes its appearance before it announces what the day will bring. It’s still night though officially according to a bunch of Romans or Mayans or group of people who come well before me, decided that now it is morning.

It just doesn’t look like it.

I start the kettle.  I try lighting the fireplace.  I let the dog out.  I keep trying the fire. The matches take forever to light because they’re the cheap kind that take 11 tries and sometimes one will light up.  Meanwhile they wear down the strip on the side of the box. So that I have to try and find a patch that is still good to light up a cheap matchstick. I think of the Matchstick Girl selling matches for a pense. I think of Hans Christian Andersen who kind of has the same last name as I do except for the sen part. I think of it every morning when I have to light the fire. I get the fire going eventually, some days it is much easier and faster than other days and I can never tell why, I am reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder and heating up the house for the first of the day.

Then I think I could never live that life because of asthma and how I’d die around horses and cows. But then I think well, yes, if I had indeed lived that life I would right now be dead.  Hardly anyone ever lives to be as old as someone born from 1860. I mean, before the things I love were around, or at least made available to me.  Things like Holland and its freesias, Japan and its … subarus…Africa and Belgium for its truly rich milk chocolate.

Before then, back when I was on the prairie, when I was another person, a good person, I had just my family and some farm animals.  And probably a better fire.

Monday Night Rules (of Engagement)

Rules of Engagement: what happens when a couple moves in together and one of them is terribly bossy

Do not put your shoes on anything other than the floor. Doing so shows a sign of pure disrespect. Plus it brings all kinds of bad luck. I don’t know what kind, just a lot of it. This means no shoes on the chairs, beds, car seats, loveseats, backs of toilets, tops of gas burning grills.  Got it?

When you cut the garlic, you need to make sure that you throw out the garlic papers and inner green roots while saying, “Pour les pauvres.”  Stop confusing pepper with the poor.

Pauvres is not poivres, ok?  We don’t know why we say this, but an aunt told us to do this when we were children, to think of the poor when disposing of garlic remains, and she’s very good with money. We don’t want to be poor.  Maybe the garlic papers sprout in the garbage and garbage is another way of, oh never mind.

Never eat pork. This is not so much Jewish as it is common sense. Pigs are, well, pigs!  I would never indulge in eating such a filthy animal.  Make sure when you make lentils?  That you take out the ham bone half an hour before serving.  For good luck.  Ham is decidedly and definitely not pork.  Trust me.

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Note to the Beaver while making crème brûlée, french for knick-knack

Dear Beaver,

I was making crème brûlée and thought of you by way of the owl.

The crunch of the burnt sugar top from the last stand of the crème brûlée last night, paired with the fruity taste of my blueberry tea made me think of that Tootsie Pop commercial.  How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, this little kid who looks like Barney Rubble asks an owl.  Then the owl eats the kid’s candy in three licks, being the asshole owl that he is.

image of a cartoon kid holding up a tootsie pop to an owl
Why is that kid naked?

 

Quit, with the proper and not phonetical spelling of her name (pronounced Kwee, as in Bisquit [Beese-kwee], which means Cookie or Cake, as in “I married Cookie Monster”, but that’s a whole other story), told me the crème brûlée we’d served her friend Cri-Cri from France was delicious.  However, neither of them finished their dessert that night.

One ramekin sat deserted in the fridge for 2 more days after Cri-Cri stumbled back to Montréal.

I decided to eat this last one while watching Damages.  Quit discovered that using my American Netflix account while in Canada enabled us to watch the 5th season of Damages.  If one were to log in using an internet shield, say, and watch ‘from America’, one would only have Seasons 4, 3, 2, 1 to contend with.

In the aforementioned show, Glenn Close plays a lawyer who drinks a lot of Bourbon or Scotch, and when I thought about watching another episode I felt a sensation in my chest as though I too drank a lot of said beverages.  The color of the alcohol in Glenn Close’s tumbler reminded me of the color of butterscotch.  I kept telling myself that they couldn’t be drinking butterscotch to emulate the alcohol, that it was probably iced tea.  But my pallet preferred the butterscotch path, which got me to thinking, Hm, what can help with this sensation?

Enter failed dessert.

Continue reading “Note to the Beaver while making crème brûlée, french for knick-knack”

Note to the Beaver: attempting crème brûlée

photo of blowtorch in action

Dear Beaver,

I will be attempting Crème brûlée for the first time ever even though I’ve owned one of those gas jets for the hand for years.  Never used it till tomorrow.  Some friend of Kwee’s from France is coming over for luncheon.  Kwee discovered the wonders of clorox and became a stepford wife cleaning every thing in site (about time). She obsessed over what to do about dessert, as in Hmm, what to do about, what can we possibly serve, we must have a dessert …. till I finally yelled out, For the Love of God I’ll do it just shut up about it.

I’ll report later how it actually tasted.

So then I’ve got all these egg whites and I’m thinking, Knocked one new dessert out of the park why not go two for two.  I tried making macaroons.  Total failure.  I am going to have to scrape the dead macaroon bodies off of the numerous pans.  And then wash the buggers so that Madame le clorox doesn’t have a meltdown.   I mean, Jesus.

Kwee got her flu shot today.  I made her take this hoary halloween candy with her.  The worst of the worst – I can’t tell you what flavor any of it was but suffice to say that the word ‘candy’ was on the bag and it cost her maybe 12 cents to buy the whole thing.  She hates halloween, hates having anyone coming to our door.  So we prepare every year by getting ‘candy’ for 12 cents a bag and then letting the whole thing stay fresh as a daisy for 9 years before I scream, This is Not Candy, and then throw it out.

The turnaround time was faster this time.

Kwee says that there were a whole bunch of Jewish kids also getting their shots and since Kwee spoke English to them they took that as a sign that they could eat this stranger’s candy.  Which they did.  She said it really got them in the mood for the shot.

All of which to say it’s not candy and I am not getting any bloody flu shot.

Later,

Sheilerama

View from the back seat

City Limits

It only happened a few times, and only on the 89 driving out of the country, past the last vestiges of Vermont: Swanton, St. Alban’s and Highgate Springs, hitting the 47th parallel.

The bright lights reminded me of a concert or airport though it was just the Canadian border up ahead.  Quietly the US border station on my left that I normally whizzed past had now set up a blockade.  I had to go through their lines in order to get to the Canada border station and then into Canada.

“What’s this?” my passengers asked in unison.

“Passports,” I said, holding out my right hand.

“The US wants to see our passports before leaving the US?” one of them asked.  “We already had to do that to get in…”

“They do it once in a while,” I said, turning down the stereo before breaking Gretchen the Pug to a stop.  One other car stopped ahead of us.

Two guards stood outside the checkpoint.  The US station was mainly set up to receive visitors coming from the Canadian side who travelled south.  All of the doors and windows indicated this.  But they also had this abandoned looking booth set off from the main building for purposes just like this evening.

I rolled down my window as the first guard pointed his flashlight into the front and then to the back seat.

“Hello,” I said evenly, handing him everyone’s passports.

The guards looked more like military than like cops, or maybe it was their bearing.  Cops never made me feel like the guards did, erring on the side of guilt until I could prove myself innocent.

The second guard walked around the right and back of Gretchen the Pug, his flashlight also working the angles.

“Where do you all live?” Guard One asked us.  We answered: Boston, Montreal, Montreal and … Continue reading “View from the back seat”