“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.
[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.
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.
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?