(Un)true North: Fun Facts about Canada

(Un)true North | Sophster-Toaster

Canada is a big country with a comparatively small population living above some very rowdy neighbours. We’ve got a lot going on up here, but no one seems to notice when that bigger family downstairs is famous for all the great contributions they’ve made to the community but also has a history of starting fires that threaten to burn down the whole house. There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to Canada, so I’m here today, while we celebrate the birth of our nation, to clear up some of those rumours and submit some unverified, but still totally true*, facts that all Canadians can agree upon.

*not true at all

  1. John A. MacDonald, our first Prime Minister, was actually a beaver. It’s a large part of the Canadian identity.

2. Today we elect human leaders but still try to pick the person who best personifies the ideals of the mighty beaver.

3. However, our navy is still led by beavers.

4. We asked nicely for our freedom and it was politely granted.

5. All corgis are representatives of The Queen in Canada and must be treated as such.

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6. It snows all the time, except for a quick too weeks in July.

7. Canada is the biggest country in the world and touches every ocean.

8. We have a chain restaurant that only serves poutine and it’s the first place many of us eat upon returning from a vacation, even if we didn’t leave the country. They have the best vegetarian gravy.

9. We kind of burned down the White House a while back. It wasn’t really us because we were British at the time, but we still bring it up whenever America tries to diss us.

10. If something terrible were to happen, we hold a lot of the world’s fresh water supply and that is a very comforting fact.

11. We don’t understand Fahrenheit, miles, or any other America Units and are very confused when we cross the border.

12. I know people who put maple syrup in their coffee.

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13. I don’t know what Canadian bacon is. We don’t have that here. Some people say it’s peameal bacon but it doesn’t really look like that either. It’s a mystery.

14. My dad was the first person to wear a Canadian tuxedo.

15. A lot of us grew up with more British movies, television and books than American, and more American than Canadian, and feel like we’re kind of a child of all three cultures.

16. A lot of people do say “eh”.

17. There are a few Canadian accents, but what you’re thinking of is probably an American midwestern accent.

18. We have the world’s most attractive population thanks to our strong multiculturalism.

19. There is a weird “rock and roll” version of the Canadian National Anthem played on an electric guitar that schools will sometimes play to spice things up in the morning.

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20. Canada smells like fresh pine and pancakes.

21. Starting an interaction with the word “sorry” is normal.

22. We recently had to legally determine that apologizing is not an admission of fault, it’s called the Apology Act.

23. We lock our doors when we leave but not when we’re home. We’ve recently been told that’s weird.

24. We have deer flies the size of small dogs.

25. Some of these facts are 100% true.

(Un)true North | Sophster-Toaster

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Photos by me and Matt Harrison.

East Coast Charm

East Coast Charm | Sophster-Toaster Blog

During the last weekend of September, and in the middle of an unseasonable heat wave, I was lucky enough to tag along on a work trip with my husband to Fredericton, New Brunswick. We spent every moment we could, between his professional engagements, exploring and getting to know the city. We sat in beautiful restaurants, ate amazing and very reasonably priced local food, drank unique craft beer, listened to live Celtic music, visited farmers’ markets, toured a small local history museum and met all those polite and friendly Canadians I’ve heard so much about but have never met at home in Ontario.

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Let me start with the food, because that’s always my favourite. All of the catered and chain restaurant meals we had as part of my husband’s work actives were someone strange to my Ontario palate. It seems like they have two main flavours out east: sweet and salty. Everything we had in the hotel, at the country club work dinner, etc was liberally seasoned with one of these too flavours – to the point where some of it was hard to eat for this girl who prefers sour, bitter or savoury flavours. All the local restaurant, food truck and home cooked meals we had were completely different and completely amazing! We were able to eat fresh, in season, local foods for way under budget when we ate downtown and at farmers’ markets. We ate fishcakes, donair and samosas along the banks of the Saint John River and felt like we were getting a crash course in East Coast food culture. I was worried, travelling as a new pescatarian, but it was very easy to find delicious, healthy, protein rich vegetarian and pescatarian meals in the more trendy parts of the city.

We did a local brewery hop with some of my husbands co-workers to pass the time between morning checkout at the hotel and our evening flight back home. We hit Grimross Brewing, Picaroons Traditional AlesTrailway Brewing Co and Greystone Brewing. Picaroons was very good and had a beautiful space but Greystone was my favourite! East Coast craft beer is much smoother, creamier and more mellow than it is here in Ontario. It’s also a little more expensive, but well worth the price.

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Being of Irish-Canadian heritage, I’ve always dreamed of experiencing live Celtic music in a cozy East Coast pub. I was finally able to achieve this goal in Fredericton. We had to rush across town from a work commitment to catch the end of their session but it was so worth it to drink great local beer, eat fishcakes and take in the sorrowful, yet comforting, kind of Celtic storytelling, poetry and music that gives me goosebumps.

We visited two farmers’ markets on opposing sides of the river over two days. The south side market was bursting with lovely local produce, crafts, food trucks and something Ontario is sorely lacking: craft cider. This is where we found the Fredericton food culture quirk that is samosas. The north side market was less impressive but contained many of the food truck type foods that locals repeatedly told us were the best in the city. We had our first-ever donair at this market.

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The Fredericton Region Museum, seen in the pictures, was a quaint little non-profit museum all about the history of the area. It was only $6 to enter and didn’t look like much at first but was actually very interesting for two people who didn’t know much more about the area than what we learn in elementary school. The best part was getting to explore the inside of such a beautiful and historical building.

Now the part that sticks with me the most since being home: the people. The people in Fredericton are some of the nicest, most upsettingly friendly people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. You can’t pass by someone without them greeting you. Strangers will ask you how your day is going and be genuinely interested in your answer. I made the mistake of wearing a shirt that said “weekends are for waffles” to a busy market and had to change after because I couldn’t handle any more conversations about waffles! All of my husband’s East Coast office co-workers that I met were touchingly warm and welcoming; one of them even invited all of us Ontarians to her home to experience an authentic East Coast corn boil while we were there. I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert, or an ambivert, but these very social people tired me out every time I left the hotel room. I had a small talk conversation with a member of the hotel staff while getting tea in the lobby that went on so long my husband asked if I somehow knew her from somewhere else. One person I met told me that she had a problem of not understanding “stranger danger” until it’s too late. These people are the Canadians we all want to be.

This trip, although only a few days long and only a two hour plane ride away, has affected me in so many ways. I will never forget the food, the beautiful buildings or the wonderful people in the capital of New Brunswick.

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All photos by me and Matt.