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Posts Tagged ‘Canadian’

Happy Thanksgivukkah

I haven’t posted to this spot in a while, and for that I do offer my apologies. No excuse really.

Those of you who are regular readers, and I hope there are still some of you out there, know I often talk about how I like to keep my American traditions alive by celebrating all the American holidays from my home in Toronto, Canada. One of my favorites has always been Thanksgiving. I always like to drag out all the festive decorations and start cooking a big turkey dinner with stuffing, sweet potatoes, and all the fixings.

In fact, in the past I have publicly advocating officially moving Canadian Thanksgiving from October to November to coincide with US Thanksgiving, for many practical reasons, including seasonal timing, all day football watching and Black Friday sales which Canadians are very much already partaking in.

This year brings up a dilemma. I also like to go full out on the Jewish holidays. The year 2013 brings up a rare occurrence. For the first time since Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday and not occurring for another 77,000 years, the first night of Hanukkah falls on the night before Thanksgiving. Some have coined this special event, Thanksgivukkah. December will be less than a week old and the eight day festival will have ended. Although Hanukkah is often associated with Christmas, by the time everyone has their tree set up and the wreaths and lights all hung, the menorahs and dreidels will all be put away for the year.

So, how do I handle it this year without giving either holiday the short end of the deal? I thought about just moving all Thanksgiving activities this year to the Canadian Thanksgiving which occurred on October 14, this year. Since all the Jewish Holidays were finished by the end of September I didn’t have the usual conflict, but something would still be missing.

Turkey celebrating Hanukkah

So I guess the best thing to do is just go along with what others are doing this year and embrace the combined holiday of Thanksgivukkah to the fullest. The two holidays do share similar themes and meanings. So bring it on. “Lights, Liberty and Latkes” is the motto this year.

Full disclosure: This year will be extra special for me. For the first time in many years I will be home in the USA to celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, due to a family Bar Mitzvah celebration. So it will be a Thanksgivinkumitzvah for me. One question if you eat for three separate celebrations but you combine them into one weekend do all the calories still count?

I’m curious how others are combining Hanukkah and Thanksgiving this year? Are you planning any special recipes or events? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

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Last year, I debated whether its better to celebrate Thanksgiving in November like my fellow Americans or in October as it is celebrated here in Canada. At that time, I considered it a draw. (See-When is the best time to Celebrate Thanksgiving)

Well, I think I’ve changed my mind. I now believe that Canadian Thanksgiving should be observed simultaneously with the American holiday. The reason: Shopping, Shopping, Shopping.

Lady Shopper with Sales SignsThe terms Black Friday and Cyber Monday have now entered Canadian speak. Hoards of Canadian shoppers now make the annual trek stateside to participate in the madness of post Thanksgiving sales. I think Buffalo, NY and other border cities may have more “eh” speaking customers than residents in those line-ups trying to score those big screen TVs and other doorcrashers.

Many people are already taking time off work to hit those south of the border sales. Countless business hours are lost the following Monday by people looking for the best Cyber Monday bargains. Retailers in Canada are even jumping on board offering extended store hours and Black Friday deals of their own – an attempt to keep those dollars on this side of the border.

With so many people already making it a holiday for themselves, why not just jump on the bandwagon and make the official Thanksgiving switch. Don’t want to make such a radical change. Fine, here’s another idea. You can keep Thanksgiving in October and find something else to commemorate late November. Everyone appreciates a holiday. In the USA, Columbus Day coincides with the Canadian Thanksgiving. I’m sure the creative lawmakers of Canada can figure out something to celebrate in November. Anything that incorporates large meals, excessive sports watching and a weekend of shopping will do.

This suggestion works both ways. For years I’ve been calling for the introduction of Boxing Day to Americans. In fact now that Barack Obama has job security for the next four years, its time to give him a call. Hello President Obama? What are your plans for the Day after Christmas?

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While back in the USA recently, my mother was asked, do you speak Canadian? To which my mom, known in these pages as Brooklyn Mama, proudly stated, that she was originally from the United States, so no, she only speaks American.

I never really thought about it that much, but yeah I think there is a certain, Canadian language. I’m not talking French, the other official language of Canada. I’m also not referring to a Canadian accent, for example the often heard “aboot” instead of “about”, and other such pronunciations. I’m talking distinct English words and phrases that identify a Canadian from an American.

As they say, lets start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, with “A” or in this case, “Eh”, a favorite expression of Canadians. I’m not sure if it’s a phrase I actually hear Canadians say or it’s a stereotype Americans think Canadians say. Or if it’s something Canadians do to tick off Americans. Canadians can have a weird sense of humor. Usually, found at the end of a sentence, this two letter word has the unique ability to turn any word or phrase into a question. Examples: It’s cold out today, eh? This chicken is pretty good, eh?

There are also words that are commonly used in Canada. Some of these include drinking pop, instead of soda or using the washroom, instead of the bathroom. There is also the “toque” (pronounce “took”, like in spook) which is a winter wool hat, often worn when playing hockey on a frozen pond., also a Canadian thing. Boxed macaroni and cheese is often referred to as Kraft Dinner, regardless of brand. Then of the course there are ‘loonies”, one dollar coins featuring a loon on the reverse, or if your really rich “toonies” featuring, well a polar bear, but called a toonie because its worth two loonies. How creative.

And who can forget the purpose of this whole blog and its name sake? The last letter of the English alphabet the Zee! Or, as they tend to say here, Zed. When it became a Zed, I have no idea. I don’t remember an official proclamation declaring a Zee a Zed. I just kind of noticed that’s how people were saying it. But, I was born in the land of Zees. When I was a child it was a Zee. So, to me it will always remain the beloved, Zee.

In fact, I usually try to keep my spelling, pronunciations, and terminology American, hence the spellings in this post. So, I guess Mom is right, we do speak American. But I guess if I was to start speaking Canadian or more likely a hybrid Canadian/American, it would go something like this:

Cold out, eh? It must be about 25 degrees out. Glad I’m wearing a warm hat. Do you know where the bathroom is? I just drank too much soda. I couldn’t stop. It was only a loonie!

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When I go back home to visit, I always make sure to load up on plenty of my favorite foods as regular readers of this page know, especially, pizza and bagels. When people visit me in Toronto they often ask what special food they should try? Does Canada have a food it is known for? I’m always puzzled for an answer.

Some people say the beer in Canada is pretty good, but I don’t drink so I can’t recommend that. I’ve heard that Canadian bacon is a delicacy but I try to keep kosher and even if I didn’t it wouldn’t look right promoting pork products to my Jewish friends and family. The poutine? That’s really more of a French Canadian tradition and as I mentioned in an earlier post,(see my posting on French Fries) the less said about that the better.

Then I thought about the butter tart. A butter tart is a well-known Canadian treat. I have never tasted a butter tart. Maybe I should try one. Maybe it can become the representative food I can suggest to my American brethren.

What is a butter tart?

A butter tart is a small pastry consisting of butter, sugar, and eggs in a small pastry shell. It is said to be similar to a pecan pie, minus the pecans, which I have also never tasted.

The Canadian Butter Tart

A Canadian Butter Tart

My experience with the butter tart

Like I said, I have no personal experience with the butter tart. By coincidence, my local supermarket had them on special this week – a box of ten of them. It was fate. This was the week I would try my first butter tart.

In these health conscious times, the butter tart does not sound too appealing – a tart of saturated fat- but I was determined to see what this piece of Canadiana tasted like. I took one out of the box and studied it for a while. The sweet smelling pastry felt heavy as I placed it in front of me. I slowly dug in. The first bite was only the crust, but that tasted good. I stared inside at the filling. It was a creamy jelly like substance with a crusty top, quite different. I took another bite and tasted sweetness, almost like an apple pie filling without the apples. I took another bite. Was that a raisin I tasted? I had read that some butter tarts had raisins. Before long, I had finished the entire tart.

The verdict  

So, what did I think of my first butter tart? It was a bit sweet, but it was tasty. I think it would be more of a once in a while treat, but I would recommend it. It’s no Drake’s Coffee Cake or Yankee Doodle (read my previous post on Drake’s Cakes), but if someone wanted to try a unique Canadian snack, I think I might suggest the butter tart. In fact, I may have another one myself. After all, I still have another nine in that box.

What Canadian food do you recommend to out-of-towners?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

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No Shoes Please

For the most part visiting a Canadian or American home is pretty much the same experience on both sides of the border. However, I have always been puzzled by one main difference. When visiting a Canadian home it is common to remove one’s shoes and leave them by the front door before entering. Some people even come with indoor shoes to change into.

When I go to visit my friends and family back home in the USA, the shoes stay on. I would be looked at strangely if I stopped, sat down and started to take off my shoes. Nor would you be asked to remove your shoes. Asking a guest to take off their shoes would be like asking someone to remove their pants.

I remember growing up in Canada and taking off my shoes when going over to friends’ houses. I figured it was more a kid thing. I can see asking kids to take off their shoes after playing outside. Children have a tendency to attract dirt. Yet, the act of removing one’s shoes doesn’t end at the age of majority. I have been to many adult gatherings where you are greeted by a line of shoes at the front door entrance. And it isn’t just confined to friends and family. Service people and salespeople have also been seen taking off shoes before they enter a private residence.

This custom is followed in many countries, especially Asian and European countries. There are even some in America that make this a rule. Some do it to preserve carpeting and hardwood floors. Some do it for health reasons. I believe I once heard Dr. Oz suggest it. But then he has an unusual attachment to fiber too.

Personally, I don’t really care. I’m polite and like to respect people; must be the Canadian rubbing off on me. When back home I usually keep my shoes on unless I’m staying overnight. Then I kick off the shoes and make myself comfortable. Back in Canada, if asked to remove my shoes, I take them off with a smile, no questions asked. I’m just happy to be invited to someone’s home and to be able to share some great times-shoes or no shoes. I just remember to wear a clean pair of socks, just in case.

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Thanksgiving Picture

Today is Sunday. In Canada, it is the day before the great feast of Thanksgiving. In my case, it’s the day after the great fast of Yom Kippur. In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October. In America it is celebrated the fourth Thursday in November.

I  always thought October is it too early to celebrate a major holiday like Thanksgiving. The way my people, by that I mean the ones from Brooklyn not the ones Moses led out of Egypt, celebrate it in November seems like a more ideal time. With that in mind, I decided to do a head to head comparison to see which Thanksgiving celebration came out ahead.

Time of year:

Canadians celebrate in early October; barely a month after the kids went back to school, just a few days after the official end of summer. Americans celebrate at the end of November. The days are getting shorter. School and work demands are starting to get larger. Seems like a good time for a holiday break to me.

Advantage: US

Scenery:

Early October is a beautiful time in Canada and many areas of the United States. Many plants and flowers still remain in bloom. The trees are starting to display beautiful autumn colors. By the end of November the flowers are gone, the trees have mostly shed their leaves and a look of winter is in the air.

Advantage: Canada

Proximity to other holidays:

This of course depends on which holidays you celebrate. In Canada, it is celebrated before Halloween and before the rush of the Christmas season. With fewer distractions, it is more convenient to plan a festive meal. However if you celebrate the Jewish holidays then Thanksgiving in October can prove inconvenient with it often coming right before, after and sometimes on the actual day of a religious holiday.

Advantage: Even

Weather:

It is very rare that one would get caught in a freak October snow storm. Travel delays are usually not a concern for the Canadian Thanksgiving. You may even get plenty of outdoor time.  Late November is not so risk free. I have heard of many a Thanksgiving plan ruined due to bad weather.

Advantage: Canada

Television:

US related programs include, The Macy’s Parade with floats, celebrities and gigantic balloons, a National dog show, a holiday classic like Miracle on 34th street, 3 NFL football games and Charlie Brown preparing a feast of toast and popcorn for his pals. Canadian TV offers a double-header CFL day and the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving parade live from the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

Advantage: US

Day of the week:

Celebrating on a Monday means Thanksgiving is celebrated at the end of the weekend which often means get togethers may not be held on the actual day but a day or two earlier. However it would give plenty of preparation time to those hosting the big day. Thanksgiving on Thursday is the start of the big weekend; A weekend to spend shopping at Black Friday deals, watching football or just unwinding with friends and family. I guess it depends on if you like your down time before or after the big day.

Advantage: Even

I guess after a careful analysis there is no clear-cut winner. So I will leave it up to you my faithful readers. Vote in the poll and leave me your comments:

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