Tag Archives: Canada

Thanksgiving in a Foreign Land

This is Thanksgiving week… American Thanksgiving, I should say.  This is, however, not just any Thanksgiving, but my first Thanksgiving out of the country and the 150th anniversary of when President Lincoln established it as the third national holiday (along with Independence Day and Washington’s Birthday).  The holiday takes on a different feeling when you think of the timing; the end of the Civil War, the government trying to hold the increasingly fragmented nation together.  How do you forge a lasting union for a nation of people with loyalties, cultures and traditions that span the globe?  Part of the answer, apparently, was to give them a common tradition tying together families across the country in thanksgiving.

Two cousins in a crib.  The "pricelessness" of family at Thanksgiving.

Two cousins in a crib. The “pricelessness” of family at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday of the year.  The focus on food and family has become increasingly important to me, first when I moved across the States for graduate school, then trying to create new homes with Dave as we progressed through our impromptu academic tour of the Midwest, and now with Little Man in Canada.  So here we are, looking for ways to create our own new identities, to create new family traditions, and to create a dual nationality identity for our son.

play time

Thanksgiving, however, is anything but a simple holiday.  The children’s stories of pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a nice turkey dinner are just that… stories.  But the creation of Thanksgiving, the annual retelling of this fictitious meal uniting disparate peoples, is still a powerful tool today.  For a fascinating study of the history (and fiction) of Thanksgiving, please check out Janet Siskind’s The Invention of Thanksgiving (click on the link to download a pdf of the article).  You’ll never think of American Thanksgiving in the same way again… but in a good way.  It’s powerful, and so is the resulting holiday.

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For my personal purposes, not so differently from Lincoln’s, Thanksgiving has long been about creating a sense of home when “home” is not necessarily apparent.  A sense of family when family is far away.  A sense of belonging in a place that is still a bit foreign.

kingdom

When living in upstate New York, this meant celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with Dave.  Until we met I had no idea that Canada had a Thanksgiving; assuming that it was a uniquely American holiday.  It is and it isn’t.

cousin love 2

Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October, not the 4th Thursday of November.  It is a harvest celebration, without any stories of Pilgrims and Indians.  The meal is mostly the same with turkey, stuffing and the sides.  However, Canadians tend to avoid the dodgy green bean casseroles, with most Canadians I know being horrified by the dish.  In Canada, Thanksgiving is a relatively minor holiday and is quickly eclipsed by Halloween.  I didn’t quite understand this until moving to Canada this year.  For all of my adult life, even when moving often, the idea of a Thanksgiving alone or uncelebrated was tragic.

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One Thanksgiving when we were first dating, Dave was not going to be able to join anyone’s family dinner since he needed to stay in town to finish writing his Master’s Thesis.  This seemed an abomination to me that someone would be home, alone, on Thanksgiving, with only the hope of an at best mediocre TV dinner to look forward to.  So even though I was definitely going out of town to be with my adopted New York family for Thanksgiving, I devised a nice, stay at home version for Dave.  All he would have to do was put things in the preheated oven at a certain time, take them out, reheat a couple of things, and he’d have his own pint-sized Thanksgiving meal.  I think I even wrote out the instructions for him, down to the unwrapping of the carton of crescent rolls and how to form/bake them.  After all, this Canadian obviously did not understand the importance of the holiday since he was willing to sacrifice it.  Who knew how far his ignorance of the proper foods went?  In theory, this should have been fantastic, or at least sweet.  In reality, it has lived in our combined memory as well intentioned, but horrific.  I mean absolutely disgusting and barely edible.  He’s lucky that it was partially edible, since even the local pizza places weren’t delivering that evening.

Dave’s Thanksgiving meal was to be an oven-roasted Cornish game hen, mashed potatoes (oy!), gravy, sweet potato praline, balsamic vinegared brussel sprouts (double oy!), canned crescent rolls (hence the instructions) and I think a mini-pumpkin pie for dessert… but that might also have been burned in the oven.  Of all this, the Cornish game hen was good, the crescent rolls were passable, and the sweet potato praline saved the day.  The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were raw.  The brussel sprouts were disgusting.  The pie, if it ever existed, has not survived in memory.  It would take me a good 8 years to make passable mashed potatoes.  After this (and other experiences) I was forbidden by friends and family alike to attempt mashed potatoes.  In fact, just a week ago I made pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, and both Dave and I commented on the fact that I just might have learned how to actually cook them properly.  I have no idea how a person who even then was a pretty good cook could not make mashed potatoes.

And while the brussel sprouts (yes, I can cook these well now too) were so bad that they don’t even deserve discussion here, I will share with you the one glowing beacon of the day; Praline Sweet Potatoes.  These are now the one thing, no matter whose Thanksgiving I am going to, that I always bring with me.  They are almost sweet enough to be a dessert, but have just a hint of a savory edge that pairs excellently with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and the rest.

Dave's Mom's gorgeous table setting with fresh persimmon candle holders.

Dave’s Mom’s gorgeous table setting with fresh persimmon candle holders.

The pictures in this post are from my first Canadian Thanksgiving.  They look the part and embody that sense of Thanksgiving that I think will likely be missing from our American Thanksgiving this year.  We’re still fiddling with tradition, and straddling the line between nations.  Say “Happy Thanksgiving” to a Canadian this time of year, and you get some very confused looks since for them Thanksgiving was over a month ago.  There will be new photos of new traditions coming soon.  In the meantime, no matter what we are doing I plan on keeping family close and tradition a bit loose.

I don't have step-by-step pictures here, but the recipe is easy and the results are worth trying for even without a safety net of photo documentation.

I don’t have step-by-step pictures here, but the recipe is easy and the results are worth trying for even without a safety net of photo documentation.

Praline Sweet Potato

2 lbs. whole sweet potatoes (not from a can)

¼ cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

½ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup dark corn syrup

1 heaping cup of pecans, chopped

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Pierce the raw sweet potatoes all over with a sharp knife and place them on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potatoes in the oven until soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes to an hour.  In the meantime, butter a 2-3 quart shallow casserole dish and set it aside.  Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool until they are easy to handle with your hands.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

2.  Tear the skins from the sweet potatoes and put the orange flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Mash the sweet potatoes until they are creamy.  Add the milk, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the buttered casserole dish.

3.  In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.  Pour this over the sweet potato casserole and spread it around so that all of the sweet potato is covered.  Sprinkle the pecans evenly over top.

4.  Bake the casserole uncovered for 45 minutes, or until it is set.  The topping will still be slightly soft at this point, but it will harden as the dish cools.  Watch the pecans towards the end of the cooking time.  If they start to brown too much or burn, drape a piece of aluminum foil over top to slow the browning.

Click here for a printable version the Praline Sweet Potatoes recipe.

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A Day Off in Wine Country

Recently after a particularly tough week of adjusting to Canadian life, Dave surprised me with a special vacation day.  We used to do this for each other from time to time in upstate New York as graduate students.  We would plan dates and then whisk the other person off for a day of surprises planned just for them.  These were not expensive events, but were carried out on the shoe string graduate student budgets that we had.  The very first “Surprise Day” was when we were dating and I took Dave on a mini-golf date.  This included a short walk down the street to a local restaurant with a ½ price happy hour.  While I remember that we had a good time overall, the most memorable part of this date was the weather.  Gale-force winds that literally tore the astroturf off of the course while we were playing; golf ball-sized hail that bounced off the road and off our heads; and rain blown so hard from one direction that we were drenched on one side and bone dry on the other.  This made the “short walk” down to the restaurant a bit more challenging (and glamorous) than originally planned.  Then of course after our snacks we had to run back up the road through the rain.  Later we would learn that our mad dash was more impressive than we had originally thought, since moments after we ran by an electrical pole it was struck by lightning.  I just thought the electricity in the air was from being with Dave.  😉

My boys...

My boys…

 We used to do “Surprise Days” as often as we could, but they have become a bit more infrequent as we have moved across states and international borders, and especially with Little Man’s arrival.  So it was extra surprising when Dave said we were having a day off and I wasn’t allowed to know the plans.  Heaven to not have to plan anything, not even diapers to bring along!  Dave’s “Surprise Day” was a tour of some of the local wineries on Vancouver Island.  This was also reminiscent of our time in upstate New York, when we would drive up to the Finger Lakes, visit a couple of wineries, have a nice lunch, and enjoy the scenery while we tried as hard as possible to ignore the pressures of graduate school that were waiting for us back home.  This Surprise Day was our first attempt to recreate that experience here on Vancouver Island; and of course it was made a bit more “adventuresome” with Little Man.

In front of Averill Creek Vineyards.

In front of Averill Creek Vineyards.

 Little Man was not as impressed with the beautiful scenery or wonderful wines as Dave and I were.  And there was the moment of panic when he had a fleeting moment of freedom from the stroller and made a wild dash for expensive bottles of wine on display.  He has fantastic taste in which bottles to grab, but thankfully no damage ensued.  It was a fantastic day.  We couldn’t ask for better weather.  Bright blue sky, warm but not hot, and an amazing view of cedars and ocean at each winery we visited.  Dave did good.

AverillCreek

Averill Creek Vineyard and their picnic friendly patio.

 

I talk about some of the wines and food that we ate on this trip below.  Please note that I am not a food critic, but I am sharing and remembering our experience of that day.  The preferences are mine and Dave’s alone, and are likely quite different than your’s would be.  Please try the wineries that we visited and see what you think.  You won’t be disappointed.

 This is the order of where we visited:

 Averill Creek Vineyard

6552 North Rd., Duncan, B.C. V9L 6K9

(250) 709-9986

http://www.averillcreek.ca/

This was my first taste of Vancouver Island wines and it was also my favorite winery of the day.  The winery itself is gorgeous and has an amazing patio where you can sip wine by the glass or the bottle.  Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic for the patio, or you can also buy locally sourced cheese and chartecurie from the tasting room.  We are definitely bringing a picnic next time!

Favorite Wines:

Foch, Eh! – This is a low-tannin red made from their Marechal Foch grapes.  Marechal Foch are apparently a specialty of this region, and this bottle was a great representation of them.  We bought a bottle specifically to share with Dave’s parents, and are looking forward to a chance to break it open.

Pinot Grigio – It was a bright, warm day and I truly enjoyed the whites that I tried.  This one had a nice, clean citrusy finish.  I’m looking forward to going back and having a glass of this on their patio with our picnic.

Cherry Point Estate Wines

840 Cherry Point Road, Cobble Hill, BC, V0R 1L3, Canada

Phone: (250) 743-1272

http://cherrypointestatewines.com/

This was our second winery and my expectations were high since we had just come from Averill Creek.  Their wines were good, and we had a nice time talking with one of the owners who was justifiably proud of the recent awards they have won.  Our favorite part of the visit, however, was their bistro.  Dave and I shared their Tapas Plate and Little Man had an amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  The kiddo food is not listed on the menu, but we asked if they had children’s options and they came up with a couple of options on the fly.  The tapas plate included: a fresh beet salad, pickled garlic, mushrooms, mussels, shrimp, pulled lamb shank, olive tapenade, cheese, and an apple compote.  This paired excellently with the wine by the glass that Dave and I had.  He had the Forte, which was rich and tannic.  While I had the Bête Noire, full of fantastic dark fruit flavors with a light finish.

Favorite Wines:

Bête Noire: This was my favorite wine from Cherry Point.  It is in a Rioja-style and is almost inky in color, but the finish is light.

Forte: This was Dave’s favorite wine from Cherry Point.  It also was a strong, rich red that paired very well with the tapas plate.  In terms of comparing this to the Bête Noire, the Forte has a richer overall feeling on the palate and has a strong finish as well.

Wine and bread at the Cherry Point Bistro.

Wine and bread at the Cherry Point Bistro.

Our tapas plate at Cherry Point Bistro.  We devoured it!

Our tapas plate at Cherry Point Bistro. We devoured it!

Tapas from the side... Yes, we love food photography even with our phones.

Tapas from the side… Yes, we love food photography even with our phones.

Little Man's Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  He's lucky our meal was so good.  The sandwich is such that even an adult would be happy to have that as a meal.

Little Man’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich. He’s lucky our meal was so good. The sandwich is such that even an adult would be happy to have that as a meal.

Venturi Schultze

4235 Vineyard Road, Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L5

Phone: (250) 743-5630

http://www.venturischulze.com

This winery was a bit hard to find, but the search is definitely worth it.  They are a “beyond organic” winery and have produced small batch excellent wines for over 20 years.  For our visit the daughter of the original vintners was working in the tasting room.  We learned a lot about organic wines and their creation that day.  It was in this winery that Little Man got loose and things almost turned disastrous.  In terms of great wines, this was our second favorite winery of the day.  They also produce amazing balsamic vinegars.

Favorite Wines:

Brut Naturel: It was a warm day for our visit and my favorite was their sparkling Brut Naturel.  It was not overly dry, and was extremely refreshing after a hot day of touring.

Millefiori: It was hard for Dave to corral himself into admitting just one favorite from this winery.  In the end I think that the warmth of the day and the refreshing character of the Millefiori won him over.  This is not a sweet white at all, but it also is not overly oaky like some intense (and beloved by me) Chardonays.

 Twenty Two Oaks Winery

#1-6383 Lakes Road, Duncan, BC V9L 5V6

Phone:(250) 701-0385

http://www.22oakswinery.ca/

While Dave was fascinated by the names of the ex-hockey player owners, I was less impressed with the wines and the story of their ugly bulldog wine labels.  This is a relatively new winery, and things could turn around for them quickly.  However they are not on my list of wineries I want to visit again, or labels that I will search out in the wine stores.

Favorite Wines: not so much…

 Deol Family Estate Winery

6645 Somenos Rd. Duncan, BC, Canada

Phone: 250-746-3967

http://www.deolestatewinery.com/

Deol Estate Winery was our last winery to visit that day and it was one of our favorites, at least in terms of the number of bottles purchased.  Do not let the exterior of the winery deter you.  The parking lot and surrounding buildings looks more like an area where restaurant delivery trucks should be off loading product.  The tasting room itself is nice, but the woman pouring our tastings was nice and knowledgeable.  This is a winery that I would love to go back to; I just wish that its surroundings were more inviting.

Favorite Wines:

Blanc de Noir: This was my favorite wine from Deol.  The woman running the tasting room said that the wine embodied the flavor of honey; and it did but not in a sweet way at all.  It was a light, crisp wine that left the lingering taste of honey without its cloying sweetness.  She had me at “honey.”

Somenos Red: This was Dave’s favorite wine from Deol.  It is a rich, deep earthy red.  Not overpowering, but something very nice to sit back and sip in the evenings on the arbor bench… which is just what we did.

Marechal Foch: This was an excellent example of the Marechal Foch grapes that are characteristic of this region on Vancouver Island.  It embodied all of the best characteristics that we were beginning to recognize from our visits to the different wineries.

Little Man's favorite part of the day... running wild with Mommy.

Little Man’s favorite part of the day… running wild with Mommy.

A Pooh Bear Needs Honey

In a previous post (Culture Shock) I wrote about the Immigrant Welcome Center, part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center (CVIMC).  That is where I was told that there was a name for everything that I had been experiencing in Canada, and that name is culture shock.  Doh!  I was also told that I am an “immigrant.”  Now how did that happen?  It shouldn’t be a shock.  I am in the process of “immigrating” to another country, I am not Canadian, I am an immigrant.  But I resisted that label.  I want to be home, where ever and whatever that is.  On the advice of the CVIMC staff I signed up for fieldtrips with the center in order to meet other immigrants and maybe make friends.  The first outing that CVIMC was doing was to a local honey farm, Fredrich’s Honey, in the nearby town of Cedar.  If you have any spare space for a late summer read, this is a good one.

 Not that we could have left the house without him, but particularly since Little Man and I were going to a honey farm we had to bring along Pooh Bear.  To keep him out of trouble, Pooh Bear waited in the car while we were learning about bees.  Before anyone tries to report me for animal endangerment, Pooh Bear is a teddy bear not an animal.  He is, however, almost “real” in the Velveteen Rabbit sort of way.  The important thing for our story is that I didn’t want Little Man or Pooh to get any ideas about balloons and little gray storm clouds.  I’ve learned from experience that Little Man has a good arm and can launch his teddies with surprising speed and accuracy.

Little Man and his tether.

Little Man and his tether.

 Partly because of the way the trip was structured and partly because I was preoccupied trying to keep Little Man out of trouble I didn’t have as much time to chat with my fellow immigrants as I would have liked, but I did start on the road to friendship or at least to having people recognize my face when I come by.  That was a good first step, and I’ll write more about this at another time.  In the meantime, let’s talk honey…

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

 The “farm” itself is mostly an occupied farm house with their Honey House shop located up the hill from their home.  For our “immigrant experience” we were met by Margaret Friedrich, a wonderful woman who is an immigrant from Ireland herself, though her experience in Canada began back in the 60s.  She and her husband, Theo, have been in the honey business ever since, and now her son and daughter-in-law are learning the ropes.  For anyone interested, Fredrich’s Honey also conducts workshops on beekeeping.  You can also read a bit about the ups and downs of urban beekeeping in a book I mentioned in a previous post by Novella Carpenter about urban farming in Oakland.  Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is an amazing story about her own experiences as a farmer in the middle of urban sprawl and ghetto as she raises pigs, all sorts of fowl, and yes, bees in a small midtown apartment.

An empty beehive.  It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

An empty beehive. It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

 Margaret is an amazing trove of bee-based knowledge.  Some of it I had heard or read about before, but other parts were new.  For the case of their “farm” the bees were currently up in the mountains since it is summer time and that is where the water is.  They will come back in the winter, stay through spring when everything blooms, and then make their move again.  I was a bit distracted by Little Man during much of Margaret’s presentation, but that was to be expected.  I had him on a short leash, literally.  Little Man has a much beloved tether that he wears when out and about in crowded outside areas, like large zoos, farmers markets and fairs.  People often laugh or scoff at the leash, but I do not care.  It keeps him safe, it keeps him with me, and he loves it.  So there!  J  Normally at a place like a small farm with so few people I wouldn’t use the leash, but in this case I wanted to keep Little Man a safe distance from any fascinating bee hives, or other things that a toddler should not be sticking his hands into.  Did I mention that Little Man likes to run around trees and get hopelessly tangled in his lion leash?  Yes… that was much of my morning.

Tools of the trade.  Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

Tools of the trade. Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

 The Honey House was admittedly my favorite part of the trip.  It is open year round, so anyone can come and purchase Fredrich’s honey and other bee-related products no matter what season.  I bought a lovely large jar of wildflower honey, and Little Man was given his own tiny jar of blackberry honey.  One of his and Pooh Bear’s favorite snacks is honey toast.  I will remind him of our visit to the farm each time he gets to bring out his little jar. 

Little Man inching his way towards and active hive.

Little Man inching his way towards an active hive.

 Fredrich’s Honey rotates in different types of honey throughout the year as different plants come into bloom.  Later this fall they will have a Fir Tree honey that I must go back to try.  I am a huge fan of tree syrups; maple is my favorite but Indiana’s Shag Bark Hickory syrup is a close second.  It is lighter in color than maple syrup, but is not as sweet and has a light smoky finish.  Always up for new tastes, I am excited to try a tree pollen-based honey.  I also want to call soon to see if they have any dandelion honey in stock.  This honey is not produced by their bees and they were out of stock when I visited, but woman at the Honey House described it as rich and dark, gotta try it!

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

 My final purchase from Fredrich’s Honey was a pair of two beeswax candles.  The scent was of warm honey and bees; not cloyingly sweet and definitely not artificial.  The candles smelled like what I want “home” to be.  Now I just need to find the box with my candle sticks in it so that I can enjoy that scent in the evenings while I write.  Maybe it’s in that large stack over under the stairs?  Oh bother…

Pooh Bear's dream... honey toast for life.

Pooh Bear’s dream… honey toast for life.

Culture Shock

The other day I was “diagnosed” with culture shock by a very nice woman at the Immigrant Welcome Center (part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center – CVIMC).  Mind you this was after a day of multiple, very polite no’s from an assortment of Canadian institutions ranging from driver’s licenses to health insurance and back again.  I can do nothing until my paperwork for Permanent Resident status is filed.  Even hearing about the CVIMC was a fluke as a nice fellow immigrant in line for a driver’s license recognized our stunned looks and suggested we go to there for assistance.  I didn’t want to go to the CVIMC.  I didn’t want to be an immigrant.  I just wanted to be “home.”  Once at the CVIMC I nearly lost it after hearing about a few more no’s that I would soon encounter.  This is when the woman kindly told me that there is a term for what I was experiencing and it is called culture shock.  Now she had my attention.

 For an anthropologist to be diagnosed by someone else as suffering from culture shock was both embarrassing (that I didn’t notice the “symptoms” in myself) and enlightening.  It would never have occurred to me to think about my experiences in Canada in that light.  For any of my former students who might be reading this, it feels like all of my past exams where I’ve asked questions about culture shock have come back to bite me in the… well, you know.

 For any readers who are not former students, or for my students who slept through that lecture and therefore missed those questions on Exam 1, let me explain.  Culture shock is defined as “a syndrome precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all your familiar cues” (Golde 1986:11 in Delaney).  This disorientation can result in “frustration, [as well as] repressed or expressed aggression against the source of discomfort, an irrational fervor for the familiar and comforting, and disproportionate anger at trivial interferences” (Golde 1986).  Welcome to my life in Canada.  In the classroom this is where I have a fun discussion with my students sharing now humorous experiences they have had while traveling.  Invariably there are stories about things going wrong in foreign bathrooms, about never eating with your left hand in Morocco (or insert any Middle Eastern country name there), about how when traveling in Great Britain you should always look both ways before crossing the street (Americans often look the “wrong” way and then step out into full traffic), and recently an increasing number of stories from students experiencing culture shock while serving with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 The culture shock story I always share is from my first field season as an archaeologist in Turkey.  The region that I specialize in is so far south and east as to be almost Syria or Iraq depending on the direction you are facing.  This is one of the reasons why I am not actively in the field at the moment… one of the reasons.  While I LOVE traveling in Turkey and Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world, at the time that this culture shock experience took place I was a long way from Istanbul and not feeling much Turkey love at the moment.  I had been in the field for eight weeks, was exhausted from the relentless excavation work, worn out by the 140 degree heat that literally felt like you were in a convection oven (hot air blowing down on you from the sky as well as radiating up at you from the hot stone streets), and I had just gone to the internet cafe to find that I had no emails from friends, family or boyfriend (Dave!).  Basically I was in an all around foul mood.  I was also dressed in conservative Muslim style out of respect for the culture, which in this case meant I was wearing a long, flowy skirt, a button-up shirt with sleeves that covered my elbows, and a head scarf that covered my hair.  I was a portrait of modesty.  However, I am also 6 ft. tall and fair complexioned amid a sea of very short, very tanned, dark-haired Turks.  You could put me in full hijab, head to toe black veils with a niqab face veil, gloves, the works and I would still stand out like a sore thumb on the streets of Diyarbakir.  Or perhaps more like a Darth Vader strolling through the bazaar shopping for cute head scarves.

 All of this leads up to me walking back from the Diyarbakir çarşa (covered bazaar), feeling home sick, and walking past a Turkish man heading the other direction.  As he passed me, he gave me a quick look over, up, down and back around, and said “Allah, Allah, mashallah…”  Did I mention I was in a foul mood?  He’s lucky it took me a minute to figure out what he’d said.  A rough translation is basically “OMG, forgive me for what I was just thinking.”  I was so tired, and so tired of trying to be respectful just to get ogled and treated like a circus freak (or at least it felt like that at the time), that if he had been closer I cannot vouch for what I would have done.  At the time I fantasized about having a full New Yorker Matrix-esque reaction involving all sorts of martial arts moves that even if I had wanted to I could not have pulled off.  Remember the part about culture shock and “disproportionate anger at trivial interferences?”  Yeah…

 That is a story that I share with my class whenever we first start talking about culture shock.  As horrible as culture shock can be while traveling, for me it has always been balanced out with other good travel experiences.  Great people I meet, the fantastic kindness of strangers, an unexpected lunch in a lush garden that looked like what I imagine the Garden of Eden to have been, swimming in the Euphrates River, and other fun memories.  But I’m not travelling now, and in fact once I file my paperwork for Permanent Resident status I will not be allowed to leave the country until that is finalized.  Also, we’re talking Canada here people, not Turkey, not Lebanon, not Spain, not someplace that looks or sounds or tastes all that different from what I used to call “home.”  This is a place where I never even considered experiencing culture shock, but I do feel like I’ve been stripped of all of my familiar cultural cues (see previous posting about not being able to figure out driving speeds/distances, temperatures, etc.), and I do find myself struggling to not respond with irrational anger at simple situations.  Culture shock without the benefit of having fun travel experiences to round out the struggles.

 So now I find myself in the odd position of being an immigrant.  I don’t know why I have resisted that title so much, but I have.  And in the meantime, one of my best places for making friends is among other immigrants.  The woman who “diagnosed” me stated another glaring fact; that when you move to a new place and don’t have any friends you are more likely to make friends with other people who also want to make friends.  And guess what, it is often other immigrants who have no friends and want to make new ones.  Last week Aiden and I went with the Immigrant Welcome Center to visit a bee farm in nearby Cedar, and this week we’ll be touring a local lake and nature center.  I am looking forward to sharing Canadian culture shock stories with others who are going through the same thing.

 -next day-

After writing this post, the very next morning Little Man was singing one of his own songs.  He LOVES music, and will sing and play whenever he can.  Little Man is still getting the hang of dancing, but he loves to play guitar on just about anything he can find, from a fork, to a piece of drift wood, to a plastic leg from his toy barbeque, he rocks out all the time.  He also likes to use all of those things to drum around the house.  Two of his favorite places for drumming are the living room front window ledge or the living room table.  He often signs along to his pounding… I mean drumming… but most of the time he sings made up words or just yodels at the top of his little lungs, which can be quite impressive.

 Then this morning, after writing about culture shock the night before, Little Man started drumming and singing at the top of his lungs in the living room while I was getting ready.  Suddenly I realized that I could understand the words he was singing; three words repeated over and over again with joy.  I figured I must be hearing what I wanted to hear because of what I’d been writing the previous evening so I asked Dave if he heard the words being sung.  Dave stopped for a moment and with a big smile said “yes, he’s singing ‘too far away.’”

 What happened is that just before Little Man started singing this morning, he was talking with Dave and asking if he could go to his beloved day care provider’s house in Pella, Iowa.  He misses her and her daughter very much and asks about them often.  So this morning Little Man asked Dave if he could go over there to play and Dave said that unfortunately no, he couldn’t go since they were “too far away.”  Then Little Man went out to the living room, picked up his “drum sticks” and started playing and singing “too far away” over and over again.  I was near tears, but Little Man was smiling, singing and playing with reckless abandon.  Joy and sadness together.

Two Independence Days

Did I mention that we made the move to Vancouver Island the day after Canada Day and two days before American Independence Day?  So even though I had warned our American bank that we’d be moving to Canada, an automated system caught our Canadian purchases and “temporarily” froze our account… the day before the Fourth of July… so no live person would be in the office to fix this problem until July 5.  Argh!  Our dilemma was discovered when we tried to buy sushi from a take-out joint for dinner.  Thank goodness we had not decided to go to a sit down restaurant, had eaten our food and then found out we had no funds at all.  I don’t know what we would have done.  Would they accept our toddler helping us wash dishes as payment?

 So we went home, frustrated and concerned about what we were going to eat that evening and the next day until the American bank opened again and freed our cash supply.  Luckily the day that we unloaded our moving van I had visited the grocery store for a few staples.  We had oatmeal, bananas and milk for toddler cereal in the morning, and I had also bought a bag of potatoes on the off chance that we just needed something comfort foodish…  I don’t know about you, but basically any type of comfort food for me includes potato in some form.  It would be another day or so before I realized our farmer friends were growing potatoes in the garden, and oh what a splendid discovery that was.

 On the drive back to our sushi-less home, we remembered that we were living on a farm (yes, we were slow on the uptake that day…).  Most importantly in this case, we were living on a farm that had chickens, glorious chickens.  So we all put on grubby shoes and I grabbed a basket that usually held students’ papers and dropped in an unused (and unwanted) curtain as padding.  As our landlords were on vacation, their friends were stopping by to take care of the animals.  We had been told that we could collect eggs and eat from the garden while they were away.  As we trudged up to the chicken coup, we were praying that the farm help had not completely collected all the eggs.  They had not, but we will later find out that they had planned to do just that, which is a different story for a different day.

 In the meantime, we needed to collect dinner.  The three of us walked into the coup; or at least two of us did.  The previous day our son had decided that the sheep were “too loud,” but the chickens won his heart instantly. While his love was unwavering, he was not sure about walking amongst them and instead felt safer in Dave’s arms.  I can’t blame him, I’ve often felt the same way.  We collected nearly 3 ½ dozen eggs that day (remember the part about other people’s plans to collect eggs?  Oops!).

The ladies who saved the day

Collecting eggs for dinner

The best eggs you will ever taste

 Later Dave and his mom would comment on how confident I looked in the hen house gathering eggs, and they asked about where I had learned to do that.  My first thought was that it was egg collecting, not rocket science…  or even archaeological science.  Then I remembered that this actually was not my first time collecting eggs.  Visiting my Grammie’s small farm as a child I had also collected eggs.  I don’t think I did it often, and my main memory of this is being pecked by the chickens (not fondly).  Flash forward to the in-between time of Canadian and American independence holidays and I suddenly found myself living on a farm, with a hungry husband and child waiting for my efforts.  I think my long-missed grandmother was proud at that moment.

 With our egg bounty we headed down to the garden for some herbs and lettuce.  I found a little curly parsley, some fresh oregano and an abundance of chives.  Basket overflowing and toddler in arms, we headed back to the house.

 The potatoes were shredded, drained, seasoned and pan-fried into latkas like my Mom’s college roommate had taught her (this recipe will be shared in a later post).  Another 8 of our eggs were transformed into what I on the spur of the moment named Chinese Eggs.  I had never cooked with eggs that I had literally just collected minutes before.  Just like restaurants use descriptive names to entice our appetites, I use the same tactic with our son whose favorite food in the world is Chicken Fried Rice.  The only way I got him to try (and love) an amazing roasted sweet potato risotto was to call it Italian Fried Rice.  I have no shame when it comes to food shenanigans that get him to eat.  So our Independence Day meal (for both countries) was made up of my Mom’s Latkas, Chinese Eggs, a salad of freshly harvested lettuces and fresh herbs, tossed simply with a little olive oil, salt and white pepper.

 As we ate and laughed about our farm fresh feast, washed down with a lovely, cheap Californian wine I brought in my luggage, we sent all grateful thoughts to those chickens and their absent caretakers.  When Dave and I married in upstate New York, promising for better or for worse, much of what I was thinking about was the difficulties of life as an academic, especially for two academics in the same field.  I certainly did not imagine (in dream or nightmare) living on a farm, feeding my amazing family with the bounty that we had literally just collected from the ground 30 minutes prior.  All in all, this was a pretty good way to celebrate independence.

On my way to the chives

Chinese Eggs

I named these “Chinese” Eggs in honor of my profuse amount of chives, which reminded me of an amazing sautéed flowering chive dish I’d had at a much missed restaurant in upstate New York.  Using the catch word “Chinese” was also a ploy to entice my son to try them.  He usually does not like scrambled eggs, but he LOVES Chinese food.  In this case the ruse worked and he gobbled them up!  If you are curious as to why I only used half of the yolks in this recipe, I did that in an effort to lower our overall cholesterol intake for this meal.  Between the Chinese Eggs and the Latkas I used an entire dozen!  We didn’t finish it all, but that was still quite a few eggs on our table at once.  I also used white pepper as opposed to black because I had not yet found where I had packed the black pepper.  It was a fortuitous difficulty since the flavor of the white pepper was perfect for this dish.

 8 eggs divided (4 whole and 4 whites)

1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives and tarragon)

½ teaspoon white pepper

Salt to taste

Olive oil for the pan

In a medium bowl whisk the four whole eggs and four egg whites together.  Mix in the chopped herbs, pepper and salt.

 Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.  Pour in the egg mixture and stir, stir, stir.  Cook the eggs until the whites are set and then remove them from the pan to a serving bowl.

 *If cooking for children, pregnant women or anyone who is immune compromised be sure to cook the eggs thoroughly.

Click the following link for a pdf version of the recipe that can be printed.

Chinese Eggs Recipe