The Harried Student Appreciates Canada

I’m an Albertan through and through. I know it now because, here in the Mojave desert where cows as I know them can’t take the heat, I just tasted some cheese and asked my husband if he thought it tasted like the cheese back home. Yes, the cheese back home. That not so famous orange, or perhaps you like to say yellow, Alberta cheese every Albertan grows up with and just assumes is the same the world over.

Now, you might be saying “Do you mean cheddar?”, but I didn’t say cheddar, for the very important reason that Cheddar is a gorge. Really, it’s a rocky gorge in England, driving distance from Salisbury, as in the steak. Cheddar is a cheese that was originally made there, perhaps not exactly in the gorge but somewhere thereabouts, and that people now imitate the world over. As they do the steak. Although I should point out that what is called Salisbury steak in Britain is what Albertan’s would wear around their waist, cinched with a really big silver buckle and carved all over with whooping cowboy curly things. But anyway, to get back to the cheese thing, cheddar as we know it in Alberta is what I meant. Good old imitation cheddar Alberta cheese. That’s what I was yearning for here in the desert.

Of course the cheese I was comparing to the cheese of my early life experience was not Mojave desert cheese, but Wisconsin cheese. This is for the reason I noted earlier, that cows never stay here very long, and the additional reason that there are laws preventing cheese-deprived Albertans from milking desert mammals, such as, in particular, the laws of fear and physics that prevent me from ever being in a position to milk coyotes or gophers. And this Wisconsin cheese really was as good as Alberta cheese.

Now you may be thinking, who is this person to imagine there really exists on the global scene such a thing as Alberta cheese or Alberta beef? I am but a lowly student trotting the globe in the interest of my education. And I am learning things on the side that I feel must be shared with my compatriots, with not just Albertans but all Canadians. I have learned, for instance, in addition to the point that Alberta cheese and Alberta beef are bovine bounty, also that Canadian lobster rocks. In a Japanese restaurant in the heart of an ancient British cathedral city (which happened to be Salisbury again), I was served the delectable and exotic “Canadian lobster”. Honest. We asked for the best in the house, which caught the attention of the chef, who came out to personally assure us that this was their finest imported lobster”?their finest, most exotic, good old Canadian lobster.

I found, too, that we have worthy wheat. While in England, I put aside my studies for a weekend and decided to bake and make gravy and do all manner of things with my cooker (oven). Applying my excellent knowledge of biochemistry so that I might achieve this dream, I sought, at the grocery shop some flour. I looked for that familiar English icon, Robin Hood, but oddly, he was nowhere to be found in the shops of jolly old England. No, instead I looked and, with a shake of my head for good measure, saw on the shelves of the Safeway (yes, it really was a Safeway) bags and bags of “Strong Canadian Flour”. There it was, my own dear flour, grown along the highway, stored in an elevator, ground and shoved into a teeny little sac, in pursuit of me across the ocean and coyly disguised under a mysterious alias.

We are famous for more than our food, though. There is also the “Hearty Canadian Grass Seed” that Brits pay more for. This is especially odd to me, because grass grows in England whether you want it to or not. It grows, as does everything else, on the asphalt, for goodness sake. The year I was there, it rained so much I didn’t even have to unpack my Canadian Tire garden hose. Which, to get back to the desert scene out my back door this year, is not at all what has happened here. My hose has been unravelled an exceptionally large proportion of the time here in the scorching heat. In fact, if you want to have a lawn here at all you need an underground sprinkler that automatically turns on every hour to put out the brush fire. Which brings me to the last point worth sharing about world famous Canadian goods we all just take for granted. I hear, although perhaps its just rumour, that somebody down here has a real penchant for Hearty Canadian Water, and has a funky plan to annex Hudson Bay.

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