Canada’s two greatest exports have a shared heritage.
I am talking poutine and hockey.
I was born in Canada and lived there a good chunk of my life.
That means that I can say outrageous things about Canada and Canadians and get away with it.
It is like being Donald Trump. I can’t be held accountable for what I say.
Poutine is basically French fries and gravy. The curd part is a variation from rural Quebec, where they did not know how to get rid of curds. Nobody really likes curds. They may attract spiders.
We all know what happened to little Miss Muffet.
Fries and gravy were a Canadian staple. It was hot and cheap and could be prepared anywhere there was an oven and a hot plate. It was cold a lot, so we didn’t even need much in the way of refrigeration.
We all know Canucks are crazy for hockey. As kids growing up we spent hours every day in hockey rinks. When we weren’t playing on the ice we were playing in the corners of the rinks with pop cans and tennis balls. We lived in rinks. We smelled like rinks.
Those rinks were nothing like the Lightning palaces that Americans attend to watch NHL games.
Those rinks were just big frozen tin cans. Some had outside toilets. They didn’t stink until the spring came.
Every rink had a canteen. The canteen in the rink consisted of an old stove and a kettle.
The kettle was for tea. Canadians love tea.
The stove was for poutine. It generally had an oven and one or two working burners on top.
The fries were dumped on a sheet tray and cooked in the oven.
The gravy was generally Franco-American beef gravy from a can that was heated on top of the stove.
One of the rink ladies scooped the oven fries into a paper cup and slopped some of the gravy on top.
Poutine was also a staple for high school kids.
Across from my high school, St Patrick’s High School (sound Catlick?), there was a greasy spoon diner that sold a ton of fries-n-gravy.
Marie and Flo presided over the lunch counter.
One day my buddy found a hair in his fries-and-gravy. He lifted the guilty tendril from his plate and announced to Flo that he had found a hair in his poutine.
Flo plucked it from his fork, eyed it professionally and reported, “It ain’t mine. Must be Marie’s.”
Sometimes I marvel that the poutine served to me in rinks and honored by Marie with selections from under her hair net has been treated with such reverence by foodies.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for fries and gravy. I am doubtful that I could have survived my misspent youth in rinks and high school without it.
My gratitude shows in the gravitas that my chef staff has lent to the creation of our own versions of the Canadian opus at a time when all Canadians and most Americans have turned their eyes to the oldest trophy and the fastest and most brutal and exciting sports tournament on the continent – the Stanley Cup.
The Cup finals are on and islanders have more meat in the game than they may realize.
John Cooper, the coach of the Lightning, and Peter Laviolette, the coach of the Predators, are our neighbors. Both families have homes on our Island.
The two teams are favored to meet in the final. If one of the teams raises the cup, it will travel to our Island.
We are polishing a wooden pedestal at the Doctor’s Office in hopes it will be blessed by the Holy Grail of hockey.
Beach Bistro, Eat Here and the Doc Office are all polishing their poutine presentations and creating Cup Cocktails in anticipation of a cup visit.
When the Cup comes to the Island we’ll have another parade – with camels.
There will be dancing in the streets and poutine.