, , , ,

It’s important to celebrate national holidays like Canada Day, but even more important when you’re an ex-pat. Back in the days when I was still a Londoner, we might’ve gone to Trafalgar Square to buy over-priced crap beer that we wouldn’t drink at home, but since that got cancelled last year due to lack of sponsorship, it’s no longer an option. Last year’s temporary option was a poor showing by the pub that put it on as they Ran Out Of Poutine by 9pm. I mean, honestly. It’s poutine. You do not run out of that. It’s like running out of beer.

Anyhow, this year, to avoid bitter disappointment and Twitter rage, my friends have decided to host a party. Initially, it was set to go down on the actual day, which was a Wednesday. That got changed though due to the host having to be in the Netherlands for work. Which was just as well for me, as I had to interview and hire a new human at my work that day. Other high-ranking Canadians were also unavailable. It would seem that the UK is in no way concerned that this is our national day. In fairness, things like St. George’s day aren’t really celebrated here. People find them cringe-worthy displays of nationalism. That’s because they’ve never experienced a proper Canada Day.

This year’s festivities are all out spectacular. Beer has been imported by Amazon (though, at the time of this writing, it’s unclear where the beer is and the host suspects a van driver somewhere in a lay-by enjoying the heatwave whilst drinking our precious beer). Late breaking update: the Honey Brown has been found!

St. Hubert poutine sauce has been acquired – through French Canadian expats, and someone thoughtfully muling some back recently. The real issue has been the cheese curds. Tricky to find here it seems.

I was in France last week and while there received an email from the host entitled: All Out Poutine Offensive. It was urgent to find the curd. I was bemoaning our lack of curd to one of my holiday mates, who just so happens to be a London foodie. He got on the case immediately and by the time we were all back in the UK he’d not only found a couple of places in town that might sell it, but also a couple of supermarkets, and should all else fail, directions on how to make it ourselves! The directions looked technical. The host and I debated over email, and then he was off for a recce and a few hours later two kilos of curd had been procured!

Meantime, I was back in Bristol making Nanaimo bars, which I have never made before (and after seeing what’s involved in their preparation will never be making or eating again), from a recipe thoughtfully provided on the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce’s website.

The Mom thoughtfully sent, months ago, some Canadian flags on toothpicks and random maple leaf sweets which i put on the Nanaimo bars.

So we’ll celebrate the True North, strong and free, our home and native land, with our best Canadian pals, honorary Canadians, and a few strays who are just curious.

And let me tell you, what a party it was. I was on poutine and potato salad duty. I have never eaten poutine before, liking neither gravy nor cheese curd, but did that stop me? The hell it did. I was churning out plates of the stuff! And all the honorary Canadians, who’d never had it before, declared it a triumph. My friend the host, who has had his fair share of poutine also declared it to be excellent. The vegetarians, who got their own gravy (which I also made, having never before made it, using a recipe from L’il Sis, sketchily typed out on Facebook, and of course, not being able to find all the ingredients – damn you Tesco and your lack of miso paste) declared their dinners a triumph! The potato salad, which I may have made once or twice before, but never with boiled eggs (since the last time I boiled an egg, I was a child and accidentally blew up The Mom’s microwave – who knew boiling eggs didn’t take nine minutes?), was also delicious.

The Canadian flag went up, our playlist had more Can-Con than most radio stations back home, and everyone got a special Canada sticker. Reading material, thoughtfully supplied by The Mom in the form of the clippings she usually sends, was displayed prominently on the walls for those wishing to bone-up on a bit of Canadiana.

All the Canadians brought a little something from home. Things snuck into the UK with great stealth and pride. Twizzlers, the big yellow box of Cheerios, a copy of Maclean’s, and a jug of maple syrup. Honorary Canadians thoughtfully brought along Canadian whisky. I imagine to those who weren’t born in the True North (strong and free) might have though our cobbled together bits and pieces of things we’d grown up with and missed were a bit unusual, but being as most of them were Commonweatlh and thus ex-pats in their own right, I’m certain they understood where we were going with it.

The day ended well after the sun had set on London, with two of my best friends, the Artist, and The Host, singing along to the Spice Girls under an apple tree. True, it the Spice Girls aren’t Canadian, but when a fairly Victorian Englishman and a Canadian ex-pat have eaten all the food, and drunk all the booze, a quiet sing-song seems quite appropriate. and besides which, Canada is a nation that accepts, with open arms, the weird and wonderful, and we were most certainly that.