Canada Day Thoughts

Yesterday was Canada Day. I spent the day up in Squamish, at my parents’ place, barbecuing for four hours in 33 degree weather. The worst of it was that I couldn’t even have a cold beer to help take the sting off of the heat, as I am on antibiotics due to a sudden onset of tonsilitis last week. I’d never had tonsilitis. I used to be jealous of kids who had to get their tonsils out, when I was in elementary school, as not only did they get a week or two off of school, they had to eat ice cream. One could only hope for so much.

Last week, I woke up with a pain I can only equate to the sensation of razors in my throat. The doctor whistled, and said it was as bad a case as he’d seen and I had to take penicillin, and rest. No ice cream for me though; I’m attempting to be good and keep to a paleo diet during the week, and ice cream just isn’t conducive to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (because, clearly, as a suburbanite, I am a hunter-gatherer).

So I spent the weekend in bed, save for a stint on Saturday, where I cleaned the whole flat, top to bottom, side to side, inside and out, and promptly got sicker again, so Sunday was back in bed, watching Netherlands beat Mexico in the last three minutes of their World Cup match. I’d promised to help my mum prep for the party, but couldn’t obviously, so that is how I ended up in front of the barbecue on Canada Day. Well, to be fair, I would have volunteered to cook anyhow; my dad isn’t too fond of it anymore, and he tends to go Cajun on everything (read: he burns it).

The whole patio party was a great success. From the grill, in order of appearance: cedar planked sockeye salmon, sirloin tip roast that had sat in a barbecue brine for 24 hours before being slowed cooked at 225 in the oven for another four, before being placed about the salmon and smoked lightly, ginger-soy chicken, and good old fashioned barbecue pork ribs. Inside, you could find pink (beet-based) potato salad; tomato and onion salad with just white vinegar; spring salad with honey roasted pecans, strawberries, and a light balsamic dressing; Asian slaw with sesame seeds and spring onions; little rounds of choux pastry stuffed with cream cheese and green chilis; meatballs slightly warmed through in a spicy tomato sauce; cheese ravioli in a cheese sauce and hard-boiled eggs; bruschetta on little baguette rounds, toasted with cheese.

I’d had food anxiety – this is a Polish cultural phenomenon – that morning, and convinced my mother to pull out a string of sausages just in case. We didn’t need them, thankfully. Just to put this in context, if you don’t have enough food in case the army were to visit, you aren’t a good hostess. My aunt, whose background is Dutch, and is married to my mother’s brother, has confessed that she has had nightmares in which she is hosting a party and has no food to serve; that is a classic case of food anxiety.

By the time the meat was all off the barbecue and I’d finally had a chance to sit down to eat, everyone was sprawled out in various corners of the house and on the patio, out of the baking sun, digesting slowly, sweating slowly, halfheartedly swatting at the late-afternoon insects that started to appear.

I wanted to sit and to digest as well, but we had to make room for dessert so I tackled the dishes, and some people managed to raise themselves out of their food comas to help put away food. Dessert was cold watermelon; vanilla cheesecake that resembled a marble slab, all swirled through with strawberry preserves; lemon cookies in little perfect rounds with a dollop of raspberry jam; and my mother’s fancy, Canada Day cupcakes that consisted of a vanilla pound cake base with a raspberry buttercream icing, in a deep pink (the closest we could come to red) and gold sprinkles. As one friend noted, the cupcakes didn’t look so great but tasted amazing. And my mum wanted to skimp on the raspberry buttercream icing. A travesty of nature to even think that way!

It was hot though, and from my years of gardening, I knew where the coolest spots in the house and garden were, so I talked my friends down from the ledge in the back, where they’d hid themselves from the sun, and brought them out front where the shade was most prevalent. My litmus test for a successful party are one particular couple who always end up on the floor or on the ground, digesting, and having to undo the top button of their pants. Sweet success, my mum’s party passed the test. Buttons were undone, shoelaces untied, and sighs of relief audibly heard. Maple leaves

By 5pm, people started the slow exodus back to their homes, in twos, and fours. I’d made plans with another set of friends to watch the Canada Day fireworks from the rooftop patio of their apartment building, so after making my rounds of goodbyes, pilfering the remainder of the roast beef, and absconding with all the remaining cupcakes (to bring to my colleagues at work the following day), I left.

The drive was a bit painful, as I suddenly hit my wall, and had to set the air conditioning on high, to keep my body from slipping into the warm embrace of sleep. Just before Lions Bay, just after that one stretch of the Sea-to-Sky that is always in commercials, I saw a car pulled over to the side of the highway, with a woman rolling a tire to the back of her car, clearly working on swapping out for the spare. A man, her husband, boyfriend, or brother, stood leaning against the concrete barrier, toying about on his cell, shades over his eyes, looking rather bored.

My initial reaction to the scene was to think, “What an asshole, he’s not even helping her. He should be doing that,” meaning the tire change. I then immediately felt guilty. Why couldn’t she do it? Of course she should do it. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean that she can’t change a tire while her male passenger stands idly by. In fact, were the roles reversed, would I even give the scene a second thought, if it were a guy changing out the tire, and the woman standing by, looking bored? Likely not. I spent the rest of the drive home debating the scene and my reaction to it. The old-fashioned side of me wants the guy to change out the tire; the feminist in me is happy that the woman is taking the lead. I suppose it really comes down to who actually knows how to change a tire. I certainly don’t; I’d call BCAA for help. The whole incident was good food for thought.

When I got home, I showered, as I was sticky with sweat and smoke. I called my friends to say I’d be a bit late as I wanted to have a quick nap. I set the alarm for a fifteen minute shut eye. I woke up half an hour later; either I’d been so sound asleep that I’d missed the alarm or I’d missed setting it in the first place.

I made it in time though, and with extra cupcakes to share. I was rewarded with a spectacular fireworks display over Dundarave, that rivalled anything I’ve seen come out of the States. In fact, the last time I’d watched a Canada Day fireworks display was back in the nineties, at Canada Place, and a teenager at Hallowe’en would have done a better job than what I saw, so I’d renounced Canada Day fireworks displays for the better part of fifteen years. The one I saw yesterday was simply beautiful. Whoever sponsored it, went all out. When we went back inside, my friend opened up a bottle of 2004 Mission Hill ice wine; a bit of summer in a bottle to celebrate what felt like the first true day of summer.

Happy birthday, Country.

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