Tag Archives: French Canadian

Happy Canada Day weekend, eh!

Canadiana bookplate TPL 1914

Bookplate for the Canadiana collection at the Toronto Public Library. By J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932), via Wikimedia Commons

It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw. — Emily Carr

This weekend, Canadians across the land, all 3,854,085 square miles of it, will be celebrating Canada Day. That is an amazing amount of land for a country with a population of only  34,842,000 (2012 Census) and it equals 1.4 people per square mile. Huge tracts of land form most of its provinces. To imagine their size, I remind myself that several U.S. states would fit into just one province. Canada became a sovereign state on July 1, 1867 and Canada Day has been celebrated ever since on that date. Canada Day is special for me this year. As an immigrant, I thought I had no roots here, but I have recently learned that a branch of my ancestors lived in Québec and Ontario. I knew that Great-great-grandfather Samuel Davis entered the United States from Eastern Canada before he migrated to Montana to raise a family, but I honestly didn’t know that his immediate family had actually settled above the border. Thanks to the genealogical research of my cousins Terry, Jim, Don, and Kelley, I now know that the Davis family immigrated to Canada from the U.S. well before the War of 1812. Earlier still, the Davis’ had immigrated to the early American colonies from the British Isles and, as loyalists, their sympathies lay with the British. My cousin Terry also told me that because my ancestors were colonists, if we wished, we could join the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). She added that she hadn’t because we had relatives on both sides of the early North American wars, above and below the border.

Cover of 1895 edition of White Wampum by Pauline Johnson. By Bobanny via Wikimedia.

Coming from a family that heavily identifies with its Irish ancestry, learning about this British loyalist streak was shocking…. But what can you do? The towns in which my ancestors lived were in Lower Canada, Québec, and Upper Canada, Ontario. That was all there was to ‘Canada’ back then…. I love knowing my ancestors originally settled in a town with as lyrical a name as Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, Québec. At this point in the story, though, I must stress that I am talking about Anglo colonists, as the land mass that is now Canada was already populated by indigenous peoples. I recently watched a television show on Canada’s History Channel about the War of 1812…. Evidently, the average American or Canadian both think they ‘won the war.’ However, historians appearing on the show stated that neither the British or American side won, because no land was ceded and losses were high. They did say, sadly enough, that the losers in the War of 1812 were the aboriginals, because that was the  turning point in North American history when they began to become displaced.

Canadian nickel, reverse side. Royal Canadian Mint Via Wikimedia Commons

As with Canada, Canadiana covers a lot of territory and many iconic motifs. Maple syrup, beavers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the maple leaf, the Canada goose, canoes, Lacrosse, hockey. That reminds me…I went to a Rubens chocolate factory outlet nearby. While I was perusing bags of white and dark chocolate, my eyes lighted on a display of little chocolate hockey players! Only in Canada!! About the only thing you won’t find here is Canadian bacon, which is an American invention… Speaking of the U.S., the Canada/ U.S. border runs along the 49th parallel and it is a border without walls, fences, or razor tape. In fact, if you live on Zero Avenue, right on the border, your neighbors on the opposite side of the street will live in a different country…. Sometimes celebrations are shared, too. On July 1st, Americans in Blaine, WA, US, on the south side of Boundary Bay, can sit back and enjoy the fireworks display put on by the city of White Rock, BC, CA. From their lawn chairs, they’ll be able to sip their iced tea or lemonade while watching fireworks launched over the water on the north side of the bay. Then, on the Fourth of July, Canadians living in White Rock can sit back and take in their neighbor’s fireworks during the festival celebrating its nationhood. Colonies, independence, and Brittania….

When I’m in Canada, I feel this is what the world should be like.— Jane Fonda

Canada flag map

Flag of Canada over country contour. By via Wikimedia Commons

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Drinking chocolate from bowls

The first time I drank chocolate out of a bowl was in Calgary during Spring Break 1989. My friends and I traveled up in a rented car. The population back then was 700,000 and to us it was the Big City, as our university town in Montana was much smaller. I remember the Calgarians saying, “You came here for Spring Break?” Followed by, “Why aren’t you in Florida?” We had a lovely time, though, taking the light rail from the university to downtown, shopping, dining, and taking in the Canadian atmosphere. And it was cold. We didn’t care, though! We’d driven up over the Rocky Mountains, through Banff, and out onto the prairies and we were there to have fun and a well-needed break. It was during one of those frosty, early spring days that we ended up in a bohemian little cafe in the downtown core. We’d been looking, seeing, and enjoying all things downtown, were tired and needed to rest our dogs. We all ordered hot chocolate and, to our surprise, big steaming bowls of chocolate were placed on the table. It was so exotic to me! We cupped our cold hands around the warm ceramic bowls and sipped. It was sheer heaven… We were bathed in the rich aroma as we drank it down. It’s one thing to drink cocoa from a narrow mug and an altogether different experience to feel the steam waft around you and take in the scents from a wide bowl. Some time later, after I moved to Canada, I bought my husband a chocolate bowl for Valentine’s Day. It’s a lovely ceramic bowl…fluted, of white clay…decorated with a mosaic pattern on the outer rim. If it wasn’t for the French Canadian influence, I would probably have yet to have experienced such a lovely tradition. Bowls filled with steaming cocoa… It’s early spring, I just got back from Whistler where my friend took us to a lovely crêperie run by French Canadians, Crêpe Montagne. I had their mixed berry crêpe served with crème anglaise. Delightful! The village was full of students on Spring Break. Snowboarders, skiers…and this year there was plenty of snow, compared to last year during the Olympics. It all reminded me of the sojourn to Calgary many moons ago. So, I’m back home and am thinking of bowls of chocolate…

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