What can one say about Thanksgiving that hasn’t been said already? Absolutely nothing. Which is why we find ourselves thinking about our friends to the north, who already celebrated Thanksgiving a month ago. Canadian Thanksgiving, like Canadian Nanaimo bars and Canadian curling, is a subject largely unexplored by the American populace — or, worse, sorely misunderstood. So we turned to one of our favorite Canadians, Amanda Cohen, for enlightenment. The Dirt Candy chef duly obliged, and has provided us with some answers to our most burning questions.
Is Thanksgiving in Canada as a big a deal as Thanksgiving is here?
It’s not that big of a deal in Canada. In fact, we really don’t have any public holidays that are major deals. We see the U.S. with all of its riots and Wal-Mart workers getting crushed and fights over religious displays and we sort of feel awkward. That’s not really Canada. Also, being a super-diverse country we’re always very careful not to let any one culture’s holiday get a leg up on anyone else’s.
Is the Canadian version of the holiday similarly attended by hours of football viewing and a mandate to engage in combative shopping the following day?
Canada has a football league but we’re not that crazy about it. As for shopping, Black Friday exists but we get far more excited about Boxing Day, which started out as the day you give your servants a tip but now we’ve made it a major shopping day. Canada: We’ll tip ourselves, thanks.
How does the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade (which, despite the beer allusions, is a Thanksgiving tradition) stack up to Macy’s?
Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is way better. It starts with a ceremonial keg-tapping, for one thing. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is full of giant Garfields and Miss America winners and toy tie-ins, whereas the Kitchener-Waterloo parade has a pancake breakfast, a keg-rolling race, drunk mascots, and a hip-hop competition. It’s like the parade America will get when it finally goes to college.
Have you ever sung one of the English or European harvest hymns traditionally sung on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend? If so, how did it make you feel?
As a Jew, I avoid hymns whenever possible. They make me itch.
Have you ever constructed a tabletop cornucopia?
Of course! And a paper, hand-print turkey.
Do Canadians also place an unholy emphasis on the turkey as a Thanksgiving table centerpiece?
We eat turkey, but it’s not fetishized as much as it is in the U.S.
Does Tofurky have any traction among Canadian vegetarians?
Tofurky has no traction with anyone, anywhere.
On a similar note, are there any traditional Canadian Thanksgiving foods?
Not really. But two Canadian dishes that will make an appearance at almost every Thanksgiving meal are the butter tart, which is like a pecan pie but without the pecans, and Molson Export (a/k/a Molson X), which is Canada’s Budweiser. Although, more upscale families go for Molson’s Canadian, which is our Heineken. And of course there are always a few Labatt drinkers.
Are there any American Thanksgiving foods that you find bizarre and/or inexplicable?
I find all of them bizarre because I don’t think any of them taste that good. Stuffing is usually dry, I don’t understand why anyone would want to melt marshmallows over sweet potatoes, I was never a turkey fan even when I ate meat, and cranberries are not something I eat. I like them in my juice. So the whole meal sort of leaves me baffled.
What do you, as a Canadian, do on American Thanksgiving? Will you be consuming ungodly amounts of cranberry goo and pie, or watching aghast from the sidelines?
I skip Thanksgiving as much as possible. I’ve gone to exactly one traditional Thanksgiving dinner in my life and it was held by a bunch of actors who ended the meal by joining hands and talking about what they were thankful for. It wasn’t until one of them started weeping as she talked about her friends that I realized they were serious. Those minutes spent trapped in that wet circle of sentimentality are some of the worst of my life. Afterwards, they all went into the bedroom to watch Friends and left me alone. I ran away to a bar and ever since then I avoid Thanksgiving dinners as I fear being lured into one of these hand-holding circles again.
Is it just me, or does Martin Frobisher sound like the name of a Columbia physics professor rather than that of an intrepid explorer credited with throwing Canada’s first Thanksgiving feast?
Don’t underestimate Martin Frobisher! He’s Canada’s most celebrated quitter. He was looking for the Northwest Passage but found gold instead so he gave up looking for the Passage and spent three years shipping hundreds of tons of gold back to England. Then it all turned out to be fool’s gold — whoops! — and so he became a pirate and started killing all the Spanish people he could get his hands on. I would too.
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