Tuesday, May 21, 2013


As you can imagine, once I'd started to get used to living in France I began to investigate my host family. These people have invited me into their home for 4 months, been incredibly hospitable, and there has got to be some quintessentially Canadian thing I can find to give them that they would love and use as a thank you gift. The loving and using are important goals, because we're all about useful gifts in Canada.
Just for the record, if you're ever in Canada THIS is the stuff you want. It comes in a can. 
Maple syrup was a no-brainer, given that Catherine declared often and loudly that she loves it. I asked about the ‘real maple syrup’ they have here in the specialty store, but I was quickly told that what they have in France is sugar water. Now that I've tasted it, I have to agree. So lots of maple syrup for Catherine. I do have to note here that she was shocked when I told that honestly, we do put maple syrup on salmon. Smoked AND fresh. She looked at me like I had a bit of drool dribbling down my chin, so kind of disgusted but also a little alarmed. ‘Kenna, why would you waste good syrup like that?’ I can’t wait to tell her that we also put it in baked beans with bacon.
Anyway, Alexandre likes his whiskey, he’s very partial to settling down in the evening with a whiskey and coke. Rye is the Canadian equivalent of whiskey so I figured a bottle of rye for him would be good. Maple candies and maple butter have also been suggested (typical Canadian thank you gifts), so those will also be considered.
          Michel was more difficult, he wants a single snowflake; and not just any snowflake, he wants a snowflake from my hometown. … Right, because getting something like that to France is totally realistic and easily do-able. I told him I'd catch one in a babyfood jar and send it to him in the mail. He could have water from Canada? When I mentioned this to a close friend of mine back home, he laughed and said ‘Well if he wants a snowflake so badly, he’s welcome to come get his own. We just had another spring storm and we have loads to go around!’
            Back to the matter at hand though, his mailing thing has started a long-standing joke between the family and I, based on ‘outrageous things Kenna can send us in the mail’. Also known as ‘Kenna-Postes’, which is like Canada Post, but with more Kenna… duh.

Kenna Postes
            The topic of 'outrageous things Kenna can send to us in the mail' is always accompanied by 'funny things Canadians eat'. It’s apparently it's a very common joke in France that we eat bear pate in Canada. I have to admit, I was expecting some sort of joke about seal blubber, or beavers, but I guess bears are just more iconic. Just so that everyone is on the same page; we definitely don’t eat bear pate in Canada. First off, we don’t really eat much pate to begin with, that’s a very French thing. Second, bears are endangered. I can only imagine the look on the RCMP officer’s face if I tried to explain to him that the poached bear in the back of my Subaru was for bear pate. I have this distinct feeling that jail wouldn’t be my worry so much as psychiatric treatment. Despite my attempts to explain this, the joke has definitely persisted. Now I just roll over and play dead.
            “Yes Michel, the bear pate is very good. You should really be worried about the beaver stew though, now that is something to be try!”


            “Yes Michel, we've covered the bear pate, but have you heard of squirrel kebabs?” (It should be noted that this one actually came back to haunt me later. Turns out Catherine loves squirrels…)

Anyway, during these conversations Catherine occasionally jumps in with things like caribou and elk, which are tasty, I have to admit. Michel, being the difficult creature that he is though, started in on moose. Of course, moose. How could I forget those? Uh... to my knowledge we don't often eat moose? You'd have to go out and actually hunt one, and I’m pretty sure you need a special permit given that moose are big game. From here we moved onto the names of other Canadian animals, Alexandre had a great time trying (very, very hard) to pronounce 'squirrel' in any recognizable way. He did get something more understandable by the end of the evening, it was very fun. I had an equivalently difficult time figuring out what animal they were trying to give me a name for when squirrel came up though.

Canadian Brown Squirrel
          I may or may not have thought they were talking about a bird, that chittered at you in the trees, and ate nuts.
            I know, I know, now that I read it I have no idea how I missed it.
Alexandre then made great fun of me (as I deserved) for not being able to pronounce or remember the word for skunk. Just for the record, it’s ‘sconse’, a skunk in French is ‘sconse’. Although Google has also informed me that ‘mouffette’ is acceptable.
Catherine thinks skunks are disgusting. So the fluffy squirrels are ok, but not the fluffy skunks? (As you can see, my criteria for cute animals is largely based on their level of fluff) I disagree on the skunk thing though; I think skunks are useful and hilarious creatures, with the best self defense mechanism everThe whole forest fears the skunk. (You can probably see where this is going now.) After all the noise the family made about how bad skunks smell, I asked them if they knew how to get rid of the stench after a skunk has sprayed you. They answered 'lots of soap', which is in all fairness not a bad answer given that the soap from nearby Marseilles is pretty famous. But no, nono, my wonderful French friends, I will give you massively useful Canadian wisdom! Your soap won't work. What you need is...
            Tomato juice.
You need to have a bath in tomato juice. It’s the only way to get rid of the smell.
They thought I was crazy. Which is actually pretty understandable. I’d probably have a similar reaction if someone told me that having a bath in fruit juice was a good idea. Catherine in particular was in utter disbelief, she verified that my statement was truly what I had intended to say with some excellent shower charades. Catherine quickly ended the conversation with:

“If you send us a skunk from Canada, I am disowning you.”

... now I really, really want to find a skunk stuffy. I’ll be sure to tie a ribbon around him nicely, because all gifts in France are wrapped (seriously, we covered this in class today, it’s not a gift if it’s not wrapped), and give him some very typical pioneer name, like Jean-Jacques or McKenzie.
            In fact, we’ll just call him ‘Jean-Jacques McKenzie’. He’ll get along well with Grisette, right?

The future Jean-Jacques McKensie
          If you have votes on what a particularly awesome 'thank you' gift from Canada would be, let me know! Leave a comment : )

1 comment:

  1. "has started a long-standing just between the family and I"

    You know me, I'm not particularly good with spelling... but should that not be jest?

    As for a gift: how's about a gag-recipe book featuring all the "Canadian" entrées they suggest to you?