Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It Ain't All Gone

When you inevitably find yourself making a day of visiting (what’s left of) St. Jacob’s Market, you may give glance to the antique stores and other outlets surrounding the cusp of it. If you’re like me, you may take a lifetime to slowly approach every building if only because you take a long, long time in life gathering interests and acting on them. Years ago, I spent a good portion of my time antiquing, looking for anything made in Occupied Japan. I found like, two teacups. Anyway, after that, and more recently, it was a serendipitous interest in cosmetics that had me looking for supplies in the bulk store next to the antique store. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re probably right. Anyway, most recently, not a day or two before, I was told about the eatery sharing the space with both places. Yeah, I saw it in the past, and acknowledged it. But like I said, it takes me a long time to act on interest. Don’t live like me, kids. Otherwise, you may regret having stayed away from the Crazy Canuck for so long.

That’s right, as thick as the name may sound, it’s cozier and more welcoming than you’d think. Its crew is small, and quintessentially Canuck, humouring me with nicknames like ‘big guy’ and ‘bud’, enduring my indecisiveness, and having nothing but earnest at my embarrassment for not knowing what chomo (chocolate milk) means. The menu’s eclectic, and I can finally say that and mean it. The space, almost as much; seasoned with Canadiana, with a single wall of record sleeves of anything classic rock and Canadian: Kim Mitchell, Rush, Max Webster. License plates from every province, snowshoes- Its identity encompasses so much of what I have always xenophobically believed when I think of my own cultural identity. Why? I don’t know. This is a food review, not a psychology study. 

It was a tempting menu though. It took no shame in deriving its ideas from every culture it could think of. From taco pizza, to pizza poutine. I finally settled on the day’s special: A sliced beef hoagie with a posturing, and therefore hypnotizing, mango chutney coleslaw; pizza poutine, not poutine pizza, and what the place called a ‘snowshoe,’ for dessert. Between you and me, that’s what I was waiting for.

I lazily waited for my casserole of fries covered with meat sauce, two seasoned slices of salami, and baked mozzarella, reminiscent, of all things, of a chicken parmesan. I laughed tenderly to myself. Beside it, my hoagie, which, if I didn’t know any better, was a slider smaller than my fist, packed with resilient steak slices and topped with slaw. My enthusiasm for the thing waned as much as its old bread, which absorbed the flavours of the air from the fridge. Mean to say, but no less true. Its coleslaw, a little too curried with the yellow stuff and distracting from the idea of mango chutney made into a vibrant salad. The cabbage was limp and too fermented to cherish any good flavor. In two bites, it was gone. I couldn’t reconcile whether I should have been happy or sad that it was gone so soon. But that was as bad as the meal got. I treasured my poutine. It wasn’t anything in the forefront of poutiness, but I’m damned if I didn’t love its tangy, peppery, savoury meat sauce, or its crispy fries with an indescribable malty flavor. The weirdest association, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was rich, it was hardy, it was mouth filling. If the Canuck couldn’t do poutine, I guess it would have been a culinary hoser. But culinary hoser it was not. 

And my snow shoe dessert? Let me tell you: a deep fried fritter in the shape of the footgear, topped with vanilla icecream and rained down on with cinnamon and sugar, floating in rich raspberry coulis. My adulations were embarrassing, but I couldn’t help ooze over crispy dough with a tender, airy, chewy inside. I chopped off pieces, went after my ice cream before it listfully melted away, mashed everything in the coulis, licked the plate clean. After that meal, I reckoned the Canuck’s food could make any guy crazy, because by the end all I could think was, O Canada!

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