[Salutations: I'm not in Canada anymore. This is part 2 of a yet to be determined multiple part series of entries about my previous week in the land of people who say "eh" a lot. (THEY REALLY DO; I HEARD IT.) This is also the second entry I've posted today, although you should know that the first one is rather boring and doesn't contain any information about food.]
Kat and I planned to made trips to Toronto from Wednesday to Saturday, designating Tuesday as "Oakville Day," which given Kat's choice may have been titled, "Check Out How Crappy My Town Is Day."
Oakville isn't that bad. I mean, it's got more stuff than the town we went to high school in....which doesn't say much since our town was 99% houses, trees and squirrels, but it could've been worse. However, Oakville is a bitch to get around in without a car. As thankful as we were that the town had a public transportation system, it wasn't all that convenient for $2.50 per ride (with free transfers) on a schedule that would at most have two buses an hour (during the times we'd want to ride it, at least...which means after 10 AM). We walked to the closest mall, which took about 20 minutes. Yay exercise. We would need a lot of it considering all the food I would make us eat in the mall's food court.
I'm always somewhat fascinated by the appropriation of places to specific foodstuffs outside of the area the food is from. Yes, so easily fascinated I am. When I spotted the taxi-reminiscent black and yellow sign of New York Fries I felt like I had to try it so I could compare it to...well, nothing since as far as I know New York City doesn't have a standard fry that evokes the essence of its grime-filled streets. And I had to get poutine, the Canadian (more specifically Quebecois) concoction of fries smothered in cheese nuggets (also known as curds, but I like to use the word "nugget" as much as possible, for it is a severely underused except in instances pertaining to processed chicken, which is too bad because IT IS SUCH AN AWESOME WORD) and gravy that one rarely finds in the US, for the true New York-In-Canada experience.
The poutine didn't make my tastebuds metaphorically dance with glee nor fill me with the disgust that one may expect while eating fried sticks of potato swimming in a glistening, thickened beef flavored sauce dotted with random chunks of white cheese, but it didn't taste bad. I mean, as long as you liked potato, gravy and cheese, you'll probably like poutine. I don't suspect this was the height of poutine heaven—I thought the gravy could've been saltier and the cheese didn't squeak—so more poutine samples may have to be taken in the future.
To go with our fries Kat and I got Papa Burgers from A&W. Although there are A&Ws in the US, I had never seen one before. Up until Tuesday A&W was just a historic blip in my knowledge of the history of fast food, having started as a root beer stand in the early 1900s or something like that (I pretty much forgot everything I learned in school after I stopped going, unfortunately). I didn't know they actually still thrived and sold burgers. In Canadaaaa. (The Canadian chain is different from the American chain...just to make things more confusing. But it started in America. Hoorah.)
I though the Papa Burger—consisting of two patties with pickles, chopped raw onion, mustard, cheese and some mayo-esque sauce stuffed into various meaty/bready crevices—was good for a fast food burger. Looking at In-N-Out as the best and McDonalds as the worst (I rarely eat fast food burgers so feel free to cast your own votes for Best and Worst. I'm quite sure that McDonald's sucks though; I always stuck to the "chicken"-based items growing up), A&W falls...um, somewhere in between. But in the upper half. I can't think of anything bad to say about the burger. Meat was moist enough, bun was fluffy and substantial, there was just enough onion to provide flavor and not make me feel like I was encapsulated in a cloud of onion stink all day, and the mustard added a slight touch of burning. Pleasant burning.
After walking around the mall for a while to work off maybe 0.01% of what we had just eaten, we got Yogen Fruz for dessert. Yogen Fruz and its neatly swirled customizable mashings of frozen fruit and plain frozen yogurt is one of my favorite memories from Taiwan. The last time I had eaten it was during my previous visit to Toronto in 2001 for a school band trip (which possibly the best thing about that trip since I hated band so very much and quit the next year). The six year abstinence period from Yogen Fruz wasn't by choice; there just isn't any Yogen Fruz in NYC that I know of, which is kind of surprising in this era of "Mass Pinkberry and Pinkberry-esque Business Proliferation" (like bunnies, really fertile bunnies).
Yogen Fruz is different (and in my opinion better) than the Pinkberry empire because instead of topping the frozen yogurt with fruit (in mostly measly quantities from my experience) the fruit is smashed into ever spoonful. They put your chosen fruits in The Mash-Bot (probably not the real name) with a block of frozen yogurt, let it mash through once, put the collected single-mashed result through the masher again and present you with doubly-smoothened frozen yogurt dotted with the crunchy frozen fragments of the original fruits before their cell walls were crushed.
Yogen Fruz (or any other frozen yogurt) isn't something I'd be addicted to, but it's reliably tasty. It's a non-indulgent dessert (considering the other things I eat), not too sweet, and might have a serving of fruit in it. It has NATURALLY OCCURING VITAMINS. Instant win.
Kat and I met up with Anne Marie to watch more cartoons and roam around the mostly empty school. We couldn't get into any of rooms so peering through the door's window was as close as I could get to one of the animation labs. Kat told me it only looks this dismal when empty and unadorned by students personal knick knacks. Students buy their own light table disc things (probably not the right term) to use with the desks, hence the giant holes in the desks. If we had been allowed in Kat could've animated me something. Dammit.
Later that night Kat and I spent about two and a half hours on one of Oakville's public buses. Obviously, it wasn't by choice; we accidentally boarded a bus of doom. Remember what I said about the buses not being the most reliable things? Kat and I definitely board the right bus...I think...but it skipped the stop we wanted to get off at and went straight to the GO station (kind of like the RER in Paris but totally separate from the Toronto metro system). When we got to the GO station we just assumed that the bus would repeat the same route.
But no. NO. That would be too simple. And that wouldn't have resulted in about a tenth of our day being taken up by a tour of downtown Oakville that nobody asked for. The bus magically changed routes while we were waiting at the station. Either the bus driver didn't know we were still on or she thought we meant to go on the new route. Or she was feeling grumpy and just didn't want to warn us of our impending night of doom. It took us a while to figure out we were on the wrong bus and to ask the bus driver where we were. Our original plan was to go to a supermarket and get something to make dinner with, but as soon as we got back to the GO station we went straight home.
Without any new groceries, Kat made do with what she already had in the kitchen: rice, Cream of Mushroom Soup and chicken breast. It may not win any awards for presentation or vibrant color, but I thought it was damn tasty. Growing up I loved eating New England clam chowder (if you're one of those people who hates chowder, don't tell me; I love the stuff) with rice and I recall one of my favorite school lunches from middle school in Taiwan being chicken cutlet drenched in a lemon pepper cream sauce over rice. (Just about everyone else I knew preferred chicken leg braised in a soy sauce-based sauce, something that I never grew fond of due to the layer of slippery, fatty, gag reflex-inducing skin covering the meat and my inability to eat things off the bone. This is the kind of preference that questions whether or not I have any Chinese blood.) I love creamy things and rice.
Actually, I mostly like rice. I guess i am Chinese after all.
CANADA! All the things I talked about are franchises, so they lurk somewhere in Canada. Just...go look for them or something.