Wednesday 26 March 2008

How to be a Canadian by Will Ferguson & Ian Ferguson

howtobeacanadian.jpgPublished by Douglas & McIntyre

Canadian brothers Will and Ian Ferguson provide an entertaining and hilariously funny glimpse into what it means to be Canadian. The content is divided into 17 chapters covering subjects such as: Canada: A Rich Tapestry (Who to Hate and Why), Learning the Language, Canadian Cuisine (and How to Avoid It), Mating Rituals, Beer, Social Values, Twelve Ways to Say "I'm Sorry", and one my favourites - A Cross-Canada Tour or How to Get Lost.

The final chapter is a simple test to see just how Canadian you are and cracked me up in the worst way. I would have enjoyed exams in high school so much better had the Ferguson brothers been responsible for putting them together!

This book was hilarious from the first page. Be advised that it's not a great idea to begin reading it late at night, in bed, when your partner is trying to sleep. (Sorry Honey!). I had to give up after waking him up four times due to me laughing out loud. It's one of those books where you just have to share the contents with friends and what I loved about this one is, when I usually share snippets that seem funny to me, I often get a strange or bored look in return as the humour is not easy to understand without reading more of the book. You can easily share any random piece of info from this book and it will always cause a smile - or more likely, chuckling and laughter - from the one you share it with. My husband found lots of it to be highly funny and I won't be surprised if he reads it next.

It's not easy to be offended by this book, though I found myself wondering if I should have been. I could only personally associate with two of the provinces involved (Ontario and Quebec) but greatly enjoyed reading about the others too. The parts of the book referring to Ontario and Quebec were right on the money and I especially liked the Quebec's guide to evaluating ballots. I found it great that the authors could take a topic like politics which is usually tedious to read, and made it just as funny (if not funnier) than the other subjects covered.

Another section I loved was the food section. I greatly enjoyed learning about some of the foods that are enjoyed across the provinces. Here in Quebec for example, the authors speak of poutine (my own personal thoughts on this food is that it is simply delicious but ought to be made illegal because of calories included), sweet things like sucre à la crème and tarte au sucre aka sugar pie (which are both so sweet that I swear they can cause a sugar coma), and of course the snails. I also had to laugh when the writers commented on the strange use of the word "ketchup" to mean first class here in Quebec. I am so glad it isn't just me who doesn't understand that one. The first time I heard it used was by my Father-in-law and I just couldn't work out where ketchup came into the conversation we were having.

The writers commented that no one eats the snails and similar stuff but I have to admit that when I first moved to Quebec I visited the Red Lobster here and finally tried snails - which my dear husband likes to eat from time to time (EW, never again!) and frog's legs (which are not like chicken but not that offensive either). The writers also comment on the fact that Quebecois folk like their hot dogs and I have to agree with that one. There is a restaurant in Chicoutimi in fact, that gives away a free hot dog each time you use their cash machine. Also discussed were Beaver Tails (a pastry) and Prairie Osyters among others. Beaver Tails are something I wanted to try for the longest time and even have a recipe for, but never created them. I will include the recipe in the comments. Prairie Oysters are something I think I will avoid, at any cost.

All in all. A great read that really made me look at all things Canadian in a refreshing way. I can hardly wait to dive into Will Ferguson's title "Why I Hate Canadians" which I will be reviewing soon. Highly recommended for a fun gift or something to read when you need a pick me up. It can't fail!

Author's website:


Charlene Martel said...

Beaver Tail Recipe.

1/2 cup warm water
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 pinch white sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups whole wheat flour, or as needed

1 quart oil for frying

2 cups white sugar, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, warm water, and a pinch of sugar. Let stand until slightly foamy, about 5 minutes.
When the yeast is foamy, add the other 1/3 cup of sugar, milk, vanilla, eggs, oil and salt, and stir until smooth. Mix in about 3 cups of the flour, stirring with a spoon, then gradually add more flour, turning the dough out onto a floured surface when it is firm enough to handle. Knead for 5 to 8 minutes adding flour as needed to form a firm elastic dough. Place dough in a greased bowl, and cover. Let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Gently deflate the dough, and pinch off a golf ball-sized piece of dough. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the ball out to an oval. Set aside to rest covered with a tea towel, and continue with remaining dough.
Heat about 4 inches of oil for frying in a deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). If you do not have a deep fryer, a wok or Dutch oven will work. I toss in a tiny bit of dough and see if it sizzles and swells immediately. If it does, the oil temperature is where it should be.
Just before placing the beaver tails in the oil, stretch the ovals out into a tail shape, thinning and enlarging them as you do. Carefully place the tails in the hot oil one or two at a time. Fry, turning once, until the tails are a deep brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove using tongs and drain on paper towels.
Place remaining 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl, and stir in cinnamon if you are using it. Toss beaver tails in the sugar bowl while they are still hot. Shake off excess.

To make the dough using a bread machine, add the dough ingredients to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the DOUGH setting, and press START. When the machine beeps, continue from step 3.

Alexandra said...

That sounds like a fun read. I will pick it up. The food section is particularly intriguing.
I actually love snails. I have had prairie oysters (in Argentina - local specialty at this ranch we visited)and Beaver Tails are seriously addictive.

Of course, now I also crave poutine.

Charlene Martel said...

I am always craving poutine. Especially here in Saguenay since they often make it with the local cheese (I love how fresh cheese squeaks!). My local take-out place also does an italian poutine by adding ground meat with tomato sauce etc. It's delish.

What did you think of the Prairie Oysters?

I am glad you are going to pick a copy up though. I will be most interested in seeing what you think of it when you have read it Alexandra!