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The Farewell Five – AKA NO MORE GOODBYE DINNERS I BEG OF YOU

Countdown to lift-off: 3 days

With my flight right around the corner not only have I started to have miniature panic attacks at the sight of suitcases, but it has finally set in that I’ll be apart for eight months from… my dogs.

My dad keeps trying to hug me close as he gets weepy and, while god I’ll miss my family too, I just beeline it for my favourite pooch Jack and suffocate him in affection. Since the dogs are too dumb to understand the logistics of Skype (or to not eat their own poo) I’m probably going to miss him and my other dog Maggie the most. God damn it.

It’s all starting to sink in that I’m really leaving. I’ve got my travel adaptors, my backpacking backpack (Osprey Farpoint 55L), enough maple candies to give cavities to an entire country, and the most telltale sign is that the goodbyes have started.

Oh god, have they started.

I’m super thankful that I have enough people in my life to warrant all these goodbyes, it’s a sign that I’m truly lucky. The only issue is THERE ARE SO MANY GOODBYE MEALS. So many. Since I’m going to be leaving to a country with a different cuisine, people keep encouraging me to eat worse and worse foods. Perhaps even worse is I’ve started to adopt that mindset.

“Eh, what’s a fourth Tim Hortons jalapeño bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese going to do? We both know there won’t be Tim Hortons in Spain.”

“Come on, eat that mint Aero bar, who knows when you’ll see it again?”

“Sure have a whole bag of party-sized all dressed chips is bad but it’s so Canadian.”

Oh god I’m going to die without these hooked up to an IV.

I’ve been eating like a bear storing up for a Canadian hibernation. It’s not just me though, like I mentioned I’ve been taken on so many goodbye meals with so many fattening dishes that I’m putting on what I have dubbed “The Farewell Five”. It’s the five pounds you gain before leaving the country on a long trip where everyone thinks you are going to die and fattens you up with Jane Bond’s Fat Ass Grilled Cheese (I mean look at the god damn name) and Cora’s inhuman omelette portions (amongst other things). 

I’ll end up waddling into my Getafe residence and then will gain a second round of the “Freshman Fifteen” from the cafeteria food.

On a slightly unrelated tangent—because who needs logical order in these posts anyways—my Spanish is going splendidly.

I recently reblogged this post:

“i want a blowjob”

quiero una biblia

“call a prostitute”

llama a la monja

“where is the strip club”

donde esta la iglesia

“i want to get laid”

quiero leer la palabra de dios

With the caption “the only Spanish I’ll need to know“… with no ounce of sarcasm. For those of you who, like me, have zero Spanish knowledge past mumbled attempts at singing Enrique Iglesias, each of the “translations” are really religious references. For example, I’ve been informed that the “I want to get laid” line is translated to “I want to read the word of God”. Fuck.

I would be religious too if this was where you read the word of God.

I’ve signed up for an intensive course (but will be missing the first, most important day due to La Tomatina) and I also have the Spanish semester course, but jesus it was a harsh reminder of just how far I have to go.

So with all that being said… I’ll try and fit a few more posts in as I settle into lift in Madrid but with the courses and the chaos I’ll be lucky to sit down and write some cheesy fiction, never mind a semi-intelligence blog post. Although on further consideration “intelligent” has never really been my style.

Ladies and gentlemen, and all you lovely non-binary people, cue the dramatic music! Only three days left… and I’m still trying to figure out how to stuff my dog into my carry on and get through border security. If you have any tips, let me know.

 

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If my exchange was a tree, my family would be lichen

Countdown to lift-off: 25 days

While waiting in the stifling office of the Spanish Consulate with nauseating honeymooners looking for travel visas and a desperate old man clinging to the counter when told his visa wouldn’t come in time for a family together, I saw one girl standing in front of me who obviously was not Spanish. I leaned over in my seat as the hard plastic cushion stuck to my skin from the humidity, and nodded to the forms in her painted fingers.

“Where you’ going? Madrid? Barcelona?” I asked.

“Madrid, you?”

“Madrid too, awesome. Where you going?”

“Carlos Madrid!”

“No way, me too!

“Wow, well where do you go?”

“Waterloo…. don’t tell me…”

She stood there gaping. “Holy crap! No way.”

Out all the people getting student visas for Spain we just happened to be going to the exact same place and coming from the exact same school. 

From our strange moment of connection we then checked out the large map on the wall as we waited for our numbers to be called and then exchanged numbers.

Since then Angela and I have had coffee together on campus, talking about her getting an apartment for two weeks with a Brazilian girl and about our plans once there (including my planned day to simply camp out in the Prado by all of Goya’s works). When I mentioned my mother was coming for the first week before I start school to help out with setting up bank accounts and getting a cell phone she gave me this deadpan expression. Okay… had I said something wrong?

YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE!!!

YOU CAN’T MAKE ME LEAVE!!!

Then when she was planning a theoretical Oktoberfest trip (that I could never afford) with me, her, and her German boyfriend, I mentioned that my Grandparents were meeting me in September and then flying me up to Liverpool for Thanksgiving.

She pulled back from the seat in Williams, moving her chai latte beside her face. “Okay wait, so is your entire family like going on this exchange with you or something?”

Apparently my family is practically lichen.

Family photo

Family photo

The more I thought about it though, and with the potential addition of my little sister coming up on her fall break, well, shit she was kind of right. I mean there Angela was, already having two years living alone in Japan under her belt with a no doubt sexy European boyfriend and plans of living downtown right near Latina.

And on the other hand there I was: hopelessly single and queer, planning to live in shared dorms again in the Getafe suburbs of Madrid, and having my family constantly checking up that I haven’t been smuggled across the Alboran Sea to Morocco for sex trafficking.

If she was the bright red foreign sports car of exchanges I was a soccer mom’s mini van complete with child locked windows.

soccer-mom-van

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to finally drag my grandparents out of their Liverpool cocoon and the idea of having my mom around to do some shopping has my wallet crying out in relief… but then there’s the idea of my mother coming with me to La Tomatina stuck in my head.

I keep getting these horrid flashbacks to middle school when I and an old friend Alanna had convinced both our mothers to drive us to Anime North, Toronto’s largest anime convention, for the cheapest and shortest day. For hours my mother did nothing but complain about how there was nothing to do, how it was weird that people spent money to buy anime merch, and how that middle aged man dressed as Sailor Moon needed help.

bc7

I preemptively feel like I’m that little kid again, having to constantly defend my interests, something I still often have to do with my parents. The idea of doing that with something I’ve had on my bucket list for years with my mother is concerning.

“What do you mean you just stand around and throw tomatoes? We could do that at home for 3 dollars.”

“It was so short, is that honestly really it?”

“Isn’t there anything else to it?”

The whole point of an exchange is to put yourself in situations were everything is foreign to you. The whole point of going alone is to do just that under your own terms without having to justify why you want to throw overripe tomatoes at people, or visit Speedy’s Cafe in London because of BBC’s Sherlock, or go to Chianti just to drink it with some fava beans (do you see the trend in a lot of my day trip choices?).

With your old life constantly popping in to remind you of it, I wonder if it’s going to be the romantic, soul-searching experience I picture it being (and it’s just that, a romantic notion practically stapled in my head from unrealistic books like “Eat, Pray, Love”).

This is why, no matter how much my family begs me to find someone to travel with once my exchange finishes, I really don’t want to. Not with Angela, not with anyone. And maybe that’s why the longer I stare at the route I’m taking once I’m finished the exchange the more inclined I am to add Bosnia to the list.

I want to stand alone in the one country my parents forbade me from going to in the middle of winter right beside the land mine signs. Like eating Lucky Charms for the first time in University I want to send the picture with the caption “YOU DONT CONTROL ME” like I’m some angst ridden teenager on a rebellion bent. Only this time freezing half to death in Mostar, Bosnia beside explosives.

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It’s all very ‘first world problems’-esque.

So yes, my family is sticking to me like moss with this exchange, but damn if I’m going to let that make me into a family Sudan. Screw you sticky fingerprints and mini TVs with Dora the Explorer playing 24/7, I’m at least a Prius.

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The long way around and single serving friends

What do taking a bus and smuggling drugs across the border have in common? They both happened while taking the longer route.

With one of my best friends contemplating going back to Alberta to find work, I am reminded by just how vast Canada is. He is going to Alberta as cheaply as possible, and he plans on taking a string of buses for a trip that will take two to three days in total. It’s uncomfortable bus seats, truck stop food, and the open road for him for an unconceivable number of hours.

Although technology makes travelling incredibly easy with planes and high-speed trains, sometimes it is those uncomfortable bus seats and the people squished around you who make all the difference. 

I’m advocating for trying, at least once in your life, to take the long way around. Sure, it is easier to get on a plane and be at your destination in a few hours, but this causes us to lose the human element of travelling. Travelling isn’t just about going to new places, but also about meeting new people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

While my “long way around” experience wasn’t as long as my friend’s, I took a 12-hour bus ride to New York, NY to visit my friends Nat and Jesse (from Miami and Boston respectively). I hopped on the cheapest Megabus I could find ($40), and was loaded into a double decker bus with a criminal level of wifi, considering their advertisement of “FREE WI-FI” haphazardly stuck to the window. Ignoring all of humanity for a few hours was not going to be an option this time.

That’s when I met her. 

Barbara just happened to plop down beside me and immediately she turned to me and said, “Sorry in advance… I’m a little hungover.” She then pulled out a foil-wrapped burrito, which, unknown to me at the time, would become her constant companion for the entire 12-hour trip.

I thought she was a little odd; blonde, tall, late-20s, and with a pretty bad case of “resting bitch face.” Barbara had a confidence that I later found out stemmed from her complete and utter lack of consideration for other people’s judgements.

Because of her confidence and my apparent lack of (I was sporting sweatpants and a reclusive vibe emanating from me as I turned my computer screen away from her nosy eyes) I thought her comment would be the extent of our interaction, but before we drove off, she gestured to the middle aged hippie at the bus stop with the patchwork skirt and tells me the woman had tried to buy weed from her. It was then I knew it would be an interesting trip.

I am not one to talk to strangers but the more we exchanged small talk about me handing her Gravol so she wouldn’t throw up burrito all over me, and about her wicked hangover, the more I wanted to. We spoke almost non-stop for the entire 12 hours. I found out she was actually a college professor whose entire family sold weed, some of which she stashed in her seat to smuggle across the border. Barbara was leaving Toronto for New York to see a guy she’d met only two weeks prior after telling him that he was hot from across the street. Her confidence was infectious, and eventually I, in turn, told her my life story.

At every pit stop we were together, dissing Dunkin’ Donuts and popping all the creaks out of our bones. She kept tucking into the burrito, who by this point had become practically another passenger worthy of a separate ticket, as she told tales of throwing garbage out of a moving cab while stalking assholes from a bar who had run up a tab and left them with it. 

Barbara had a knack for weaving stories together, and my favourite was about her and her sister running into the ocean from a sheriff trying to arrest them for public disturbance after almost being arrested for drunkenly yelling at an angry coffee store worker. The woman had vehemently insisted that Barbara was lying about getting the wrong change, so in turn Barbara went around drunkenly screaming to the customers that the coffee shop was “an institute built on lies.” Once the woman barricaded the door to contain her until the Sherif arrived, she had barrelled the woman over, thrashing around like some feral fox that animal control was trying to wrangle. Her sister meanwhile was still passed out in a nearby bush.

She said once the sheriff had refused to get into the water to catch them they had smoked up as they waded through the sandbanks all the way back to her beachside hotel.

I was more honest and open with her than I am with a lot of people. We laughed, talked about education, our friends, and life in general with such ease. It felt cathartic to be able to talk about anything with someone you’d never meet again. When we parted, we wished each other a great life.

It felt so reminiscent of Fight Club’s “one serving friends” where, like single-serve ice cream, the people you meet during travel are single serving friends.

Being shoved into a small box for hours with strangers and with nothing to pass the time forces us to communicate. So save some money and try taking the long way around next time you travel. Who knows who you’ll meet?

(Posted originally in my IMPRINT column “A Broad Abroad”, edited for “A Real Adventure”)

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Madrid exchange is a go — AKA breaking down to Shakira at work

Countdown to lift-off: 73 days

Seriously, it looks the exact same.

Look, it’s Daenerys in the red waste with her khalasar!

I will admit something I never thought I’d utter. Today I starting crying at my desk to Shakira. Thank god my supervisor was off this week so I could mop up my pathetic, latin music induced tears on my “dress-down-Friday” sweater. With a crappy tea in one hand and my dignity quickly slipping through the other, I sat there crying to “Te Dejo Madrid” by Shakira in what was supposed to be my own little happy celebration regarding the email I received this morning.

“Dear Student, 

Congratulations for your admission at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid as an international student!”

I was too cozy in the cocoon of warm blankets and too cranky at 7am to really process what the hell I’d just read. So it wasn’t until I played upbeat Shakira at my desk in an attempt to really bring it home that the full weight of what had happened dropped on me. I was looking at the collage of my family, friends, and my dogs when I realized… holy shit, this is really happening. I’m actually going to be living away from everything I know, alone, in a country I don’t speak the language and then will be travelling by myself for an extra two or three months.

Feel free to laugh. I mean the Shakira alone was ridiculous, but the concept of someone who loves travelling getting upset over doing just that would seem ludicrous to a more seasoned traveller. I invite you though to think of your own youth, or for those who are still young to imagine the future.

There is a time, I believe, in every life where some sort of monumental change is about to occur. You can sense it as if the feeling of foreboding could be physical and crawl under your skin. It’s a little like when you are outside and see large, dark rain clouds rolling in. Even if you love the rain there is a feeling that there is something larger than you, something big and potentially scary that looms over you, charging the very atmosphere. The choice you are left with is whether to take cover or to dance in the rain.

That’s how I feel right now as I enter the stage of starting to prep student visas and look into flights. Those clouds are rolling in and I can feel it and even though I love the rain the temptation to run for cover is there.

What if I can’t pick up the language and I’m lost in some back alley in Gran Vía, with an abuela screaming at me in Spanish? Or what happens if I’m so homesick I end up having a mental break down in the middle of a supermarket the moment I see maple syrup? Worst of all… what if my mother’s prophecies are true and I’m to end up as a skin suit for the real Buffalo Bill?

The face of my future imminent breakdown.

The face of my future imminent breakdown.

And yet… at the same time another part of me is screaming that this is my chance to experience the world. PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL BOOTS AND LEARN THAT YOU CAN HANDLE ANYTHING! Stolen passport? Psh, you got it. Lost? So last year. Making new friends despite your crippling shyness when first meeting people? Eh, okay, maybe not anything.

Despite all my fears and apprehension about moving to Madrid, I want to dance in the rain (to extend an overextended metaphor). I want to take this experience for what it will be and milk it for all it’s worth. If I’m going to be stuck in Reykjavik for a twenty hour layover on my way home you better damn well believe I’ll be going to the Blue Lagoon. Life is too damn short to spend it worrying about the “what if”s, no matter how cliched it may sound. So screw it! I’m officially going to Madrid in 73 days and I’m going to enjoy it! ¿Entender?

And in the end if everything goes wrong, I will at least have the chance to become an alcoholic off of red sangrias.

Hello darkness my old friend.

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Body-Slamming Spanish Cuisine

Countdown to lift-off: 131 days

I’m not yet close enough to my departure for Madrid to be focusing on packing, getting visas, or any of that other boring and mandatory crap. Instead I get to do what I always love to do: over prepare to the point of insanity.

When the first Hunger Games movie came out in theatres in true mimesis form my friends and I—a bunch of then 18-year-olds—went around the parking lot after the movie pretending to impale each with arrows and ranting about how long we’d live. It came down to my friend Matt living the longest because of his bloodlust and ability to disappear for months at a time. Where did I rank and how does this have to do with travelling? Hush sweet reader, for I shall get there soon. For myself I loudly proclaimed I, with my ambition, patience and inflated sense of self worth, would surely get to the final four. “Oh no”, they claimed, “Christ, you wouldn’t even make it out of the cornucopia.” I demanded an explanation only to be told, “You’d rush right into the cornucopia and proceed to try and pack everything into your bag until you were gutted. You’d totally be like “wait, I may need these five different throwing daggers, this camp stove, maybe a spear—no wait, I totally will need two spears incase one gets lost”.”

On evaluation it was scarily accurate.

I’m sure there are many other people out there who have a similar problem and would be helicopter lifted out of the cornucopia along with me. As a previous entry mentioned, this really does bleed into my style of travelling and pre-travel planning.

So with Spain finally in my vision I am currently at the cornucopia of knowledge, shoving every fact I can into my hideous metaphorical fanny pack. My current unhealthy obsession is…

GIVE ME BOOKS ON CHEESE, GIVE ME WEBPAGES ON COOKING SCHOOLS IN MADRID, PLEASE SPANISH FOOD GODS LET ME DEVOUR EVERY PIECE OF KNOWLEDGE ON SPANISH CUISINE. I WANT TO DEVOUR SO MUCH PAELLA MY STOMACH SPLITS OPEN, I MUST DINE IN BOTIN, FEED ME JAMÓN AND PULPO A LA GALLEGA.

Ahem.

I’m pretty fucking stoked to be able to write about the food while I’m there, but in the meantime I’m going to mention some of the resources I’ve been ploughing through recently in preparation for the Spanish portion of my eight months abroad (Italy and Germany will be next on my hit list).

The first book I bought, which is applicable to all of my stops, is the “Food Lovers Guide To The World” by Lonely Planet. It is a fantastic resource with recipes, recommended culinary pitstops, where to find the best of the best along with food-related festivals in each of the areas it reviews.

Here is the introduction page for Spain, giving an idea of the super pretty pictures and information. (As a note, I will probably be including a few recipes from these books in a later post!)

And here you will note my bed duvet. First my home and now my sheets... I dare say our relationship is getting pretty serious.

And here you will note my bed duvet. First my home and now my sheets… I dare say our relationship is getting pretty serious.

The next thing I slit open my wallet and shook it’s near empty contents onto a counter for was “Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Costal Waters of Andalucía” by Jeff Koehler.

 

The photos in this book are incredible and while it may not have the level of information that the Food Lovers book does, it has so, so many recipes.

Look how colourful and pretty!

Look how colourful and pretty!

This is of course on top of web resources like About.com and Spain’s Official Tourism Website. I also bought “Cheese for Dummies” and have been studying up on different Spanish cheeses (who can believe that there is more than just manchego!?). If you have any other awesome books on Spanish cuisine of any kind, please do tell! This of course is on top of struggling, emphasis on struggling, to learn Spanish through Duolingo¿El perro come un niño? I fear for when I’ll ever need to use this sentence.

Pretty much in the past few weeks since I finished my huge chunk of exams I have been trying to really learn as much as I can about Spain, with a giant emphasis on its food. The only downside is the more I learn about their food, the more I begin to hate Canada and our lack of a cultural cuisine presence. Sure Madrid isn’t as fancy with their cocino and stews but it sure as hell beats poutine, maple syrup and ketchup chips (shhh, I’m so sorry poutine I don’t mean any of it). Then again, perhaps it is all about perspective. Having worked with many ESL students at my past job it’s surprising to hear about people studying up on so-called “Canadian cuisine” before coming here with the same fervour as I am currently studying Spanish cuisine. Maybe… just maybe… if I spent this much time learning about my own country I could learn about all the great foods that Canada has to offer….

Nah.

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Eat The Rude: Cooking your way through fandom

“Grilled snake, blood wine, Adiago mixed teas… this is the hobby I choose to love.” – Me 

First of all, what do I mean by cooking through fandom? With the introduction of Game of Thrones styled dinner parties this concept isn’t exactly new. The concept is to take either pre-existing dishes in shows, movies, games, books or whatever else you enjoy or creating new dishes based off themes in the show and cooking them up.

So if the concept of cooking or fandom causes your skin to chafe and get rashes please ignore the following post until next time.

Are the dubious gone? …. Sweet. Alright, then let’s resume!

This is a hobby I’ve had for around two years or so, or since I started to take cooking seriously and as something other than a chore my no doubt sadistic working parents forced on me as a child. As my obsession with Game of Thrones grew I started to learn about dinner parties people were throwing filled with all these incredible dishes from the books. This was how I came across The Inn at the Crossroads, a blog/recipe site dedicated to the dishes in and inspired by the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. As I started to read it I suddenly realized—

Holy shit. This is it. This is the pinnacle of nerdiness that I have yet been able to achieve. This is the final tipping point that will cause my parents to disown me.

So of course I went out and bought their book. While the formatting could use some work, the recipes themselves are fantastic. I had never made bread before in my life but their recipes on how to make that symbolic bread and salt (that couldn’t save the Starks from the Red Wedding) has inspired a sick bread fetish that my roommates can attest to.

One of my favourite, simplest, recipes is the apple salad. I was able to impress my family with this all while cackling darkly in the kitchen as they consumed my nerdiness and praised it. As with all their recipes it usually gives the “medieval” and “modern” version and is prefaced by the line from the books that inspired it. In the case of the apple salad it states:

“Cersei set a tasty table, that could not be denied. They started with a creamy chestnut soup, crusty hot bread, and greens dressed with apples and pine nuts.” -A Clash of Kings

My apple cutting skills were not up to snuff. Ramsay Bolton would flay my hands for that.

I’ve never found a recipe from the book I haven’t enjoyed, but there are some I just wouldn’t touch. Grilled snake, pigeon pie, locusts… while I appreciate the authenticity I will admit that I have shied away from the more adventurous recipes (or at least until I can find out where to find locusts in a Canadian mennonite town).

First attempt at braided bread, sans salt.

First attempt at braided bread, sans salt and locusts.

With the pages of my new cookbook splattered with the blood of my enemies and having been tested at viewing get-togethers with my friends I turned my attention to my other obsessions.

This wasn’t just a Game of Thrones thing. No, now that I was getting deeper into this world I understood just how deep this rabbit hole went. Suddenly I wanted to stick all my other obsessions in my stomach. In a weird, visceral sense I was literally trying to eat the things I loved. The next thing I knew I wasn’t just making Game of Thrones cookies but making Sherlock and John shaped cookies for the BBC Sherlock premiere. I was watching my highschool friend Jen staring in abject horror as myself and five other friends sat there eating cookies in the shape of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s faces. My ability to be part of normal, functioning society was slowly slipping away from me.

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From this…

Source: https://i1.wp.com/media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/c3/82/4f/c3824ff9688123fcd30ee940c10cc1d9.jpg

… to this.

I didn’t want mugs with my sigil, or t-shirts with my fandom on it, I wanted to cook the very essence up into a beautiful dish and stick it on my plate.  This ironically brings us to Hannibal.

It started innocently enough, or at least as innocently as a show revolving around cannibalism can be. I started to hoard Adiago fandom teas and had recently purchased the earthy, almost mushroom flavoured tea for Hannibal. I had made the habbit of consuming the tea whenever I sat down to watch it (excluding the time my friends and I watched Hannibal on an abandoned road).

Soon I’ll be able to open up my own fandom-themed coffeeshop. Stay tuned!

When the new season came I had gone through half my tea and had been following Feeding Hannibal, the blog by Janice Poon the food stylist of Hannibal, I realized this was more than just a Game of Thrones thing. Janice’s blog is spectacular. She talks about how they created and designed the deliciously disturbing dishes of Hannibal, discusses the hardships of being a foodstylist (like her fiasco of trying to get sea urchins out of season), and gives recipes for some of the meals seen in the show.

God, I wanted to “eat the rude” too! Watching Hannibal let out clever cannibalism puns while preparing these succulent and absolutely morally horrifying dishes would confuse anyone’s moral compass. I ordered silicone brain molds all with the intention of making panacotta brains for the season finale (which will happen, so help me God by the power of Thomas Harris).

Source: 1FineCookie

It was all spiralling out of control! I was planning dinner parties with friends, figuring out how I could get venison out of season, despite being a pescatarian, for authenticity. I was researching where to buy naturally dropped deer antlers to style my dishes like Janice does and enlisting friends in the hopes of designing invitation cards. I was like some awful version of dinner party addicts who force people into awkward conversation at their suburban houses sharing elbow space with people they barely know, but instead I was fantasizing of forcing my friends into fancy outfits where we would open origami paper containers containing braised tongue whilst talking about the newest episode.

It is an incurable disease, and once you are infected by the bug it only gets worse. With the fourth season of Game of Thrones coming up quickly and the finale of Hannibal in my future, my outlook has never looked bleaker… or more delicious.

I encourage anyone who is looking for something different and nerdy to try it out at least once. Make a party out of it, invite your friends, indulge in some of Sansa’s favourite lemon cakes or if you are like me and are usually existing in isolation, read up on an incredible example of food styling.

Overall, it’s an incredibly strange hobby but it is one I hold dear.

 

1

5 places every Canadian should visit

Regardless of where you go in the world, so long as you have a Canadian flag sewn on your pack, you are pretty much guaranteed to be treated well — it’s not a secret that many Americans have taken to sewing our maple leaf all over their gear in order to sneak under the radar.

Some places, though, are extra special to us Canadians, and as a Canuck you are almost morally obligated to visit them at least once in your lifetime. Plus, even if you aren’t Canadian, they’re still awesome places to visit.

The Netherlands

Source: http://www.wallpaperstop.com/

After housing the Dutch royal family from German occupation in World War II and having one of their princesses born in Ottawa, Canadians liberated the Netherlands from the Nazis and thus the two countries became friends.

Canadians not only liberated the country, but also provided air drops to areas cut off from food by the German forces, and after the liberation moved in to bring much needed supplies to the troops.

Every year the Netherlands sends thousands of tulips to our country as a continued thanks for our help.

Vimy Ridge

Source: www.warhistoryonline.com

The Battle of Vimy Ridge occurred when Canada got tired of being in Britain’s shadow, kicked some butt, and became all-around badasses. We created new artillery tactics and stood on our own with all four of our divisions finally united, all while under heavy fire.

Vimy became a symbol of the birth of Canada as a nation, and going to pay your respects to the thousands of Canadians who fought and died there is something every Canadian should do.

Laura Secord’s Homestead (Niagara-on-the-Lake)

Source: http://www.niagaraparks.com/

Not only is Niagara-on-the-Lake beautiful, but it is also the location of Laura Secord’s house.

Who is she other than the face on that delicious chocolate? She is the woman who helped alert the British of an American attack during the war of 1812 by walking 20 miles through American-occupied territory. Although her story has become something of myth at this point, she is still an important part of our history. (Anne of Green Gables’ house in PEI is also just as valid a choice.)

Turks and Caicos

Source: http://4photos.net/

Last year there was a proposal sent out by an Albertan MP proposing that the British-owned islands Turks and Caicos should unite with Canada to become our 11th province.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but it still isn’t quite off the table yet, nor is it a new idea. In fact, the idea has been tossed around for almost 100 years, starting in 1917. Even in 2004, Nova Scotia voted unanimously to invite the islands to join. So go visit the beaches and get a small taste of what could have been, and what may still be.

Cuba

Source: http://latour.com/

Americans aren’t allowed to go to Cuba, and that’s reason enough to go and rub it in their faces while smoking Cuban cigars and exploring this fascinating country.

(Posted originally in my IMPRINT column “A Broad Abroad”)