Many years ago, when my parents were still dating, my father wrote love letters to my mom. I know. Cute. Even cuter, he would always signed them with a hand-drawn ookpik by his name. Ookpik?
As a kid, I always loved the seal-fur ookpik in my mother’s curio. I know. What the heck’s an ookpik?
And when I was eight years old, my dad bought me a royal blue, felt covered, ookpik that I fell in love with immediately and named it “Ernie.” He was best friends with a little bear, “Herbert.” Yes, I did watch a lot of Sesame Street. And yes, Bert and Ernie were my favourites. The budding young writer that I was, I instinctively knew that blatantly hijacking these Muppet monikers was wrong. Herbert and Ernie were close–but not the same. Anyway, back to my ookpik. I quickly learned that running down the community ski hill behind our house with a bear in one hand and an ookpik in another was a danger-fraught activity. One false step and I found myself tumbling down what felt like an endless mini-mountain. I broke my pinky finger. And my ookpik bent his beak. Permanently. I know, I know–what the hell is an ookpik, once and for all?
My fellow Canadians know. Especially those born prior to the 1980s. Those from outside the Great White North, however, likely don’t have a clue. Perhaps, you have become frustrated and googled the word “ookpik.” If you are my friend at http://motherhoodisanart.com/, you are already “in” on the secret.
Well, here it is. “Ookpik” is an Inuit word for “owl.” In the 1960s and early 70s, they became all the rage up here–sort of morphing into a breed of owl of its very own. The ookpik is usually wingless–it’s only features being eyes, a beak, and toes.
Here are some examples:
Unfortunately, when I was in highschool, an errant mouse ate a hole through Ernie. Such is the life of a felt ookpik. And, yes, I still miss him.
Now, back to these two adorable Sesame Street roommates. When I was in high school, I decided to conduct a survey relating to their names (I’m a survey junkie). And now, I am going to conduct it again.
1) Japan’s strange inventions have often been featured in my blog, so I thought it only fair that I poke fun at the oddball ideas that have come to fruition thanks to Canadian minds.
One of the strangest, and perhaps, most lethal from a cardiologist’s point-of-view is Poutine (pronounced poo-tinn). This dish originated in nearby Quebec, but is now sold at mainstream fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s and A&W throughout Canada. But anyone who really knows Canada, knows that we LOVE our chip trucks. And no one does better poutine than one of those.
Poutine is simply a pile of french fries covered (or rather smothered) in dark gravy and cheese curds. Mm. Cheese curds. It is sinfully delicious, but will probably clog an artery or two.
If you think that’s weird. There was a chip truck in Eastern Ontario that sold fries smothered in butter. Greasy french fries with butter? Really?
2) This is my all-time favourite Canadian treat. First of all, it originates in my hometown, Ottawa. All good things come from Ottawa. Except politicians.
And, most importantly, they are delicious. BeaverTails–not politicians. No, we do not hunt down buck-toothed rodents and lop off their tails. We are, in fact, quite kind to our beavers. We even put them on our nickels.
The “BeaverTail” is a flattened lump of whole wheat dough, deep-fried, and smothered in various mouth-watering toppings. The traditional one is covered in cinnamon and sugar. If you add a twist of lemon, you have the Killaloe Sunrise. But, for the true sweet-tooth, you can smother yours in chocolate hazelnut, maple butter, apples with cinnamon, banana chocolate, chocolate & vanilla, chocolate & peanut butter & Reese’s Pieces, or cream cheese with Skor pieces and chocolate drizzle. Damn, now I’m hungry. I think I’ll head down to the park and get me one of these. Blogging is not good for the waistline.
Oh, yeah. Did I mention that BeaverTails, just like Poutine, are sold in small chip-truck-sized, cabin-like buildings. Here is a typical BeaverTail vendor:
So far we have learned that Canadians like strange-looking, furry owls; have a penchant for heart-stopping, curd-covered, deep-fried potatoes; and regularly nibble on cinnamon-covered beaver appendages. Quite simply put, we make the Japanese look normal. But wait. I still haven’t reached number 3. There’s always a number three.
3) Americans love to make fun of us. According to them, we talk funny. Yes, according to the nation that produced the southern twang and drawl, the Boston accent, and whatever those people in the movie Fargo were speaking, WE talk funny. So, here’s a tip for those who really want to mimic us well–here are some uniquely Canadian words. Ours are the ones in BOLD print.
Eh? Replaces “Huh?” or “Do you agree?”
Pop=Soda. We do say Club Soda and Cream Soda though. Everything else is Pop.
Chocolate bar=Candy bar
Chesterfield=sofa or couch
Double Double=two creams, two sugars in coffee.
Pencil Crayon=coloured pencil
Rad=radiator. We don’t say “rad” for radical.
Hydro=electrical service. Paying our hydro bill is the same as paying the Power Company in the US.
Bachelor=small type of apartment. “Bachelor for rent” does not cause confusion up here.
Two-four=case of twenty-four beer.
Brown Bread=Whole Wheat Bread.
Kraft Dinner=Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
Homo Milk=Homogenized Milk
Lineup=a line or queue.
Postal code=Zip code
Transport truck=tractor trailer
So, now you can speak Canadian. Woo. Woo.
Photo Credits: ookpiks: 1 (static.artfire.com), 2 (www.mccord-museum.qc.ca), 3 (farm3.static.flickr.com), 4 (subrosa-rosamundi.blogspot.ca), 5 (www.nait.ca), 6 (farm3.staticflickr.com), Bert & Ernie (whatvinniethinks.com), Poutine (trentonstories.blogspot.ca), Chip Truck ( busblog.tonypierce.com), Beavertail (www.foodgypsy.ca) BeaverTail Truck ( foodworld-evablogspot.ca), eh (www.talktocanada.com).