A Lopped Off Tail, A Broken Beak, and a Whole Lotta Curds

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?

We Canucks are a hearty lot.  Or so we like to tell ourselves.  Maybe we’re just all nuts.  Here’s a typical chip truck, Canuck-style: 

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?”

Serviette= Napkin

Washroom= Bathroom

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.

Garburator=garbage disposal.

Two-four=case of twenty-four beer.

Brown Bread=Whole Wheat Bread.

Kraft Dinner=Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Homo Milk=Homogenized Milk


Go missing=disappear


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).  

TomTom, 5 Little Pins, A Confusing Comic, and the Best Ice Cubes Ever

“I got this powdered water – now I don’t know what to add.”  Steven Wright.  

When Mike and I were driving home from Ottawa yesterday, we wound up smack-dab in the middle of two New Hampshire-plated TomTom mapping vehicles.  They had massive metal contraptions on their roofs that looked like 360 degree (I can’t find the “degree” symbol on my keyboard) cameras.  I, of course, had to wave frantically.  How often do you get to be a TomTom sandwich?

The vehicles looked just like this one that was spotted in Colchester, Vermont, which also has New Hampshire plates.  So, somewhere out there, in TomTom’s head office, someone is busily editing out the footage of the stupid red-headed girl frantically flapping her appendages at the green Toyota.  Isn’t that why they have big orange hands painted on them in the first place?  Aren’t they encouraging us to wave?

The great thing about waiting in the doctor’s office for an extended period of time is that I had a huge selection of magazines (albeit ones from several decades ago that sickly hospital hands have touched.  I hope you appreciate the perils I face in the name of knowledge).  Magazines are a great source of useless information.  And I thrive on useless information.  So, here’s what I found out:

1)  The first magazine I encountered was a ratty and aged edition of Canadian Living.  I’m almost certain that many Bubonic humans have coughed and sputtered all over this one.  This isn’t usually my type of fare, but I did manage to find a good pasta recipe (which I surreptitiously ripped out, folded into neat squares, and slipped into my purse).  Oops.  Did I do that?

With my trusty recipe in hand (or in purse), I soldiered on and learned something very interesting…Canadians have invented some pretty cool stuff.

Loyal readers were presented with a poll which contained a list of “5 Cool Canadian Inventions” and asked to vote on what their favourite was.  Here are the results:

1.  Zipper  (Without Canadians, the world would probably have Velcro flies and that would just be weird).

2.  Blackberry  (Sorry, but I’m not a fan of the whole “cell-phone-permanently-attached-to-the-face” craze, so this would be at the bottom of my list.  But it is nice that iPhones have some competition).

3.  Ski-Doo  (No surprise here).

4.  Walkie-Talkie  (The precursor to the cellphone.  Damn, we are to blame.)

5.  5-Pin Bowling  (I voted for this, but apparently, I am alone in my appreciation for this Canadian invention.  But, seriously, it’s way cool!  Smaller balls that fit nicely in little hands.  And, if you grew up on the Flintstones like I did, you will know that the 10-pin bowling ball can inflict all sorts of damage to your foot or to your best friend’s head.  Plus, it is way easier to keep score in the Canuck version.  Even I can manage adding up to 15).

2)  The next little gem comes to you care of Chatelaine magazine.  Again, this isn’t my favourite, but it also added some great recipes to my handbag.  Seriously, who could resist Chicken, Mango, & Brie Quesadillas?  Not this girl.

I have never been a fan of ice cubes.  If a beverage has been in the fridge, I will forego the ice cube every time.  It just makes your drink watery.  If I want a watery drink, I’ll drink water.

Turns out that everyone I know and every restaurant I have ever been to has been making ice all wrong.  To avoid flavour loss, you should make your ice out of the beverage that you will be putting it in.  Having a pitcher of ice tea?  Make ice cube with ice tea.  Who knew?  Like I said–no one.  Such an obvious solution too.

3)  One would think that a highbrow magazine like The New Yorker would be teeming with wonderful gems of knowledge.  Think again.  This magazine, for the most part, gave me a headache.  Seriously.

I remember an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine struggled to understand a New Yorker cartoon and even after a lengthy discussion with the other characters, she was unable to decipher it.  Well, I now completely empathize with her conundrum.  For the life of me, I don’t get the humour in the comic pictured here.  Okay, so a guy is walking a bowling ball and a woman is walking her pins…10 of them, I might add.  Is this “love is just around the corner?”  Maybe.  Is it funny?  No.  It feels like a feeble and unfunny attempt to enter the bizarre (but humorous) world of Larson’s The Far Side and makes me beg the question–what does it mean?  Will they fall in love?  Or will his bowling ball pound the crap out of her pins?  Please…can someone explain this to me?  Seriously, I didn’t understand a single cartoon in the entire magazine and I really want to comprehend just one.

P.S.  Does anyone know how to do a degree sign in Word?