Robertson Screws: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Did you know that Canada has a screw that’s mostly unique to our country?  It’s called the Robertson screw] or “square-head” screw.

First manufactured in Milton, Ontario (where my aunt and uncle lived when I was a child) in 1908 and patented in 1909, the fastener remains named after its inventor, P.L. Robertson.

Robertson screws look like this:

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And they look like that because Mr. Robertson cut his hand using a spring-loaded screwdriver and decided to design a safer screw.

Of course, there’s also a screwdriver.

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You can find Robertson screws and screwdrivers in the United States, but sparingly.  Apparently Mr. Robertson did try to pitch his great new invention to a company in Buffalo, NY, but gave up after they couldn’t come to an agreement.  His screws were then used in the manufacturing of Canadian Ford cars and the savings incurred were noticed by Ford Motor Company in Detroit.  However, Henry Ford wanted ownership on decisions about how the screws were used and Mr. Robertson didn’t want to let that power go.  So – today, Robertson screws and screwdrivers are mostly a Canadian ‘thing’.

 

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Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

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Poutine: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

WPhat!?!?  What is this crazy word you speak of?

Poutine is definitely a Canadian food.  I know what you’re thinking.  There’s no such thing as Canadian food.  Even U.S. National Security Advisor Stu Smiley (played by Kevin Pollock) in the movie Canadian Bacon said “First of all, there is no Canadian culture. I’ve never read any Canadian literature. And when have you ever heard anyone say, “Honey, lets stay in and order Canadian food”?”

Poutine is so Canadian, I’ve seen attempts at recreating it here in the U.S. and they have all failed.

Poutine is a French Canadian dish consisting of french fries, cheese curds (squeaky cheese) and gravy. Few dispute the fact that poutine came from Quebec, however many communities in Quebec believe that theirs is the birthplace of the dish.

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Source: Papa Mario’s, Halifax NS

Here in the states, I’ve seen poutine made with shredded mozzarella, and every Canadian I know would tell you that is simply blasphemous.  It has to be curds.  And it has to be brown gravy.

Personally, the best poutine can be found in Kingston, Ontario at a place called Bubba’s Poutine and Pizzeria. Kingston is a college town, with St. Lawrence College, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College giving the downtown core constant attendance. Day and night.  Bubba’s is known as a late night drunk snack stop.  People travel past Bubba’s on their way home from the Ontario Street clubs.  And they pick up what – at three o’clock in the morning – seems like the most amazing food in the world!

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Here’s a recipe if you want to make it yourself:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79300/real-poutine/.

In Newfoundland, there is another dish that is equally as delicious, but has its own twist:  Fries, dressing and gravy.  Instead of cheese curds, they use savoury turkey stuffing!  So delicious!

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Source: Stuffed at the Gill’s Food Blog: http://stuffedatthegills.blogspot.com

O Canada: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Our national anthem!!!!  Of course!!

‘O Canada’ came about in 1880 as a song for Saint-Jean-Baptiste day celebrations.  In French!!!  The English version wasn’t created until 1906.  I honestly thought the English version came first!  I’m learning stuff about my own country doing this challenge! We have sung ‘O Canada’ as our national anthem since 1939 but not officially until 1980 by an Act of Parliament and Royal Assent.

Today we sing it almost always as a combination of French and English.  Here are the lyrics:

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Of course though, the lyrics aren’t always so clear.  Most of my American colleagues only know the first two words and tune of the anthem, and also take it upon themselves to sing said two words to Canadians whenever they see us Canadians.  So now, I continue the song for them!  They sing “O Canada….”  and I sing back “something, something, something!”

Because I love creativity, here’s the song as sung in English by four…. of the same guy.  It slightly creeps me out that he’s looking and smiling at himself while he sings, but it’s a great rendition!

While the U.S. has specific rules regarding the playing and singing of their national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner‘, there are no specific rules regarding how the ‘O Canada’ should be performed. Unofficial etiquette is to start or end any ceremonies with the song, men remove their hats and military members come to attention and salute the flag.

Both countries are obviously extremely proud of their national anthems.  And we know how important they are to each other.  In November 2014, the microphone cut out during the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during a Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Nashville Predators hockey game, prompting the entire crowd to complete the song, Canadians and Americans alike. Not long after, to repay the favour, Nashville Predators fans sang the Canadian National anthem at a home game in the U.S.A.!

 

Nickel: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Canada is famous for a number of “World’s Largest” attractions. They can be found everywhere from coast to coast, and some are rather impressive!  In Colborne, Ontario, there is a Big Apple you can see from the highway; Vegreville, Alberta hosts the second largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg) in the world; the winner of the Guinness Book of World Records for largest hockey stick is in Duncan, British Columbia; and the world’s largest fiddle at the Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia. These are only a few of these gigantic monuments in Canada!

I don’t know why we like to build big stuff. I suspect it has to do with the fact that there are is a lot of rural space between large Canadian cities and most have been built along major roadways (mostly The TransCanada Highway) as ways to bring tourist dollars into these small towns.

Heck, even the capital has an enormous spider. But in this case, I believe it’s “art”.

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When I was younger I went to Sudbury and got to visit the Big Nickel. The main attraction is a 30 foot-tall replica of a Canadian five cent coin.

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There was also a nickel mine tour, which we got to experience by travelling underground in a cage elevator and learn about mining. We could even send a postcard to ourselves from inside the mine.

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So, all this time (almost 30 years) I thought I visited a real nickel mine.  Imagine my disappointment when I read about the Big Nickel today for this blog post! Apparently, the Big Nickel was conceived by a fireman named Ted Szilva in 1963, who proposed a giant nickel, a mine and a mining centre to commemorate Canada’s Centennial in response to a public contest.

His idea was shot down, but Szilva decided he was going to do it anyway.  He bought land, fought city councillors, sold mail-order coins, and persisted with his dream.  Finally, the Big Nickel was unveiled in July of 1964, followed by the model mine in 1965.  The mine saw 100,000 visitors a year, and combined a roadside attraction with an educational experience.  I was twelve when I visited the mine, and the experience is one of those that I still remember.

Maple: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is an easy one.  Because everyone thinks Canada just consists of a country full of maple trees and we douse everything in maple syrup! Vermont wanted it, but we branded ourselves first! (Take that Vermont).

My American colleagues always ask for two things whenever I travel back to Canada.

These:                                                        And these:

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The Americans call the cookies “Canadian Crack”. They absolutely love them.  The thing I find so funny about the hard maple candies is that it’s not something we buy or eat in Canada.  You can pretty much only find them in souvenir shops and in airports. Because of that, they’re DRASTICALLY overpriced.

But… it’s true, we do love our maple syrup.  Maple syrup is not just for pancakes.  It is a healthier alternative for sweeteners as well. I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, so I’ll let you google and make your own determination. There are some conflicting points out there regarding replacing other sweeteners with maple syrup, especially for diabetics. The consensus seems to be that if you are a generally healthy person, maple syrup can be a better (and tastier)choice.

So. I’d like to share a little story about the Sugar Bush.  Every eastern Canadian kid went to the Sugar Bush for a school field trip when they were growing up. This is where we learned where maple syrup comes from, and then, of course, we get to roll the syrup on a stick in the snow. And eat it.

The sap is tapped out of the maple tree usually from about March to April and then boiled down and evaporated in a Sugar Shack, creating syrup! Here’s a little video explaining the process 😉

Loonie: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Are Canadians crazy?  Or “loonie”? Why would they call a piece of currency, the “Loonie”?  or the “toonie” for that matter?

Well let’s start this one by reminding you  about the common loon, which is very common in Canada. Loons are freshwater aquatic birds (also called ‘Divers’ in Europe – probably because they dive for their food) and are very distinct with their black and white patterns. The common loon is the official bird of the Canadian province of Ontario. Their call is unmistakable.

So, since the loon is so common in Canada, it’s not surprising that Canadians would decorate their money with one! Back in 1987, we decided to do away with the one-dollar bill and replace it with a gold-coloured coin. The dollar disappeared from circulation two years after the coin was introduced.

So, aside from the obvious (a coin with a loon on it), how did the Canadian one-dollar coin become known as the “loonie”? The Royal Canadian Mint says that the coin was “instantly dubbed the ‘loonie’ after the solitary coin that graces the coin’s reverse side”, but does anyone know who gets credited for first calling it the loonie?

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I looked into this. But had some difficulty finding a firm answer.  At the beginning, it was called “Mulroney’s loonie” after the serving Prime Minister at the time, or the “Mul-loonie”.  I couldn’t find anything directing me to the exact source of the name, however whoever it was came up with an idea that spread like wildfire, without the help of social media!

But!  The Canadian one-dollar coin almost never became the ‘loonie’!  Originally, the coin was to have the same design as a previous 1956 dollar coin – two voyageurs in a canoe. The master dies for this coin were lost in transit on their way from Ottawa to Winnipeg in 1986 (what’s interesting is that the Royal Canadian Mint sent the dies via letter-carrier instead of an armoured service in order to save about $44 on the shipment!). Fearing counterfeiting, the Canadian Government quickly authorized a new design, the loon by Robert-Ralph Carmichael.

To this day, the original dies have never been located.

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