In the last few weeks, we’ve experienced the cliff notes of a whirlwind tour of Europe. We came up a little short of the goal last time. However, today we’ll jump right back into the race around the world in 80 tins, because I have LOTS of Canadian classics in my collection to tell you about. Call it a Canadiana show.
“‘Tis fine to see the Old World and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.
So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again and there I long to be…”
–Henry Van Dyke, America for Me
It might surprise some of you to learn that Canadians and Mexicans and Chileans all consider themselves Americans, because they live on the American continent. In fact, while schoolchildren in Chile know that “North” America exists, they don’t consider it a separate continent.
So here we’re crossing the Atlantic to Canada, sailing along the Saint Lawrence Seaway and up the Great Lakes to southern Ontario.
Tin number 59 is a white lidded box of Laura Secord bonbons–Canadian classics–featuring a single red rose and a cameo of the famous lady herself. Who was Laura Ingersoll Secord? Long before the candy company was established in 1913, she was a heroine of Canadian history.
“To be complex does not mean to be fragmented. This the paradox and the genius of our Canadian civilization.” –Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson
Though some Americans would call her a Tory traitor, I don’t believe that’s the whole truth. Her father, Captain Ingersoll, was a solid New England patriot who fought in the Revolutionary War. Sometime later, his duties took him to the (rather fluid) border near Niagara Falls, and there his daughter met and married a Canadian. (Some small similarities to my own story prick up my ears here.)
After her husband stumbled home wounded following a border skirmish at the outbreak of the War of 1812, Laura hiked 20 miles through hostile territory to warn the Canadian militia of an impending attack.
Did she do the right thing? I can’t judge, but I suspect, in her position, I might have chosen the same. Hers wasn’t the first international marriage to ever create a conflict of loyalties. Thank God, the 49th parallel forms the world’s longest undefended border these days.
Although speaking of…
Crossing the Border
Getting home to Canada seems to present a trickier challenge all the time. The Embassy emails us the latest and increasingly strict pandemic regulations each week. Looks like it’ll be a while before we see a real number 60, the red-and-white Maple Leaf flag.
“My best advice to writers is to get yourself born in an interesting place.” ―Pierre Berton, Canadian historian
This tin’s another Laura Secord candy box. Did I mention that fudge from Belfast last week? I really have to take that back about it being the best. NOTHING beats the leaf-shaped maple fudge I gobbled out of that Laura Secord tin.
Is anything more quintessential Canadian than maple? My father-in-law used to collect the sap in his backyard. And on our last trip to Canada, we helped a Dutch farmer friend boil down his maple syrup and then poured it on our breakfast pancakes. The bottle we brought back to Chile didn’t last too long!
Turtles and Tim’s
Number 61 of my Canadian classics, a rectangular Turtles tin, reminds me of Christmas in Canada. In fact, this is probably a Christmas keepsake. Although early factory employees thought the candy—a pecan smothered in caramel and chocolate—looked like a turtle, the dapper creature in tuxedo and top hat on the box—not so much. But I love the snowy blue-green woods scene in the background. And the treats inside… “Je vous aime!”
Number 62, Our/Nos Compliments also offers another reminder that we’re in bilingual Canada. This holiday assortment of foil-wrapped chocolates sells at the Superstore, a Canadian grocery chain that you’ll find pretty much coast to coast.
“Just think what a dull world it would be if everyone was sensible.” –L. M. Montgomery
Numbers 63A and B come from a Canadian icon. Our first and last stop on any road trip. The only place in the world where you can say, “Let’s go to Tim’s,” and nobody asks, “Tim who?” At my house, I use these Tim Hortons lidded canisters to hold…coffee, what else? A’s just the size and color of an extra-large double-double.
And B features a charming reproduction of an old-time coffee shop where everybody in town–from schoolkids to housewives, pastors to plumbers—gathers to hang out. Maybe not so old-time, after all. No police officers in sight, though, hmm.
Ice skating and hockey, two of the most Canadian of pastimes, pop up on number 64. This yet another Tim Hortons tin shows a beautiful print of a children’s hockey game at an outdoor rink. The coffee company gives back to local communities through sponsorship of its kids’ teams, called Timbits (their name for donut holes). I well remember the cheers one night, at a particularly aggressive minor-league game in Ontario, when the Timbits wobbled onto the ice during intermission. No mashing, bashing, or smashing, just kids learning sports, making friends, and having fun. That’s refreshing…and delightful.
“We’re strong believers in peacekeeping. Except on the ice.” –Canada Crossroads Quotes and Puns
Now, moving on…
From Coffee to Tea
Whenever I visit my sister in Connecticut, she begs, “Bring me some Canadian tea.” For her, that means the iconic brands from Saint John or Sussex, NB. Ever since the Boston Tea Party, we New Englanders tend to reserve tea for the sick, so the best tea available generally hails from across the border. I drank my first-ever cup while on my honeymoon and thought it tasted…well, to be frank, dreadful. However, the fine china at tea parties soon converted me.
And so did number 65, one of our Canadian classics, King Cole Tea. A church in Sussex, famous for its historical murals about town, gifted us this 125th-anniversary limited-edition canister that features three murals of its own, each framed under carved wooden arches. The first shows Old King Cole himself, in an ermine robe, drinking—tea, what else? The others have a vintage map of the Maritime Provinces and a dock-scape (probably on the St. John River) of tea chests offloaded to an oxcart.
“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” –Catherine Douzel
Another friend in Chile requested number 66, a sleek and simple navy-and-white tin of organic Cream of Earl Grey. Apparently, DavidsTea is another exclusive Canadian product, highly desirable among tea snobs of the world. My husband drinks Earl Grey nearly every evening. I…well, I like the tin.
I cherish another world-renowned Canadian icon in a duo of small, lidded boxes, number 67A and B. They highlight scenes from the Anne of Green Gables books, Canadian classics by Lucy Maud Montgomery (in pale green, of course!). I think I picked them up just off Confederation Bridge, Prince Edward Island, as end-of-season memorabilia from the 100th anniversary of the first book’s publication. Like thousands (or millions?) of tourists from around the globe, I too was making one of my as-often-as-possible pilgrimages to PEI.
“When we imagine we have finished our story, fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter.” –L. M. Montgomery
Talk about opening a door that gives joy to the world. Anne Shirley, the irrepressible orphaned heroine of the series, has remained one of my all-time favorite story characters since childhood, when my grandmother lent me her books. (Oh, to possess those 1908 first editions, no?) This was long before the 1985 CBC TV mini-series. And long before Anne soared to near-goddess status in Japan.
As we take a ferry across to Nova Scotia, it may surprise you to learn, if you don’t know already, that Anne was a Bluenose, although she preferred to be known as an Island girl. However, I’m glad to claim my oldest daughter’s a Bluenose, too—a native-born Nova Scotian. The moniker, I discovered, has nothing to do with tiny tin number 68, which pictures the Bluenose, another of our Canadian classics.
This racing and fishing schooner, built in Lunenburg, NS, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sails each summer promoting provincial goodwill. But Nova Scotians have apparently been nicknamed Bluenoses (or Bluenosers) since the late 18th century, either because their noses got blue in the winter cold (not particularly original, right?) OR (and I like this story better) because everybody ate their herring with a mottled purplish-blue potato variety once common in the wonderful Annapolis Valley…
Which would you vote for?
Last but not least for today’s tour is another mini tin, number 69, featuring the Masstown Market in Debert, NS. A friend left it for me when she visited Chile after the earthquake in 2010. It probably held mints, but I wished she’d brought some Scotsburn ice cream along in her suitcase, too. And their seafood chowder and sugar donuts are to die for, my friend. Once a country farm stand, Masstown Market is now a go-to place for Truro area locals—and a planned pit-stop for others traveling through the hub of Nova Scotia.
“It’s not what the world holds for you. It is what you bring to it.” –L. M. Montgomery
I intended this post to be a grand finale to the tale of the Traveling Tins. No kidding. And I could write plenty more about Canadian classics, too, but we still have a few more stops before we make it back to Chile. So let’s leave the “True North, strong and free” and head south of the border next week.