Canadians have long been regarded as country cousins by their counterparts in the States: Molson-swilling, hockey-watching roughnecks who go inexplicably dewy-eyed at the first acoustic guitar notes of a Gordon Lightfoot ballad. As is often the case, the truth is somewhat more complex. Vancouver novelist and Renaissance man Douglas Coupland explores what makes Canada, Canada in the aptly titled Souvenir of Canada, a book of essays and photographs of our neighbo(u)r to the north. Bit by bit, Coupland reveals a Canada that, rather than being a lackluster imitation of the U.S., is instead a somewhat bizarre parallel universe where folks routinely breakfast on Capitaine Crounch, season their French fries with vinegar (white vinegar at that), and drive with their headlights on at all hours of the day.

In a comical vignette about a Canadian staple, Coupland observes: "Cheese, in fact, plays a weirdly large dietary role in the lives of Canadians, who have a more intimate and intense relationship with Kraft food products than the citizens of any other country. . . . In particular, Kraft macaroni and cheese, known simply as Kraft Dinner, is the biggie, probably because it so precisely laser-targets the favoured Canadian food groups: fat, sugar, starch and salt." (Having grown up in Canada, this reviewer can attest to these preferences. In fact, my mother's first attempt at making spaghetti utilized Kraft Dinner and ketchup; it was about as heinous as it sounds.)

Souvenir of Canada is a clever and engaging book, a treat for Canadian and outlander alike. Stay tuned for Souvenir of Canada 2, coming soon to a bookseller near you, eh?

 

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