Cans of Hires root beer “with vodka” is the kind of fun variation one would expect from Canada. But what the heck is “Mott’s Clamato Caesar — The Works with Horseradish”?
There is so much to unpack there. Why is Mott’s making an alcoholic drink? Why did they choose to add clam juice? What the blazes is a Caesar when it’s not a salad, an emperor or a gruesome method of having babies? Why doesn’t “The Works” already include horseradish?
For all that, it basically tastes like a Bloody Mary in a can. Then I find the “Pickled Bean” version, and nothing in my world makes sense anymore. I spend an afternoon trying to imagine the marketing meeting.
Canada is full of chip trucks, and when I finally have a piping hot, heaping cup of vinegar-soaked fries, they do not disappoint. Most chip trucks also serve lots of other things.
The candy bars of Canada are a delight. There is more variety; the Canadians are not afraid of flavors. The Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut is a staple, and while you can get those in the U.S., they only come in the jumbo-size supermarket aisle format, not a regular candy bar size. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the great candy bars of Earth, raisins and almonds in fine milk chocolate. The closest we have is the Chunky, a fine candy bar but considered second tier in America, plus Chunky replaces almonds with peanuts (“dirt-nuts”) since apparently almonds are only for liberal elites.
“Mr. Big” is another favorite. It’s essentially a vanilla wafer center, wrapped in a Rice Crispy treat and dipped in chocolate. Yes, it’s a “kitchen sink” approach, but so good.
The “Big Turk” is great, with a Turkish Delight center (close to raspberry) wrapped in chocolate. The “Wunderbar” is peanut butter, caramel and chocolate, like a Twix without the cookie, which makes it more substantial.
The “Cherry Blossom” is a big, gooey chocolate-covered cherry with nuts in a square cardboard box. Sure, we’ve all had chocolate-covered cherries before, but I challenge you to find one in a checkout line.
The “Eat-More” was a sleeper hit for me. Despite its aggressively blunt name, it’s a very satisfying bar of peanuts embedded in a dark, soft toffee.
Canada also has Aero Bars and Flakes, proof that not only are they interested in flavors, but textures as well.
Even American brands are willing to take more risks in Canada. Kit Kat is on the candy bar equivalent of spring break in Canada, apparently doing tequila shots and ready to try anything: “Mint Creme and Cookie Smash,” “Espresso Biscuit and Ganache,” and, confoundingly, “Orange.” Regrettably, I didn’t try all of these, but I did have a “Kit Kat Chunky New York Cheesecake” and am sad to say that it tasted like a motel.
None of which prepared me for the Green Tea Kit Kat. I saw the green and thought it must be a refreshing mint, then the words came into focus and reality melted away. Green Tea Kit Kat is full on alternate-timeline stuff, a sign that you’ve slid into a place where the old rules no longer work, and that you should check the sky for war blimps.
Cross the border into the U.S., and all of these things disappear, as if the people 100 miles down the road really have completely different tastes. I hate the candy bar cartels.
Anchorage, Alaska has a coffee shack in every parking lot, something we don’t have in the east, and they do a booming business. People roar up in their trucks to buy all the coffee or Red Bull smoothies they need to get through the next x hours of unnatural light-or-dark. Almost none of the coffee shacks are chains, or if they are then they’re not recognizable to me.
In Seward, Alaska I have a reindeer burrito (Reindeer are just the farmable caribou, so basically the nice caribou.). I’d like to say that it was amazing, but it tasted mostly like hot dogs. Reindeer, like many of the wilder meats, has very little fat, so the meat gets mixed with the fat of another animal and and made into sausages.
Back in Canada, I discover “Tiger, Tiger” ice cream, which is orange ice cream with licorice swirls. It feels emblematic: it’s bold, delicious, incorporates licorice (another flavor America is trying to forget in our rush-to-homogeneity), and is, I guess, named after a William Blake poem?
“The Tyger” by William Blake
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?