August 30, 2009

Slightly West of Shakespeare

Shakespeare in the park. In his park, actually.

Thus far, I've touched on the periphery--the swine, the poutine, and the death of a small Canadian town--but not the real reason for our trip to Southwestern Ontario.

No, this wasn't the reason.

We came for the theater/re. Every summer, the cultured Canadian (and non-Canadian) masses flock to this quant, small town for Shakespeare, etc. Being the ugly, uncultured ducking among the masses, I was a bit nervous. I've struggled with the bit of Shakespeare that I've been exposed to: the plot and themes are interesting, but I've always found the language really hard to follow. LSB, on the other hand, was raised on the stuff.

Throughout her childhood, her family would pack up the car and drive close to 7 hours across the border and over Lake Ontario, to Stratford for the annual Shakespeare Festival.

Signets upon Avon

To better prepare myself, I Googled my way through various plot synopses of the plays we planned to attend--Shakespeare and others--and printed out my own Cliff's Notes prior to the trip. I had read and seen (in movie form), The Importance of Being Earnest. I had recently seen a peformance of another Chekhov play, The Seagull, so I felt relatively prepared for Three Sisters. However, I was frightened by the Scottish play.

and Canadian Food

We spent a pleasant few days wandering around Stratford, eating frozen yogurt and poutine, lingering in Shakespeare's Garden, sitting by the river (Avon, of course), eating delicious meals, and going to plays.

Tower of calf's liver

All of the plays were quite good, although MacBeth was a bit non-traditional and pretty intense, as it was set in the violent Africa in the mid-20th century. While I didn't completely solve my Shakespeare problem (I found myself seriously considering the "Shakespeare for Dummies" book in the festival gift shop), I found I could follow what was going on, for the most part. Though, I imagine that Shakespeare's original version of the play didn't have as many explosions or machine gun fire.

August 19, 2009

Pork, etc.

The pig directs. We abide.

A few kilometers outside of Stratford, hugging the intersection of Perth Road 107 and Highways 7 & 8, lies the hamlet of Shakespeare, Ontario. There are two things that you notice immediately while driving through this tiny town amidst fields, barns and silos in rural South Western Ontario. The first is the imminent demise of the town itself (and, subsequently, the death of a delightful pun). The second is a giant pig.

Giant Pig

Regarding the former, large yellow "X's" were taped on the sides of buildings and trees that line the road through town and "Save Shakespeare" signs were posted about, protesting future plans to widen the highway, which would effectively eliminate a significant portion of this quaint town full of antique shops and old homes in various states of disrepair.

The sign says it all, I think

And the latter, the giant pig, marks the gateway into a wonderland of pork (and lamb, too). Set on a farm with cows, rabbits, pigs, and sheep, The Best Little Pork Shoppe is a small store with a big sign, and variety of (mostly) pork products available to satisfy your meatiest desires.

Unfortunately, we didn't buy anything, as we forgot our cooler and LSB prefers not to travel long distances with warm meat.


Adjacent to T.B.L.P.S. is the "Perth County Welcome Centre and Artisan Market" which sells a little bit of everything and a lot of local kitsch, but not the awesome refrigerator magnet I was looking for.

We missed the "li_e demos" of "sausage on a bun"

If the yellow "X's" along the road are a harbinger of Shakespeare's ominous future, then maybe the giant pig speaks to its delicious, yet fleeting present.

Shakespeare is for pork-lovers

Or perhaps it's just a giant pig by the side of the highway. Regardless, I bought a T-shirt.

August 13, 2009

A Joyful Amalgamation

a perfect union

french fries, cheese curds, and gravy

oh poutine, what joy!

The Holy Grail is made of styrofoam

I feel it is somehow important to elaborate on my haiku and say a few words about the wonderous Quebecois creation known as poutine: a mouthwatering medley of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds.

I've always been an avid supporter of the humble potato and a bonafide cheese enthusiast. And gravy? Gosh, who doesn't like their food bathed in thick savory sauce!? Ever since I was first introduced to this dish by LSB, who grew up a few miles/kilometers from Quebec, I have been mildly obsessed with it (we even made poutine T-shirts...). Recent visits to Canada have turned into personal poutine crusades that produced mediocre results: edible, but uninspiring pub-poutine or, worse, no poutine at all. LSB had taken to giving me words of encouragement: "don't worry, we'll get it next time we're in Canada."

My luck changed a week ago, when a friendly Canadian handed us a take-out menu while we sat by the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario. It was lunchtime and Boomer's Gourmet Fries was just up the street. Small and unassuming, both inside and out, Boomer's welcomed us with a giant, chalkboard menu and a friendly greeting from the spiky-haired, heavily tatooed woman at the counter.

The key to the magic within

While the others ordered the more traditional "2 Cheese Poutine," LSB and I couldn't resist the "Goat Cheese Poutine" (with gravy, basil oil, and cracked pepper). Pure potato-based deliciousness. It was like eating happiness with a plastic fork. My only complaint is that there wasn't any bacon on the menu, though I can only imagine that the "Poutini Martini" is a little glass of heaven.

Are you ogling my poutine, punk?

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