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A Canadian grades the NYT's Canada Day expatriates

Dave Broadfoot[as found here]

Rick Moranis Really, Rick? Really? You used to be one of the deadliest satirists alive, now you can't recognize a sputum-covered cliché wriggling on the ground immediately after you've thrown it up? "We sing about the Queen, except we don't anymore! We have moose and beavers on our coins!" It's not even a moose, jagoff. Grade: D

David Rakoff "There is no contest about what I miss most about Canada. It is universal medical coverage. Just thinking about it, and its absence here, can send me into complete despair." Yeah, I got so upset I almost thought about packing my shit and going home so I wouldn't be in complete despair anymore. It's not like Canadian medicare is related to the risk-averseness, deference to authority, and cultural grayness that makes all the funny creative people leave, right? Grade: D

Sarah McNally "I miss the pride and simplicity of a national literature, which probably wouldn’t exist without government support." That's right. Without government support, nobody in Canada would ever write down words with any kind of attention to their order and meaning. Bonus demerits for "My expatriate sorrow is that the weather has become warmer and the government colder since I left." Everybody watch for Sarah's forthcoming novel, Cry, The Beloved Country (From A Suitable Distance). Grade: F

Melissa auf der Mar Student mentioned "Canadian mosaic": would recommend firing squad, but Miss auf der Mar's eternal Grade 7-ness is essential to her earning capacity and should not be discouraged. Grade: D

Sean Cullen "Back home, hockey highlights lead off SportsCenter. That is the height of civilization." A wholly correct, succinct statement. Grade: A-minus

Bruce McCall A trenchant, lively criticism of a civilization that cannot make sense of the Coffee Crisp chocolate bar. I don't eat them all that often myself, but it is nice to have the option for when I go off my usual feed of Caramilks. Grade: A

Malcolm Gladwell "What I miss most about Canada is getting the truth about the United States." Yeah, cute, but c'mon, Malcolm, it's not like every undergraduate in the lower 48 isn't given Howard Zinn along with their cafeteria meatloaf and chocolate milk. If Canada is the place where you get the truth about the U.S., where do I go to get barbed critical insights about Canada? St.-Pierre and Miquelon, maybe? Grade: C (with a circled "Could do better")

Kim Cattrall Nihil obstat. There's always one cheerleader on the squad who's just a little cleverer than the others. Grade: B

A.C. Newman Canada as land of excellent Asian food and terrible pizza. Now there's some news you can use if you're ever visiting (seriously, he's right on the money with this). Grade: A

Lisa Naftolin Did someone give you the idea that this was one of those six-word Hemingway competitions? Grade: Incomplete (see me after class)

Tim Long: "Why do we live here?" "Because it's where people love you." However, there is a magical land far to the south where even more attractive people will love you! Grade: B-minus


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Comments (29)

The answer to the question you tried to pose to Mr. Gladwell is, of course, the Parti Quebecois.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm not sure what planet Sarah McNally emigrated from, but in this country using the word "CanLit" is virtually GUARANTEED to mark you as a hopeless book-nerd.

I'm not famous, but I am a Canadian living in southern California, and have been for 5 years now. What do I miss about home?

1) I can go more than 5 minutes without having race issues tossed in my face. Slavery: the birth defect of the United States-ian republic. Compared to this constant oppressive background drone in US, the Canadian language and culture debates are refreshing in their honesty.
2) No Manifest Destiny.
3) A wider selection of junk food. This one surprised the heck out of me when I moved here. 30 million people in California and I can't buy an Eat-more!
4) I can tell how much paper money I have in my wallet at a glance. Yay for colour coding!
5) Agree on the asian food (there are several dozen restaurants of various cuisines in Vancouver I miss, including the Szechuan Chongqing and the Memphis Blues) and disagree on the pizza. United Statesians around here have this weird idea that pizza is best/only made in the Italian/New York style...any Vancouver resident should know that the Greek restaurants do a superior product (spinach and double feta pizza, yum!). I'm also told by a reliable source that there is excellent pizza in Calgary if you know where to look...but you wouldn't know anything about that.
6) I'm not going to go on about medical coverage except to note that in Canada I had to do far less paperwork with far less uncertainty. No matter how good your medical coverage here it's always a crapshoot if the insurance company will pay. My university has an excellent medical plan, and I've have had to pay for and fight about things that were supposed to be covered because of external factors. When the insurance works it's better care, but there is always the nagging question: are they going to pay this time?
7) I miss the rains and cloudy skies. This is more of a SoCal versus Vancouver problem than a USA problem but I do miss them.

Well, put it this way: in Edmonton I know lots of places to get a good pizza with various idiosyncratic virtues, but as far as I know nobody here has definitively mastered the NYC pizza qua pizza. Something about the terroir seems to militate against perfection in any baked product.

So, it's just that you can't get a a good NYC style thin crust pizza in Canada? This is hardly a solid case that there is no good pizza at all. Would you also say you can't get any good sandwiches at all in Canada because there are no good Philly cheesesteaks?

NYC thin crust style is the ur-style, but I would argue it is not the ultimate approach. Pizza is one of the foods that is subject to a great deal of regional variation and it's simplicity is fodder for much invention. Locally, I go with Chicago style deep dish when I can find it as I find the thin cracker crust of classic NYC pizza tasteless.

Kevin K:

Growing up in Texas, my public school teachers were always pretty clear that the state and country were started by "ungrateful tax cheats." I'm not sure why he would focus on that. Maybe they say something different in NY.

I do remember my Texas History teacher telling us that LBJ didn't run in 1968 because of his health and it definitely had absolutely nothing to do with the Vietnam war. I think she might of been bending the truth on that one.


I thought Kim Cattrall made a little more sense when she was howling at the moon in Porky's.

It's not just NY style pizza that's lackluster. Anybody who's eaten deep dish pizza in Chicago can tell you of the experience. Then you try out "Chicago Deep Dish" pizza here and discover that its a pale comparison at best.

This is what deep dish looks like


Canada = land of excellent Asian Food!?

Uh, crappy, Cantonese buffet does not qualify as excellent Asian food to anyone who's ever traversed the International Date Line.

Half Canadian:

To second John Dougan, having lived in Canada through 19, and in the states since 21:

1) I whole heartedly agree on the race issue. I don't care whose ancestors enslaved your ancestors. Given that my ancestors were busy killing, raping, maiming, pillaging each other, I like to think that there comes a time when you give it a rest and move on.
2) Agree on the junk food. I'm stuck shelling out an American green back for Aero bars.
3) British spellings. Because you shouldn't mess with the Queen's English.
4) Proper hockey coverage. If you don't have cable, you just don't get it.
5) The Canadian debt level. I've considered moving back to Canada to avoid repaying Obama's spending.

What I don't miss?
1) The inferiority complex. Yes, the USA is a nation of consequence. Canada is not. If you want to matter on the world state, you have to get your hands dirty. That means having a military you can project, an economy that dominates something, and an ideology that is appealing. The HRC prosecutions aren't helping with the latter.
2) The libertine attitude toward social issues except when the consequences are due. If someone screws up their life, it is not the government's job to make it right again. (Yes, this is prevalent in much of the USA, but I live in a red state).
3) Can-content laws. Much of the Canadian programming was crap. If I find American media appealing, I want it. If Canadians want to compete, and they can (Natalie McMaster is great in concert), they need to produce superior content.
4) Quebec secessionists. Need I say more?

Uh, crappy, Cantonese buffet does not qualify as excellent Asian food to anyone who's ever traversed the International Date Line.

Apparently you skipped past Canada to get there? Because anybody who thinks "Asian food" in this country is still limited to dives of the sort Lester Bangs characterized as "kantoneez" needs to spend more time and energy looking around (and by "more" I mean "absolutely any").


Apparently you skipped past Canada to get there? Because anybody who thinks "Asian food" in this country is still limited to dives of the sort Lester Bangs characterized as "kantoneez" needs to spend more time and energy looking around (and by "more" I mean "absolutely any").

I think it's a fair estimate that ~ 75% of Canadian restaurants offering Asian cuisine could be classified as kantoneez.

I have heard some very good things about Basho in St. John's. I can tell you that Minato in Halifax offers a decent Bip Em Bap. Kinh-Do, also in Halifax, had pretty good pho. Sadly, that establishment is no more. Calgary's Silver Dragon has good dim sum. These and a number of other places are serviceable, but none of them, in my opinion, excellent, i.e. of a quality comparable to restaurants offering similar fare in Asia.

Canada has a lot to recommend it, but I'm not sure this includes a significant number of high-quality Asian restaurants. I don't mind being proved wrong & would appreciate receiving recommendations of any "excellent" Asian restaurants in Canada.

I think you're really, really missing the point if your definition of "excellent" involves comparing Thai restaurants in Winnipeg to Thai restaurants in Thailand.


I don't think so - excellent loses meaning if it describes a standard that varies depending on the geographical location.

I think it can be argued that Canada has a select number of adequate Asian restaurants, but IMO, A.C. Newman was getting a little carried away.

Let's not get too down on the dives, either. After all, we are the country that invented ginger beef.

Homer Eaton:

Mmm. Ginger beef.


Ya know, if you go and read the article, A.C. Newman says only that Vancouver has good Asian food and bad pizza. I've never even tried pizza in Vancouver, but I agree with the first claim. And hey, there are many bad Japanese restaurants in Japan, so no one's perfect.


The best Thai food I've ever eaten was in Calgary. The cheapest, most consistent, and generally good thai food I've eaten was in Thailand. But not the best.

keith campbell:

Um. Phil. Wake up buddy. Off the top of my head
Edmo: Golden Rice Bowl
Wpg: Kum Koon.
T-dot: jeezus where do you begin. go to any strip mall in richmond hill, markham or agincourt. Lake Tai Safood and Bayview Garden were my old faves. Downtown, Dynasty in Yorkville was pretty good. and the mighty LAI WAH HEEN if one wants to splash out.
Vancouver I don't know well, but am dying to go to the Szechuan Chonqing.
I live in the UK now and miss Canadian dim sum, cheap korean food and the god of all sushi, Kaji of Toronto, desperately.


Gladwell gets his truth about the US from Canadians?

Which version of the truth does he prefer: the adolescent insecurity or the sniffy condescension?

The truly remarkable thing about Canadian perspectives of the US is that we are able to adopt both versions simultaneously.

Fred S.:


Wait, what you miss about Canada is the *absence* of racial strife? Did you fellows leave Canada in the sixties? Did you previously live in the Maritimes?

The only thing that can be said about Canada is that it is, for better or for worse, home. An ex-pat cannot, by definition, say this; he would be better advised to keep shtum.

Of course, one of the most obnoxious things about Canada is our masochistic eagerness to suffer the criticism of foreigners.

Half Canadian:


I grew up in Alberta in the 70s and 80s. I live in a state that's almost as white as Alberta was during this time.

There is no comparison between the U.S. now and Canada then for the issue of race.

On the flip side, there is no comparison between the U.S. and Canada on the issue of language.


Wasn't Gladwell being ironic? Or does he not have a single ironic bone in his body? I have great respect for his earlier writing, before he decided to turn everything into blinks. It seems to me that the "ungrateful tax cheats" line is good Gladwell, the one who writes about ketchup.

And the pizza in this country is farking horrid. As well as any middlebrow cuisine. I wake up in the morning with a dream of Zachary's pizza (Oakland CA), Chipotle, Panera, and In-n-Out all piled in front of me. And then I weep, quietly, so as not to wake my sleeping wife. Who loves her In-n-Out shakes.


All I know about Boston Pizza is what I've seen on the boards during televised NHL games. How does it compare with the big US pizza chains?

Boston Pizza is fairly good, really, but for a $35 large pizza it damned well better be. They have an annoying habit of putting the toppings on top of the cheese, which in practise means if you tip your pizza more than 5ºoff level while moving it into your mouth all of the toppings land on the floor. They remain one of the few places on earth you can get a perogy pizza or a clubhouse pizza, but they got rid of that one with ranch dressing and tobassco sauce for which I have still not forgiven them.

BP's is more of a sports pub/restaurant chain than a "pizza joint" though. You may find it operating in the western US under the "Boston's" brand name for reasons nobody really undertands.

Lord Bob:

I've grown up in an environment (Edmonton, actually) where the badness of pizza was an essential part of its charm. I still wake up at five in the morning here on Vancouver Island dreaming of calling Pizza 73 and getting two greasy-to-the-point-of-sliminess pepperoni-mushrooms delivered in a box the height of a phone book.

Now, back home in Victoria I know a place that makes excellent pizza with a variety of toppings at a good price and that employs remarkably cute delivery women. But it's not the same.

Just as you're much better off in the States than Canada if you depend on chain-store burgers (and another step better still on the right coast, because In-'n'-Out is overrated compared to Five Guys), Edmonton is now actually a good place to be if you're a suburban prisoner of chain pizza--distinctly better than Toronto, as far as I can tell. Boston makes greasy, hearty pub pizzas that are at least one grade above the Hut/Caesars/Dominos class, Panago has some even more sophisticated treats like the Primo Capicollo, and the supra-cheesy pies from Royal are an incommensurable pleasure unto themselves. Plus the Funky Pickle's got that left-field menu with all the unusual (but fresh) toppings.

But, again, in Edmonton, you will not have, and are not likely to live to see, the NYC thing where you KNOW you're walking distance from a hot fresh slice of simple, subtly seasoned, exquisitely textured pizza that is just world-class all around in the crust, tomatoes, and cheese departments.

At least now one of the essayists seems to have disagreed with his grade:

Mr. Cosh's original comment on my initial words about universal health care were sent to me by a friend a couple of weeks back. And now, with Mr. Steyn's longer exegesis, my response still remains a baffled, "Huh?" This connection being drawn between universal health care and some sort of abrogation of one's independent bravery would have to be ten times stronger to be merely tenuous. It's precisely the garbage that conservatives have been feeding to the hapless Fox News watchers for years now. It was the false logic behind the Thomas Frank "What's the Matter With Kansas" model where millions of people voted against their own interests, enriching people and structures who care nothing about them, and living one paycheck away from complete destitution, often due to some catastrophic illness. There's nothing admirable about that. Life is not made more interesting by fighting with insurance companies (believe me), or allowing a condition to go untreated until it's critical. The framing of the argument as some kind of courageous defense of a masculinized authenticity couldn't be more tired or, frankly, more Glenn Beck Talking Points lemming-like. The majority of Americans no longer even believe it. To use a south-of-the-49th-parallel expression, "That dog won't hunt."

As for the mass migration of Canada's "funny and creative" people being somehow symptomatic of a society that takes care of its own, again, I don't see the connection. I moved to New York more than half my life ago, at age 17, long before I was either funny or creative (unless you count such childish examples as armpit farts and spray-painted macaroni). The challenges of the city have undoubtedly shaped my character and helped me become the person and writer I am. But--and I safely say that I speak for every funny, creative person I know, Canadian, dual, or otherwise--I'd still rather have reliable government-issued insurance, just like every Republican senator and congressman has.

That would be David Rakoff replying to Steyn's MacLeans article on this post, of course. The "huh" makes it slightly unclear if he gets what part of his NYT blurb is so ripe for parody.


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