Becoming a Canadian

After we moved to Calgary, I searched somewhat intently for ‘things’ that distinguished Americans from Canadians. Cultural differences, if you will.

It was more difficult than I expected, because the ‘differences’ weren’t glaringly obvious to me. The amenities seemed basically the same: chain shopping (Gap, Old Navy, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Wal-Mart) and chain restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Taco Bell, Wendy’s etc).

The one seemingly Canadian thing we  stumbled upon is the phenomenon that is Tim Hortons. When we moved here we’d never even heard of Tim Hortons. I imagined it was the Canadian equivalent of Wendy’s. Mostly because it looked the same, at least from the outside.

Our introduction to Tim’s came via a conversation with our moving truck driver; the silver-haired guy who defied spatial limitations as he helped Jason force our queen-sized box spring up the steps to the second floor of our house. Ripping out pieces of plaster and chunks of paint in the process. Afterwards he told us about the various places he’d lived in Canada.

One particular town was apparently so small ‘the nearest Tim Hortons was 50 km away.’ A piece of information he shared while talking about how his wife was so miserable there, her only solace was found in driving to the faraway restaurant for a ‘fix’. Often. Apparently she racked up a lot of miles on their car doing this.

I figured that if Tim Hortons warranted driving 50km one-way….then it would behoove us to try out this little piece of Canadian culture. And goodness knows, we wouldn’t even have to drive 5km to get to one in Calgary: they’re more ubiquitous than Starbucks in these parts.

Still, six months passed and we had not yet set foot in one.

But on Tuesday, after a doctor’s appointment, when we were driving home with hungry bellies, we saw one and stopped. There was nothing else nearby. We walked in and joined the considerable line of people. Since it was well past the lunch hour – nearly 3pm – I could only imagine the line was evidence of the incredible goodness served on the premises.

I surveyed the menu and the display cases. Tim Hortons basically serves cookies, muffins and donuts, and sandwiches and soup. And coffee. Not much else. It’s like a cross between Dunkin Donuts and a small scale Bob Evans. Frankly, the muffins and donuts didn’t look particularly appealing to me, but we were starving, with no choice but to immerse ourself in the Canadian-ness.

I chose an apple fritter and Jason selected a BLT sandwich. And a Canadian maple donut. My apple fritter was okay – but not what I would call ‘delicious’. Honestly, I think the ones at the grocery store in Muncie, Indiana are tastier. Jason didn’t even offer me a bite of his donut, so I can’t report on it. There was a strange looking cream filling inside, though, which is probably why I didn’t insist he share.

The donut holes (aka ‘Timbits’) I’d picked up for the boys were reminiscent of the donuts we ate, many, many years ago, at a little church in Morgantown, West Virginia. I was twelve, and it was my first introduction to cake donuts. I hated the stale, cakey, weird taste then and I hated the Timbits too. They were yeast-like in appearance but cake-like in texture: the ultimate betrayal. And they tasted of nutmeg which, in my mind, is the vilest spice of all.

The BLT was a perfectly fine sandwich, even if we had to wait fifteen minutes for the guy to put it together. At least we know: if we ever had to go to Tim Hortons again, we could order the BLT and survive.

The boys, of course, loved the Timbits. I’m not sure if it’s their convenient bite-size, or the cute cardboard carrying case? Whatever the reason – G begged for them like they were something truly special. The next morning he jumped out of bed, ran to the kitchen to get the Timbits box and brought it to my bed.

‘Hey mom,’ he said holding the box with two hands in front of my face so I could see it, ‘remember yesterday you said we could have donuts for breakfast?’

I burst out laughing at this kid, who evidently spent all night dreaming about the two lousy donut holes he would share with his brother in the morning.

A true Canadian.

4 thoughts on “Becoming a Canadian

  1. I hate to burst your ‘becoming a Canadian’ bubble, but Tim Hortons are all over the upper midwest. I first experienced the mediocrity of TH’s near Ann Arbor. Didn’t you know: their coffee is “legendary” and the Timbits are “phenomenally successful”…

    Don’t tell G but the Timbits apparently come in 35 varieties… 😉

  2. Wow, so is there NOTHING truly Canadian, save mullets and Molson beer and Celine Dion and Shania Twain? Another friend read the post and also informed me that Tim Horton’s was 5 minutes from her work in RI. We even lived in MN and I swear I don’t remember there being any – unless it happened in the last 7 years. I shouldn’t be surprised it’s phenomenally successful. A lot of people apparently like Dunkin Donuts and I think it’s vile too. Yeah, people walk around Calgary carrying Tim Horton’s coffee cups like they’re freaking Starbucks. They actually sell their ‘legendary’ tins of ground coffee?! I noticed while we were there…


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