Maple Syrup and I
Ask anybody in the world to name something about Canada. The majority of them will say “maple syrup”. Even if they don’t have the faintest idea what it tastes like. In Italy it is not that easy to find maple syrup: we usually know it from movies and comics. Topolino (the Italian version of Micky Mouse) is a big lover of pancakes with maple syrup, and I bet I’m not the only one who thought about it the first time I tasted it. My “maple syrup baptism” was when I was 19 during my first trip to Canada. I was traveling with my best friend, we were in Toronto hosted by a friend of a friend of a friend. One morning this lovely Canadian lady made use french toasts with maple syrup. Now, I have to confess I’m not really a big fan of sweets and sugary things. Probably, these french toasts were really really heavy, but the whole thing gave me a terrible stomach ache. So, let’s say the first experience was not that great.
Maple Syrup and Canada
When I came to Canada as an immigrant I was determined to give Maple Syrup a second chance, and that was much better. So I discovered the different varieties and that “dark” is my favourite one. I discovered I love it on waffles at The Starving Artist and I also discovered it is actually one of the best natural sweetener because it is rich in antioxidants. Most importantly, I discovered March and April are the best time of the year for maple syrup. That is when all the farms are open for guided tours of their maple woods and sugar shacks. Festivals pop up all around the country, giving you the opportunity for a field trip out of town. Last year we visited Brooks Farms where we learned everything about Maple Syrup and got a lot of fun with their amazing playground.
Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
This year we decided to go for a Festival. On a relatively mild early April morning we rented a sporty red car and drove to the land of the Mennonites. Elmira is a lovely little town but during the festival it can be incredibly busy. As Italians we can get very “creative” with parking spots therefore we parked right in the city centre and headed immediately to the pancake tent. We got the classic: pancakes with maple syrup and summer sausage. We were not that used to mix sweet and sour, but after three years we just adapted and find it normal to have sausage together with a sweetener. But I can tell you Italians find it really weird. So after washing my son from the syrup he got everywhere we strolled along the busy streets of Elmira. We went to Ol’ McDonald farm, my son got a picture on the tractor (really, what’s with kids and tractors?), we ate more street food, more candies, almost bought a lovely handmade mini wood cabin for birds, got our picture with the giant pancake, tasted every possible free food, bought the local product in huge quantity (in this case a 2 litres bottle of Dark Maple Syrup). And then on our way home, driving through the soft sunset light, I thought about Italy’s festivals (called “sagre”). Just the same way of organising a big street party, getting people together, enjoying food in company and exploring the countryside. And the animal exhibits and kids wanting to sit on tractors and asking their parents to buy an air balloon. And you can be in a small village in the centre of Italy or in a little town in Southern Ontario, but you will always feel the same cheerfulness while driving home and the same guilt for all the food you devoured during the day.
Pictures: credit Riccardo Di Sipio and Michele G.
Question Time! Reply in the comments (if you like)
To Canadians: any suggestion on unmissable Festivals in and around Toronto?
To Italians: what do you think of sausage and maple syrup?