Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #45


I’m a vegetarian. Actually technically I’m pescatarian as I occasionally eat fish, but I try not to make a habit of it; dwindling stocks, impact of farming, mercury levels, environmental issues etc etc etc … I won’t get too sanctimonious though. Vast swathes of the Amazon are still being cleared to meet our rising appetite for soybeans and I’m sure the carbon footprint of your average pack of tofu is more than that of some non-industrial, locally sourced, beef. Ack. None of us are innocent. I just don’t like it much. Apparently I stared turning my nose up from the age of two – flesh that is – and it’s stuck. For the most part my dietary choices aren’t an issue, especially when you throw seafood into the equation, but on rare occasions it can get a bit tricky. 

My father is carnivore through and through. His french palate enjoys nothing more than sinking into a slab of meat, and whenever we’re eating together he makes a big point of broadcasting to the world that it’s not for me. It’s as if it were some major, complicated thing, like I only ate rare roots from the yan-yan tree. Over the years I’ve tried explaining that there’s almost always a dish I can pick at, even in the most stringent steak houses, but no matter how often I prove him wrong he sticks with it. I actually think he enjoys the taunt. It’s become a bit of a game between us. 

Recently we were driving back to Montreal. Lunchtime had come and gone. As we were nearing Québec City, he decided to pull off the motorway to find us somewhere to eat. We cruised into Levis, a suburb on the opposite side of the St Lawrence. It was a nice day and seeing as we were there, we went down to the river so I could take a photo of the iconic skyline – Citadelle, Ramparts, Government Building, Plains Of Abraham …. check check check – never mind that I was more interested in the dilapidated warehouse behind me, much to the astonishment of some fellow sightseers. 

After our brief detour we were back on the hunt. There didn’t seem to be much so when I pointed out what I thought was a cute little sandwich bar, my dad pulled straight over. Turned out I was wrong. Behind the stripy patio umbrellas was your traditional Québecois ’Patate Fritte’. The menu was fully stocked with poutines and burgers and bar plain fries or the grilled cheese (which I knew would be made from Wonderbread & kraft singles), there wasn’t much on the menu for me. My dad opened his mouth and went through the usual ‘she doesn’t eat meat’ rigmarole, only this time I stepped back and left him to it.

The man behind the counter rambled away in this crazy accent. I mean I couldn’t decipher a thing, except for ‘poulet’ to which I shook my head and said, ‘non non, vegétarienne’. You always know you’re in trouble when they don’t consider chicken meat. Eventually he suggested something else. All I understood was, 

‘Tomate, salade …. pas de viande …. tres populaire’. 

So I was like, sure, let’s go for it. My dad ordered a ‘cheese’ and we went to sit down. 

About five minutes later the tray arrived. I had to consult the bill to see what I’d asked for. It was that culinary classic, ‘Guédille Hot Tomate’, basically a hotdog bun filled with some sort of salad and mayonnaise. 
The guédille has it’s own wikipedia page and I can confidently confirm that I was served up the Gaspésie version; toasted and stuffed with pickled cabbage, a bit of tomato, a few chips, all lined with a slice of processed cheese and healthy dose of thousand island dressing. 

As much as I berate food snobbery, I gotta say eating this was not enjoyable. It’s the chemical shit I can’t be dealing with. Maybe if it just relied on a single nasty element, like if the pumped with preservative white roll was stuffed with a few more errrrr natural ingredients? Maybe a bit of real cheese? As it was, the Kraft single / industrial dough combo permeated through the wrapper, so even that lone wedge of tomato tasted like it came out of the factory.

Bigger picture, I know it’s all about cost and class, globalisation and education, right? Going back to that first paragraph, let’s just say this little, unassuming sandwich was actually able sum up some woes of the world. If so, surely there’s one formula to get us back on track. Not to over simplify or anything, but I doubt it begins with Capital. 


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