Cross Border Eating

By Rob Patry


Once a week or more, I find myself behind the wheel, sitting in my car, Nexus card in hand, waiting for the border-crossing officer on the American side to ask me what my plans are. Invariably the answer is grocery shopping. He or she will wave me through with a “have fun” kind of look in their eye not really understanding or comprehending the attraction of cross border grocery shopping.  When asked by my Canadian neighbors and friends why I shop in the United States when I should be purchasing Canadian made products and supporting our Canadian businesses, I shy away from the answer. Am I trying to take advantage of the difference in our dollar? Clearly not, since right now our dollar is further at the bottom than it has been in quite some time. What is it then? What draws me to shop at these grocery havens? Saving a few pennies on a jar of mayonnaise or a dollar off on a twenty-four pack of soda pop? No, this is not why I traverse these three border bridges. 

It is for the unusual, the specialty items, and the unique foodstuffs to fill my fridge, freezer, and walk-in pantry, which attract me. There are certain selections that I cannot purchase in Canada when it comes to food items. Jimmy Dean Sausage, Grits and Hot Pockets. Hot Pockets! We don’t even stock these. I know an American entertainer has built a solid comedy bit about these little gems. They are a sort of stuffed crusty thing filled with an ever-ending list of outlandish ingredients including pizza, pulled pork, sausage, egg and cheese, prime rib, meatballs, or Buffalo-style chicken. Buffalo style. There are always “styles” to choose from. Never to be confused with the original, and not nearly bold enough to be called a knock off, these are foods “styled” after the unprecedented first. Southern style, Asian style, Italian style and Mexican style. Dried country gravy, sausage gravy and biscuit mixes are not commonplace in our great northern country. Whipped butter, pork rinds, an endless variety of grated cheeses in a bag, every type of chili mix, chili spices and chili in a can. Strange that our two countries are within an earshot of each other, yet we have a completely different palate when it comes to certain, earthier more simple comfort foods. Potato salads, cured and smoked hams, line up your neon lit alleyways like so many broken hearts wanting to be loved and brought home. Always seems to be something new, something different. Newly packaged, newly prepared. Some marketing genius’ raison d’etre is to attract this Canadian aisle zombie to grabbing, and sampling his or her newest creation. Cookies, cereal, potato chips come in such a dizzying array of choices that one could collect and try a new product every day of the year. 

Off to the frozen aisle. Pizza, pizza and more pizza. Brands, flavors, types of topping, types of dough, self rise, thin crust, Italian sauce, Bianca, oregano sprinkled, extra virgin olive oil infused, cheese crust stuffed, sausage (crumbled or sliced), pepperoni, dry aged pepperoni, fire roasted, hand tossed, hand kneaded, four cheeses, Chicago style, natural, gluten free, cheese free, food free, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher and Halal. Oh, and of course Pizza style cheeses, breads and other eclectic oddities that end up in bowls, spray cans or squeeze tubes. 

Now I have a whole pile of groceries; plenty to eat. A few months worth, I’m sure. I need to get back over the border to go home to binge watch The Americans.