More of Our Canada - - Funny Stuff - Rose Mail­loux, Wel­wyn, Sask.

I’ve al­ways been fond of the Ir­ish cul­ture, espe­cially since my great-grand­mother was Ir­ish. It’s no sur­prise, then, that Ir­ish mu­sic is al­ways blast­ing from my speak­ers. When my two favourite Ir­ish singers were tour­ing Canada to­gether, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d travel the few hours to see them in con­cert.

Ar­riv­ing at the Ir­ish pub for the show, my sis­ter Felicite and I were able to spend time with the man­ager, John, who was also friends with the two singers. We were in­trigued by the dif­fer­ent cul­tures be­tween Ire­land and Canada, but also learned that both coun­tries’ roots were in­ter­twined through­out his­tory.

Af­ter an hour, the con­ver­sa­tion lagged, so I de­cided to spice it up with the ques­tion I usu­ally ask for­eign­ers, “Have you ever tried pou­tine?”

A pop­u­lar dish here, I of­ten treat my­self, but it’s fre­quently un­heard of by peo­ple out­side the coun­try.

Ap­par­ently, he’d al­ready tried it be­cause his face lit up as he replied, “Yes, I have. We pro­nounce it a bit dif­fer­ently in Ire­land though: We call it poitin.” I was sur­prised, and didn’t know what to say. Usu­ally I have to ex­plain what pou­tine is. John looked cau­tiously from my sis­ter back to me, “You are talk­ing about home­made il­licit whiskey, right?”

I wanted to curl up in a ball, dy­ing of em­bar­rass­ment. Felicite re­cov­ered be­fore me, but not un­til we ex­changed amused glances, “No, it’s a meal.” Felicite replied hastily.

“Yeah,” I added. “It’s fries, cheese curds and gravy.”

It was his turn to blush. His face turned red, the same colour as his hair, which was mostly hid­den be­neath a hat.

It made me shud­der at the thought of what might have hap­pened if we hadn’t clar­i­fied the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two words. Could you imag­ine the look on the wait­ress’s face if I was visit­ing Ire­land and asked for il­licit whiskey? Or if John asked to be pointed to the near­est poitin joint but to his dis­may was served a plate of fries in­stead of a shot of strong whiskey?

The funny thing was, when I later looked up the word in the dic­tio­nary it said that the whiskey was typ­i­cally made from pota­toes. Fries, be­ing the main in­gre­di­ent for pou­tine, are also made of that starchy but de­li­cious veg­etable. I learned a valu­able les­son that day, one I will never for­get. Al­ways be sure of the ex­act pro­nun­ci­a­tion, def­i­ni­tion and spell­ing of an item be­fore or­der­ing it!

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