For me, the battle for nicest Canadians continues to rage, and the good people of Manitoba added their special brand of syrup to that debate this week.
Part of Manitobans’ claim to that title is that they are so perfectly situated: geographically, historically and culturally. Come to think of it, if Canada is a big ol' family, Manitoba is the well-adjusted middle child. Not clamouring for recognition, not loud or outspoken, but calm, confident, well adjusted and literally in the middle – the longitudinal centre point of the country, 96 48 35.
I enjoy Manitoba entrepreneurs. They seem the modern incarnates of the people who originally made their way to the Canadian prairies. I find them optimistic, resourceful, inquisitive and friendly, happy to hear some Ontario bull, listening more than they talk. I also see within the business culture of Manitoba a renaissance of prairie pride:artisan craftspeople, farm-to-table chefs, innovators taking advantage of access to global markets complemented by a developing Winnipeg, all bolstered by hard-working and appreciative new Canadians and a zeal for the Jets. The Jets’ arena seems to have pumped a mad energy into Winnipeg that is exciting to see, to say nothing of the perennial love for the cherished Blue Bombers.
Driving west from Winnipeg to Brandon, it proved nearly impossible to get the Tragically Hip out of my head, not that I was trying hard. Wheat kings and pretty things. This was the first time I had made the drive since we lost Gord, and his voice brought a smile to my face as the light danced on the farm fields and reflected on the rivers. As I understand it, the song describes a horrible series of events, but often with Hip songs the beauty is transferable, so to me the song was all about this magic spot in Canada and some quiet time on a long highway to remember a Canadian treasure lost.
It was 32 degrees today when I left Winnipeg and took off for Vancouver; it was over 60 degrees colder the last time I was here this past January. Do Canadians talk about the weather to build rapport? (Does a bear shit in the woods?) But Manitobans don’t gripe about their fierce Canadian temperature fluctuations; they seem to quietly wear it like a well- earned badge of honour. Thanks for your Bison Province hospitality, and thanks for your interest in Meatsmith.