(I have had many requests from people to read the speech I gave on Winnipeg last winter. As I am venturing back to Winnipeg in a few weeks I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and rework the speech and post it as a blog. I hope you enjoy it.)
How many of you have ever been to Winnipeg? Or as I like to call it Winterpeg! Was it by choice? Would you go back? Just so you know when I first wrote this, the temperature in Winnipeg was -29C (-20F), and they had 4 ½ feet of snow in their yards.
My husband, who shall remain nameless for his own protection, happens to be from Winnipeg, born and raised, Winnipigean.
I have spent the last 12 years, every single day of it, finding out why Winnipeg is the “Centre of the Universe”.
First and foremost you must realize that for my husband his world revolves around food. Now I am not talking about gourmet French cuisine here. I am talking about plain ordinary home cooking, the way my “Auntie” made it or my “Mom” made it. My nameless husband is a French fry and hamburger, pizza and meatloaf kind of guy.
When friends or family come to visit from Winnipeg he e-mails them a list
-rye bread from Cubs Bakery… because he has not found a decent loaf of rye bread since he has been in Ontario
-cabbage rolls from Auntie Edna’s
-and don’t forget the perogies from Alisha’s
His absolute favourite restaurant in Winnipeg is a chain of greasy spoons called Salisbury House where he can get the “world famous” NIPS …not really sure why they are called that…they are really just hamburgers. This chain is owned by none other than Burton Cummings.
Which brings me to the fact that anyone and everyone, who is anyone, is from Winnipeg. Did you know that Burton Cummings is from Winnipeg? Did you know that Randy Backman is from Winnipeg? Both of these men we know from the rock band “The Guess Who”. I have many times heard the story of the little scrawny boy with the sax (that would be Burton Cummings) wandering the halls of the “Y” playing a few tunes. Another alumni of my husband’s alma mater was David Steinberg renowned comedian, director and producer. Doug Henning, Monty Hall and Chantal Kreviazuk. Mimi Kuzyk, Neil Young and Peter Nyguard. Lynn Johnston, Izzy Asper and even the father of our Medicare Tommy Douglas are all from Winnipeg. By the way Tommy Douglas also happens to be the Grandfather of Keiffer Sutherland. There are few times I can see or hear anyone without hearing that little voice (my husband’s) telling me they are from Winnipeg.
Of course, serendipity always tends to play with me. I can admire a one of a kind scarf and the shopkeeper will tell me it was handmade in Winnipeg. I will bring home a new centerpiece for the table and before proudly setting it in its place of honour, turn it over to read the story of how it was made in Winnipeg. Some of you may remember that I was in search of my family heritage at one point in my life…no one, especially me, could have been more surprised to find that my birth father hailed from Winnipeg.
In my 12 years of hearing how Winnipeg is the Centre of the Universe I have always managed to dodge the Winnipeg “bullet”. I was too busy… or backed up… or just couldn’t get away right now, whenever the nameless one returned to his homeland. This year I found myself without one excuse not to go, I was “in transition” so I had the time. Tickets were available with airmiles, Cousin Ray who often stayed with us on his business trips to Ontario treated us to hotel accommodations and loaned us a vehicle. So the last week in August for his birthday we were off to Winnipeg…the trip was mapped out by way of his favourite restaurants and anyone who wanted to see him had to meet us for a scheduled meal. We literally ate our way through Winnipeg and I came home 7 pounds heavier.
Shortly upon our return I received a phone call from my oldest sister on my father’s side. A family reunion had been planned because some relatives were returning home from California and it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to meet, be met and bond with my absent family. My sister bought the plane tickets. Accommodations arrangements had already been made. Again, I had no excuses… so I was off to Winnipeg for Thanksgiving week. Did I mention the unknown heritage of mine was Ukrainian? Those people know how to cook …and eat. I was on antibiotics at the time that were to be taken on an empty stomach. Three days in I clambered up the stairs and said “people, stop feeding me, I have to take these on an empty stomach and my stomach hasn’t been empty since I got here”.
There is a reason the people of Winnipeg all have “Friendly Manitoba” on their license plates. Truth be told I met some of the most wonderful people who made me feel truly welcome and like I belonged… and they were actually related to me! While I was there I introduced several of them to facebook and we are all “friends” now and keep in touch on a regular basis. One of my favourite friends I met while in Winnipeg is Sammi and although Sammi is not related to me in any way we definitely bonded. We were a great source of amusement to everyone as I gleefully hauled out leftovers and Sammi would trundle over to greet me as they looked on and watched the “city kid” feeding their pig.
Recently, in my job search, most of my solid leads seem to be coming out of …you guessed it, Winnipeg. So, I’m off to Winnipeg for some job interviews shortly. (I will again be interviewing while in Winnipeg this upcoming trip.)
The reality is that Winnipeg may very well become the centre of my universe!
NOTE: My husband is not alone in his obsession for food from his homeland. I recently stumbled across preparations for the Manitoba Homecoming 2010 and much to my amusement and his enjoyment, found that many of the activities centre around the food establishments on his list