On how Vancouver, city of flavours, managed to win my heart

Fish and chips on Granville Island | Photo by Paul Joseph

Fish and chips on Granville Island | Photo by Paul Joseph

I arrived here dragging my feet, despite having had this expatriation project in mind for many long months before my arrival in Vancouver. I’m attached to my hometown, my culture and my gastronomic delights. On the eve of my departure, I indulged myself in a feast of cheeses and foie gras with fine wines to wash it all down.

I had doubts: what would I find when I got to Vancouver, except that dish that people say is to be found all over Canada, that strange mixture of fries swimming in a brown sauce, topped with melted cheese?

The plane landed on a Friday in August around 11 a.m. Exhausted by the trip and worn out by the wait for the issuance of my visa, I felt the full force of the nine hour time change that separated me from my home. After depositing my luggage at the B&B reserved from Paris, I wandered along Cambie Street in the middle of the afternoon and decided to start investigating the city.

I quickly came to a stop. I entered an Asian restaurant, which was as sleepy as I felt. My senses gradually awakened as the first spoonful of hot soup caressed my throat. The odour of lemongrass floating in my pho tickled my nostrils. A young woman lay two crispy spring rolls on my table all the while smiling at me with an approving gaze. The rolls were steaming and delicately wrapped in bright, fresh mint leaves. Without a pause I yielded to my curiosity, tasted this dish and burnt my palate. The mint was velvety and its light taste contrasted in my mouth with the explosive spices: cumin, ginger, curry and cardamom. The whole thing was exquisite. Having finished my meal, I thanked the waitress and an elderly woman wearing an apron. I was pleased to have escaped fast food on my first day!

But my satisfaction was short-lived.

A few days later, friends invited me to Granville Island. I had heard them speak of fish. I rejoiced at the prospect. Fish and chips. Oh?! Not quite the grilled fish I imagined. “Since you’re here, you have to taste it!” one of my friends strongly urged. Seeing the crowd pressing up to the unassuming booth, I went for it. With the basket laid in front of me I removed the batter in order to better savour the fish, a generous piece of moist cod. I skipped the fries and coleslaw, but my friends rolled their eyes at me, so I had a taste. I became ashamed: I loved it! I ate with my fingers and reveled in the joy of this shared meal.

Last November I found myself invited to a Hanukkah dinner. It’s the celebration of the miracle of the oil lamp that burned for eight days…so fried dishes all around. I was given latkes, some challah and a soufgania. I attacked one of the grated potato pancakes. It was a crunchy delight that was served warm and melted in my mouth. All the guests smiled at one another – the community was delighted, as was I. I pilfered a sugared donut, also fried, garnished with fruit compote. Tasty.

On the way back, while in the street, I looked up and noticed the restaurant signs: Korean, Indian, Japanese, South African –
it’s endless. A real feast, just to think about it.

I may be far from all the varieties of Camembert but such is the gastronomic diversity of Vancouver that, in the end, this town has truly become my home.