Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Canadians are coming!
The Canadians are coming!

Glen is from Canada, and has a multitude of siblings, many of whom descend upon us throughout the year. Even with their beady little eyes and their flappin' heads full of lies, we usually wind up having a great time when they're in town.

His sister, S, and her family came to visit in early July. My friend Karen asked me how it was going with the Canadians, and I told her they were in Asbury Park at that moment, and Karen laughed and laughed: "They drove all the way down from the tundra to come to Trenton...and Asbury Park?!?"

It is funny, isn't it? Especially because S and her family do live further north than anyone else in Glen's family. They're practically at the Arctic Circle. But their visit proves that we do have some draw, after all. Canadians -- typically -- aren't as opinionated about urban centers as Americans are. They're less likely to flee from their houses just because a dark-skinned person moves in down the street. Glen says, "I don't get that. We like our houses and we like our neighborhoods*. And we make sure our neighbors stay in line, no matter what color** they are." I believe him, too. Canadians like to fight: look at hockey.

Glen's sister, B, and her boyfriend, are due to arrive today. B called to firm up over the weekend. She said she intends to shop, especially at the thrift stores. "We don't have the sheer volume of stuff that you Americans have," she says. "Even the stuff you people toss out for trash is better than what we have." So she can have more time Dumpster-diving and driving around looking for crap on the side of the road, I asked her if there was anything we could pick up at the store beforehand, since there's no way she'll ever be finished accumulating stuff here during the time she has for this trip.

"Dennis [her neighbor] would like a cheesecake. He stopped by last Christmas and had a piece of that Oreo cake, and now he wants one all for himself." We always bring or send Michele Lorie cheesecakes up for the Canadians. The go apey for it. Apey.

I said, "They're gone."

She said, "What?"

"Yeah, they packed up and left. End of story."

"Why?" she asked.

"Well, we followed the stories in the news. It just seemed like they were done with Trenton." After all, they had a good spot, and a huge customer base. Cheesecakes were usually abundant, but were viewed as something as precious and hard-to-get as Springsteen tickets, especially at the holidays, and the shop often had a mob of people camped out in front. They were cash-only, had an armed guard, and were looked after well by the police.

When they announced that they were closing up shop, we thought about going over there and stocking up (a lot of people had that same idea), but we resented their departure; weren't satisfied with their reasons, and for awhile, we referred to them as "those who are not mentioned." They were dead to us. We did our best to erase them from our memories, and we pretended they never existed.

But over the last few months, we've softened our stance a bit. It was their business and they can do what they want with it, however lame and hurtful. After all, Glen and I singlehandedly got an entire province in Canada hooked on Michele Lorie cheesecake, and they decide to close up? They were just about to hit paydirt like they had never seen. Between all of the Canadians coming here, and our own visits to Canada, a lot of cheesecake crossed that border over the last bunch of years. In fact, before we moved here, we stopped in Trenton on our way to Canada, just to bring Glen's family some cheesecakes. At Thanksgiving 2006, Glen's sister C, left with a giant ice chest full of them. Whenever we head north, we call Glen's mom to see if she wants any American goodies, and she plays coy with us.

"No, I'm fine," she says.
Glen will say, "Are you sure you don't even want a cheesecake? Not even one small one?"
She takes the nutritional high-and-mighty, and says, "Oh no. I don't need any more of that fattening stuff."
Glen teases: "Come on, Mom. You know you can't get anything like this in Canada."

It goes like this for a few minutes: the "no, thanks," and the "c'mon, Ma, I know you want some." And she finally breaks down and says, "Okay. Can you pick me up an apple walnut, a raspberry swirl, two oreos, and a pumpkin? And I'm dying to try that peanut butter thunder cake again. That was GOOD."

She kept a Michele Lorie menu in her kitchen cabinet, in ONTARIO.

So it's hard not to be mad at Michele Lorie. I hope they resurface somewhere or are born-again in some capacity. I'm not counting on it though, so I've been keeping an eye out for a good cheesecake recipe. Once it cools down, I'm hoping to try Alton Brown's recipe. We don't have central air, or even a window unit in our kitchen, and without that mulberry tree's full canopy behind the house our kitchen is freakin' hot right now. So I'll report back once the weather cools.

In the meantime, I dug out an old family recipe for an easy "ice box pie" that satisfies the cheesecake craving, just a little bit. It's not cheesecake at all, but rather, cheese pie. But then again, cheesecake is actually pie, too. Whatever. If you have a hankering for some yummy cheese pie, but don't feel like committing to making the full-blown cheesecake, here's my family recipe.

You will need:
  • one graham cracker/cookie crumb crust (store bought, or make your own ahead of time, just be sure to cool it...and be creative, you can use oreo cookie or shortbread crumbs, if you want)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • splash vanilla (I use berry vanilla if topping the pie with berries)
  • topping of your choice: my mom always used canned cherries, and it was awesome. But you can use fresh -- I've done it that way, too, and it is awesome as well. You can use crushed oreos. Also awesome. My friend Karen, who thought it was funny that the Canadians came all the way to NJ and spent time in Asbury and Trenton, made it once with pineapple. Makes me suspicious. But she said it was delicious, and I believe her. I'm planning to try some kind of streusel topping in the fall, which I suspect, will rock. We'll just have to wait for that, though.

Anyway, beat the heck out of the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. When you think you're done, keep beating. You really have to show it who's boss, or else it won't set-up properly. When you're done abusing the moist ingredients, use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture into your pie crust. Top it with fruit or cookie crumbs or whatever. Stick it in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Everyone will love it. Not as much as they love Michele Lorie's, but they're S.O.L.

B just called to say they're reached Binghampton, NY, and they're going to stop for a while at the zoo. She said "zoo," and I drifted away for a bit, and fantasized about how cool it would be to have a FREAKIN' ZOO in the hood! We need a zoo. I think if we lived under the constant threat of lions escaping, it might keep people in line.

She said, "That pizza place didn't close up, too, did it?" She's talking about DeLorenzo's on Hamilton Avenue.

"No," I said. I hope it doesn't, but at the rate we're going, we're not counting on anything.

"Good, because that's awesome. I'm hungry for it already. Plus we can't get birch beer in Canada."

I hope someone in the city government is reading this. It's long and a bit unfocused (lions and cheesecakes and Dumpster-Diving, oh my!), and I'm not sure if it can keep anyone's attention, but the bottom line is I'm married to a man with a very large family living in Ontario, Canada. They choose -- however insane it may seem to us -- to vacation in Trenton, with some Johnnies-Come-Lately. Please don't dismiss us. We see the potential here. Don't you?

* Canadians may have the Queen of England on their money, but they sound more like us than they do the Brits, but they prefer the British spelling of this word. Glen would have written neighbourhood.
** See above; Glen would have written colour. Thankfully he's not writing this blog; I can't stand that extra "U" in words. It's just so excessive, isn't it?

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