Sunday, 22 April 2018

Journey to Canadianness (postlogue)


Been craving macaroni and cheese the way my mother made it, which requires American cheese.  American cheese, for those not in the know, is a kind of processed cheese made (at least partially) with a blend of ‘natural’ (unprocessed) cheeses.  The processing gives it a smooth texture and a low melting point. American cheese is not, as is widely believed, the same thing as Velveeta, although both are processed “cheese food”.  Velveeta and its ilk are designed to be soft and spreadable.  American cheese is meant to be solid, but to melt easily. (Don’t get me started on why ‘Swiss cheese’ and “Gruyère cheese’ are not the same thing.*)

I have tried to make macaroni and cheese (and more generally sauces Mornay) with regular cheese and have never been able to get it to come out right. It splits, or it’s grainy, or it turns into a huge gloppy  mess.  No no no no no.  I’ve also tried it with other kinds of processed cheese (or cheese food), and it’s Not The Same.  So there is a need for actual American cheese, which (surprise!) isn’t available in Canada.

So every once in a while, I go down across the border into the Old Country and bring back a few bricks of American cheese, so I always have some to indulge my macaroni and cheese fix. Something that I don’t do as often as I used to, because diabetes and carbs.  But I have a brand of lower carb penne that I like, so the cravings have come back.  But I don’t have any American cheese in the freezer.  Horrors!

It’s actually been almost two years, I think, since I’ve driven over the border.  My last few trips have been by plane, for conferences, consultations, my mother’s memorial, and things like that.  I still needed my US passport (to get into the USA with my Canadian car)  and my permanent resident card (to get back into Canada with my US passport) for those, but that’s what happens when you’re an ex-pat.

Which brings me to my next and perhaps last** part of Journey to Canadianness, the application for a Canadian passport.  At my swearing in ceremony, as readers of this blog will recall, they took away my permanent resident card, which presumably I wouldn’t need anymore.

Getting back into the country (Canada) with just my US passport is probably not a huge deal, but it will definitely involve a trip into the customs/immigration place so they can run my paperwork.  Which as I say is probably not a huge deal (I’ve done it once before, crossing into Vancouver of all places with an expired PR card), but it’s not something I want to deal with if I can avoid it.  So I’m applying for a Canadian passport. Which I could have done as early as February 1st, but whatever.
So, forms, a couple pieces of  ID, proof of citizenship, photos, and two references and a guarantor.  The references have to have known you for two years and might actually get called.  The guarantor signs the form and one of the photos and must have a valid Canadian passport.  This last part is new.

Apparnetly, I have been in Canada long enough for there to be an Olden Days, so here we go.  In the olden days, your guarantor had to be a lawyer, a clergyperson, a uniformed officer, or a member of a short list of other presumably respectable professions, which again in the olden days included university professor. Which I was, and am,  one of. I have been a guarantor on a couple of passport applications.  The new form requires the guarantor to provide a valid Canadian passport number, which makes sense over any random lawyer, uniformed officer, clergyperson, and certainly university professor, you could drag in off the street.

I got pictures taken a couple weeks ago in a fit of organizational industry, started filling in forms, and getting random friends at work to fill in their info as references.  But Canadians don’t habitually carry around their passports, so I have to actually arrange for someone to have their passport so they could fill in the guarantor part of the form.

I was going to ask my friend Sky, but when I was getting photos and information I learned that he was defending his dissertation (the last big hurdle before getting your PhD) on the 20th, so I decided not to bother him with my trivia.  Readers of this blog will remember my friend Wendy, who actually asked to come to my swearing in and started that whole mishigas. I figured that she’s a big booster of becoming Canadian, so she ought to be wiling to be a guarantor.  Which she was.  But we had trouble getting together before she skipped town for something (ironically to the USA) where she almost got snowed in.  So we finally got together  this past Friday, literally a couple hours after Sky got done***, for her to sign her life away on my behalf. 

So I’ve got a plastic envelope with my completed form, photos, and supporting document (my proof of citizenship) and my current US passport (one of my pieces of ID--the other one will be my drivers license which I presume I will have on me anyway).  There’s this thing about a valid Canadian travel document, which I don’t think I have one of (they list three kinds) and the only other kind of document they might conceivably want to see is my immigration form (‘landing document’), but no one has asked for that since the swearing in.  So there we go.  If I ever get done marking papers****, I’ll toddle off to a nearby Canada Services (or Service Canada, I forget) office, where you can turn in this kind of thing and they can check your documents, pay a fee, and in 4-6 weeks, according to the paperwork, I will receive my Canadian passport.

*Swiss cheese is a variety of cheese (or probably a class of related cheeses) produced primarily in North America.  It’s nearest cousin from Switzerland is probably Emmental.  Swiss cheese is kind of required for a proper patty melt (Ground beef, seeded rye bread, grilled onions and Swiss cheese), which does not work for Emmental or Gruyère.  While you can make fondue with Swiss cheese it works better if there is at least some Gruyère in the mix.  Trust me.

**The last-last step might be renouncing my USA citizenship, which technically isn’t so much a step on a journey to Canadianness and a step on a journey towards not being anything else.  I haven’t decided to do it, and the benefit (not having to file US taxes every year) doesn’t really outweigh the con (not voting in US federal elections).  Unless the US continues on its road ot Hades, in which case not being an American might actually be a general advantage.  Certainly being able to say I’m Canadian is an advantage up here, that I don’t think gets any more advantageous by not being an American anymore.  Duality is common enough up here that I don’t think people care. We’ll see.

***Congratulations, Dr Onosson! (Which technically isn't true until he turns in his revisions, they're accepted, and usually there has to be some kind of Act of Regents or something to make things official-official, but for all practical purposes, passing the defense is the last hurdle.) 

****So close, but then there's the assignment of numbers and the calculation of grades.  But I might be able to get done with this tonight, and grades will magically be done before tomorrow.  Maybe.