Magazine article The Spectator

Why Canadians Are Taking Vinegar Shower

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Canadians Are Taking Vinegar Shower

Article excerpt

New Hampshire

THE 'countryside' is a problematic concept, as we in North America cannot but reflect watching the nightly bovine suttees on the network news, and the perplexing sight of a government that wants to ban hunting hiring army snipers to shoot at anything with hooves. The boys from the Mustangs rugby team of Wingham, Ontario, played a threegame tour in England and were met at Pearson airport in Toronto by representatives of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and by Constable Dinning of the Ontario Provincial Police, who took the lads to a nearby hotel and made them shower in vinegar. The Boston Gaelic Column police pipers flew to the Auld Sod to take part in various St Paddy's celebrations only to find that they'd all been cancelled. Alberta farmers are demanding the cancellation of British army exercises in the province on the grounds that those 3,500 squaddies have doubtless been mucking about on Dartmoor or on the boggier bits of the Ulster border. Canada has belatedly joined the US in banning Camembert, enraging Quebeckers, who account for 85 per cent of unpasteurised-cheese consumption in North America.

Meanwhile, the advice columns are full of queries from those whose loved ones are in.ane enough to contemplate a trip to what the New York Times headline-- writers call the `isle of contagion'. Susan Hall of Austin, Texas, writes that her husband, who like most Texans is partial to a steak you can park your truck on, is leaving for England and she's in a `panic about what he can eat'. Don't worry, says a US Department of Agriculture spokesman, Jerry Redding. `Beef or pork, if your husband can find any, will be very pricey in England,' he explains. `Meat supplies are limited.' Besides, if Mr Hall does ingest contaminated meat, the acids in his stomach will destroy most viruses. Somehow, the overall effect isn't quite as reassuring as Jerry intends.

How rational any of this is is anybody's guess. Who's to say that the vinegar those Ontario schoolboys were showering in doesn't use some preservative made from crushed Holstein testicles? Ah, how the sweet allure of globalisation sours on the tongue: it's one thing to let the Japs build your car and the Chinks supply your cuddly toys, but you'd have to be nuts to give the Brits the sirloin concession. If I follow this FMD thing correctly, your agriculture minister was worried that disease in the 'national herd' (a quaintly Stalinist concept) might depress meat exports. So he ordered the slaughter of every four-legged friend between Ruislip and Rockall in order to send a signal that he was serious about containing the disease. But, by the time the news got over here, it looked more like a signal about the seriousness of the disease rather than the seriousness of the containment. So, to demonstrate the seriousness of our response to the seriousness of his overreaction, we banned British beef. Then we discovered that it had already been banned in 1986. So we banned Quebeckers from eating French cheese, instead. On the grounds, presumably, that a careless bon vivant could get some diseased Camembert on his foot and trail it around the province, where it might survive the subzero temperatures and eight-foot snowdrifts to attach itself to the snowshoe of a tourist from Idaho, who might then unwittingly wipe out his state's entire potato crop, leading to, er.... No, hang on, let's go back to the beginning.

Sometimes there's no reason to keep farming - or, at any rate, no reason to keep farming the same thing. Many of my neighbours have been farmers for 240 years, since the first settlers arrived in this corner of New Hampshire. But what they farm changes every couple of generations. In the 18th century the pioneers hacked their way up the Connecticut river, chopped down all the trees and reared sheep. Then the Erie canal opened up the west, where the soil was better and the growing season longer, and the cheaper wool sent my town's sheep and human populations into simultaneous decline. …

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