I think we can all agree that Cape Breton can get a bit weird. With ocean surrounding us on all four sides, and the 5 hour drive separating us from the rest of civilization, Cape Breton could very well be categorized as an isolated tribe.
New Waterford, circa 1998. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.
Ok. You got me. That's not New Waterford. New Waterford doesn't have near as much fashion sense as those Dapper Dans up there. But really, we're 100,000 people surrounded by a sea of forest and a sea of, well, sea. Even with the internet connecting us instantly to the rest of the world, we care more about what The Lobster Pound has to say than Hillary Clinton.
And just as news and culture from outside has difficulty arriving on our shores, our own culture is self contained by our geographic limitations, and that makes us weird. It's as if the government of Canada threw 150,000 people in an underground vault, along with some fiddles and donair sauce, and locked the door for 100 years just to see what would happen. In my opinion, it's a sick experiment gone right, but there's no denying it's a recipe for weirdness.
And if you don't think social isolation makes people a tad bit cooky, visit Meat Cove and get back to me on that!
The issue with onset socially-isolated weirdness, as any home-school kid will attest, is that it's difficult to identify your own peculiarities with so little interaction with the outside world, which is desperate to point and laugh at you. Luckily, I've been away 20 years, and I'm back to let everyone know just what makes Cape Breton so bizarre. So here are
5 Things I've Never Seen outside of Cape Breton
(Disclaimer: Rory hasn't been everywhere in the world. If these things exist in other places, Rory is ignorant of it, so feel free to chastise him for being a total knob in the comment section.)
Actual geographic representation of how a lot of Cape Bretoners view Nova Scotia
1. Meat Darts
Close, but no.
Let's be honest, Cape Breton. Half the fun of Meat Darts is not telling Come-from-Aways what it is. Just let the mystery sink in and watch their cogs spin. "Do you throw meat?" "Do you throw darts at meat?" "Are the darts made of meat?" The possibilities are endless, as long as they have some combination of darts and meat in them.
Once people know it's darts with the potential to win meat, they might ask "Why wouldn't you just play darts for money?" At which point any true Cape Bretoner retorts violently with "BECAUSE MONEY ISN'T MEAT, YOU IDIOT!" Actually, no, don't do that. I don't advocate violence, and it takes away from our quirky attitude we have towards meat-prized dart competitions. Just take them to the legion and hope they have the dexterity to go home with a T-bone.
2. Jumping Off of Bridges of Questionable Legality
"Oh GOD! NOT THAT ONE!!"
That's more like it.
You might be thinking to yourself "People must jump off of bridges in other places?" Well, that's probably true, but most places I've been, when you see someone about to jump off a bridge, it means they're about to make a huge, irreversible decision. In Cape Breton, it means it's August. Also, I have no idea if this practice is legal, but judging from my very limited legal experience of getting arrested a few times, I can't see that being the case.
You won't find this practice in any tourism booklet or advertising campaign, but this really was one of the highlights of coming to Cape Breton every summer when I was a kid. It should be considered a right of passage for all 16 year-olds in Cape Breton to jump off the Mira Gut Bridge. And I'm not talking about the pansy road level. You climb that metal frame and jump from the top, you pansy!
Witness a Cape Breton boy become a Cape Breton Man. The girl isn't becoming a man though, because that's not how it works.
3. Huge Rum Sections
Look at all the potential for mistakes!
You might not know this, but by ratio, Cape Breton has a larger rum section to liquor store area than anywhere north of Jamaica. The real question is "Why?" Sugar doesn't grow anywhere within 1000 miles of this place. You know what does grow here? Potatoes! If we were going off of purely agricultural reasoning, we would all be drinking vodka, but since we're not track-suit sporting Russians, I'm not doing that.
The actual reason we drink rum: history! The cooler reason we drink rum: PIRATES! Ok, so pirates were just a little part of it. It turns out Cape Breton was a historical pit-stop on the tragic nautical road trip known as the trade triangle. Some pretty horrible stuff happened there that I refuse to make jokes about, but more importantly, we traded cod for rum, and I for one think it's super cool that a trade practice outdated by over 100 years still affects how I spend my Fridays, and some Tuesdays. On a completely unrelated note, never try to trade cod for rum now. Sobey's does not appreciate your historically accurate whimsy.
4. Donair Pizza
Congratulation, Cape Breton. You've successfully made pizza worse for you.
Ok Cape Breton. Let's call a spade a spade here. Donair sauce is icing. That's what it is. You can't drop a clove of garlic in icing and pretend it's not icing. It's sugar goo. Let's all agree with that.
Point #2. Were donairs created to give you the worst breath imaginable? Garlic icing, red onions, and slow roasted lamb is a recipe for instant halitosis. I had a donair yesterday from Island Greek Donair, and I was tasting it for the rest of the day, which was awesome. Unfortunately everyone else around me was tasting it for the rest of the day too, and they didn't appreciate it nearly as much as I did.
Anyways, about the pizza. The first time I had a slice of this was at Napoli's about 2 months ago, and it made my brain explode. It was like the time I had a G.I.Joe in one hand, and a Snickers bar in the other, and I got it mixed up and my brain had to do a hard reset with a G.I.Joe in my mouth. I did not expect Donair sauce to be under that cheese. When it hit my tongue, I thought "Does this really exist?" Then I thought "Should this exist?" Then I thought "YES ON BOTH COUNTS!" and my world became a brighter, happier place.
Donair pizza is like if a gyro, Italy, and a toaster strudel had a baby. That's worth a picture!
Disclaimer: This is not a recipe, and the country of Italy is not an ingredient.
5. Washer Toss
Yup, you're doing it wrong.
Apparently I'm way off base here. They play washer toss in tons of places. Places I've never been, and this is my list, so too bad. I'm including it.
If I mentioned washer toss in Georgia, all my friends would probably think Cape Breton was entirely populated by giant viking beasts chucking 300 pound washing machines at each other. Just like meat darts, washer toss is a game where half the fun is in not explaining it, and watching the wheels of your friend's confusion spin. Sadly, the washers being thrown are far less deadly than washing machines with flight paths.
Even so, you have to hand it to the guy who had the ingenuity and cost-consciousness to think "These horseshoes are mighty expensive. Hand me the leftovers from that IKEA shelf."
These washers are better anyways because I can hold a beer in my other hand, which is completely integral to the game.
On a somewhat related note, in Georgia I played a game called Cornhole, which is one of the dirtiest sounding words that isn't actually dirty at all. Get your mind out of the gutter. In Cornhole, you attempt to throw bags full of corn kernels through a hole in a board. It's kind of like Washer Toss, with a funnier name. Turns out almost every culture throws things through holes.
We should really take one of those random holidays we get in the summer and create a Cape Breton Culture Day, where we all jump off bridges, then go down to the legion to play washer toss, meat darts, eat donair pizza, and drink rum responsibly, because darts are sharp. We could even play Cornhole as a cultural exchange. Actually, I could do all this myself on Saturday. Cool. I know what I'm going to be up to on Saturday.
So did I miss anything? Is there anything else to add to my To-do list on Saturday? If you can think of anything, put it in the comments section below.