|“Shelf Stable” has always been a term that has disturbed me when it is used to describe foodstuffs. I think it is a fine phrase when used in a hardware store to describe wall brackets that hold up a ledge for books, or used on a farm to describe a barn that holds shelves, or in a psychiatrist office to describe a mantle cured of it’s psychosis… But a sugary confection that has a best before date of sometime in 2018, gives me pause.
I have never had the privilege of sampling a “Jeanne cake”. It is a Winnipeg Institution that I have not had the opportunity to be a part of. I think you have to have been born here to appreciate a lot of the Winnipeg Institutions. I’m pretty sure that the only reason people still eat “Jeanne Cakes” is because their parents force fed it to them when they were infants.
It brings to mind another Winnipeg Institution that I just don’t understand… The Wedding Social…
Have you ever been to one of these? I’ve been to several now, and they have all been the same. The whole premise of the Wedding Social is to raise money for a couple’s wedding. The couple rents a hall (community centre, school gym, church basement), gets a social licence, buys some booze, hires a DJ, provides some food and sells tickets. All the money raised goes towards the couple’s Wedding.
Here is a play by play of what the socials I went to were like.
I arrive at the community centre around 10pm (usually after a show at the theatre), and from the moment I put my hand on the handle of the orange, metal, industrial door, every bad memory from every High School dance and prom comes rushing back to me. I give some old woman the ticket that my wife so generously purchased for me, and I enter what looks like a school gymnasium with bad dance lighting, a mirror ball, and some DJ that has his music turned up so loud, that the distortion makes it unrecognisable (could be thrash metal, could be opera… I dunno). The room is separated into three groups. The friends and family of Bride and Groom, they sit in the center close to the dance floor and are having a good time.
There is another large table to the left, filled with guys who are wearing sports jerseys and have about 60 plastic cups of beer in front of them. One poor bastard, usually in his early twenties, is drinking one of those beers as fast as he can to a chorus of “Chug, Chug, Chug”… In about half an hour he will be in the back alley, puking his guts out and telling some mailbox that “your the best friend I ever had”.
The last group is filled with middle aged women, most of who are single and school teachers. They are all dressed in too tight jeans and low cut tops that draw the eye to some of the deepest crevasses of cleavage the world has ever seen. This table smells of bad perfume and desperation, as they stare at the other table of drunken twenty year olds and decide whether any of them are worth the trouble. As I sit down, I am instantly approached by one of them. “Hi, my name is Jill, I teach at Grant Park, what do you do for a living”…
My wife then rescues me and states… “He’s married”. Jill says “Oh… too bad… does he have a brother, or maybe a rich Uncle?”. Another women stops by “Hi I’m Diane…”. Jill stops her and says “Don’t bother… he’s married to that one”. To which Diane replies “Then why is he here?”
I ask myself the same question as I peruse the food table that consists of 37 loaves of bread, cold cuts, paper plates, two enormous jars of mustard and cubes of cheese…
The cubes of cheese have always puzzled my wife. The table is obviously full of fixings for making sandwiches, so you would think the cheese would be sliced, but at a wedding social, the cheese is always cut into cubes of about an inch. This perplexes my wife to no end and ultimately she takes out her swiss army knife and cuts the cubes into slices and screams “THERE!!!! WAS THAT SO HARD!!!!”
I think that the cheese is in cubes because they want to weed out the foreigners and laugh at them while they make cubed cheese sandwiches….
The next stop is the table of prizes. You buy tickets from a different old woman, and you drop half of the ticket in the box beside the prize, and keep the other half of the ticket. If they call your number, you win the prize… sounds like fun. So I buy twenty dollars worth of tickets, and then go look at the prize table.
Ultimately, the prizes are lame. There is always a day at the spa prize, (which my wife throws a big heap of tickets into), a set of season tickets to the broom ball team in Flin Flon, a two hundred dollar gift certificate to some store called “The Big Game Hunter Emporium”, a really bad still art painting that is signed by the grooms mother, the “sex” basket full of various oils, lubricants, condoms, and a vibrator the size of a whale (all the middle aged teachers throw their tickets into that one), and a mismatched set of golf clubs from the Wal-Mart.
I’ll win the painting, which I am SO happy to have to lug on the bus for the ride home.
Last call is at 12:30, the Bride and groom thank everybody, one of the guys is so drunk he can’t stand straight, and one of the middle aged teachers goes to him and says “Oh… let me help you… where do you live? Let me drive you home”. He’s in for a surprise in the morning….
So after 2 cubed cheese sandwiches, 3 plastic cups of Bud Lite, an atrocious painting of what I think is a bowl of fruit, a turn on the dance floor with my wife to what might have been The Bird Dance but could have just as easily been Wagner’sWalkürenritt, and constant memories of my high school life, I’m out eighty bucks, and part of my dignity.
Winnipeg is indeed a strange, strange place…