Saturday, April 20, 2013

Today We've Got Time For Tim Hortons

Friend o'this blog RebelAngel raised questions in a comment on my last entry that call for a substantial response, so here goes.

"Everyone from Canada talks about Tim Hortons. What are we talking about here? coffee shop? doughnuts? cafe? We will be in Canada in a few weeks and I wonder if I should pop in if we drive past one, just to complete the Canadian Experience. (Well, as complete as a Canadian Experience can be in late Spring rather than mid-Winter.)"
Tim Hortons is a coffee-and-doughnuts (or "donuts" if you're in a hurry) chain that's ubiquitous in Canada. It's pretty much impossible to be more than a five minute walk away from one unless you're at sea or hopelessly lost in the forest, and in the latter case, you'll probably still stumble across one shortly if you just keep moving in a straight line. Or just hold still for a minute, in which case a new Tim's (the usual affectionate diminutive - "Timmy's" is also acceptable) will probably get built around you.

Their omnipresence is similar to that of Starbucks in the U.S. of A. If you're driving more than six feet - sorry, 1.83 metres - in Canada, you will drive past one. In some urban areas (of which we do have a few up here), you can actually see more than one Tim's from a single vantage point. My impression is that Tim's is a bit downscale from Starbucks. I can't say for certain, because I've never actually patronized a Starbucks. I've seen a few from the periphery - they're located in some bookstores that somehow cling to life - but wasn't prepared to get any closer. I wasn't sure how the inhabitants would react to a visitor without a goatee, a MacBook, or the capacity to give two hoots what Oprah says about anything, so I thought it best not to upset their ecosystem.

Tim's is probably closer to Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts, or some other grammatically iffy fast-foodish establishment. Although they're trying to break into the pretentious market with cappuccino (you better believe I had to look up how to spell that), frappuccino, zappuccino, and schmappuccino - I may be misremembering some of those names - their main stock-in-trade is plain old coffee for a buck and change.

I'm told that their coffee is good. I couldn't say, having had my most recent cup a few decades ago when I was around eight years old. I also don't drink tea, and last tasted alcohol not long after my 19th birthday, over half my life ago. I stick to hot chocolate (which I get at Tim's once or twice a week), pop, milk, and juice. What I'm trying to say is that I don't drink like a grownup.

My Dad used to drink several cups of Tim's coffee each day. His office, like every office in Canada, was located in a building with a Tim's franchise on the first floor. He once told me that he got a headache if he didn't have a cup of their coffee by mid-morning; that would be my signal to never consider drinking another cup of the stuff. I think he's cut back somewhat but still indulges.

Some time ago I noticed that my local Tim's had several big signs up announcing that they now offered "steeped tea". This was apparently something that one was expected to care about, so I asked some tea-drinking colleagues what it might mean. Here's how that went:

"It means that your tea is already brewed and ready to drink when they give it to you."

Genuinely puzzled, I asked, "So what do you usually get when you order a regular, 'non-steeped' tea?"

"A cup of hot water and a teabag."

This seems to me like ordering a hamburger and receiving a live cow and a hammer. The entire point of going to a food service establishment is to avoid preparing my own food. If I have to contribute more to the process than shoveling the order into my gullet (and if the waitstaff would help with that, that would be just super), then I'll just stay home.

All of this is to say yes. If you're visiting Canada, a stop at Tim Hortons is pretty much mandatory. It's part of the quintessential Canadian experience. Visiting Canada without going to Tim Hortons would be like visiting New York without getting mugged. It would be like visiting France without surrendering. It would be like visiting Germany without rounding up any Jews.

If you think that was too far, you should hear the ones I decided actually were. Please feel free to add your own "It would be like visiting [X] without [Y]" jokes in the comments!

Oh, and RebelAngel - let me know if you're going to be anywhere way over on the right-hand side of the map. Probably not, unless you're very lost and/or hoping to find stray lobster. I'll warn you, they tend not to be found running wild, or even as roadkill.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something else my wife prepared, photographed, and ate. It's important to get those steps in the right order. I say "prepared", rather than "cooked", because I'm not sure this was cooked. I'm also not sure whether it's solid, liquid, or some combination thereof. I frankly have no idea what it is. Anyway, she ate it.

1 comment:

RebelAngel said...

Oh my goodness! Is that soup? (I am reading your blog entries backwards, as I don't check everyday.) The...porkchops?...pictured in a later entry look much more appetizing.

Tim Hortons sounds about like I expected. We might take in the experience, should we ever get the chance. Unfortunately, during the planning of our Canada trip I decided to do our taxes. There was an unpleasant result and our vacation plans were put on hold. (rant at

The plan was indeed to head to the lovely right-hand side of the map. We were going to head East, see the ocean (probably in South Carolina) the slightly west and very north and see Niagara falls and some Canada. Though the plan was to hug the border, in case things got too polite and we had to dash back into the US to avoid culture shock.