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Perfect Husband’s birthday was last week. After weeks and weeks of me trying to convince him that he should get to pick his own birthday activities on his birthday, rather than just sit around the house like we always do, he finally chose to go to a BC Lions (that’s football, apparently) game and then walk across the street to try the Atlantic Trap and Grill. As he pointed out to me, I got to go home (ever so briefly) but he hasn’t been home since we got married. On his birthday, he deserves a Halifax Donair. If you look up Halifax donairs on Google (and I suggest you do so if you like schadenfreude, since the wingeing of ex-pat Maritimers is pathetic to witness), this place in Vancouver apparently serves decent Halifax fare.

We both suffered through the game (which was a loss so blatant and humiliating that the stands basically emptied themselves long before the end of the last quarter) and then we walked over to the Atlantic Trap and Grill. It had just moved locations to directly across from the football place thingy. It also had a sign outside that said “Enjoy Our New Menu.” That should have been a warning to us. But we were put off our guard. Drunkards were wrestling each other outside, and there was an Alexander Keith’s sandwich board outside. So far, so good. So we walk in, and there’s a big mat on the floor saying “Welcome to the East Coast.” It was loud, and had wooden barrels and lots of drunkards. Seemed authentic enough.

It was crowded and loud. We didn’t care. We perched ourselves on stools in the corner, like naughty children, near an advertisement for Kokanee, the BC beer that no one outside of British Columbia will even consider drinking. That should have been another hint. When we ordered garlic fingers and donairs from the server (wearing a football jersey which read “Russel Beers”) our blatantly Haligonian order made him pause awkwardly.

“Uh… just so you know… the donairs don’t come in pitas. They… they come in tortilla wraps” he said. We blinked owlishly at him for a moment.
“Ooh… kay…” We weren’t sure how to respond to that. Imagine if you ordered a burger, and were told “okay, but just so you know, they come in crepes.”

I wondered how many angry Genuine Maritimers had explained the pita vs wrap thing to our server. Clearly enough that he felt he had to warn us. We should have taken the hint, and left. When the garlic fingers arrived, we looked at them in confusion. They were served (get this, Maritimers) in a basket. That’s right. Like garlic bread. Not on a platter or pan, the way pizza should be served. And yes, it did appear to be cooked on pizza dough, but when we picked them up, they drooped impotently in our hands, and radiated that certain warm moistness that pizza gets when you warm it over in the microwave. They weren’t even garlicky.

The “authentic” Halifax donair sauce with which we were served was thick, and when you dipped your finger in it and lifted the finger towards your mouth, it left a trailing drip leading back down to the cup, much the way honey does. Oh, and by the way, it tasted like honey. Donair sauce is not supposed to taste like honey, since there is no honey in the ingredients.

“What the FUCK?” was my husband’s appraisal, “there’s LETTUCE under the garlic fingers.”

But maybe the donair… wraps… would be better. I had abandoned all hope, but my husband, clinging to the last moments of his birthday, clung to optimism.

Soon, more baskets arrived. In each, was a snug, red little tortilla wrap, bristling with healthful-looking lettuce and tomato. A hint of red onion peeped out from the leafy fronds charmingly.

“What the FUCK??” said Perfect Husband, “There’s FRIES. Everyone knows that the only appropriate side order to a donair is MORE DONAIRS.
… and WHY IS IT RED??”

We began eating glumly. Not only could you pick these up and take dainty bites out of them, but your fingers stayed relatively clean. This is wrong. A Halifax donair only has the pita bread to help absorb the worst of the sauce and grease. You eat them with knife and fork. After a few mouthfuls of crunching though salad vegetables, a hint of meat appeared within the red tortilla. Further in, the cloying honey taste of their “donair sauce” was also detectable. It was bizarre. It was like going to a movie “inspired by” your favourite book. You recognize bits of it, but this is not the same thing.

Seriously, how hard is it to make a decent Halifax donair? Crappy, dirty, two-bit corner places serve them all over frigging Nova Scotia. You can’t tell me that the Maritime cuisine is impossible to duplicate. I feel like calling up King of Donair and tattling on these people and their false advertising. Presumably KOD would come flying down to Vancouver to start a good ole’ Halifax knife fight with the restaurant owner, for daring to call this… this… healthy travesty a “Halifax donair”.

What gets me is that if a Vancouverite moved East, and went to a sushi restaurant, and ordered a BC Roll, and was served a salmon-head (eyes still staring) covered in rice and roe, with a seaweed salad served on the side, they’d be pretty annoyed. But it seems to be perfectly ok in Vancouver to take a delicious East Coast dish, then cover it with LETTUCE and healthy red tortilla.

Welcome to the East Coast, my ass. I feel the way that Chinese people must feel when they walk into a “Chinese” restaurant and see people eating Chicken Balls and Fortune Cookies.

You know your country is big when you miss the culture from your side of the continent.