10.21.2013

I Married an International Criminal

I spent the weekend in Vancouver with my wife celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary. It was awesome! We walked around the city and played fast and loose with the schedule, just kind of wandering into fun things to do like the aquarium, Granville Island Market, and of course the most fantastic dinner I've ever had in Canada at Hawksworth restaurant. 

My wife picked the dinner because she's a chef and super plugged into the food scene. Which is awesome because I get to tag along on awesome trips to amazing restaurants and markets I normally would pass by on my way to a McDonald's or something. So Saturday night we enjoyed an amazing six course meal with wine pairings as we stole sideways glances at a double date next to us that had gone quickly down a wine bottle. At one point we literally put our hands up in preparation for catching a drunk man before he could fall on our table.

But he didn't fall and dinner was fantastic and it was, I thought, a fantastic cap to our weekend in Vancouver. But little did I know Kat had an ulterior motive for our trip up North. Sunday, before we left, her eyes sparkled with a devious glint.

"We're going to buy some illicit cheese," she purred. I married the dairy world's Carmen Sandiego.


Kat explained to me that the US has harsher import restrictions on things like French cheese, requiring it to be pasteurized in order to call it safe for consumption. This, apparently, ruins the taste of the cheese. You can get French Brie here, but it's not the "real deal." It all sounded silly to me until she tried to explain to me that one particular variety of cheese can't make it in the states because the US "has all these bullshit, unachievable standards like 'only seven mites per square centimeter' on the cheese that comes in."

Suddenly, I was sympathizing with the evil American cheese consortium. 

But Kat assured me it would be worth it, and despite the very real law telling us not to, bringing in a little forbidden cheese seemed harmless enough. After all, it's just for personal consumption. We weren't buying enough to get run up on an "intent to distribute" charge, right? The border guard probably wouldn't even know it was illicit cheese if they found it, since there's plenty of cheese you ARE allowed to bring over.

I should point out that this rule about unpasteurized cheese is due to a government agency deciding that it's safer to let people eat only pasteurized dairy, and it probably is but we decided to take that chance because we're grown adults. I totally abide by slightly more serious rules aimed at protecting the populace and environment and would never, say, smuggle drugs or bring a cane toad to Australia or something.

Plus, we were smart. We had a plan: buy the goods, tuck it in a suitcase, and keep our mouths shut. No one would ever know until we were safely back at home, laughing giddily and eating mimolette. This was an easy job, in and out.

"Pardon me," a woman asked Kat while I was staring at bottles of maple syrup, "would you mind if we asked you a few questions about the controversial legislation allowing more European cheeses in Canadian stores?" I froze. Not because I was worried about being found out, but because in my estimation being cornered by a news camera crew in a store, unprepared, would probably be among Kat's Top 5 Least Enjoyable Experiences Ever. I tried to read her face and see if I needed to swoop in an extricate her.

"Uh, sure," her voice quavered. Some interesting sausages caught my eye and I left her to twist in the wind.

Apparently there's an intense debate in Canada about relaxing import restrictions to allow more fancy French cheese like the stuff we were buying into the country. Canadian cheese makers, naturally, hate the idea. After interviewing the folks at the cheese shop the producer wanted an "everyman's opinion," and Kat and I were the only folks in the shop. 

Have you ever watched "Jaywalking" on the Tonight Show or those bits where Jimmy Kimmel asks people about made up topics to watch them pretend they know what's going on? It's a really old tactic: you blindside a person, usually a tourist, with a camera/lighting rig and maybe a celebrity host. You ask them some silly questions, and you edit out the 98% of people who actually respond coherently. The result is a 2 minute bit where the late night host gets to say, "Ha, these people are so silly!"

I don't remember exactly what the producer asked Kat. I do remember that at one point she said, exactly, "I just think cheese is good and everyone loves cheese so more cheese is good." Not an embarrassing answer at all, but not the most eloquent either. Satisfied with her sound bites, the crew cut her loose. We paid for our goods and headed south towards America, home of the brave-except-when-it-comes-to-unpasteurized-dairy-products.

"So that interview was for the CBC," Kat told me once we were in the car, "is that a big deal?" 

"Uh, I think that's basically like ABC asking your opinion on cheese," I laughed. 

My wife, the Thomas Crown of cheese, couldn't resist thumbing the eye of the authorities by going on national television mid-heist to brag about her love of felonious feta. We'll have to destroy the evidence. With crackers and wine.

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