Everyone is a sucker for their hometown, if even in a small way. As we drove the scenic route from Midland to Sarnia, through many quaint Ontario country towns, I found myself increasingly more excited to get to Sarnia. I reached to the back of my brain and sputtered every distant or obscure memory associated with each place as we drove through. Lindsay was a good sport and listened to the whole array of useless sentimental information I threw at her. She even agreed to run UP the sand dune in Port Franks on a humid afternoon, because I nostalgically insisted it was necessary to do so.
For me, coming home is usually about the people, but perhaps because we are always moving and seeing new places everyday, going home to the place felt more significant. Sarnia is located right at the bottom of Lake Huron, along the St. Clair River, which runs into Lake Eerie. If you’ve grown up in Sarnia, you have most certainly been to ‘the bridge’ (the Blue Water Bridge) to stroll the boardwalk or eat french fries.
You probably have a stronger opinion than is reasonable about which chip truck is the best and a detailed reason why. You’ve also probably stood in an insanely long line-up to get a cone from Ice Cream Galore. If you’re from Sarnia, you most certainly know what a ‘river run’ (swimming with the current in the St. Clair river) is, and you also probably know that when is there is a north wind, the Lake Huron waves will be huge, and you’d better stop what you are doing get to the beach as fast as possible.
These things are institutions of the culture of Sarnia (technically most of these things happen in Point Edward, but only people from Point Edward are sticklers for this detail).
The most cherished memories I have of growing up in Southwestern Ontario are those that happened on the water. My growing up years were spent on the various beaches dotting Lake Huron, and fishing at my grandparents’ trailer. We would squeal with horror at the growing pile of fish guts, while Pake (grandpa) would no doubt chuckle to himself as he expertly de-skinned, de-boned, and filleted the catch. To this day, I have never tasted fried perch like his.
Whenever he cooks fish at our family gatherings, you can be sure to find me hovering, eating more than my share. In honour of our visit to Sarnia, Pake purchased some fresh perch from Purdy’s Fish Market (another Sarnia institution dating back to 1900), which he coated with bread crumbs, egg, and spices, and served up as an appetizer to the night’s meal.
while Ontario grown corn on the cob and some of Papa VanVeller’s famous rotisserie BBQ’d beef satisfied our hunger.
We also had some Ontario-produced Burrata, an Italian style, hand-stretched fresh mozzarella filled with cream.
For dessert we had very buttery brioche cinnamon buns made by me and Lindsay and a host of adorable and energetic children.
I couldn’t ask for a better family. They spoiled us while we were there with home cooked meals, favourite treats, and even a surprise visit from my brother, sister-in-law, and niece who live eight hours away. They even spent three hours enthusiastically cleaning our FEAST-mobile, utilizing a towel-covered electric sander to release all of those fossilized Yukon bugs.
Thank you to all of the wonderful people who still make Sarnia feel like home. Now it’s time for me to get back on the road!