I generally don’t blog about something as mundane as a ‘lunch’, but last Thursday in Montreal, I had a lunchtime experience so unexpected and so unusual that I feel compelled to write about it. It was a stellar autumn day: clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and temperatures in the high teens, a perfect day to take the Métro from Côte-des-Neiges station over to Rue St. Laurent and have a world-famous smoked meat sandwich in Montreal’s Schwartz’s Deli.
There was no line-up when my husband and I arrived as it was only 11:30, but the small restaurant was already crowded and so we were seated at a table with two other patrons opposite the diner bar. We had barely placed our orders for smoked meat sandwiches on rye, kosher dill pickles, coleslaw, and fries, when there was a commotion at the front of the restaurant. Looking up, I saw that a most unusual ‘entourage’ had entered the restaurant and was threading its way with difficulty down the narrow aisle of the crowded restaurant. First in line was a sturdy-looking fellow wearing white gloves and carrying, of all things, the Grey Cup or as they say in French, la Coupe Grey. Behind him came a cameraman and after him, another technician of some sort (the one who carries that fuzzy whatchamacallit on a pole). The man bearing the coveted trophy set it down on the counter of the diner bar about a meter and a half from where we were seated. There it stood in all its shining splendour as deli staff and patrons gravitated towards it to have their pictures taken by the man with the camera, while others, including my husband, brought out their smart phones. I couldn’t quite believe that I, of all people, was having a close encounter with the Grey Cupsomething many football fans no doubt craved but would never experienceas I ‘chowed down’ on my smoked meat sandwiches. It seemed almost irreverent to bother the waiter with “Where’s my coleslaw?” at a time like this.
The cameraman obviously didn’t get the shots he wanted the first time round for the ‘grand entry with the Cup’ was repeated at least two more times (I lost count). I never did pose with the Grey Cup. I would have felt like an impostor of sorts, given that my yearly encounter with Canadian football is limited by choice to watching the last quarter of the Grey Cup game—and that’s only if the score is close. Still, it felt good to be part of the lunch crowd that day, if only to witness the excitement generated by the arrival of Canada’s iconic Grey Cup. I left the Montreal deli with the knowledge that there is at least one thing that fires up Canadians of all stripes, and that felt very good.