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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 09.07.04
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

You're not going to eat that, are you?

Imagine this: You're sitting at home, reading your newspaper. It's getting close to suppertime. There's a knock at the door. You open it and there's a stranger standing there holding a pot. "I've got this leftover food. Do you want it?"

You'd say 'No', of course, but politely, the way you do to those ex-cons who come to your door selling household gadgets but who you really suspect are casing the joint. (C'mon, admit it).

We're taught as children not to take food from strangers, especially if it involves meat. As with Melanie Griffith movies, there are too many things that can go horribly, horribly wrong with meat.

But accepting strange food is exactly what my family did a few weeks ago when we were camping in Brighton State Park in Vermont.

We were enjoying the late afternoon when a man in a tie-dyed Rolling Stones shirt walked onto our campsite and said in his thick New England accent, "You guys want a pot of sauce? I saw you had a lot of kids here and I thought you could use it. It's got chicken in it, some pepperoni, and sausages."

So it did. A huge pot of thick tomato sauce with giant chunks of meat. The adults looked at each other nervously.

"I made too much and we're packing up tonight," he said. Then he said something about his daughter having been in an accident, a U-Haul coming to pick him up, and, oh yes, he was a communist who wished he was Canadian.

"Uh, okay," we said. "Thanks. You sure?"

(Translation: "We actually feel rather uncomfortable with this because, you see, we are indeed Canadians and, despite our reputation for tolerance, we are in reality quite suspicious and only superficially friendly. We really wish you and your mystery sauce would just go away.")

"No problem," he said. "Enjoy."

Later, he brought us a bag of corn, by which point we were feeling a bit sheepish about not having bought a gift for him.

Son James later admitted to me that he figured Mr. Rolling Stones had decided he didn't like the sauce and was trying to offload it on us, which is cynical for an eight-year-old but less paranoid than thinking he was trying to poison us.

And that thought did cross my mind more than once. Sausages are pretty dodgy at the best of times let alone mystery-man sausages. Besides, wasn't there a woman with him at the campsite earlier? Where was she now? What exactly was in those sausages? Isn't this the plotline from some movie?

Regardless, we all tried some of the sauce at the campsite, including the sausage. It was quite tasty, though the sausages were somewhat bland and mealy and...I don't want to think about it.

When none of us died, we brought the sauce home and had it on egg noodles the following night. We all helped ourselves to the chicken and chunks of pepperoni, but no one touched the sausage.

"You had some at the camp," I said to Emily, our oldest.

"I know. I just don't want it now."

"Why not?"

"I just don't."

Could it be because I had raised the spectre of cannibalism? Or was it because I kept referring to it as "man sausage?" And just what was that U-Haul hauling away in the night? And why was Mr. Rolling Stones so jumpy?

I had another serving for lunch the next day. No sausage. And that was it. Enough was enough. There are leftovers, and then there are suspect leftovers.

So why did we do it?

Why did we accept food from a man who may or may not be wanted for illegally transporting a corpse across state lines? Because we were camping, that's why, and when you're camping you do things you don't normally do.

You live in the same clothes for three days. You pay money to sleep in the rain. You have illicit love affairs with park rangers. And you accept the goodness of your fellow campers at face value. Just stay away from anything served with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

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