Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Christmas on Canada’s East Coast: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by Heather Keagan in Entertainment, Food, Language, Travel | No Comments »

Christmas in Canada has some pretty solid staples all over: Christmas trees, family gatherings, lots of food, the usual Christmas parties. On the East Coast you can find some deviations to the norm, and some adaptations to what you would typically expect for a Christmas celebration that makes Christmas on the coast all that more interesting. Here are just a few Christmas traditions from the Canadian Maritimes to get you into the holiday spirit!


Photo by Jenny Neal/Flickr

Mummering is something you’ll find in Newfoundland. During the 12 days of Christmas, families and friends will travel in groups dressed in disguises. The goal when mummering is to make sure no one will recognize you and that you use items from your house when dressing up. If you can make yourself taller, slimmer, fatter, bigger (anything at all to confuse those who know you) then that is what you need to do before leaving your home to go mummering. After your disguises are in place, you travel from house to house in your neighbourhood, knocking on doors and asking to be welcomed in. If you are allowed to enter a home, you and your group must perform some sort of entertainment. It can be a dance, or you can tell jokes, or sing a song – really anything you’d like.

When the entertainment is finished, the owners of the home must try to guess your identities before offering you food and drink. They’re allowed to ask each of the mummers questions and feel around their costume for help in deciding who it could be. When all the mummers’ identities have been guessed, and the food and drinks are finished, a newer, larger group is formed (in some cases though not always) and they travel together to another house.

Trees and Christmas Presents!

Eastern Canada has amazing fir and pine trees, so if you are purchasing a real tree at Christmas, which many families do, it would be one of these. It’s quite common to buy Christmas trees around the beginning of December and they are decorated by the family. One thing most people don’t know is that every year, the biggest and best fir tree in Nova Scotia is sent to Boston, USA. This is done in memory and in thanks of the aid received from Boston during the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

Presents are generally placed underneath the Christmas tree, and in many homes on Christmas Eve after a rather large family supper you are able to open one Christmas present early.

Yummy Nibblin’s

East Coasters are more likely to eat a big feats of lobsters and shellfish for Christmas dinner than they are to eat the more traditional turkey or ham. Taffy pulls are also quite common during the holiday season, which is usually used as a matchmaking event for single ladies and single gentlemen in the community.

Barley candy and Chicken Bones are popular candies to eat around Christmas time on the East Coast. Barley candy is usually on a stick and is shaped like a Christmas object; Santa, reindeer, snowmen or something equally seasonal. Chicken Bones are a hard pink candy that tastes like cinnamon, though once sucked on long enough they reveal a secret chocolate centre.

Polar Dips

Photo by Jim Sorbie/Flickr

Photo by Jim Sorbie/Flickr

We would be remiss not to mention polar dips on our list, and although it’s more of a New Years Eve tradition, it does happen around the Christmas season. Polar dips make many people cringe just hearing about them, but they are a pretty common occurrence on the coast. Around Christmas and New Year people will get together, sometimes in teams, and jump off a wharf or a pier (or in some cases just simply run) into the Atlantic Ocean. The water is usually ice cold, and bathers are meant to jump in with as little clothing on as possible. Usually these are charity events and a lot of drinking is done right after the polar dip is completed. It’s a chilly way to raise money for others and good fun all around.

How do you celebrate Christmas in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments section below. If you’re interested in Canadian culture (and the very specific English spoken in the country), contact us for courses today.

A Tourist’s Guide to Toronto

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by Heather Keagan in Food, Travel | No Comments »

Toronto is one of Canada’s largest cities, and with its proximity to Niagara Falls and the American border, it is one that tourists would be sorely disappointed to miss. Home to so many amazing sights, and a ton of famous people, it’s a city that seems to buzz with activity and energy (even in the winter!)

It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in, because Toronto has a little something for everyone.

Photo by Benson Kuta

Photo by Benson Kuta

What to do in Toronto:


There is so much to do in Toronto that if we made it a bullet list, we would carry on for pages upon pages. If you’re into festivals Toronto has Caribana, a Caribbean/carnival inspired street parade that lasts all weekend, and of course there is TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, where you can hobnob with celebrities and see some cutting edge cinema. And then there’s Pride, a huge party every year, and one that you definitely shouldn’t miss!


If you’re interested in museums on your trip, check out the ROM, the Royal Ontario Museum, which has a number of interesting exhibitions for both adults and kids. It’s a great place to spend the day – you can check out their current exhibitions on fashion and biodiversity or wander around the Entire City Project to look at some amazing photographs of the city’s industrial spaces.

There’s also the AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario, which at the moment is featuring exhibits by Alex Colville among others. Then there’s Montgomery’s Inn and Spadina House for those of you more interested in Toronto’s history.

Markets and Gardens:

When you’re finished with those, check out the St. Lawrence Market where you can do a little shopping for fresh and homemade goodies. In fact, this place doubles as a solid place to grab some grub when you’re out and about.  You can also check out Edward Gardens, part of the Toronto Botanical Gardens where you can spend your day wandering around in the refreshing greenery of the gardens: it makes a nice break from the concrete landscape of Toronto.

Sport & Recreation:

Why not check out the Hockey Hall of Fame while you’re in the city? It’s perfect for young and old hockey fans, and you’ll be able to take a look at the Stanley Cup (as long as it’s not playoff season, of course). When you’re ready for a day of interesting shopping, patio dining, and incredible bars and restaurants, head over to the Distillery Historic District to find just about everything you could ever want, and more.

You can also check out Paint Nite events, where you essentially get painting lessons while you drink at a local bar located somewhere in the city. It gives you a chance to meet new people and try your hand at creating something nifty. Tickets can be purchased online.

Photo by Matthew Ingram

Photo by Matthew Ingram

What to Eat & Drink in Toronto:

If you like the idea of relaxing with some friends while playing unlimited board games and drinking some delicious coffee and indulging in some yummy snacks, check out Snakes and Lattes. Or if you’re more like myself and enjoy some adult beverages with your board games, try their sister location Snakes and Lagers.

For supremely good espressos and cappuccinos, Boxcar Social has some of the best coffee in the city, and Dark Horse is another staple, with several scattered locations to give you a caffeine fix no matter where you might be.  

Craft beer your thing? Indie Ale House is the place to head for some delicious craft brew. They have four flagship brews that you can sample year-round, as well as some seasonal beers and limited edition drinks that you can try while you’re there. For lunch, dinner or drinks check out the Grand Electric Bar, where you can find pumping hip hop and scaldingly spicy tacos for cheap. With roasted pork tacos, cauliflower tacos, beef cheek tacos, and more on their lunch menu, and tuna ceviche and octopus on the dinner menu, you can’t go wrong – you can even take home a bottle of their famous hot sauce!

Toronto is an amazing place to visit, live, and study, though English is essential for your trip! Why not contact us to see what courses English Classes In has available for you?

The 5 Best Drinks in England

Posted on May 21st, 2014 by Kev Woodward in Food, Travel | No Comments »

Mention drinks and immediately alcoholic beverages spring to mind. Sure, some of the best drinks in England are indeed alcohol based but by no means all of them. What follows is a list, in no particular order, of what we believe to be the five best drinks in England:

1. A ‘nice cuppa’

Photo by Vanderdecken

Photo by Vanderdecken

This just had to make it onto the list! If there is one drink that is quintessentially English it is the cup of tea. But why should such a banal beverage make it on to a ’5 Best Drinks’ list? Simple, a cup of tea is so versatile. When you arrive home, tired after a day out or having had a hard day at work, it is a fantastic energiser. Mash a pot of tea, put your feet up while you drink it and within half an hour, you are as ‘right as rain’ again. On a hot day, nothing refreshes like a cup of tea. The first thing the police suggest when they arrive with bad news is that you sit down and have a ‘nice cuppa’ and, at the scene of a road accident (or other incident involving the emergency services), unless it is far from any houses, before long at least one person will arrive carrying a tray of steaming hot mugs of sweetened tea.

2. Real Ale

Real ale (or cask conditioned beer) is what a true English person would term ‘proper beer’ rather than the fizzy cold version known as keg beer. It has a much richer flavour and a subtlety of taste not found in the mass-produced beers. It is served from a hand pump rather than by pressurising a sealed barrel and is not overly chilled, indeed there are many aficionados of real ale who insist on letting theirs warm up to room temperature as it releases even more of the subtle smells and flavours. The true real ale enthusiast will insist on his or her pint being served flat, with a minimal head in order to benefit fully from the subtlety of this traditional English drink. There are hundreds of small breweries producing thousands of different real ales throughout England, many of which have amusing, risqué or bizarre names such as ‘Wobbly Bob’ and ‘Sneck Lifter’.

3. Elderflower Cordial

This is produced from the flower of the Elder, a bush that produces copious red berries in the autumn that are often turned into a country wine by amateur wine makers. A little of the cordial is diluted to taste using iced water and it goes down well on a hot summer’s day as you read your book whilst lounging in the shade! The taste is delicate with an exquisite floral aroma.

4. Lindisfarne Mead 

This is more readily available in the north east of England but can be found further afield. It was originally made by the monks resident on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland. It is made at St Aidan’s Winery on Lindisfarne and is a fortified sweet wine. Mead is sometimes referred to as ‘the nectar of the gods’ and well deserves its place in the 5 best drinks in England but careful, when you drink it, it slips down rather easily!

5. Pimm’s

Photo by Matt Boulton

Photo by Matt Boulton

Pimm’s was invented in 1823 by James Pimm, a London oyster bar owner, as an aid to digestion. The original was named ‘Pimm’s No. 1 Cup’ and is still made today, whereas other varieties based on other spirits have come and gone. The No 1 Cup is a gin based drink, flavoured with a secret recipe of herbs and fruits, and it goes down nicely on warm days. It is associated with the upper middle classes, who might say that it really should be at number one on this list of 5 best drinks in England.

Have you visited England? Have you sampled some of their drinks? If so, please let us know your thoughts on what you feel are the five best drinks in England!

If you would like to know more about English classes in your area, send us an enquiry today!