Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Great Maple Heist

Being an old hippie on a pension allows me to float above the trivial mercenary concerns of my fellow man. Money? A trap for the soul, and nothing to aspire to (please buy my book). Gold? Oil? Coal? The extraction of these and other minerals is an assault on our future (please charge my batteries). No, I have an appreciation for the true riches of life: clean water, shelter, music, and love (please like me on Facebook). I am not afraid to annoy anyone with my airy rejection of false riches. I am not a grasping, greedy soul.

Until now.  Until I found out that there is a giant honking reserve of maple syrup in Quebec. 80% of the world's supply of real maple syrup is there. Holy crap! Step aside! Get out of my frackin' way! I'm drilling a sidewell in from upstate New York. Try and stop me.

My adoration of maple syrup dates back to age four. My favorite breakfast was Bisquick waffles with Log Cabin syrup. I didn't think it could get any better until we traveled to Maine to visit my aunt, and my cousin Jim brought us breakfast in bed: French toast with real maple syrup. The earth experienced a momentary hitch in its rotation that still confounds geologists decades later ("The Butterworth Event of 1957"). O epiphany! O peerless bliss! I instantly developed a fervor of the same intensity that leads pubescent boys to volunteer to do their own laundry. Jim doubled down with the further revelations of maple sugar and maple cream. It's a fact that a honey badger eating maple cream will roll over for a belly rub; and pure maple sugar, in a phenomenon science cannot fully account for, actually crystallizes in the form of tiny little maple leaves. My life had changed forever. To this day I can feign ambivalence about chocolate if there's a maple hit to be had, and my favorite direction is North.

And no sooner do I learn that there exists a golden, gleaming aquifer of maple syrup than I find out that someone has stolen a whole bunch of it. Dastardliness and scoundrelation! I studied their methods, purely out of curiosity. A sidewell was not only not involved, but the International Strategic Reserve is actually a warehouse filled with barrels of syrup. The heist was an inside job and not, as you might expect, a stick-up. There were 10,000 barrels of syrup involved, or six million "pounds," which is a Quebecky measure of weight corresponding to our "pounds."

And all of it is under the control of the Regie Des Marches Ou Est La Bibliotheque Atricoles et Alimentaires Je Te Plumerai La Bec Du Quebec, which never gets much done at its annual meetings because the quorum has started to file out before the flag gets unfurled all the way. The Regie is described by disgruntled maple wranglers as a legal cartel with invasive powers, and is even known, using techniques honed by airport security agents, to visit maple farmers unannounced to check on their holes. The number of holes in one's maples is expected to match up to the reported output of exudant, much as it is in humans.

Maple syrup is produced when starch inside the maple tree is turned into sugar and rises in the sap, as opposed to in humans, where it just sort of fluffs out the thighs. There is an annual springtime event to celebrate the happy occurrence called "the running of the sap," and thousands of revelers participate, even though a few each year stumble and are overcome by goo. That's how I want to go. In a few million years, I want to be discovered preserved and smiling broadly for eternity in a blog of maple amber.

Meanwhile, some of the purloined syrup has been recovered and a perpetrator identified. The suspect was wired to a lie-detector machine and given a series of simple "ayuh" and "no" questions. Preliminary results suggest he was waffling.

96 comments:

  1. Well, of course Canada would be the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup. They even have a maple leaf on their flag! (What should we have on ours -- a Big Gulp?) I admit I'm a little surprised that the maple motherlode is in effete, wine-swilling, French Québec rather than in straightforward, he-man, I'm-a-lumberjack-and-I'm-OK English Canada. Maybe it's formed from the same ore as French toast.

    Have no worries for the missing syrup, though. The Mounties always get their man.

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    1. The Mounties. Always makes me wonder what they do with their man once they get him.

      But you're right--I felt completely different about Quebec after I found out their true treasure.

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    2. The Mounties. Always makes me wonder what they do with their man once they get him.

      Trust me, you'd rather not know. There are reasons why so few people dare commit crimes up there. The maple marauders will live to regret their syrup scheme.

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    3. Can we get the Mounties to patrol the tar sands for those other marauders?

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  2. "Je Te Plumerai La Bec du Quebec"? I will pluck your beak of Quebec? Well I would pay good money to see that. Reminds me of my high school French class days when we thought we were writing hilarious songs in French and Madame Ingvarsson disabused us of the notion, assuring us that no one wanted to hear our stupid garbled American-French songs about liver flukes.

    Maple creams are THE BEST.

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    1. They IS! And what? You doubt my rendition of the maple cartel? It's something like that. It always gets me how in so many other languages it takes so many words to say a simple thing. English is so robust. About which I have written another post--coming soonish.

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    2. PCFlamingo -- Vous doubtez les bona fides de cette faux Français brilliante??? La plume de ma tante! Et est-ce que Madame Ingvarsson était une vrai frogge? Le nom est Scandinanien.

      The "Atricoles et Alimentaires" part actually sounds a bit scary.

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    3. Madame Ingvarsson was Polish by birth, married a Scandahoovian, taught French and German at my high school, also spoke Russian and Spanish and was having our South Vietnamese exchange student teach her Vietnamese. When I got to college and signed up for college-level French they said I had the most unusual accent they had ever heard.

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    4. Oh lordy. We started out with a French teacher with a strong southern American drawl. Then I took German. By the time I got to Paris, the best I can say is that I was mistaken for a German rather than an American, which (at the time) was a good thing. I think.

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    5. Wenn die Deutschen besser beliebt in Paris sind als die Amerikaner, scheint es mir, daß man dort nicht nur Sprachen, sondern sogar mehr die Geschichte, besser lernen muß.

      Madame Ingvarsson sounds like a true citizen of the world.

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  3. Yikes. My comment disappeared before I finished. I had been saying that my oldest granddaughter's first piece of candy was a maple leaf shaped piece of maple syrup candy---given to her by me. She was just one year old and we were at Whole Foods. Her eyes were huge as she licked the candy the first time.
    When I was a kid, my parents took my brother, sister and me to a maple syrup farm. The treat was to take fresh maple syrup, pour it into snow, and then eat it. The maple-flavored snow was alternated with dill pickles. To this day I love real syrup and hate dill pickles. Don't know whether to blame it on that experience or not.

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    1. Who made you alternate maple snow with dill pickles? A pregnant woman? Gadzooks.

      And to this day I am undone by a piece of maple sugar. I think my eyes do the same thing.

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  4. Oh my! I had no idea that there are reserves of maple syrup. Thank Goodness! My cousin taps trees but last spring there was not enough to make syrup. I could foresee a crisis. Now that I know of the reserves, I will sleep a bit better. I was raised on/by Mrs. Butterworth....she lovingly gazed upon us as we devoured the Bisquick pancakes.
    I laughed out loud and read this to my husband. Although he often doesn't "get" what I find hilarious, even he was laughing out loud as well. Very impressive that you can do that.

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    1. Yeah, that's the idea of the cartel--to even out the lean years. But I guess it's an issue. Some farmers would rather set their own prices. There are many things that run better if we group up, but we've got that whole rugged individualism thing going on--to such an extent that Obama gets called a socialist. Huh.

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  5. Yes, the heist was a huge event up here. Hubby and I are harbouring dark suspicions about the sudden availability of maple-syrup-flavoured rye whiskey out here in Alberta. But we aren't saying anything. 'Cause, hey, maple-syrup-flavoured whiskey! Yummmmm... *hic*

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    1. Oh, Diane, we'll still be here when you wake up...you know, there probably IS maple-flavored whiskey. We have some maple wine here.

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  6. We are maple syrup junkies here. I make lots of maple-almond granola. After dinner we have vanilla ice cream with granola, dried cranberries, and lots more maple syrup. We call it our hippie sundae. Oh mon dieu, c'est délicieux!

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    1. I think you need to throw groats in it to be a true hippie sundae. Or goats--

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  7. House rule: Waffles must be made from Bisquick, and must be made in one of those old 50s-era GE waffle makers. "Belgian waffles" just aren't real waffles, to me...

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    1. YES! THAT IS WHAT I'M SAYING! Those other waffles are too sweet. And I have two of those waffle makers. We got a new one that's larger in order to make more waffles at once, but it works better to haul out the two little round ones.

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  8. Not a maple syrup fan here - much too sweet for my taste - which make me snort when I read your reply, Murr, to Ann M. above about Belgian waffles - I love those suckers :)

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    1. I also have a thing about the amount of syrup used. It needs to be plenty. Lots and lots. But not one drop more than you can sop up with the last waffle piece. When guests leave a plate with syrup still on it, I cringe.

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    2. As opposed to my husband, who has some waffle with his syrup...or "surp" as he calls it. He could bring on a syrup shortage all by himself.

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    3. But that's a noble pursuit. As long as he doesn't waste it.

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  9. I've had a good laugh while reading this, and now I'm craving maple leaf-shaped maple sugar candy. And real maple syrup. You've done your job!

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  10. Being a born Quebecois (Montreal) and having attended a few "sugaring off" parties, I am embarrassed to say that I'm not overly fond of the maple flavour. The pure syrup itself is wonderful on breakfast goodies but most anything flavoured with maple kind of turns my estomach.

    Very funny post.. your waffling remark and others made me laugh.

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    1. Not overly fond? Aren't you afraid you'll get your birth certificate revoked?

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  11. An old issue that resurfaces in the National Post last week just in time to wake us up because the sap will be running now. Funny how the media knows just how to time things. Let the fun begin.
    I was surprised to learn that huge truck loads of syrup travel from Québec to Vermont for packaging and distributing. Not a very green footprint for the golden stuff. Pipeline? hehe Just look at the map and it's a no-brainer!
    How is it that the French get to have most of the sweet stuff in the world?
    Farmers? And who really wants to work on a farm? Foreigners brought in to tap? Seasonal workers?
    Okay now I'm tired after thinking hard about this golden stuff stolen and why and how and who and all of that big deal. Think it's time for Buddy and I to have a crêpe with crème fraîche and sirop d'érable made by our local farmer and grown here in Markham! Bottle here too of course. On site and shipped right to where I shop, The Village Grocer.
    Merçi for my lunch idea.

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  12. Nope. Too sweet for me (in Australia, their are folk who exhibit the same passion for Golden Syrup)
    but I expect you're happy that you can slurp my share.

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    1. Ack no, like Karo syrup? Gack gack. No. Maple is altogether different. Albeit sweet.

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  13. Oh, yes - REAL maple syrup, please. We buy it in 3-gallon orders from a family-run company in the northern part of this state (Ohio), and I use some every day in my yogurt. When I was growing up, my mother and I used nothing else but the real stuff, but my dad resolutely preferred Log Cabin. He also liked Wonder Bread, so go figure.
    Murr, I am SO with you on the proper amount of syrup to use. The pancakes or waffles must be absolutely saturated, with no extra pooling on the plate. (What's WITH the tiny portions of syrup lots of restaurants offer????) If there's extra syrup left on the plate, you simply need another pancake or waffle to soak it up, so sometimes there may be a problem in coming out even. We soldier on. And for me, the main problem with Belgian waffles is that they're too thick and soft. A real waffle needs to be a bit crisp on the outside, not bready and flabby.

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    1. Dave prefers Log Cabin too. As does everyone in his family. They ain't right. And I know exactly how much syrup to pour to be able to sop it up properly. And I prefer my Bisquick waffles on the crisp overdone side. Otherwise I'd be a pancake girl, and I am not.

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  14. Those little maple leaf candies are worth their weight in gold and just about as expensive. I can see why there would be a maple heist. Given the choice of maple nut or chocolate fudge, I'm going with maple every time.

    "I instantly developed a fervor of the same intensity that leads pubescent boys to volunteer to do their own laundry." BAHAHAHAHA!

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    1. Oh Jayne, Jayne, Jayne, you go straight for the good parts!

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  15. I've never before heard such a paean to syrup. I'll treat my bottle of Mrs. Buttersworth with more respect because of you.

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    1. Well you should respect her because she's a lady, but I can't get that stuff down.

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  16. Last year's bottle of Grade B was gone in less than a month and my Canadian sister promises to send more. The price is over $20 a quart here in No Cal. Is it comprable where you are, Murr ?~!

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    1. The little bottles you can get anywhere are five thousand dollars an ounce. The depicted bottle is a Costco product at $15.42/liter.

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  17. My birthday is coming up. A maple sugar cake? This has possibilities.

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    1. I think I tried and was disappointed by a maple cake I made once. But you can get almost the same kind of joy out of marzipan. I have a great carrot cake recipe with little marzipan carrots on the top. That's what I recommend.

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    2. Do you share this recipe? And do you make your own carrots?

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    3. It's Maidda Heatter's recipe, and I have it in a book and can scan it for you, or maybe it's on line. And I DO make my own carrots! They're adorable.

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  18. An entire essay written in service of the last word. I like that, along with all that went before. Good work, Murr.
    Maple syrup and pancakes or waffles. That's delish delish delish.
    The only feature not covered in this outing is butter's role. But that's a whole 'nother story.

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    1. Ooooh! Butter! Must be eaten separately. I am devoted to butter, but if it comes between my waffle and syrup, I can't handle it. Come to think of it, I ain't right.

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    2. You warm up the syrup, of course, and then put a blob of butter on top of the waffle/syrup and swirl it around. And if there's syrup left on your plate you eat it with a spoon....It's nearly midnight here and I may have to sneak downstairs and glug some right from the jug.

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    3. Reminds me: my recent cough got me trying spoonfuls of honey with lemon. Then just the honey. I'd forgotten how good honey is. And I'm not really a sweetaholic. I prefer savory.

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  19. Just noticed sap buckets on trees in the maple lots in these parts today and here you are singing the praises of the golden wonderfulness. Pain perdu (French toast) with maple syrup is pure joy, innit? Don't you wonder who that first person was who stuck a tube into a maple tree, boiled the sap and put it on bannock or an indigenous chapati or somesuch? I would walk by trees until my final days and not think of doing that.

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    1. "Lost bread?" Really? Cool. There are many food items that I find myself wondering that about--who was the first? In fairness, many of these are things I don't want to eat.

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    2. I know...like snails. Who looked at a snail and thought "I'd like to eat that".

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  20. Yes, sap buckets on trees up in Crawford County PA last weekend already.

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  21. Nope, you can have my share too. Just never acquired the taste for it - too sweet for me too.

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    1. Wait--have you guys tried real maple sugar?

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    2. No. Never tried maple sugar - I don't think it has made its way down this far. I will look out for it.

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    3. I'm an Aussie and I love real maple syrup. The cheap stuff is awful. I had maple candy in Boston and have never recovered. Magic in the mouth. I'll be looking fo maple sugar too.

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    4. Maple candy=maple sugar. Look for Maple Cream too--a little harder to come by, but on toast with butter....oy.

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  22. I bet it was all a plan to raise the prices, like what they do with gas (we have a shortage). How dastardly!!

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  23. Maple walnut ice cream. That's all I have to say about that. Except for a little moan.

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    1. And in my enlightened burg, I can get the sugar leaves around the corner, and the maple walnut ice cream across the street.

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  24. Most of the store bought pancake syrups are fake maple. Cane syrup plus water plus maple flavouring. In Canada I made our pancake syrup for years. The real stuff was too expensive with four teenagers in the house. Now I get it (Costco kind)shipped in care packages from home for our granddaughter along with cane syrup.

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    1. I'm pretty sure Costco gets an A in conditions for employees and such things that liberals like me care about, but they definitely get an A in maple syrup.

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  25. Replies
    1. Any writer hopes to move her audience, make them laugh, make them cry--I will settle for making them peckish.

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  26. Having homesteaded in northern Vermont for a number of years, I have a direct connection to a maple sugar house. Each year I make a visit to collect second runs of syrup and seconds (rejects) of their maple leaf candy. I look a lot like Mrs. Butterworth as a result but I'm far more natural.

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    1. I always thought Mrs. Butterworth was hot.

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  27. Maple sugar seconds? Why has this not reached my local outlet mall?

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  28. Murr, have you read about the Great Maple Syrup Flood? Happened in Boston a long time ago. People were killed by maple syrup.

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    1. It was molasses! Right around 1919. I actually put that event into my first novel.

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  29. To die in molasses vs. maple syrup? Hard choice. Now, gotta make pancakes.

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    1. I've never been any good at steering my dreams, but I'd like to work one up about floating downstream on a tide of maple syrup for a while. And then getting...someone else to lick it off.

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  30. I'm glad to hear the authorities caught the sticky-fingered fella.

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  31. Replies
    1. It's got to be breakfast time somewhere in the world, right?

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  32. This takes the cake for being the sweetest blog you've ever written. Positively sticky with superlatives. And it generated a ton of sugary responses.

    Stick with it, honey-'er maple.

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    1. Inasmuch as I've written at least four posts about pie, I thank you.

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    Hoωever, it doeѕ for muѕcles.

    Ϲhеck out my blog - pure green coffee extract

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    1. Anonymous has add greatly information to you fine blog post. Do for you muscles and enjoy uncomfortable yogurt!!!1

      :)

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    2. Yeah, I'm kind of bored this evening. Hope you don't mind my poke at Anon too much :)

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    3. I've been deleting Anon most of the time, but I did enjoy this contribution.

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  34. Dear Murr, that last line of your posting had me chuckling! What a punny pun. The whole posting in fact was a delight. Thank you for sharing your maple syrup/sap passion with us. Peace.

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    1. My sap passion is something else entirely, Dee!

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  35. I'm still trying to get over 'Log Cabin Syrup'. Does that come from the same farm as 'Barnyard Eggs'? By the way, I agree with Anon about the *offee.

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  36. I am ashamed to say I have never tasted maple syrup so can't really see what all the fuss is about - it must be a Canadian thing! Even so, your post still made me laugh.

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