If you didn’t grow up in Toronto, if you didn’t grow up in Toronto in the 1970s, it is hard to convey the nostalgic pull of the Canadian National Exhibition.
Yes, it still marks the end of a Toronto summer; it still seems the last party before back-to-school. Everyone now calls it the CNE.
Its consequence was signalled by the fact that our public school included two free admission tickets in our June report card. All of summer seemed to wend its hot, sticky way toward the white angel atop the Princes’ Gates. Once inside, the sensory overload was gorgeous: the happy screams of people on the wooden Flyer, the thumping rock music blasted on the Polar Express (“do you want to go faster?”), the pervasive smells of caramel corn and candy floss machines looping gossamer threads of sugar. Most magical of all were the sparkly nighttime illuminations of the Big Wheel.
Our father maintained a childlike pleasure in the Ex—he’d grown up in Toronto—and he loved a fast roller coaster, especially the rickety terrors of the Wild Mouse. He was the parent who let us stay late, Coke slushies in hand, agog at the crowds and the games and the glittery lights.
Below, Part One of a menu to evoke the carnival pleasures of the Ex.
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry S’mores
Pre- heat broiler or toaster oven. Break the crackers in half to form squares and place on a baking sheet. Arrange 4 marshmallow halves on top of each square. Broil for 30 to 60 seconds or until the marshmallows are golden brown.
Break each chocolate bar into 12 pieces. Arrange the chocolate and raspberries on top of half the crackers. Invert the remaining marshmallow-topped crackers onto the raspberry-and-chocolate–topped crackers, pressing gently to make sandwiches. Stack them, if desired.