One of my colleagues, the Multilinguist, is off in Vega doing research. She has requested I whip up a feature month of Canadian food so she can impress her research participants, and it’s a challenge I have happily accepted.
And what a challenge it will be! Canada is a country of vast natural resources, which include lots of fantastic things to eat. It’s also a country of immigrants, which means that much of what we eat is flavoured by influences from other countries.
That said, I can’t do this without your help — what stands out in your mind as being distinctly Canadian cuisine? I’d like to take a culinary journey across all Canada’s provinces and territories, but I just don’t know enough about all of them do it alone. Not to mention that many dishes from many provinces (like the prairies, the territories, or the forever intertwined-and-annoyed-about-it Ontario/Quebec) tend to blend into each other in terms of available foodstuffs. Your suggestions will be most helpful.
Is there a place you visited/lived/read about that had something tasty to offer? What kinds of food do you think about when (if) you think about Canada?
I’m looking for main courses, desserts, beverages — anything you can come up with.
Here’s my opening salvo into this Canadian menu. I’m really just spitballing here. We’ll start out west, then zig-zag north and south as we work our way east, shall we?
CANADIANA — ON MY PLATE:
Smoked salmon on cedar planking. Nanaimo bars for dessert.
BC has a large number of residents of Asian descent, so maybe smoked salmon sushi?
I also remember driving past a number of llama farms there as a child. I wonder what llama tastes like?
All that comes to mind here is Robert W. Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee, which is not particularly helpful, I know. But what did the gold-diggers eat (aside from their sled dogs)?
From a little bit of research I see that the Yukon has a thriving wheat growers’ association. Perhaps some hearty hearth bread?
Caribou stands out as a traditional food here. In fact, you can see all the useful bits of a caribou and other local fauna here. I’m pretty sure I can get caribou in St. John’s, if I do some looking around.
Bannock is also another possibility, or a wild berry tart.
Alberta beef is a dear, dear thing to us. It’s not something readily available to me in Newfoundland, but I can probably make some substitutions. Alberta also produces a large number of elk and other large livestock.
Most of the recipes coming up here involve home-grown grains, like rice, barley, and lentils. Lots of pilafs and stews.
They (and all the other prairie provinces) also grow a hardy little berry called the saskatoon. I am pretty certain I can’t find that this far east.
Because Nunavut is Canada’s newest territory (c. 1999), it’s gotten a lot of press in the past decade and so it’s all over the internet. Nunavut recipes involve caribou, arctic char, and seal. Please don’t ask me to cook seal. It is such a strong, oily meat. I’ll try anything twice, and seal has already reached its limit in my tummy.
A quirky adaptation is the Nunavut bar, a modification of the Nanaimo bar with a snow-white centre.
I really know nothing at all about prairie cooking. I’m pulling all this stuff off the internet. Pork, poulty, and mushrooms seem popular here. Please fill me in if you know anything different.
This massive conglomerate has the same sort of food availability as the prairies. You can get good Ontario produce all throughout the summer and fantastic Quebec cheese from tiny hamlets all across the province. Having lived on the Ontario/Quebec border for a long time, I’m a little muzzy on who “owns” what kinds of food, but I’m definitely thinking poutine, which originated in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, as well as the ubiquitous beavertail pastries you can pick up on the banks of the Rideau Canal.
Like the other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick cuisine features glorious amounts of seafood. Man do I love seafood. And New Brunswickers can do their seafood with an Acadian twist, which makes their dishes just a little bit different from the rest of the ocean provinces.
All that’s running through my head is lobster lobster lobster lobster apple crumble lobster lobster blueberry picking lobster lobster lobster. Though I do remember cooking an egg on the sidewalk in Lunenburg when I was little. And the fact that lemon meringue pie is considered a maritime staple, despite the fact that lemons don’t grow on the east coast.
Prince Edward Island
Despite being Canada’s smallest province, PEI is BIG on potatoes. I can definitely work with that.
Newfoundland and Labrador
We’ll finish off our tour at home, which will be a little bit less of a challenge. Starting a blog while living here has made me a bit more conscious of what’s going on, food-wise, than I had been about the other places I lived. Aside from the usual seafood and the absolutely vile seal-flipper pie (as I said, don’t ask me to cook seal, I won’t do it), there’s a bunch of scoffs (that’s Newfoundland English for a meal) around here with local flavour. Fish ‘n’ brewis, scrunchions, any form of salted meat, moose pizza, toutons, and not to mention famous Newfoundland berries such as partridgeberries, blueberries, and bakeapples. I’m sure I can arrange something outta that.
basically what we have to work with here are a wide variety of grains, fish, shellfish, livestock, berries, and fruits. How can we make them Canadian?