To recap the inaugural post of this series I have been creating a list of essential music, TV, books, foods and experiences that a non-national should seek out to really get a feel for true Canadian culture.
Instead of ripping off a bunch of google photos that are not mine just google these people.
Most countries/regions take great pride in their well-developed cuisines. Canada has a smattering of fairly national dishes and most cities have a “style” of food but generally we are a nation of great food but most of it adaptations. A canadian dinner party would not be out of the question, however.
Alberta beef – not really on my radar but I get the feeling this is a big deal out here based on the number of people who said “Alberta Beef!” when I asked for suggestions.
Best eaten: at a steakhouse in Alberta? I don’t know, I haven’t eaten it!
Bannock – aka fry bread. The first time I ate this we cooked it on a stick over a fire at a historical site on the Michipicoten River. The next time it was at a powwow and it was the improvised shell on an “indian taco”. Not kidding.
Best eaten: at an open powwow while you take in the intricate dress and haunting vocal tones during the traditional dances
Beaver Tail – A big, flat piece of fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon (traditionally). In other words – heaven.
Best eaten: while taking a break to warm up your hands during a long skate down the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.
Butter Tarts – a tart with raisins and brown gooey stuff. Apparently very Canadian.
Best eaten: at my mom’s friend Lois’s house. I’ll hook you up.
Caesar (drink): vodka + clamato juice + worcestershire sauce + hot sauce + celery stick garnish. Sometimes the glass is rimmed with salt N’ pepper. For the uninducted: clamato juice is exactly what it sounds like – clam broth + tomato juice. Mouth watering yet? Mine only waters to dilute the taste of bile in my mouth as I think about it. But it is popular.
Best drunk: I have no idea. Not at all? Out on a house boat on a warm summer night.
Ice Wine – this is perfect for Canada – grow some grapes and then harvest them AFTER they freeze. Takes care of the short growing season. And you get an almost unbearably sweet alcoholic beverage.
Best drunk: on a biking wine tour through Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario).
Ketchup Chips – this really is something with a limited appeal. Not to say you shouldn’t try it. The chips are a deep maroon colour and you get a satisfying powdery coating on your fingers, not to mention the staining. They actually taste better than they sound.
Best eaten: while watching “Idle Hands” or at a children’s birthday party.
Maple – in any form. Take a trip in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes just sampling as you go. Pancake houses, maple sugar candies, maple-flavoured bacon and BBQ sauces.
Best eaten: Montreal, dead of winter. Wander by subway stations or through festivals and look for a small booth made of wood with an unassuming bed of snow at waist level. For a small fee they’ll pour boiling maple syrup onto the snow and then roll it onto a popsicle stick to form a sticky-gooey, extra-sweet sucker. You’re welcome.
Montreal Smoked Meat – pieces of dead animal, smoked, shaved into slices and served on rye bread (with mustard if you prefer) and a side of pickle. And chest pains.
Best eaten: at Schwarz’s in Montreal. You’ll have to wait for a table. You might end up sharing a table with weirdos. You will not regret it. Vegetarians exempt.
Nanaimo Bars – named after the city in BC this is a no-bake dessert with oodles of sugar. 3 layers: coconuty cookie layer, vanilla or custard-flavoured butter cream icing layer, shell of melted chocolate.
Best eaten: for free at a church brunch
Poutine – french fries, cheese curds and poutine sauce. Take note – this ain’t no regular gravy. And it best be cheese curds, son. None’a that shredded mozzarella junk. If these are in place, you may proceed.
Best eaten: generally in Quebec. Ask around in Montreal and Quebec city about where the locals go.
Saskatoon Berries – sneaky little poser berries that look kinda like blueberries but have a taste all their own. They’re a little tougher and a little less sweet than their dopplegangers.
Best eaten: in pie or jam bought at a farmers market somewhere in Saskatchewan (or Alberta).
Screech (Newfoundland) – Strong spirits. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. I’ll let you know. But I have a feeling it will burn like rubbing alcohol.
Best drunk: at a kitchen party in NFLD. Even better if someone is fiddling.
Timbits – this should be the easiest on the list. Grab yourself a double double (coffee) and order a 10 or 20 pack of timbits. Let them surprise you with a mixed pack. I recommend the sour cream glazed.
Best eaten: any time, anywhere.
Tourtière – a meat pie from Quebec, sometimes showcasing wild game. Purely a French-Canadian dish, you might find it on the menu of some up-and-coming restaurants that are going back-to-basics.
Best eaten: anywhere you find francophones and their grandmas.