What is Canadian cuisine?

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  1. The Indigenous Peoples.
    • They are Canada’s first cooks.
    • They used more than 500 plants for food.
    • They grew many plants.
    • They hunted animals in the air, water and land.
    • They used tools to boil, smoke/preserve and roast their food.
  2. The French and English introduced more ingredients. They also brought new ways of cooking.
  3. Canada’s traditional dishes have Indigenous, French and English influences.

Characteristics of Canadian cuisine:

  1. Canadian cuisine is not so distinct (distinguishable).
    • Canadian cuisine does not have one flavour, texture or characteristic.
  2. A Canadian prime minister described it as “a smorgasbord (variety) of other cuisines”. This is because Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world.
  3. Canadian food is Canadian because of its historical background. They are known by their local ingredients.
  4. Jennifer Cochrall-King, an award-winning Canadian writer and author said that:
    • “There is no single definition of Canadian cuisine.”
    • “It starts with ingredients that spring from the landscape and with traditional dishes steeped in the region’s history and culture.” (As quoted from Herch, J. 2009).

Canadian dishes from coast to coast:

Poutine (French-Canadian/Quebec)

  1. Poutine is french fries with gravy and cheese curds.
  2. It came from Quebec in the 1950s.
  3. Origin:
    • There are many stories about its origin.
    • The most popular story is from Quebec.
    • A customer of a restaurant (Café Ideal) asked for cheese curds to be added to his fries.
    • The owner said “ça va te faire une maudite poutine!”
    • “That will make a mess!” in English.
    • The fries grew cold so he added gravy. (History of Poutine, The Canadian Encyclopedia).
    • Each region has its own kind of poutine.
    • Each has a topping added. For example:
      • lobster in the Maritimes
      • slices of Alberta beef
      • butter chicken in BC.

Tourtiere (French-Canadian/Quebec)

  1. It is a meat pie.
  2. It is made of pork, veal and beef. They use just pork in Montreal.
  3. This pie is served at Christmas (réveillon) of Québécois settlers. (The Great Canadian Cookbook)
  4. Some tourtiere have meat or fish.
  5. Real tourtiere has cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg.

Butter tarts (Ontario)

  1. This is a kind of dessert.
  2. It is made of:
    • butter
    • sugar
    • syrup
    • vanilla
    • eggs
    • pastry shell
  3. It was made by the pioneers in the 1600s.
  4. People add raisins and chopped nuts like pecan to butter tarts today.

Nanaimo bars (Quebec/BC)

  1. These are dessert bars.
  2. It has:
    • a wafer crumb base
    • custard-flavoured centre
    • chocolate on top
  3. It has been popular since the 1950s. These can now be found all over Canada.
  4. Nanaimo bars came from England. Many people came to Nanaimo to work as coal miners in the late 1900s. English families sent these bars to their relatives living in the settlement.
    Devon Scoble, The History of Nanaimo bars: A beloved treat).

Bannock – (Scottish origins, adopted by Indigenous Peoples)

  1. Bannock is a circular flatbread.
  2. It may be cut into wedges. The wedges are called scones.
  3. It is Indigenous peoples’ staple food.
  4. Hunters bring flour in their travels. They cooked it in an open fire.
  5. Bannock is eaten with meats or jam.

Beavertails (Ontario)

  1. The beavertail is a flat donut.
  2. It shares its history with the bannock (Culture Trip Toronto).
  3. Early settlers began to cook bread in an open fire. It is the same way Indigenous people cooked the tails of beavers.
  4. They stretched the bannock dough over one or two sticks. It had the shape of a beaver’s tail.
  5. Today, beavertails are deep-fried.
  6. They are topped with Nutella, peanut butter, whipped cream and berries.
  7. Where to buy in MB:
    • A store in Clear Lake
    • Festival du Voyageur
    • Winnipeg Folk Festival

Saskatoon berry pie (Saskatoon, Prairie provinces)

  1. Saskatoons or “prairie berry” look like blueberries.
  2. They have a sweet, nutty almond flavour.
  3. They are the sweet and nutritious.
  4. Indigenous Peoples and early settlers ate Saskatoons.
  5. The berries can be enjoyed fresh.
  6. They can be preserved into “berry-bricks”. They chip a piece off for cooking. They are enjoyed over long winters (The traditional Canadian prairie Wild Saskatoon berry pie, Valerie Lugonja).

Canadian bacon (Ontario)

  1. It is also known as “peameal bacon”.
  2. It is known only in Ontario.
  3. Canadian bacon is less fatty than regular bacon. It is made from a cut of pork trimmed of fat.
  4. It is rolled in cornmeal to preserve it.
  5. It was originally rolled in crushed yellow peas. This is why it is called peameal bacon.
  6. Peameal sandwiches are popular in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.

Split pea soup (French Canadian)

  1. It is made of:
    • yellow split peas
    • soup made from ham bone or ham hock
  2. Those in Quebec and Newfoundland cook the peas together with meat, carrots and turnips.
  3. It was first made by voyagers. They always took dried peas with them because it does not spoil.

Fish and brewis (Newfoundland)

  1. It is made with salted cod and hard bread (also called hard tack).
  2. The fish and bread are soaked overnight and mixed together.
  3. It is traditionally topped with scrunchions. These are fried, salted pork fat cut into small pieces.
  4. Sailors made this dish for breakfast. They used ingredients that could last weeks of travel.

Figgy Duff (Newfoundland)

  1. It contains raisins not figs. Raisins are called “figgy” in old Cornish (English).
  2. Figgy duff is a pudding. It is made of:
    • breadcrumbs
    • raisins
    • brown sugar
    • molasses
    • butter
    • flour
    • spices
  3. The first British settlers of Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1600s made this pudding.

Montreal bagels

  1. It is a round bread with a hole in the middle.
  2. Montreal bagels are fresh, handmade and baked in a wood-fired oven.
  3. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe made it popular in Montréal in the 1900s.
  4. The bagels were baked and sold only within Jewish communities at first.
  5. They began to sell it in non-kosher grocery stores in the 1950s. (Montreal Bagels, Jules Lewis).
  6. Fans of the bagel eat it with cream cheese and smoked salmon (cream cheese and lox).
  7. They also use other fillings.

Sources: Structural elements in Canadian cuisine, Hersch Jacobs, 2009; 12 foods Canada has given the world (besides poutine), MacLean’s, 2012; The Great Canadian Cookbook; The Canadian Encyclopedia; 18 delicious, classically Canadian dishes from coast to coast, Carmen Chai, Global News; Food in every country. Accessed August 24, 2017.

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Community Resources

Learn more about healthy food in Canada! Immigrant Centre has free nutrition classes .They teach cooking and nutrition for all English levels.

Go to your Neighbourhood Immigrant Settlement Worker to know other free programs for you.

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