Canada is known for a lot of things. Hockey, endless Winter, and apologizing are some of these things. What some people don’t consider is culinary expertise.
But, for a country that compared to its peers is relatively young Canada in fact does know how to dominate in the kitchen. Since the colonization of North America Canada has been pulled from both sides by duelling French and British culture, creating an interesting mix of talents as these two European rivals learned to play nice over the centuries. Add in Canada’s liberal immigration policies and you have a recipe for….recipes.
So, whats on Canada’s dinner table? To find out I spoke with the online travel company JustFly. They gave me their top three uniquely Canadian food items and their distinctly Canadian origin stories.
1. Nanaimo Bars
A classic Canadian sweet, the Nanaimo Bar is remarkably easy to make and is a real deal dessert. Requiring just three ingredients (wafer crumbs, butter custard, and melted chocolate), the Nanaimo Bar gets its name from its hometown of Nanaimo, British Columbia. The city is obviously passionate, with a wing of their cities museum dedicated to the treat and its complicated history according to JustFly’s review.
It’s origin is pretty contested, with some saying it was featured first in a cookbook from 1953 or a hospital cookbook from 1952. The common theory is that the 1953 cookbook is the accurate account. While the bar originates in Nanaimo there are some similar cases, such as the Prayer Bar which is native to the US state of Minnesota. Today, Nanaimo Bars are served around the world, often marketed as a Canadian treat.
2. Maple Syrup
A topping that dates back to before the formation of Canada, real Maple Syrup is an industry in itself in provinces like Quebec where tours and trips to the countryside are built around visiting sugar shacks. So, how is Maple Syrup made? Well, first you need maple trees. You then drill into them and extract the sap inside. Once it is collected you can commence “boiling it off,” removing the water from sap, leaving you with pure maple syrup.
How far will people go for the sweet stuff? Crafty thieves actually stole $30 million worth of it in 2012 from the Quebec countryside. What you probably don’t know is that this syrup was stolen from what is called the “Global Strategic Reserve”. You know something's good when there is a “Global Strategic Reserve” of it.
You like fries? You like cheese? You like gravy? Stamp your passport in the province of Quebec and prepare for glory. Poutine is probably one of Canada’s best contributions to the culinary world according to JustFly. Like most weird Canadian stories, the origin of this goopy stuff is cloudy at best. The overriding theory is that poutine was invented in the town of Drummondville, Quebec in 1964. There are several claims that poutine was invented up to decade earlier though.
Fact is, it’s here and that is awesome. As for the name, it is believed to have come from a description of the food. Somewhere at the beginning of the lifespan of poutine a frenchman uttered “ça va faire une maudite poutine,” meaning roughly it’ll make a damn mess. Yes, yes it will.