Winning Wednesdays: What is Canadian cuisine?

By Martin Zibauer »Martin Zibauer

Is it regional cooking, unique ingredients, or a bland version of American food?

June 27th, 2011

3-chefs-the-kitchen-men-86135l1

16 comments

An early Winning Wednesdays post: Here’s a multiple choice question. Answer for a chance to win a new cookbook (and check back next Wednesday for another giveaway).

What defines Canadian cuisine?

1. It’s a collection of regional cuisines. There’s no unifying national cuisine, but we have several regions with their own, distinct cooking style: Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Quebec, Waterloo County.

2. It’s a smorgasbord of imported cuisines from around the world. Waves of immigrants bring their own food heritage here, overlaid on First Nations foods, and all Canadians pick and choose, mix and match from the buffet.

3. It’s food based on Canadian ingredients: maple syrup, saskatoon berries, cod tongues, fiddleheads, cranberries, game, and more. Foods you can’t easily find elsewhere, except for a little spillover into the northern US.

4. It’s a variant of North American cuisine with distinct Canadian–or maybe regional–dishes: butter tarts, poutine, seal-flipper pie, Nanaimo bars. These are foods most Canadians know about, even if all of us don’t eat them.

5. All of the above.

6. None of the above, or as Colonel Sanders described in a radio interview, Canadian food is just American food, but blander.

I’ll pick the tactful (so Canadian) answer: Number 5, all of the above. But Number 2 appeals to me as well–other countries have local ingredients and signature dishes, but what seems uniquely Canadian is the way we adopt foods from all over the world into our everyday fare. Souvlaki, sushi, bratwurst, tacos (real ones, not the chain variety)–all are foods that were once unusual, but have quickly become common and almost unremarkable. Canada takes the exotic out of international foods.

This Friday, I’ll be helping a friend with her annual Canada Day barbecue. Her background is Irish, and her menu includes tandoori chicken, souvlaki, and marinated shrimp. Multiculturalism will be delicious.

What will you be cooking for Canada Day? How do you define Canadian cuisine? Post a comment here by the end of Wednesday and I’ll draw one winner who’ll receive a copy of 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men. This cookbook features recipes by Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra, and Jason Parsons. You’ll recognize the trio–all immigrants to Canada–from Citytv’s Cityline.


16 comments

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Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:33 pm

@CandybarCottager: The two (Canadian ingredients, international influences) make the best version of fusion cooking.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:31 pm

@craigandcorinne: Nothing more Canadian than cottaging, indeed. I'm sure some Minnesotans and Swedes will disagree, but we're right.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:20 pm

@fishpolepoint: Colonel Sanders said it, but to be fair, the interview is from the late '50s.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:19 pm

@Panache: That was our entree for our office barbecue: grilled peameal back bacon on a bun.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:17 pm

@Reina: That's a real honour to have one of the Parliament building flags--what a great heirloom to pass down.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:16 pm

@hockeymom: I love that you make doing the dishes part of the fun.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:16 pm

@lovinlife2: Local strawberries are a perfect Canada Day food--in season and bright red. We just had an office barbecue today, with a Canada Day theme. As he did last summer, Scott Gardner of Outdoor Canada magazine made Freaky Frank's Balsamic Strawberries.


Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jun. 29, 2011

2:12 pm

@ algonquin: Travelling definitely reveals the Canadian foods that are missing from your diet. I remember craving cheese in India. I had plenty of paneer, similar to ricotta, but no other cheeses--except in Ooty in the south, where I found a not-bad version of cheddar.


algonquin

Jun. 28, 2011

11:21 pm

canadian cuisine- definately all of the above but i especially like the part about ingredients that are particularly canadian and difficult to get elsewhere. When i lived in mexico, I craved the foods of home and often had to substute with what I could find there. Mapple syrup was no where to be found, likewise peanut butter etc. ( these ingredients are easier to find there now) I will never forget the longing for typical foods from this great country. Algonquin


lovinlife2

Jun. 28, 2011

10:52 pm

Canada Day Bar B Q...a mixed grill of meats, grilled veggies, sliced potatoes and onions topped with butter, salt, pepper and spices wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill and homemade coleslaw, dessert is local strawberries on homemade tea biscuits smothered in whipped cream....love it!!! As much as I love all the international food that has been introduced to our great land....I am hooked on Canadian cooking using all the local fare...lobsters in Nova Scotia, partridge berries in Newfoundland, Quebec poutine, Ontario strawberries, Canadian maple syrup and the list goes on...and on......


hockeymom

Jun. 28, 2011

8:04 pm

As much as I love to prepare and EAT, the perfect meal doesn't take alot of preparation or time to cook. Share the prep and enjoy the time together laughing and enjoying. The perfect BBQ will almost always be with charcoal. Gas is great, but for real flavour the time put into getting the briquettes just right always pays off. A couple of salads -be they they the green leafy kind or pasta/potato and beef, chickem, pork or fish and we are good to go. More fun time doing the dishes together to play nice with our environment or recycle the disposable plates. I'm looking forward to this!


Reina

Jun. 28, 2011

3:16 pm

Oh Canada Day. The day when the huge Canadian flag comes out of its protective package to fly once again. This flag once few on the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. It is approx 6 x 10 so it only flies once a year. There will be alot of BBQing going on this weekend. Grilled veggies, steak, chicken, ribs and all the fixings. What says Canadian is what we learned from our ancestors. My family is German, Russian, Hungarian, Ukrainian. My DH is Scottish, English, Swedish and to boot, he grew up in a Central American country. The food that is cooked in our kitchen varies. BUT I must say, I always have a bag of frozen wild blueberries that were picked in the area. mmmmm good. Pancakes and wild blueberries with maple syrup. double yum yum good.


dougdebb@persona.ca

Panache

Jun. 28, 2011

1:49 pm

I think there might have been "typical" Canadian fare at one point in time, but I don't believe that to be the case any longer. Families are more diverse and unfortunately, people don't eat at home together very much anymore. There is too much take-out, eating out and convenience foods. As for what I'll be cooking on Canada Day? Not sure, but with any luck it will include garlic, butter or cheese. Mmmmm. Oh...or bacon! There ya go......Canadian Bacon?


fishpolepoint

Jun. 28, 2011

11:38 am

This will be the first Canada Day at our new cottage. We are planning on celebrating the holiday by serving BBQ'd Salmon with a maple syrup, ginger, garlic glaze and grilled asparagus. We usually make a salsa to accompany the fish that includes mango, red pepper, red onion, tomato, mint, cilantro and some jalapeno pepper. A colourful feast for colourful Canadians. Who said our cooking is bland?


craigandcorinne@gmail.com

Jun. 28, 2011

10:22 am

Canada Day will be spent at cottage . Lots of Canadian Creemore Springs Beer and Muskoka Ginger Ale. We will stoke up the barbecue for hamburgers and steaks.Throw together a couple of salads and dinner is served . Later at a campfire we will be cooking smores and hot dogs on a stick. What can be more Canadian than cottaging.


CandybarCottager

Jun. 28, 2011

9:31 am

Our Canada Day cottage feast will be what I consider typically Canadian fare: pulled pork, curried chicken skewers, warm grilled veg salad with an Asian-style dressing, a Greek salad, and fresh berries. Perhaps we'll buy some butter tarts on our way up Hwy 11 as our gesture to "local" cooking! We'll definitely be sipping Amsterdam beer and Ontario wines with our meal. To me, Canadian cooking is all about influences from around the world, with ingredients that are locally sourced.


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