(This article originally appeared on our sister site, Travelandescape.ca, by Maria G. Yates.)
What could be tastier than dollops of gooey dough dropped into hot oil, deep fried to golden deliciousness, then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and served to you warm?
It is said that every nationality has its own version of fried dough. New Orleans has beignets, Spain has churros, Italy has zeppole, Canada has, well, we have BeaverTails (Queues de Castor in French).
So, what exactly is a BeaverTail? A true Canadian culinary treat, they are batches of dough that are stretched by hand to resemble the tail of a beaver. Then these deliciously addictive, traditional whole-wheat pastries are deep-fried in canola oil and served piping hot, drizzled with butter and your choice of toppings.
The current BeaverTail evolved from a family recipe passed down through at least three generations and is similar to a yeasted, crack wheat treat enjoyed in early Canadian and American farms. The first commercially produced BeaverTail was sold in 1978, and the first storefront opened in June 1980, in Ottawa’s Byward market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets.
In February 1981, BeaverTails made their first appearance along Ottawa’s most famous winter attraction and the longest skating rink in the world, the Rideau Canal Skateway, which stretches 7.8 kilometres through downtown Ottawa. Today, skating on the canal and enjoying a BeaverTail go hand in hand. These warm, delicious, crispy treats are so popular along the canal that even on the coldest of Canadian winter days, the lineups can be lengthy, so be prepared to wait. It will be worth it.
Through the years a variety of toppings have been developed to further enhance the sinful indulgence to the BeaverTail experience. Add Oreo cookie crumble sprinkled on top of vanilla icing, with chocolate sauce drizzled on top of that or banana slices layered over a thick coat of hazelnut spread. My favourite toping is still The Classic: cinnamon and sugar. Why mess with perfection?
On February 19, 2009, BeaverTails made international headlines when President Barack Obama, on his first official visit to Canada, dropped into Byward Market with the sole purpose of indulging in this iconic pastry. President Obama’s visit was later dubbed The BeaverTail Summit.
You Know You’re Famous When:
- The Barenaked Ladies change the lyrics of their song If I Had A Million Dollars to If I Had A Million BeaverTails during a music festival.
- A question about BeaverTails makes it into the Canadian version of Trivial Pursuit.
- “What is a BeaverTail?” is the answer to a Jeopardy question, the U.S.-television show hosted by Canadian-born Alex Trebek.
- During an interview with The Globe and Mail, Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams states that his most Canadian trait is his ability to differentiate a BeaverTail from a Tim Hortons Timbit. Now, that’s Canadian.
Other Fun Facts:
- BeaverTails uses 21.1 tons of chocolate hazelnut spread per year. That’s the equivalent weight of five elephants and 12 beavers.
- Since BeaverTails’ debut in 1978, enough BeaverTails have been sold to make a straight line of tails, end-to-end, from the BeaverTails store in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, to the store in Whistler, British Columbia.
- Since 1981 more than 8,000 young Canadians have worked at the BeaverTails operations in the Ottawa stores alone.
- Along with the 80 franchised operations spread across Canada, there are now two stores in Saudi Arabia and two stores in Colorado’s ski country, spreading Canadian pride around the world.