Monday, May 28, 2018

A Canadian Culinary Conundrum

While reading an essay this morning on food in the South, it occurred to me that I haven't spent much time exploring food here in the North. Do we even have what can be described as 'Northern Food'? With Southern food, it's easy. Grits, collard greens, okra, Creole, and the list goes on. For the record, the only item on that short list that I've not tried is collard greens, and I hope to rectify that as soon as the baby collards on my front porch are big enough. My Southern partner has educated me well in the ways of shrimp creole, handmade biscuits so soft you think they're a religious experience and proper sweet tea.

But back to Northern we have any food that we can point to and say is a good representative of our Northern experience? If you ask my sons, they will tell you that bacon is the quintessential Northern food. If you ask any "good" Ontarian, they'll likely tell you that the most Canadian food is the humble butter tart. (It was invented here in Ontario, you know) Some folks will tell you that Beaver meat is a Northern food, others will point to poutine. You know what poutine is, don't you? A plate of french fries (cut from russet potatoes if you're looking for quality fries), smothered in beef gravy, salted and peppered and covered in cheese curds. Not grated cheese. Cheese curds.

Certainly maple syrup is a proper Canadian food. We produce some of the best here in Ontario, and I'm not talking about the weak-tea coloured stuff you buy in a plastic bottle! No, I'm talking about the dark, sweet liquid that can only be produced after someone has trekked through the bush for hours collecting sap buckets under dripping taps hammered into trees, and then spent many more hours boiling the stuff down over a smokey fire, slapping away the earliest bugs. There's a reason entire tractor trailers loaded with Grade A maple syrup have been stolen away. Good maple syrup has a certain's the taste of all that time and smoke and dedication.

Other folks will argue that Canadian cuisine is a collection of foods that were brought to our great land from its first immigrants. The Dutch, the Mennonite, the Ukrainians, the displaced Creole, the French, the Japanese, the Germans, and let's not forget the Jewish influences on Montreal Smoked meat!

You know, it occurs to me now, that I eat just as 'Northern' as I do 'Southern'. Perogies, Rueben Sandwiches, heaping plates of Poutine, I've had venison a number of times and enjoy it greatly, and I've even tried bear meat sausages. I can appreciate a fine bottle of Northern Ontario maple syrup, and I've frequently made enough Perogies to feed a branch of our Canadian Armed Forces.

I guess I'm safe in my culinary Canadian-ness after all.

What food does your home region point to proudly?

1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

We are a nation of food thieves. Off the top of my head I can only think of two quintessentially orstrayan dishes. Vegemite (which I dislike) and pavlova - which New Zealand also claims.