Today is Canada Day! We in the U.S. like to celebrate everyone else’s holidays, so we may as well join in the fun. We already know what to drink, so let’s take a look at Canadian cuisine. Some of these dishes stand out for their Canadian origins, whether it’s a native crop or a home-grown company. Others are just favorites, and are perceived as a little different from American cuisine. Canadians are invited to offer corrections, additions, and opinions.
Poutine is a proud Canadian’s heart attack in a bowl, consisting of french fries, thick gravy, and cheese curds. We've looked at its invention by Quebec restaurateur Fernand Lachance in 1957, although there are some who claim other origin stories. Authentic poutine has to live up to Canadian tastes and tradition. If you want to try them at home, use a recipe from the dish’s source. Here’s one from French-Canadian chef Chuck Hughes.
Butter tarts are a traditional dessert that Canada does not share with other countries. It’s a small flaky tart crust filled with sugar, butter, maple syrup, and eggs, then cooked until the top forms a bit of a crispy crust. The closest American analogy I can imagine is pecan pie without the pecans. But sometimes butter tarts have pecans, or raisins, or chocolate chips, which is a matter of taste, unless you’re a purist. You have a choice of many recipes.
What Americans know as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is packaged slightly differently in Canada as Kraft Dinner. If you think of the kit with the orange powder as a particularly American comfort food, listen to this: Canada, with a fraction of the population of the U.S., consumes a lot more blue boxes of macaroni and cheese than Americans. In fact, Kraft Dinner is the most-purchased grocery item in Canada.
This makes KD, not poutine, our de facto national dish. We eat 3.2 boxes each in an average year, about 55 percent more than Americans do. We are also the only people to refer to Kraft Dinner as a generic for instant mac and cheese. The Barenaked Ladies sang wistfully about eating the stuff: “If I had a million dollars / we wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner / But we would eat Kraft Dinner / Of course we would, we’d just eat more.” In response, fans threw boxes of KD at the band members as they performed. This was an act of veneration.
You can see Barenaked Ladies doing an extended Kraft Dinner bit during a performance in Scotland in this video. The fun starts at about 3:20.
Tim Hortons Coffee and Doughnuts
Tim Hortons has restaurants in the U.S., but the company is known most for supplying Canada with coffee and doughnuts. The first Tim Hortons was opened in 1964 by hockey star Tim Horton in Hamilton, Ontario, selling only coffee and doughnuts. As the company grew, it became a big supporter and sponsor of hockey at all levels. The vast majority of ready-made coffee purchased in Canada comes from the over 3,000 Tim Hortons Canadian outlets.
This is a no-brainer: Canada produces 80% of the world’s maple syrup. What else would you expect from a country that has a maple leaf on its flag? Besides, it tastes so good with bacon! The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers even has a strategic maple syrup reserve, in which 40 million pounds of syrup were set aside in 2011. Americans learned of this reserve in 2012, when six million pounds of the syrup was stolen.
Nanaimo Bars are a dessert candy named after the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia. The recipe appeared in a cookbook under that name in 1953, although similar earlier recipes can be found. The concoction is basically a layer of wafer crumbs covered by vanilla or custard flavored buttercream icing and the whole thing is then coated with chocolate. There are plenty of recipes available online. I can’t imagine that any of them are not delicious.
What’s not to like about bacon? It goes so good with maple syrup! In 2010, a survey by Maple Leaf Foods found that 43% of Canadians would choose bacon over sex. At least that’s what they said when people from the bacon company came to ask.
The United States eats a lot of potato chips, and we have a reputation for putting ketchup on everything -except potato chips. That’s a Canadian treat. There are many brands of ketchup chips sold in Canada, but few are available in the U.S. Lay’s makes ketchup chips, but they are only sold in Canada.
Of course, there are other foods that are associated with Canada: Pacific salmon, blueberries, Montreal bagels, and lots of other recipes. Like anywhere else, a lot of different people have a lot of different favorite foods. Happy Canada Day! Read more in our Canada Day archives.