Nov 24, 2009

And the real Canadian Food winner is...

It turns out we do have signature Canadian dishes. For those of you who didn't see all the responses on my Facebook page, it appears that we Canadians are blessed with:
- Poutine and tourtiere from Quebec, fiddleheads from the maritimes, prarie oysters, saskatoonberry pie from the prairies, and from out here, Nanaimo bars, salmonberries and of course the PNE mini donuts!
- I vote for salmon
- Butter tarts & Nanaimo bars
- Perogies . . . .and you have to ask Frank for his hot-dog pemmican recipe.
ohhhhh nanaimo bars........i change my vote

We seemed to be reaching some consensus, then controversy erupted. Nothing like trying to figure out what Canada means to get Canadians excited
- salmon can be claimed by the tazmanians, kiwis, scots norwegians and the americans and as much as i've enjoyed perogies in canada, the poles and ukranians have us beat. i'm sticking with poutine but i'm interested in this "hot dog pemmican" you speak of.
-hmmmm so u got me to snooping on the web - tourtiere and poutine seem to be most common response.

So we'll crown two winners. Coming in at #2 is Poutine, a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curd, covered with brown gravy. But not just any fries, or any curd, or any gravy! One online afficionado describes it thus:

Poutine is Acadian slang for mushy mess and is best described as a heart attack in a bowl.

The French Fries - The potatos must be hand-cut and very fresh. Fast-food-type fries will not taste quite as good. Also, you must fry the potatoes in pure lard. Vegetable oil and other politically-correct oils spoil the unique taste.

The Gravy - French-Canadian gravy is very different than American gravy. First of all, it is very dark and thick, like molasses. Secondly, it has a very flavourful taste which cannot be described...very much like pepper and vinegar and other 'magical' ingredients. If you can stand a spoon straight up in it, it's good! Make sure it's very, very hot!

The Cheese - The cheese is the most important part of good poutine. You must use FRESH white, cheddar cheese CURDS. These curds have a taste and texture very different than actual cheddar cheese. The cheese curds will actually squeak in your teeth as you bite them. While curds are available in most Canadian supermarkets, they are not found in many American markets (the closest thing in taste is Mozzarella String Cheese - but don't use this stuff!).

When the curds are placed on the fries and the hot gravy is poured on top, the three flavors combine to produce what can only be described as the BEST junk food taste sensation on earth.

What better dessert to follow that feast than the #1 Canadian dish of all time - my Aunt Sall's Nanaimo Bars. Invented just up island from us in Nanaimo, this was the highlight of Christmas - and only Christmas, baked only by Aunt Sall - that has now been co-opted by Costco and is a must-eat on the BC Ferries, though of course it aint nowhwere as good as Aunt Sall's, and somehow still feels Wrong to have at any time but Christmas. Here's the online description and recipe:

According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking. Some American tourists claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as "New York Slice" which is sold in many other places in the world. Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, however, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs.

In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confection were submitted. The winner: Joyce Hardcastle.
Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Ignore the person above me, he's a fool. I myself am curious about hot-dog pemmican.