Defining Canada’s Culinary Identity

Defining Canada’s Culinary Identity

The struggle – how to define Canada’s Culinary Identity while living abroad…

One of my favourite dishes from school was ‘blanquette de veau’, which is sort of like a veal stew with a white sauce. It feels like a cozy, homey meal. While the french dish in and of itself did not remind me of a meal from home – the warm, stewy nature of the dish feels like comfort food. Eating this got me thinking about what a homey meal means depending on where in the world you are from. So I started wondering how to best describe Canada’s culinary identity to non-canadians?


There are some food cultures that are easier to define (or stereotype) as a whole, beyond regional specialties.

  • Canard confit, macarons, and croque monsieur, are all easily identifiable as ‘French Food’. You will find bouillabaisse in the south, or crepes and salted butter in Bretagne, but overall the rest of the world has a basic understanding of a French food culture.
  • India has a wide range of dishes depending on where you are, and yet there is a curry based flavour profile that links regional food into the larger tapestry of Indian cuisine.
  • Pizza, pasta, and gelato can sum up Italy for those looking for a simplified explanation of Italian food culture. 

When I tried to think of a dish that would sum up Canada, however I was stumped. Back home in Newfoundland we have very specific regional foods (toutons, scrunchions, brewis, bakeapples, cod tongues, jiggs…)  but they are hard to find elsewhere in the country. You could mention tourtiere as a quintessential Canadian food but even that is a specialty from Quebec. Same with Nanaimo bars from British Columbia, or donairs in Nova Scotia. If you have never had a donair it’s worth the trip to NS.


To those outside of Canada the food most commonly associated with the country would probably be poutine.

Poutine is a delicious, artery clogging, plate of hot fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.  (lobster poutine featured left) While this food can be found all across the country, especially with the arrival of poutine food trucks and specialized restaurant chains, it is a dish originally from Quebec that has been adopted by the rest of the country.

So the conversation ends not being able to fully summarize what ‘Canadian Food’ means. Perhaps that’s the point. Each region has its own specialties, influenced by the cultures and communities within it. A large part of what makes Canada so special is the diverse nature of its population, and by extension its cultural and culinary identity.

How would you define your country’s culinary identity? What is your quintessential homey dish?

Written by

A displaced, food loving, Newfie who has made the world her home - currently attending pastry school in France. When not up to her elbows in bread dough or ice cream making, Tracie can be found surrounded by a sea of cookbooks, spending weekends with her Belgian, thinking about learning Dutch, or curled up with a glass of wine. Or, of course, laughing or crying (probably both) over Skype with her deerest cousin.

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