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?
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.
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.