On July 1st Canada turns 150! We are such a young country that our cuisine is still finding its representation. Canada is rich in agriculture along with basic, delicious wholesome recipes; so I refuse to discuss ketchup chips when I’m celebrating a Happy 150th Canada! Instead, as a third generation Canadian, I’m featuring five favourite Canadiana foods that have a place in my heart and on my humble menu.
This no-fuss, kid friendly dessert is a traditional Eastern Canadian favourite. What is a grunt? My mother hails from Cape Breton and folklore suggests the dessert was named that because of the grunting sounds it makes while cooking, but you might hear those sounds instead while it’s being eaten! Canada is the world’s largest producer of low bush blueberries (wild blueberries) in Quebec and the Maritimes. My mother has stories from her childhood in Nova Scotia of Native Canadians selling fresh picked wild blueberries door to door. Growing up in wartime, food was often grown, fished or hunted – what seemed basic was actually very nutritious with wild blueberries, fresh caught cod and the grass fed pig in the backyard.
I first wrote about this dessert for my client GoBarley. The entire dessert is made in one large sauce pan, eliminating the oven heat in the summer and making clean up easy. The best part is when the dumplings made with whole barley flour cook and puff up; they soak up the delicious juices released by the blueberries in the cinnamon-spiced sauce. So simple and delicious.
Photo Credit: GoBarley
I can’t remember a time without butter tarts. I grew up in a house where they were either homemade or purchased from the local bakery. Today they are one of my favourite desserts. Butter tarts are 100 per cent Canadian. There is a Canadian legend that the first “written” butter tart recipe was found in Barrie, Ontario in 1902.
Foodnetwork.ca reports: like many legendary dishes, the butter tart’s origins are fuzzy. It’s believed that filles à marier (“marriageable girls”) created a crude version in the 1600s. These newly arrived Québécois brides filled their French flaky tart shells with New World ingredients: maple sugar, freshly churned butter, and dried fruit such as raisins. Now a staple in Canada, especially Ontario there is a Butter Tart Tour in Kawarthas Northumberland where 50 bakeries take part annually with a Butter Tart Taste-Off. Call me to be a judge – Yummmmy!
Another 100 per cent Canadian invention is the Caesar cocktail – similar to a Bloody Mary but better with an umami flavour. It was invented in 1969 by bartender Walter Chell at the Westin Hotel in Calgary, Alberta. He was asked to make a drink to commemorate the opening of the hotel’s Italian restaurant; Marco’s. The original creation used a mixture of hand-mashed clams, tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and then garnished with a celery stick. It was named for the Roman Emperor; ‘Bloody Caesar’. Eventually Mott’s, with the help of Chell created clamato juice – so in fact is clamato juice another Canadian invention?
Today the garnishes for Caesars can be endless. I love adding a pinch of horseradish, along with fresh lemon juice. An Ipsos-Reid poll in 2009 identified it as the most popular cocktail in Canada. Mott’s estimates 418,947,000 Caesars were consumed in 2016 in Canada. Cheers to Walter Chell!
I had no idea that California Rolls were a Canadian invention up until five years ago. Growing up in a traditional Canadian family, California Rolls were my first introduction to “sushi” in the early 1990s. Today having travelled to Vancouver and California more than a dozen times, I only eat California Rolls if they are part of a sushi plate.
This is how the story goes…a Sushi Chef named Hidekazu Tojo opened restaurant in Vancouver in 1971. At that time he needed to adjust menu to fit with the North American tastes that were not ready for raw fish or seaweed. He used imitation crab and created the roll “inside out” to hide the seaweed. Many American’s travelled from Los Angeles to Vancouver to his restaurant which is how the “California Roll” received its name.
Like chia seeds, “peanut butter” dates back to Aztech times. However, Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal was the first person to patent modern peanut butter for peanut candy. Issued in 1884 by the United States government, Edson patented the finished product “peanut paste”. It was milled roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces, which became an intermediate to the production of the modern product we know as peanut butter, now a staple in most Canadian homes.
Our famous friend to the south, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented a processing method of peanut butter from raw peanuts in 1895, used as a healthy protein substitute for patients without teeth. Peanut butter was introduced first at St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and was a popular food in WWI and WWII among American and Canadian soldiers; eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during missions. My favourite is when peanut butter melts into the holes of the crumpet topped with sliced strawberries!
Happy 150th Canada
Wishing you a fun, exciting and delicious Canada Day!
Copyright © 2017 Jane Dummer | All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits: Blueberry Grunt – GoBarley; Butter Tarts, Sashimi Plate with California Rolls and Strawberry Peanut Butter – Jane Dummer