The G20 Series: Canada!

14 Jun

By Chris Garbutt

How many times have you heard someone say that Canadians define themselves by what they’re not, that to be a Canadian is to be defiantly not American?

I’m not here to argue that this sentiment is wrong, but I do believe that we arrive at the conclusion as a (perhaps insecure) response to our perception that the world sees us as the same as the United States, only nicer, and more polite. We saw this at its worst during the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies in Vancouver this year. (Ugh, how is it that if you spout clichés in the form of slam poetry, we’re supposed to think it’s actually profound?)

Sure, we can conjure images when we think of other countries – Italy? Pasta! China? Dim sum! India? Curry! Middle East? Hummus!

Canada? Maple syrup and back bacon!

I’m here to argue that Canada actually is something, that it has a distinct cuisine, and it only has a little to do with our friends to the south. Herewith, I propose a number of statements to support my thesis.

1. Canada is a country of regional cuisines. From Newfoundland’s toutons, to Quebec’s tourtière, to Saskatchewan’s Saskatoon berry pie, what we eat is highly localized.

2. Canada is a country of international cuisines. Thanks to our embracing of immigration, our food is influenced by dishes that come from almost every country of the world.

3. Canada has a very deep culinary history. And if you haven’t looked, there are books that outline this history. It comes from long before the Europeans arrived on this continent. Aboriginal food, for example the “three sisters” – beans, corn and squash (check out the soup recipe on this page, by the way) – are staples that appear on almost every Canadian table during the late harvest.

4. Our national cuisine is a hybrid of regional, international and historical influences. It’s distinct, but it’s not in your face. Poutine may come from Quebec, but somehow, we think of it as belonging to all of us. (Sorry Quebec, but I promise it’s always best with chicken gravy from a truck somewhere at the side of the road on the Gaspé.)

5. Americans try, but they can’t steal our stuff. For example, in Vermont they claim to be so great at making maple syrup. Well, Canada makes 80 per cent of the world supply. And we also have way more hockey gold medals.

6. And, um, maple syrup is awesome. Seriously. I could drink the stuff out of a glass.

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One Response to “The G20 Series: Canada!”

  1. Sophie June 15, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Yeah! Canadian maple syrup does rock better than any other! But, it’s liquid gold, costs quite a bit if you live in Texas… We’ll do shots in July. A great reminder to some of us expats that Canada is unique from its big, loud brother to the south!

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