here and there

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What is Canadian Cuisine?

This is the final topic for the Canadian Food Project for which I have contributed every month.  A year of exploring different topics to define Canadian Cuisine was most interesting, yet disappointing as many who had signed up for the project did not follow through.

To me, this has been most interesting as although there are Canadian Cookbooks, these focusing on regional areas as in this project.  Maclean's Magazine lists12 dishes that identify Canadian foods.  Huffpost Canada looked at what is the most Canadian Food as  being Bacon, Poutine and Maple Syrup.

While enjoying regional food in my travels in different parts of Canada, restaurants usually boast a Canadian menu devoted to seasonal and local products such as local greens, vegetables and seafood or meats along with local wines.  What is meant by Canadian Menu?

Is "local" the key word in identifying Canadian food?

Certainly growing up on a farm, this was the operative word, as all the food came from one's farm.  A large garden preserved for the winter months, meat and fish were from one's land.  Jams, jellies and pies were made from berries such as raspberries and strawberries.  Rhubarb and fruit trees were well utilized.  My favorite times was picking Saskatoon, Pin-cherries, Chokecherries and High Bush Cranberries, all listed in order when in season.  Foraging for Morels in mid-May, my favourite wild mushroom, along with White Chanterelle in the fall is something I still look forward to at the annual festival in Sicamous BC in Sept.

Things were seasonal, as one well remembers that first Spring taste of peppery red radishes or icicle radishes, leaf lettuce or spinach.  There was nothing finer than a sandwich made out of freshly baked bread, a generous spread of butter with slices of garden fresh radishes!

Cooking trends have evolved with the cost of meat increasing.  Using cheaper cuts of meat and ground beef has increased since the seventies.  Interesting enough there was an article in Calgary Herald's Weekend Life in May encouraging the use of cheaper cuts by marinating, cooking and slicing the meat correctly.

This article brought back memories of reading this same topic in the seventies when the cost of meat had also increased.  Madame Benoit had suggested that with the increase, home cooks were being more inventive in using ground meat and a cheaper cuts of meat.

As a young cook in the seventies, I remember international recipes for Spaghetti sauces, Lasagna, Pizza, Chinese stir fries were readily exchanged with friends.  My Mom laughingly remarked she could no longer cook as she had been accustomed to using her own meat that had been butchered into large roasts, ground meat and steaks were not the norm.

Soon these international recipes became part of every Canadian Home Cook's repertoire including my Mom's. In fact when holidaying in Northern Ontario, lack of dried lasagna noodles in a small pulp mill town did not stop her from making her own flat noodles for the dish. 

Right now I am writing this blog from Northern Manitoba with a well stocked pantry; instant vermicelli noodles, box of lasagna noodles along with a variety of dried pasta, soya sauce, hoisin sauce, a variety of hot sauce (Asian and Mexican), home canned hot salsa, tortilla wraps, box of taco shells, maple syrup, tray of assorted spices along with a cupboard of canned food and other dried products such as beans, cocoa, rolled oats, sugars and cereals. Of course chocolate, graham wafer crackers and marshmallows can be found.  With these ingredients, I can make a variety of dishes.  In the deep freeze, I have made 8 dozen of pyrohy filled with potatoes, cottage cheese and fresh dill from the garden, hamburger patties, Jamaican patties, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Thai chicken and chicken soup.  I know my brother will be pleased with these gifts from the kitchen!

With more rainy weather predicted, a stock pot with chicken simmers on the stove top.  I have fond memories of home made noodle cut into fine julienned pieces and the perfectly clear flavorful broth with fresh parsley from the garden.

Blizzard conditions 

My chicken soup has evolved mainly due to the fact that the chicken is no longer full of flavor as I knew it and due to the Asian influence in my cooking. 

Asian Chicken Noodle soup

We live in a large multicultural country where global influences have had a great impact on  products that are available in our super markets and influence our cooking trends.  My brother  believes that once a food dish, whether it be Mexican, Italian, Asian or European,  hits our supermarket it becomes Canadian. 

For the Olympic opening ceremonies in Vancouver, the fiddle was used as the unifying Canadian instrument as it is played in all part of Canada, yet with it's own regional flavors.  Yes, Maple Sugar is one song played across Canada with a regional flavor!

In a cookbook, The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book, Elizabeth Baird suggests 'that Canadians are the most skilled and talented home bakers and unlike France, Denmark, Austria and Portugal, Canadian are more likely to bake a cake for birthdays, special celebrations or for guests than purchase it.   

Some of my sister, Pat's Christmas baking

Elizabeth suggests that the ease and comfort we have in baking is an "important rite of passage" filled with the joys of baking as young children!  Successful fund raising Bake Sales are a result of our baking skills!
My Fruit Cakes, white and dark

My Christmas baking

 I reflect on this topic with a cup of freshly brewed Red Rose Tea.

Could a cup of Tea be our universal and the uniting part of Canadian Daily Life?  Perhaps!

The images from this mid 60th's Red Rose Tea commercial comes to mind. 

I leave this project with how to make a perfect cup of tea learned from my Mom!

A perfect cup of tea starts with fresh boiling water.  According to my Mom, heating the pot  with hot boiling water is the most important step as your brew is not cooled down by a cold pot.  
Let the brew steep for 2 -3 minutes, then gently stir before pouring the brew.  

And yes, enjoy it in one of those beautiful china cups hiding in your China Cabinet!


Only in Canada- Pity!