1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
Canada is the world's second-largest country (after Russia), and is
the largest country in North America. The eastern provinces, known as the
Maritimes, are separated from the rest of the country by low mountain
ranges. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are island provinces in the
Along the border with the United States in the center of Canada is a
fertile plain bounded by the Saint Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and the
Hudson Bay. Also along the U.S. border further to the west are farms and
ranches. Extending through western Alberta to the Pacific Ocean is the
northern portion of the Rocky Mountain range. Mount Logan, at 19,524 feet
(5,915 meters) the highest peak in Canada, is near the Alaska border. The
climate varies across the vast Canadian territory. The west coast gets
about 60–120 inches (150–300 centimeters) of rain each year;
the center part of the country gets less that 20 inches (50 centimeters),
and the Maritime provinces 45–60 inches (115–150
centimeters). In British Columbia, there are 252 rainy days each year, but
in the center of the country, there are just 100.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
France and England battled over who would colonize the territory of Canada
in the late 1400s. The English explorer John Cabot arrived in Newfoundland
in 1497. About 40 years later in 1534, Jacques Cartier began his
exploration of Canada on behalf of France. By the early 1600s, there were
permanent French colonies, and in 1663, New France was established as a
territory of France. French fur traders competed with the traders of the
Hudson's Bay Company, run by British merchants. Wars in North
America, known as the French and Indian wars, were waged in the 1700s. The
Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the armed fighting and established British
rule over all of the territory formerly called New France.
In 1846 conflict over the western portion of the United
States–Canada border was resolved, and the border was set at
49°north latitude. This border has been undisputed every since.
Food and other customs in Canada still carry hints of the colonial
influences of England and France. Canadians speak English except in
Quebec, where the language is French, reflecting the influence of French
settlers. But there are other regional differences in food and customs,
Food in the provinces of Eastern Canada shows signs of English heritage,
except in Quebec where the influence is French. In the provinces of
Western Canada, the cuisine reflects the explorers and settlers, who, like
their southern neighbors in the United States, made simple, hearty meals
from available ingredients. In northern Canada—Northwest, Yukon,
and Nunavut territories—the diet is limited by the short growing
season, dominated by preserved food ingredients, and influenced by the
native Inuit diet. And along the west coast in British Columbia,
immigrants from Asian nations influence food and cultural practices. In
Vancouver in the west and Toronto in the east (and in many places
elsewhere in Canada), Lunar New Year celebrations were inspired by the
citizens of Asian heritage living there, but are enjoyed by many other
Canadians as well.
3 FOODS OF THE CANADIANS
The favorite foods of Canadians vary slightly from region to region, and
are strongly influenced by their family heritage, especially in relation
to holiday celebrations. Along the Atlantic coast, seafood and dishes
derived from English traditions (except in Quebec) are common. In Quebec,
favorite foods come from the area's French heritage. Throughout
Canada, maple syrup and maple products are popular, reflecting the
significance of the maple tree, whose leaf adorns the flag of Canada. Many
families enjoy a visit in early spring to a maple sugar
"shack," the special rustic building where sap from maple
trees is boiled in a large open pan to make maple syrup.
Later in the spring, many people in Eastern Canada visit a wooded area to
harvest fiddleheads. Fiddleheads, named because they look like the coiled
end of a violin ("fiddle"), are the tasty new sprouts of
woodland ferns, picked before they develop into large lacy fronds. They
are a fragile
spring specialty, usually available for just a few weeks in the spring.
Grocery stores in Canada may stock frozen fiddleheads alongside other
- 1 bunch fiddleheads
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Trim the fiddleheads so that the stem end is about 2 inches long. Rub
the dry brown flakes off the fiddleheads, and rinse well.
- Fill a saucepan with cool water and plunge the fiddleheads into the
water to rinse off any grit.
- Remove the fiddleheads from the pan, change the water, and repeat the
soaking. Rinse the fiddleheads under running water to remove any
- Rinse and dry the saucepan. Measure oil and butter into it and heat
until the butter is melted.
- Add the fiddleheads and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, for
about 5 minutes. Fiddleheads will be bright green and crispy.
Serves 8 to 10.
Canadian Bacon with Maple Glaze
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- ¾ cups maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 pound (approximately) Canadian bacon
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Combine vinegar, maple syrup, and brown sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
- Slice Canadian bacon about ½-inch thick. Arrange the slices in a
casserole or baking dish, and spoon the syrup mixture over the slices.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. (To serve as a
snack, cut slices into bite-sized pieces and serve with toothpicks.)
Serves 6 for lunch or dinner, or 15 to 20 as a snack.
Western Canadians enjoy the products of the large ranches and farms in
that part of the country. Barbecued food, beef, and corn dishes, such as
Sweet Corn Pancakes, are popular. Berries such as blueberries and
saskatoon berries, are popular accompaniments to pancakes, waffles, and
are often made into syrups, jams and preserves.
Sweet Corn Pancakes
- 6 eggs, separated (Note: to separate eggs, crack the egg and allow just
the white to fall into a bowl, holding the yolk in one of the shell
halves. Transfer the yolk back and forth between the two shell halves,
being careful not to break it, until all the white has dripped into the
bowl. Put the yolk into a separate bowl.)
- ¼ cup half-and-half
- 1 Tablespoon sour cream
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup corn (may be fresh or frozen corn kernels)
- Vegetable oil to oil the pan
- Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks when the beaters are
- In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, half-and-half, and sour cream.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture. Add the
beaten egg whites, using a gentle stirring motion to combine them with
the yolk mixture.
- Add the corn, and stir gently. Pour a small amount of oil into a
non-stick pan and heat it over medium heat. Drop batter, about 1
Tablespoonsful at a time, into the pan for each pancake and cook until
golden brown on each side.
Serves 4 to 6.
While Canada is known to some for its beers (such as Molson and Labatts),
nonalcoholic beverages that are favorites in Canada are spruce beer (made
from spruce trees, a specialty of eastern Canada), and apple and cherry
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. A
typical menu for Thanksgiving is similar to that served in the
country's neighbor to the south, the United States.
Roast Turkey with Corn Bread Stuffing
Burnished Squash Wedges
Burns Day is celebrated January 25 to commemorate the birthday of poet
Robert Burns (1759–96). It is especially significant for people of
Scottish descent worldwide, and Scots Canadians are no exception. On Burns
Day, the menu includes such Scottish favorites as haggis, cockaleekie soup
(chicken-based leek soup), and Dundee cake (a rich fruitcake).
Canada Day Cake
- 1 white or yellow cake mix
- 1 container white frosting
- 1 quart strawberries
- Picture of flag of Canada
- Prepare cake according to package directions. Bake in a 9-inch by
13-inch cake pan. Allow cake to cool.
- Frost cake with white frosting. Using a knife or spatula, make surface
of frosting as smooth as possible. (It may help to dip the knife or
spatula into a glass of water.
- Slice the strawberries, and arrange in rows at the left and right edges
of the cake to represent the stripes at the edges of Canada's
Maple Leaf Flag.
- Referring to the picture of the flag, arrange the slices strawberries in
the center of the cake to represent the Maple Leaf.
On Canada Day (July 1), Canadians celebrate with picnics and fireworks
(similar to the Fourth of July in the United States). Dishes served are
typical casual dining fare, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and table
settings feature the patriotic color scheme of Canada's red and
white maple leaf flag.
A common treat served across Canada is the nanaimo bar. It is believed
that nanaimo bars, a sweet bar cookie made in layers, originated in the
1950s in the Vancouver area, when a recipe was published in the
A sheet cake, decorated with strawberries to represent
Canada's Maple Leaf flag design, is a fitting dessert for a
Canada Day celebration.
newspaper. Since then, many variations on the original recipe have been
developed. The recipe appears more complicated than it is because of the
three separate layers.
Nanaimo Bars have three layers.
Ingredients for bottom layer
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups crushed graham crackers (packaged graham cracker crumbs may be
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
Ingredients for middle layer
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla custard powder (available in Canada, but not in
the United States; instant vanilla pudding powder may be substituted)
- 3 Tablespoons milk
Ingredients for top layer
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 Tablespoon butter
Make bottom layer:
Grease a 9-inch square cake pan.
- Combine ½ cup butter, sugar, cocoa, egg, and vanilla in a heavy
sauce pan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture
- Add graham crackers crumbs, coconut, and chopped walnuts, stirring to
combine. Press the mixture in the greased pan.
Make middle layer:
Beat together ¼ cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla
custard or pudding powder, and milk, until the mixture is creamy.
- Spread over graham cracker base in cake pan. Refrigerate bars until
firm, at least 1 hour.
Melt semi-sweet chocolate and 1 Tablespoon butter. Drizzle over chilled
bars. Return to refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 1 hour).
- Cut into squares and serve.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
Most Canadians eat three meals each day, with breakfast featuring cold
cereal, pastries, fruit juices, and hot beverages such as
Hard Bread, not widely available in the United States, is rock-like
and dry before soaking overnight in water.
coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. At around noon, Canadians may enjoy a
sandwich or soup; students may carry a ham and cheese sandwich, chips or
pretzels, and fruit to eat a noon during the school lunch break.
For dinner, depending on where they live, Canadians may have seafood (west
coast or Maritime east coast provinces), beef (western Canada, especially
Alberta), or chicken or pork. Many Canadians enjoy gravy, serving it
frequently with potatoes prepared in many different ways. A traditional
Newfoundland dish, Fish and Brewis, features ingredients that may be
stored through the long winter months. Desserts featuring maple syrup,
such as Maple Syrup Upside-Down Cake or a simple Maple Sundae, are popular
- 3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Vanilla ice cream
- Chopped nuts (optional)
- Whipped topping (optional)
- Spoon vanilla ice cream into bowls.
- Drizzle about 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup over the ice cream.
- Top with chopped nuts and whipped topping (if desired), and serve
Fish and Brewis
- 2 pounds salt cod
- 6 loaves Hard Bread (not readily available in the United States; see
Source of Special Ingredients)
- 1 cup salt pork
- Place salt cod in a saucepan, cover with water, and allow to soak
overnight. Place Hard Bread in another saucepan, cover with water, and
allow this to soak overnight also.
Drain salt cod and return to saucepan. Refill saucepan with fresh
water, heat to simmering, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Drain,
flake the fish into serving-sized pieces, and arrange with Hard Bread
) on a serving platter.
Make brewis (Hard Bread):
Do not drain Hard Bread. Heat over medium-low heat until water simmers.
Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Drain and place cooked Hard
Bread, known as
, on a serving platter with fish. Place the platter, loosely covered, in
the oven on the lowest setting to keep warm.
Dice the salt pork into small cubes and sauté them in a skillet
until golden brown.
- Serve the fish and brewis, topped with scrunchions.
Serves 6 to 8.
Maple Syrup Upside-Down Cake
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Vanilla ice cream or whipped topping as accompaniment (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
- Measure butter, sugar, and egg into a bowl, and beat with a wooden spoon
or electric mixer until creamy.
- Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (or nutmeg) together. Add
the dry ingredients and the milk, a little at a time and alternating
between the two, to the creamed butter mixture. Stir until well blended.
- Measure syrup into a small saucepan. Heat the syrup until it boils, and
pour into a generously buttered 8-inch square baking pan. If using
chopped walnuts, add them to the hot syrup.
- Scoop up the dough in four large balls and drop them into the hot maple
syrup. Using two forks, stretch dough the edges of the balls until the
dough forms one large mass. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 30
- Serve warm, with ice cream or whipping cream (if desired).
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
Only about 5 percent of Canada's land is considered arable (able to
grow crops), and agriculture contributes about 2 percent to the
country's gross domestic product. The trend is toward larger farms.
Canadian farms produce grains such as wheat, barley, corn, and oats.
Canada ranks third in the world in grain exports. Canadian farmers and
ranchers also raise livestock for export, especially in Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
7 FURTHER STUDY
Farm Folk, City Folk: Stories, Tips, and Recipes Celebrating Local Food
for Food Lovers of All Stripes.
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998.
You Eat What You Are: People, Culture, and Food Traditions.
2nd ed. Toronto, Ont.: Firefly Books, 1999.
The Wild West Cookbook.
Don Mills, Ont.: R. Rose, 1998.
Rise & Dine Canada: Savory Secrets from Canada's Bed &
2nd ed. Montreal, Quebec: Callawind Publications, 1999.
The Sugaring-Off Party.
New York: Dutton, 1994. [Picture-book account of maple sugaring in
Great Canadian Cuisine: The Contemporary Flavours of Canadian Pacific
Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999.
Canada Day Cake Recipe. [Online] Available
(accessed June 1, 2001).
Liboiron, Henri and Bob St-Cyr. "Making Pemmican." [Online]
(accessed April 17, 2001).
Root, Lorna. "Food and More: Canadian Cuisine." [Online]
(accessed April 17, 2001).
Source for Special Ingredients
Always Canadian. [Online] Available
(accessed August 17, 2001).