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Monday, June 27, 2016

Canadian Food 101: In honour of Canada Day!

Yup, that's me exercising my nationalist pride 

July 1, 2016 is Canada's 149th birthday!  

In honour of that, I'm re-posting one of my older Canada Day posts. Here, you'll find a ton of info on Canadian food and a few of our food traditions.

I've also updated it with a Youtube playlist of some of classic Canadian music, stretching across aaalll kinds of genres from the birth of 80's Canadian hip hop to Leonard Cohen, K'naan, A Tribe Called Red, and more!

Originally posted in 2013:

I've returned to Canada from my 2 week trip to Greece just in time for Canada Day (the day Canadians celebrate the creation of Canada as a single unified country). While I love traveling and Greece certainly had it's moments, every time I leave Canada I'm reminded of how truly awesome it is and how lucky I am to be Canadian.

In fact, did you know that Canadians are the 3rd happiest people in the world, after Australia and Sweden? 

Indeed. The Better Life Index ranked more than 30 wealthy countries on things like income levels, health, safety and housing and found that Canadians rank higher than almost any other country in regards to average life expectancy (yay public health care, clean air and water!), quality of education and percentage of people with post-seconday education (yay public education!), and satisfaction with their quality of life.

Don't worry American readers, you came in 6th, so that's not too shabby either!  

But enough of my nationalist bragging, today I'm sharing a whole whack of info on Canadian food!! "Canadian food" is as diverse as its inhabitants, so you might be surprised by what you can find across this super awesome country.

In honour of this year's Canada Day (yes, in Canada we spell some things with a "u" that Americans don't, such as colour instead of color), and the fact that I haven't had time to write a new Canada Day post, I'm re-sharing last year's post on Canadian food since my readership was much smaller then and most of you probably haven't seen it.

This post has some quintessentially Canadian food, and a few little Canadian tidbits.  In particular, I'm sharing because I know that most of my readers are actually American, not Canadian like me, so I thought some of you might find this useful.  For my Canadian readers, I hope this post raises nostalgia and feelings of pride, and maybe a few laughs.

I've provided a few lists for you here: First and foremost is, of course, Canadian food.

Although I haven't been all across Canada (it is, afterall, the second largest country in the world after Russia) I've done my best to explore my gorgeous and huge native country. For example:

* I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba
* I moved to BC at the age of 7
* I've driven back and forth across the prairies to Winnipeg from BC several times
* I worked in Banff, Alberta for a couple of months when I was 17
* I've been tattooed AND pierced in Calgary, Alberta on two separate occasions
* I've spent time in Montreal
* I recently honeymooned in the Maritimes

So I've tried to provide some detailed info on certain traditional (and newly traditional) foods that I'm familiar with.  If I miss anything you'd like to see here, please let me know!! 

As you'll note from some of the video clips I've shared below, Canadians also have a long history of making fun of themselves.  Like poutine, maple syrup and the word "toque" used for a knitted winter cap, it is quintessentially Canadian to make fun of Canadian stereotypes in Canadian films, t.v. shows, radio stations and more.  Enjoy the lists and the clips!  If you have any questions or Canadian stories, please share them below!!

A toque, from

Quintessentially Canadian Food

 (In no particular order) 

Poutine - French Fries covered in cheese curds and gravy.  This is mostly a French Canadian dish from Quebec, but can be found throughout the country.  Generally not gluten free, or vegetarian, but you can follow my directions for Gluten Free Vegetarian Gravy, scatter your fries with some of those cheese curds that Wisconsin is so famous for, and make your own!

Canadian Bacon – up here we call it back bacon, but it's always on American menus as "Canadian Bacon".  Essentially, it's bacon that comes from the back of a pig, usually sliced in rounds and fried.

Bannock - an aboriginal dish, it's fried bread dough that is often drizzled with maple syrup. Sinfully tasty.

Beaver Tails - not so different from bannock, this is fried dough (usually shaped like a beaver tail) that is dipped in cinnamon and sugar and sold at fairs. 

Maple Syrup - pretty self-explanatory.  Tap a maple tree and collect yourself some syrup!

Chinese Buffet and Dim Sum - Seriously, the Chinese buffet is actually a Canadian invention.  It got it's start in Gastown, Vancouver, BC in the late 1800s, when Scandinavians were working in the mills and logging industry.  Most of them had Chinese cooks, whom they asked to set up a steam table so they could leave room on their tables for drinks. Hence, the buffet table!

Also, as of about 8 years ago, Cantonese is the #1 language spoken in homes in Vancouver, BC (English is #2) so you can find a Chinese restaurant on almost every street corner.

Whale Blubber and Seal - ok, not really a quintessentially Canadian dish, but for the Inuits / Eskimos up north, this is a dietary staple, as it actually provides a ton of vital nutrients, and actually is supposed to be very good for your arteries because of the high levels of Omega 3s. 

Montreal Bagels - originating in Montreal with Jewish immigrants to Quebec, I'm not sure what differentiates these from other bagels, but they're often sold by street vendors in Montreal.

P.E.I. Mussels - you've probably seen them on menus throughout the U.S. in fancy restaurants.  Out of curiosity (to see if she knew) I once asked a waitress in Seattle if she knew what P.E.I. mussels were.  She said she thought they were a variety of mussel.  In a way, they are.  They're from a place called PEI, Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province on the far east coast.  In this province they farm mussels and send them around North America. 

 Along with Mussels, the small provinces on the eastern coast known as The Maritimes, are choke full of seafood such as mussels, oysters and lobster (cod fishing was also huge until they were fished almost to extinction). Their influences range from Scottish to French to English to Mi'kmaq aboriginal. 

Pierogis - these didn't originate in Canada, but the prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) have a ton of Eastern European and Ukrainian immigrants.  I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and pierogi restaurants are common throughout the city.  There are so many Ukrainians in Winnipeg that we always used to leave our Chrismas lights up well into January in order to honour Ukrainian New Years. 

Donair, Felafel and Kebab - Also not of Canadian origins, but there are a ton of folks of Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Egyptian and North African origin in Quebec and Ontario and there are lots of tasty falafel stands and donair shops throughout the provinces.  Pizza joints often double as donair shops. 

Sushi - Again, not originally Canadian, but there is some wicked awesome sushi in Canada.  Sushi, Indian food and Chinese restaurants are so prolific (especially on the West Coast, like BC, which has an enormous Asian population.  In fact, 2 of the 5 largest Asian expat communities are in Vancouver and Toronto*) that there are practically two sushi restaurants, an Indian place and a Chinese restaurant on every other street corner. 

Chinese-Indian fusion - as mentioned in the above under sushi, Chinese and Indian restaurants are also popular due to our very large population of people of Chinese and Indian descent.  So many, in fact, that they periodically team up to create Chinese-Indian fusion restaurants.  It's like the best of both worlds!

JapaDog with Teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed from

JapaDog - another fusion food made famous during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC, the JapaDog is sold at stands around Vancouver.  It started in 2005 with a couple from Japan who decided to take the traditional hot dog and jazz it up, Japanese style.  In 2011, they expanded to open another stand in New York, so who knows, maybe you'll find one of these near you some time in the near future!

Sudanese and Ethiopian Food - Also not native to Canada, but fast becoming popular, particularly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan where in the past 10 years a large African population has begun to settle in. Incidentally, when I was in Winnipeg, MB last month, I loved the fact that on one street alone I passed a Sudanese restaurant, an Ethiopian market, a hooka bar, a Persian market, a Ukrainian restaurant, and a Chinese restaurant.

And finally, related to Canadian food is Canadian alcohol!

Beer – Canadians like beer.  I’m not sure that they like it any better than any other country, but we have all kinds of funny beer commercials that involve people running through the snow in their underwear just to get beer, commercials with park rangers and sasquatches, and other kinds of Canadian stereo-types that make people laugh and want to buy beer.  While myths abound that Canadian beer has a higher alcohol content than American beer, it’s really not true.  Except with ice beer, a type of beer that is frozen during processing that somehow increases the alcohol content to like 7.1%.  While this is modeled off a type of German beer, Canadians labeled it “ice beer” and it’s been ours ever since.

The Caesar  - really, it's actually Canadian.  It was created by Walter Chell, and bartender, to mark the opening of a new restaurant in Calgary, Alberta, called Marco's. 

Wine: The Maritimes, Ontario and BC are hot spots for wine making, and we make some wonderful wines, including (thanks to our rather chilly winters) ice wine. In fact, Canada is one of the top two producers of ice wine in the world along with Germany.

Canadian Video Clips

This little video clip is one that I remember vividly from my childhood.  The Canadian Film Board used to put together these cute little animated videos about Canadian history and they would play them periodically during commercial breaks on Canadian tv channels.This one is about the early loggers in Canada. (Thank you CFB and CBC for instilling a healthy dose of nationalism, self-inflicted humour and humility in us!)

Jim Carrey, on being Canadian.  Please, folks, don't take this literally :)

Russell Peters on Becoming Canadian

Click here for my Canadian Music Playlist


Some famous Canadians you might not have known were Canadian 

(a short list in no particular order)

Jim Carrey
Dan Akroyd
William Shatner
Michael J. Fox
Ryan Reynolds
Kim Cattrall (for all you Sex in the City fans)
Brendan Fraser (you know, the guy from The Mummy)
Eugene Levy
Howie Mandel
Rachel  McAdams
Rick Moranis
Ryan Gosling
Jill Hennessy
Joshua Jackson
Michael Cera
Pamela Anderson
Keanu Reeves
Neil Young
Leonard Cohen
Tommy Chong
Ellen Page
Anna Paquin
Christopher Plummer
Seth Rogen
Martin Short
Matthew Perry
Donald and Kiefer Sutherland
Gordon Tootoosis
Adam Beach
Graham Greene
Glenn Gould

Do you have a favorite Canadian food or have you tried one of these quintessentially Canadian dishes? 

Or perhaps you've heard a stereotype you'd like cleared up? (And yes, we do say "eh" sometimes!)

This post was shared on the following great link parties: Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Musings of a Housewife, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays,           

*Stat from


  1. Very interesting! I have to admit, I'm not very well acquainted with Canadian foods! :-)

    1. We don't really have a "national" food but I do love the diversity here! Whenever I travel I miss being able to choose between sushi, Indian, Thai, or pizza for dinner ;)

  2. Belated Happy Canada Day to you, Danielle! I love this post. I had no idea beyond Canadian bacon and maple syrup. I must try a hot dog with seaweed. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think a JapaDog would go wonderful with a Canadian Caesar ;) Glad you like the post!

  3. One more food item to add is the Tourtière - traditionally a meat pie from Quebec. We've been making a vegan gluten free version for many years now (and the traditional one for longer, before transitioning diets).
    Great post :)

    1. Wow, I'm embarassed to confess that I've never heard of Tourtière, and my grandfather was Akkadian! Thanks so much for sharing, Laura!

  4. Very interesting! I have to admit,


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