This is our first month participating in the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. As more than 80 participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. This months theme is Regional Canadian Food. You can see all of our posts in this series here.
Two little-known pieces of trivia from my (Joel’s) personal history:
- My family, on both sides, have been on the land that is now known as Canada since before it was known as such.
- I spent a year traveling Canada in the mid-1990’s; mostly by Greyhound bus (I traveled on it for more than 27,000 km/ 17,000 miles).
I don’t know that I’m any more qualified to decide an authentic Canadian Food Experience apart from anyone else but I do have a fond place in my heart for things that make us “Canadian.” In some ways I think Canadian food fits into one of three broad categories, and perhaps four:
- Things that are thought of as “Canadian” because of folklore, history or origin. This includes things like maple syrup, poutine (although people in Quebec may make an argument that this is a Quebecois dish and not a Canadian one), our affiliation with beer and so forth.
- A bunch of regional dishes that aren’t National in scope. Things like Acadian Dumplings, Meat Pie, Deep Sea Clams, Canned Meat in the North, Smoked Salmon in the West.
- A bunch of dishes that were brought from other countries and cultures that have their own identity here such as perogies in the prairies, dishes from around the world in many of our cities as well as Canadian-invented fusions such as Chicken Balls (although some may debate those)!
- Things that others, especially our closest neighbors to the south, associate with us. Canadian Bacon is the best example; it’s a common menu item in the U.S. although I’ve never seen it once in Canada (where we most often call it peameal bacon).
A notable exception on my list of “Canadian food” is items from the First Nations. The omission is not intended as a slight; I believe it’s worthy of a class to its own. The traditions in First Nations food long outlive confederation; it doesn’t seem fair to say it’s a subcategory of something that was invented far after it. If others disagree, I’m willing to stand corrected.
What is a regional food of Ontario; especially Southern/ Central Ontario? We are fortunate to have such an amazing climate that we can grow almost any crop in the world (though we can’t commonly grow citrus). While we grow many of those ingredients well, when I think of the food that I grew up with that was ‘special’ to Ontario, I think of:
- Wild leeks
- The occasional bird (duck, partridge, goose)
- Maple Syrup
I am sure there were others, but these are the ones that come to mind.
For this months challenge, I decided to make a drink – otherwise known as a cocktail. While some of our cities have an emerging cocktail culture, much of our nation is more prone to ‘go for a drink’ than to swill cocktails. I chose Canadian Whisky as an homage to food that is labelled Canadian that few of us hold dear like some form of national treasure. There’s probably someone (or lots of someones!) out there who will swear that Canadian Whisky is the greatest brew in the world but I haven’t met them. There is also a giant connection between the history of our Country, Whisky, our American friends and prohibition, but that’s a story for another day!
“Drinks” are part of the food fabric of Canada. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are not a requirement of citizenship but they are a deep part of the Canadian fabric for many. I think many Canadians would find it surprising that we’re not even in the top 15 countries in the world in relation to the most alcohol consumed per capita but we often talk a brave game!
All of that is a really long into to this awesome Canadian Cocktail featuring 2 ingredients I think of as Southern Ontario food (strawberries and maple syrup) and one that I think is labeled a Canadian Forte (Canadian Whisky):
Maple Syrup, Strawberry and Canadian Whisky – Ingredients (2 average drinks or 1 cottage-sized one)
- 12-16 strawberries (or as many as you like)
- 2 shots of Canadian Whisky
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lemon
Maple Syrup, Strawberry and Canadian Whisky – Instructions
- Squash the strawberries with a fork, blender or immersion blender.
- Strain the berries through a fine sieve; you should have at least 0.25 cups strawberry juice.
- Add remaining ingredients and pour into a 2 cup (500 ml) mason jar). Top with water.
- Place lid on jar, chill for 30 minutes in freezer.
- Serve in a chilled glass.
Where are you from and what’s regional for you?