Thursday, March 31, 2011

Canadian Food Anyone? Fig.1. Hanging Caribou meat to freeze in Nunavut, Calgary Angus beef, Maritime Lobster, Pacific salmon and tortiere de Lac St-Jean.

If I were to ask you to define Canadian Cuisine how would you respond? Is there even such a thing as Canadian food? Countries, such as Italy and China have very identifiable culinary traditions and staples, but when someone from China thinks about their upcoming visit to Canada, do any dishes come to mind? Can a visit to Canada make anybody hungry? Not really. Provincial specialties are another story. If we look at food in Canada from a regional perspective, a number dishes stand out: Fish and brewis in Newfoundland, and poutine and tourtiere in Quebec, are just a few specialties that can be found in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces.

Make your way West into the Prairie provinces and British Colombia, and dishes are replaced with ingredients: Wheat, beef and pacific salmon to name a few.

There is no culinary commonality uniting us, Canada lacks that all encompassing tomato sauce that unifies Chianina beef in Piedmonte, with Wild boar in Tuscany, and tuna in Sicily. But our proverbial "pot" in Canada hasn't begun melting yet, we're still in the adding and mixing stage with regard to our food. I believe it's premature to expect commonality within Canadian cuisine at this point in our food evolution. In time, food in Canada will evolve. Regional cuisine and ingredients will fuse into something that will identify a nation rather than a region. (that might be asking a whole lot given our situation in Quebec.) Caribou, seal, Pacific and Atlantic salmon, Calgary beef, Quebec venison and Maritime seafood and potatoes will all come together. (Might I suggest making a National tourtiere with said ingredients. We can call it a Harper Pie.)

The current culinary revolution in Denmark regarding Nordic cuisine could provide some insight into how food and cuisine in Canada might evolve. Although factors such as immigration and economy differ, both countries share many similar traits with regard to climate, geography, wild life and indigenous peoples. Chefs such as Rene Redzepi (Chef of Noma, in Copenhagen, who last year published a cookbook entitled, Noma, which I ordered one year ago on Amazon and have yet to receive.) have helped redefine Nordic cuisine. Bringing together ingredients found all over Scandinavia and cooked with "time and place" in mind. A term coined by Redzepi during an epiphany incurred as he hunted wild musk oxen on a trip to Greenland.

Fig.2. Dried beef, marinated carrots, stout marinated egg, horseradish cream, pumpernickel sandwich on top and a beef tartar, egg yolk, spicy gherkin, caramelized onion cream, rye bread sandwich.

Upon this culinary template, Chefs Seth Gabrielse and Michelle Marek of Laloux/Pop fame have put together an event entitled 'Smorgasbord Chez Pop', which was held last Monday, March 28th. On the menu were Nordic staples such as smoked oysters, house smoked salmon, scallop gravlax, dried beef, and marinated eggs to name but a few. If the food served at Pop was any indication of Canada's culinary potential, I can only hope that our vast country, and the cooks in it, come up with something while I still have my teeth. Until then, I'll begin working on the Harper Pie.

Fig.3. Smoked cheese spread, apple and walnut salad, herbs,rye bread.

Fig.4. No offense to Chefs Seth and Michelle, but post-dessert at La Banquise seemed like a good homage to local, French Canadian cuisine.

If you're wondering what the above poutine has to do with Canadian food, it seemed like a good way to cap off the night; poutine being a perfect-and delicious-example of regional, provincial food. Not that this late night poutine (which was enjoyed at La Banquise) was consumed for academic reasons, it's more like I was swayed there. Like Marlowe's Faustus, I had an angel telling me eating poutine after midnight would be bad for my gastro-intestinal system, and a devil persuading me that there is no such thing as a 'bad' time to eat poutine. Thank god the devil won.

1 comment:

Tosh said...

Harper Pie .. as in seal. Harper(Seal) pie. Couldn't resist this pun. Seriously, thank you for this post. Interesting possibilities. The country is still young compared to other traditions