1. Butter tarts: It’s true! Butter tarts are Canadian through and through. In fact, these crumbly, almost shortbread-like pastry shells—oozing with butter, sugar, syrup and eggs—date back to the early 1600s, when they provided sweet sustenance for our pioneers. There’s a great deal of variation today—some bakers add raisins, others pecans—but it’s safe to say they’d all satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth.
2. BeaverTails: Even Barack Obama stopped for one when he visited our nation’s capital in 2009. The Ottawa-based company that came up with the idea of hand stretching pastry shaped like beaver tails, then frying it and topping it with sweet confections like whipped cream and berries, has been dishing out their treats since 1980.
3. Nanaimo bars: It’s no wonder these ultra-sweet bars consisting of a chocolate top layer and a wafer-crumb base, which perfectly sandwiches a custard-flavoured centre, have fairly contested origins. But since the late 1950s, Nanaimo bars have become staples at every bake sale, not only in British Columbia but across the country.
4. Fish and brewis: The Italians can keep their baccalà, and the Portuguese can have their bacalhau. We
prefer our salt cod to be served along hard tack (hard bread, soaked overnight in water) and scrunchions (fried bits of salted pork fat), thank you very much. The traditional Newfoundland dish, which was probably created by sailors who needed good sustenance out at sea, differs from door to door, but it’s always certain to fill you up.
5. Figgy duff: There are many variations of this Newfoundland boiled pudding, but most contain flour, butter, sugar, molasses and raisins, which used to commonly be referred to as figs on the Rock. So its name fits, sort of. Coincidentally, figgy duff bears a striking resemblance to another of the world’s funniest-named sweets, the British spotted dick.
6. Canadian bacon: We call it peameal bacon but the rest of the world lovingly refers to it as Canadian. And here’s the thing: it’s just lean, boneless pork loin that’s been brined and rolled in finely ground cornmeal (years ago, it would have been peameal).
7. Tourtière: This traditional Québécois double-crusted meat pie may be traditionally served at Christmas, but there’s a good chance French Canadians eat it all year long. While they can be packed with a combination of pork, veal and beef, in Montreal tourtière is usually made with only pork—finely ground—and seasoned with cinnamon and cloves, and served with ketchup. Comfort
8. Saskatoon berry pie: Many a Prairie native has childhood memories of filling pails with these sweet, fleshy-fruited berries to fill double-crusted golden pies. And even though the shrubs that bear them are grown from western Ontario to British Columbia and the Yukon, they’re especially dear to the people who live in the city that shares the berry’s name.
9. McCain’s french fries: We may not have invented the humble french fry, but Canadian-owned and operated McCain’s has been making frites for more than 50 years. At last count the company, the world’s largest producer of french fries, was dishing out more than 20 products.
10. Maple syrup: Not only has one of our most beloved chefs, Montreal’s Martin Picard, dedicated a 386-page cookbook to the boiled-down sap—first collected by Aboriginal peoples of North America—but our nation produces a whopping 85 per cent of the world’s supply.
11. Split pea soup: The Oxford Companion to Food says this Québécois, rib-sticking delight with a base of dried yellow split peas and a ham bone, or smoked ham hock, is probably our best-known food export.
Sources: Oxford Dictionary of Food, Canadian Oxford Dictionary, food and company websites
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The nswers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.