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BellaOnline's Canadian Culture Editor

Canadian Food - Is There Such a Thing?

Food is an important part of any culture. You've probably had Chinese food and Indian curry. In the U.S., they pride themselves on their fried chicken and mom's apple pie. It is easy to name foods from Thailand, Italy, and France. But is there such a thing as Canadian food?

If you google "Canadian food", you'll be directed to Canada's national food guide. This leaflet is published by Health Canada in an attempt to keep Canadians healthy. It doesn't mention any traditional Canadian foods, but it does suggest that being Canadian requires a well-balanced diet.

Historically, food availability was severely limited by Canada's short summers and cold winters. Since then, our food has been heavily influenced by the myriad cultures that have immigrated to Canada. Canada shows this multicultural background in the wide variety of foods available in restaurants and grocery stores.

But this doesn't tell us if there are any foods that are specifically Canadian. Canada can boast many unique dishes and different regions of the country all have originated their own. Some examples include: Fiddleheads in New Brunswick, tourtiere and poutine in Quebec, perogies in the Prairies, ice wine in Ontario, and caribou in the Northwest Territories.

Canadians are known primarily for their sweet tooth. An example of a treat from the great white north is the Beaver Tail, a sweet pastry in the shape of the tail of a beaver. It doesn't get any more Canadian than that. Butter tarts and Nanaimo bars, which originated in Ontario and British Columbia respectively, are also uniquely Canadian treats. And no column about Canadian food would be complete without mentioning the doughnut. Doughnuts are not uniquely Canadian, but they are central to our culinary culture. According to The Unofficial National Sugary Snack, a television clip in the Canadian Food section at the CBC archives, "There are more doughnut shops per capita in Canada than anywhere else on the planet. Canadians eat more doughnuts than any other country's citizens." The doughnut is to Canadian cuisine what Hockey is to Canadian sports - our unofficial national obsession.

Canada does have its own culinary traditions and favourite foods. The difference between countries with internationally recognizable culinary traditions and Canada, is that we are very Canadian about promoting our cuisine. We need to get over our reluctance to self-promote and be proud of what Canada has to offer. Not only do we have our own unique dishes, but we also boast an exciting international influence and an abundance of fresh local ingredients. Micheal Smith (from Canada's Food Network) argues, in Canada's Cuisine Comes of Age, by Jessica Wong and Tara Kimura (CBC News In Depth, June 26, 2007), that Canadian cuisine should simply mean cooking with fresh, local ingredients. He says, "To me, that's Canadian cuisine at its best."

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