Canada is a land with a myriad of cultures and cuisines, truly reflecting the diversity of the people who call this place home. While there may not be a singular Canadian cuisine, there are certainly some specialties that are unique to this country and enjoyed by millions of Canadians regardless of location.
Deliciously coated in cheese curds and warm gravy, poutine is a well known Canadian culinary sensation. This French Canadian staple traces its origins back to the 1950s, but the true details regarding Canada’s “national dish” remains unclear (Lev, 2020). One history suggests that poutine found its beginnings in Québec, when a restaurateur Fernand Lachance threw together cheese curds and french fries in a to-go bag for a rushing customer (Hutchinson, 2017). When Lachance looked inside the bag, he supposedly remarked that it was a “poutine”, the Québécois slang for mess! Today, this dish is enjoyed in a variety of ways, but the most popular are versions with squeaky cheese curds, peppery gravy, and toppings like pulled pork and bacon.
Another appetizing cuisine is one that has been savored by First Nations cultures for generations: game meat. Game meat can take different forms and flavors depending on the region, anywhere from moose to caribou (Guan, 2019). Unfortunately, a majority of indigenous cuisines faced erasure from the past few hundred years of colonization (Bayley, 2017). But today, there are many First Nations Canadians taking on the challenge of reimagining traditional foods and bringing indigenous culinary tradition to the mainstream (Kassam, 2018). A popular First Nations restaurant in Vancouver, Salmon n’ Bannock, has a delectable menu featuring a game sampler with three kinds of meats!
While local and regional specialties can vary by geographies, histories, and customs, common factors tying together all Canadian cuisines are exquisite flavors and deliciousness. There is always something new and exciting to try, whether it's an age-old dish like Tourtière or a special variation of a common food like Montreal bagels. What Canadian dish are you excited to try next?
Bayley, Nikki. 2017. “The Resurgence of Canada’s First Nations Cuisine.” Adventure.com, October 16, 2017. https://adventure.com/resurgence-canada-first-nations-cuisine/.
Guan, Christina. 2019. “17 Traditional Canadian Foods You Need to Try.” HostelWorld, July 30, 2019. https://www.hostelworld.com/blog/best-traditional-canadian-food/.
Hutchinson, Sean. 2017. “A Brief History of Poutine.” Mental Floss, July 1, 2017. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/57508/brief-history-poutine.
Kassam, Ashifa. 2018. “Canada embraces indigenous cuisine, a long-neglected culinary tradition.” The Guardian, January 19, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/19/canada-toronto-vancouver-indigenous-cuisine.
Lev, Elianna. 2020. “10 Must-Try Canadian Dishes (and the Best Places to Find Them).” Reader's Digest, June 26, 2020. https://www.readersdigest.ca/travel/canada/10-must-try-canadian-dishes/.