When we think of our friendly northern neighbors, their cuisine generally isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The first thing that we imagine is probably a game of hockey being played on a frozen pond or caribou running through the wilds of the Northwest Territories.
There are plenty of traditional Canadian foods that haven’t made their way down to the United States. These are things that require passage over the border in order to get the most authentic taste. Here are a few key dishes to watch out for. Many are available all across Canada, but some are regional specialities that require a long journey to the East or West of the country.
1. Peameal Bacon
Peameal bacon – often called Canadian Bacon – is quite different than the crispy slices of bacon that we see 99% of the time. It’s actually a round of boneless pork loin, which is cured, then rolled in cornmeal. It’s called peameal bacon because early settlers used to roll the cured pork loin in ground up yellow peas.
Since World War II, chefs have been using cornmeal, which is easier to handle. Traditionally, it is sliced, and eaten at breakfast or on a bun. The best peameal bacon sandwich in Canada can be found at the famous St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market in Toronto.
The origin of bannock is hard to puzzle out, but it has been made clear recently that Europeans were not the first to bring bread to Canada. The First Nations people of Canada were making bannock out of plant flours long before settlers arrived from Europe. Although they didn’t use wheat flour, their closely guarded recipes were often said to contain cattail pollen or lichen.
Now, most modern bannock is a hybrid of the First Nations version and the waybread eaten by European explorers. It’s often eaten with honey, lard, or jam.
3. Yellow Pea Soup
Yellow pea soup is a staple of French-Canadian cuisine, and has been eaten in the region for centuries. It eventually spread to the rest of Canada, where it was adopted with gusto by settlers of all nationalities.
The soup is traditionally prepared with split yellow peas, and seasoned with slices of rich salt pork. It’s a way of making the meat stretch further than it would if it was just eaten on its own. Farmers in Quebec have been relying on this dish to feed their families for centuries.