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A Palatable Past: Savouring Canada’s Flavours at Historic Places

Who says Canada's culinary cuisine is not unique?  For one, Colonel Saunders, American founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, certainly thought so, stating in a 1957 CBC Radio interview that Canadian food was "plumb tasteless" and could not lay claim to any "outstanding characteristic."  Yet how could a nation, with centuries of history, a vast and diverse landscape, and a population now over 30 million people not have its own culinary specialities to offer the world?!                            

There is a distinctive Canadian cuisine that is not limited to poutine, Nanaimo bars and 'double-doubles'!  Much like the diverse music, literature and architecture that characterize our country, every region of Canada can equally boast its own unique local flavours which have developed over time.  Like the arts, our culinary dishes are the result of our chefs' abilities to understand local produce adapted to new and age-old cooking methods, creating deliciously original products.

Our historic places and traditional cuisine define us as a nation.  Let us take a cross-country gastronomic tour savouring the delectable aromas and flavours of our "home and native land" and some of the remarkable historic places which whet the appetite and inspire our taste buds.


 

 

Table d'hôte / Menu

(Recipes provided below)

Starter: Prince Edward Island Potato SoupDalvay-by-the-Sea, Parks Canada / Parcs Canada

Renowned for its red earth, Anne of Green Gables and as the birthplace of Confederation, Prince Edward Island also boasts a spectacular coastal landscape which has attracted many to build opulent summer homes along the seashore.  Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a picturesque late-nineteenth-century residence converted into a summer hotel in 1932, offers guests unparalleled views of the seascape and surrounding grassy lands.  Guests of this Queen Anne Revival style structure are equally welcome to enjoy regionally inspired fare in the hotel's comfortable dining room.  Celebrating the province's well-known potato crop, a bowl of hearty P.E.I. Potato Soup is a delicious way to begin a meal and take pleasure in the bounty of the island. 

Entrée: White SaladEaton's Round Room, 1930, Toronto Archives / La salle ronde du magasin Eaton's, 1930, les archives de Toronto

In the 1930s retail giant Timothy Eaton envisioned creating a monumental department store in downtown Toronto showcasing the latest style and technology of the time.  This bygone era survives at the Eaton's 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room National Historic Site.  The Round Room was the department store's restaurant while the Auditorium, a concert hall and ballroom, served as a venue for performers such as Frank Sinatra and pianist Glenn Gould.  Celebrated for their Art Deco designs, dinner guests can still take pleasure in these spectacular spaces where the decorations of geometric shapes together with lavish and glossy materials, are highlighted by an elegant and dramatic black, gold and silver colour scheme.  After a twirl around the dance floor and before the main course arrives, enjoy a refreshing fruit salad popular in the 1930s.  Sometimes known as white or fluff salad, this practical salad (which could be prepared and refrigerated beforehand and therefore ideal for group gatherings), is a mix of fruit, cream, and a new delicacy of the era: marshmallows!

Main Course: TourtièreRestaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens, www.auxancienscanadien.gc.ca

Some of the more distinctively Canadian food derives from French-Canadian cuisine.  Sweet and savoury dishes, such as sugar and meat pies, are popular fare gracing Québécois dinner tables - especially during the holiday season.  A type of meat pie, Tourtière was traditionally made with wild game but is now most often prepared with pork.  The origin of its name is debatable: tourte is the French word for the dish, tart or pie shell in which it is made as well as for the passenger pigeon which was once popular game for meat dishes in Canada before being hunted to extinction.  To savour Québécois culinary heritage, enjoy a slice of Tourtière at the Maison François-Jacquet-Dit-Langevin in Québec City, more commonly known as Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant.  This historic place, begun in 1675 and one of the oldest residences standing within the walls of Old Québec, offers patrons an intimate French-Canadian dining experience within a setting of traditional French architecture.  Thick masonry walls, a steeply pitched gable roof and large rafter beams supporting the interior structure present a picture perfect backdrop for guests to enjoy their dinner.

Wine List: Blueberry WineBelliveau Orchards' Blueberry Wine / Vin aux bleuets des Vergers Belliveau

Orchards and wild berries are found across Canada, offering delicious and varied bounties to create tart dishes, sweet desserts and flavourful beverages.  Around the Bay of Fundy, Acadians have grown and tended apple orchards since the 17th century.  This tradition continues at the century-old Belliveau Orchards in Memramcook, New Brunswick where visitors can learn about apple cultivation as well as purchase award-winning fruit wines. 

A complimentary pairing with meat dishes, such as Tourtière, is homemade blueberry wine.  Plan to make this beverage when the blueberries are in season in late summer and have patience because the fermentation process takes several months (ready just in time for Christmas - cheers!).

Dessert: Apple Crisp Northern Style Wildcat Café, Wikimedia       

Northern cuisine often features the use of fish and game.  You are sure to find fresh caught fish served at one of Yellowknife's oldest restaurants, the Wildcat Café, a modest log structure built in 1937-38 during the early pioneering days of Canada's North.  In northern climates, fresh produce is limited, given the brief growing season.  To survive between the short hunting and gathering season, Canada's Aboriginal Peoples have traditionally prepared food consisting of dried and smoked meat, including pemmican - a nutritious fare of protein and fat that was adopted by European Arctic explorers.   At northern fur trade and law enforcement outposts, dried foodstuffs were vital for survival throughout the long winter months.  The apple crisp recipe - northern style - calls for dehydrated apples, reflecting the challenges of surviving in our northern climate.

Sweet Ending: Fredericton Walnut ToffeeGanong storefront, 1934, Library and Archives Canada /La vitrine d'un magasin de Ganong, 1934, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

Were you aware that the wrapped chocolate bar is a Canadian invention?  Brothers James and Gilbert Ganong, founders of Ganong Brothers Ltd., Canada's oldest family-owned candy maker, established a factory in St. Stephen, New Brunswick in 1873.  After discovering that chocolate was more practical to carry around when in a protective covering, they began marketing this novel wrapper in the early 20th century - and the rest is history!  Confections are a beloved part of our culture which is confirmed by our long-established candy makers.  Laura Secord has been delighting patrons since 1913 while Rogers' Chocolates (est. 1885) has been selling premium chocolates from its Government Street location in Victoria, British Columbia since 1917!  If you find yourself needing just a little something extra to satisfy your sweet tooth, why not try making some walnut toffee to nibble on?   It's been a crowd-pleaser for generations! 

Treat yourself to a little taste of Canada while taking in some of the celebrated and distinguished historic places which define our uniqueness as a nation.  Bon appétit!

Recipes

Note: all recipes are from The Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book.  Whitecap Books, 2001. Originally published in 1966 by Laura Secord Candy Shops.

P.E.I. Potato Soup   Makes 6 servings.

  • 3-4 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 3 cups boiling water (can substitute part of water for beef or chicken stock)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can (16 ounces) undiluted evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of pepper
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  1. Boil potatoes and salt in water and/or stock in a covered saucepan for 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain and reserve liquid; press potatoes through a sieve.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine reserved liquid with evaporated milk, onions, butter and pepper.
  4. Heat mixture but do not boil.
  5. Stir in sieved potatoes and reheat adding water if necessary.
  6. Stir in cheese until melted and season to taste.
  7. Serve warm garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

 

White Salad     Makes 10 servings.

  • 2 cups drained canned white cherries, halved and pitted
  • 2 cups drained pineapple tidbits
  • 2 cups seedless green grapes
  • 1 cup diced bananas
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 cups small marshmallows
  • 2 eggs, well beaten OR 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light cream (10%)
  • ½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream (35%), whipped
  1. Combine first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate.
  2. Using a double boiler, combine eggs, sugar, light cream and lemon rind and gradually add lemon juice.
  3. Cook over boiling water and stir constantly until thickened.
  4. Chill egg mixture then fold in heavy cream.
  5. Pour over fruit then gently combine both mixtures.
  6. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  7. Serve in a lettuce cup garnished with silver dragées (small, edible sugar confectionary) and cress (the leaf of various herbs of the mustard family).

 

Tourtière    Makes 2 pie shells.

  • 1 ½ pounds ground lean pork
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp celery salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sage
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • Pie dough enough for two pie shells and to cover pies
  1. Combine all ingredients except potatoes in a heavy 3-quart saucepan.
  2. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until meat is no longer red and about half the liquid evaporates.
  3. Cover and continue to cook about 45 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, boil and mash potatoes.
  5. Once the meat mixture is cooked, add mashed potatoes and let cool.
  6. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  7. Prepare two 9-inch pie shells with pastry and fill with cooled meat mixture.
  8. Use additional dough to cover both pies.
  9. Flute and seal the edges and slash top crust.
  10. Bake in oven for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350° F and continue baking for another 30-40 minutes.

 

Blueberry Wine

  • 2 quarts blueberries
  • 4 quarts boiling water
  • 6 cups granulated sugar for each gallon (20 cups) of liquid
  • 3 cups prunes
  1. In a large kettle or pot, combine blueberries and water.
  2. Bring to a boil then strain and measure liquid.
  3. For each gallon (20 cups) of juice, stir in 6 cups of sugar.
  4. Boil mixture for 5 minutes.
  5. Cool and add prunes.
  6. Portion liquid into crocks or jars, cover with cheesecloth and let stand for 2 months.
  7. Strain liquid, bottle and cork.

 

Apple Crisp Northern Style   Makes 6 servings.

  • 2 cups dehydrated apples soaked overnight in 2 ½ cups water, simmered for 15 minutes until tender and drained OR 4 ½ cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
  • ½ cup liquid honey
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a greased 6-cup deep backing dish, place apples and drizzle with honey.
  3. Combine lemon juice and water and pour over apples.
  4. Combine flour, oats, and butter, crumble and sprinkle over apples.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes until apples are tender.
  6. Serve warm with a wedge of cheese or whipped cream.

 

Fredericton Walnut Toffee

  • ½ cup walnut pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 squares semi-sweet chocolate, grated (or 1 chocolate bar broken into pieces)
  • Chopped nuts

 

  1. Prepare a 9-inch square pan by coating bottom and sides with butter.
  2. Spread the walnuts in the pan.
  3. In a heavy frying pan, melt brown sugar and butter over medium heat stirring constantly for 12 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture immediately over walnuts.
  5. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the hot toffee and spread until smooth.
  6. Sprinkle with nuts then chill and break into pieces.

 

Links:

Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet Food App - Bring a taste of Canadian history to your dinner table with this fun food app developed by Parks Canada.  The app features historic recipes adapted for the modern kitchen and associated with national historic sites across the country.  Why not host your own history-inspired dinner party?  You can entertain your company with the informative anecdotes provided with each recipe and guests could even dress up as their favourite historical figure!

Dalvay-by-the-Sea Hotel, official site 

The Carlu, official Web site for events and private rentals of the Eaton's 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room  

Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant, official site  

Belliveau Orchard, official site                

Wildcat Café Advisory Committee, Web site           

Ganong, official site

Old Ganong Factory, now The Chocolate Museum   

Rogers' Chocolates, official site

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