Saturday, November 9, 2013

Food Story: Beyond the Cliché

In 2006, my husband, kids, and I went to Disney World, where my husband’s American employer was holding its company-wide summer conference.  The company always invited the families to these conferences, and even organized evening events.  There were Mickey sightings.

One evening, the dinner event was “International Food”, featuring buffet-style stands from various countries.  One of the stands was “Canada”, and I immediately went to check it out; immensely curious as to what this Disney hotel thought Canadian food was.  After all, this is the organization that has a “Small World” ride in which Canada is represented by a Mountie.  I feared cliché.  But the Canada food stand featured nicely prepared trout, Yukon gold potatoes, and a fancy little crème-brulé maple dessert.  I was impressed.

With food stories we can actually escape the cliché.  Canadian food is as diverse as the people who live here.  Disney chose to focus on wild game (Trout, and all other things that residents of this country have caught and eaten since our millenniums-old beginnings), academic innovation (Yukon Gold Potatoes), and maple.

Maple: the product that is as close to Canadian cliché as we get (when there’s no rim-rolling involved).  It’s the result of Fantastic-Aboriginal-Idea-Meets-French-Innovation.  This is most appropriate since, from our distant unrecorded beginnings, our history is all about people-groups meeting in the wilderness, and then influencing each other.  When the Aboriginal people can take a European product like wheat and turn it into something delicious like bannock; and then an Ottawa Valley couple takes that bannock and develops a tasty pastry to eat with bare hands on a sunny winter day on the Rideau Canal, I am the one to gain. It makes me believe that cultures here absolutely must continue to meet.

Our food stories have always reflected this.  When traditional east-coast-catch met modern transport, interior Canadians got to enjoy lobster.  Bubble tea and sushi are now part of Canada’s vernacular.  Even Tim Horton has gone the way of the panini. We have a long way to go. I’m still waiting for cipaille to become common fare.  And the day that tadik makes it into our country’s regular cuisine will be a happy day for Canada.