What is authentic Canadian food?
A difficult question to answer, especially considering the country is so vast that cultural differences are exceptionally diverse from East to West, North to South. However, as the six month mark approaches for my time abroad, I’ve started to compile a list of foods one could describe as ‘Canadian’.
Poutine: Not for the faint hearted.
Chips, cheese and gravy. Sounds relatively okay(ish), right? Oh no. Oh no no no. It’s not just the bog standard dinner you’d get in a small fish and chip shop on the West coast of Scotland. Get rid of the plastic forks and napkins, this stuff warrants stainless steel forks, heavy duty napkins and a good two-hour break afterwards for a sleep.
Poutine is often described as a “drunk food”, something consumed at 3am in a drunken stupor. However, it also pendulums between an up-market authentic dish, eaten at a restaurant with plates, knifes and forks, a glass of wine and even with a side of salad or vegetables.
La Banquise in Montreal is arguably the best place for this cheesy, gravy coated abundance of carbohydrates. The menu offers a range of variations. I chose the ‘salsa’ poutine, served with sour cream, guacamole and salsa on the side, along with dense gravy, cheese curds and a stock of deep fat fried chipson the bottom.
It has to be said, I found it exceptionally hard to finish it. It’s incredibly filling, and you can’t help but feel as if I have suddenly put on 5 stones during your time at the restaurant. But, it’s an experience I guess.
Probably the most prominent ‘Canadian food’ people think of. Even the Canadian flag has a maple leaf bang in the middle of it! Maple tree blossom in Autumn certain lives up to its reputation, as does the sweet stuff the trees produce.
There’s maple syrup flavoured porridge, tea, lattes, chapstick, muffins., cookies, cereal bars., lollypops, chocolates. It’s sold in massive tins, smaller tins which you pierce a hole in, plastic bottles, glass bottles, jars, sachets. It’s used for pancakes, porridge, tea, healthy raw vegan yummy snacks, granola, cocktails, smoothies and I’ve even seen in it beer and cider! It’s the stuff of dreams.
I also have seen Tire sur la neige, or sometimessimply tire d’érable, which is a lollypop sticked formed formed by pouring hot, boiled maple sap directly onto fresh snow. It results in a lovely, gooey, stick messy to be eaten quickly.
Montreal vs New York; the bagel contest. This is a vicious debate as to which city produces the greatest bagels. I’m biased in the fact I’ve only tried Montreal bagels, but I can tell you – I’m sure they give New York a run for their ‘dough’.
Montreal really does produce wonderful bagels. Fairmount Bagel is my favourite bakery to go to. Freshly baked bagels are sat on the shelves, waiting for you to pick them and pop them in a little brown bag. They’ve got a huge amount of different kinds, some sweet, some savoury, others just plan n’ simple. They’re great with cream cheese. Yum…
Smoked Meat Sandwich:
Vegetarians, look away. This smoked meat sandwich is notorious in Montreal for its huge size, the amount of sheer meat wedged in between the rye bread, and the fact that it is not a sandwich at all. It is a massive pile of meat served on a plate with a little bread, and it’s absolutely delicious. I have basically become vegetarian whilst being here, but I decided to try one of Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwiches. Located in the heart of the plateau, the artsy hub of Montreal, this place is always packed. It has been running since 1928, and it still attracts hundreds of people per day to partake in the meat feast.
Montreal is known for its cultural diversity, which therefore means that the food on offer here is exceptionally diverse and interesting. It is claimed that the city has the most places to eat out in North America, just after New York. Within a square block of my apartment, there is sushi, Vietnamese food, Mexican tapas, Spanish tapas, a French restaurant, a French bakery, a French creperie, a Caribbean lunch café, an Ethiopian restaurant, a Greek restaurant and a place serving pizza for 99 cents. I also share an apartment with a friend from Pakistan and another from Nigeria, so even in my apartment alone, the diversity of food and the smells that seep out of the kitchen are phenomenal.
After all this food talk, I’m hungry.