Posted by Degan on January 12th, 2010
I’ve been thinking about ethnicity and food and whether we have a specific cuisine in Canada. “Ethnic” is defined as “pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.” (Webster) and my Oxford Companion to Food tries its best to tie the huge land mass and various climates together with the railways: “The mounds of crackling crisp Canadian bacon, the evenly grilled Calgary sirloins, the plump, pink spring lamb chops, the succulent goldeyes with their melting pat of parsley butter, the juicy lake fish, slightly charred, the Oka and cheddar cheese and the hot seasonal blueberry pies – all these came to be associated almost exclusively with out transcontinental train service.”
Cuisine obviously plays a big part in culture and “American” has several specific food cultures grown out of immigration and colonization. But Canada? If the airport gift shops are any indication, then maple syrup and smoked salmon are our national dishes.
French Canada definitely has a culinary tradition, however, so I went to find Frenchies Diner to try out an authentic “Canadian” lunch. Frenchies is a classic diner with red vinyl and checkerboard floors, but instead of burgers their specialties are Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, tourtière meat pies, sugar pie and poutine – all classics in Quebec.
I ordered tourtière, a traditional ground pork pie recipe that shows its age by having been originally made with now extinct passenger pigeons. The pie was both flaky and filling without being greasy and doused liberally in ketchup (as tradition demands) it was perfect comfort food for a rainy afternoon. Frenchies makes 5 kinds of poutine – classic, smoked meat, bacon, chicken, and Italian sausage – so I subbed in a classic in place of my French fries. Sadly, it was not as good as the tourtière. The cheese curds were still cold and there was not enough gravy soaking the fries. The gravy was exquisite, however, not too salty. Thoughtfully Frenchies includes side dish of it and, poured over the poutine, it came out pretty well although I still prefer the poutine at Belgian Fries.
Full tourtières and sugar pies are available to take home, as well as cans of gravy if you want to DIY.
425 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver