So, What is Canadian Food?

Poutine, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts.

Poutine, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts.

Poutine, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts.

Yes, yes, YES, we love these.  We genuinely love these foods so much.  But now we have over 30 more to add to Canada's all-too-short list of national foods! 

As we’ve said before, our intent with this project was never to come up with one definitive Canadian dish – it would be an impossible and unnecessary task, as well as one that ignores one of our country’s best traits: its diversity.

In this post, we’d like to share some of the many dishes and ingredients we came across during FEAST; some we already knew, some seemed more mythical than Sasquatch but ultimately proved to be real, and others were so completely foreign to us, we needed help pronouncing them (here's looking at you, bison).  Just kidding.  It was "La Faisselle" and "toutons" we stumbled over.  Toutons do not rhyme with croutons, by the way, and making this mistake in front of a Newfoundlander will be met with a hearty chuckle at your expense.

Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes that get made every day in Canada but aren't on this list.  That’s because our cultural mix of foods is so complex, you can find nearly every cuisine in the world within Canada’s borders. 

Our selections are based on ingredients found here, as well as dishes that are specific to certain Canadian regions.  It is by no means a comprehensive and exhaustive inventory - we could do this trip every year for the rest of our lives and still never achieve that. 

So, without further babble, here is a slideshow of some of our favourite Canadian foods and ingredients we came across.  We'll provide a list at the bottom of this post, too.  It is our hope that both will assist you the next time someone asks, “What IS Canadian food, anyways?”

(Click any of the large photos to view our full posts about these foods)

Now we'd like to share some of our favourite foods and experiences from the trip.  We've noticed that when we speak to people about FEAST, we're always asked the same questions: "What was the best thing you ate?  The coolest place you camped?  Your favourite bakery?"  These, after the initial inquiry about whether or not we still liked each other, of course.  That question was the most common by far.

So, while it is impossible to boil down five months of wicked fun into a paragraph's worth of Q&A, we did it anyway, because it's fun.  We went with the first thoughts that popped into our heads upon hearing the questions, and with certain ones, simply could not name just one.  Especially when it comes to baked goods.  Hell, that's worse than being asked to pick a favourite child.  Here we go....

The best thing I ate on the whole trip was:
LA: Joy Road Catering’s Panzanella (bread salad) at the God’s Mountain Dinner on Skaha Lake
DV: Heirloom tomato bisque with a goat cheese crostini, at the Rossmount Inn in St. Andrews, NB

Favourite memory of the other:

LA:  Dana's Chris Farley impressions.  She usually busted them out when I was having a hard day, and EVERY SINGLE TIME they made everything ok.  She is actually the funniest. 
DV: The many days in the car, either sitting in silence for hours, engaging in enthusiastic banter, or singing at the top of our lungs.  One time in particular, there was no music on, and we were each loudly singing completely different songs, oblivious of the other person’s tune.  When we finally realized what we were doing, and how long we’d been doing it for, we had a good, long laugh ourselves, and admired the weird bubble of reality we created every time the car door slammed shut and someone stepped on the gas.  There’s nothing like an epic road trip to release your inner entertainer, and solidify a friendship.

And now, we shall attempt another impossible task: giving thanks to everyone who helped us with FEAST:

Thank you to every single person who donated to our Indiegogo campaign, and provided ideas and suggestions as to how we might get ourselves from coast to coast to coast in one piece. 

Thank you to our many sponsors, who generously made this trip a reality, and were just so darn lovely to work with. 

Thank you to the countless people who hosted us, fed us, and hugged us along the way.  You were extraordinary, and made our trip what it was.  Also, thank you to everyone who has written us with words of encouragement, suggestions, and Canadian food stories of their own.

Thank you to Saveur and for making us feel like a million bucks!

Finally, thank you to our friends and family for supporting us in every way possible, and providing encouragement during those (many, many) times we felt like sky-divers who'd opted for no parachutes. 

And you know what?  Thanks to Dana's little white car, which transported safely across 34,000km through sunshine, rain, hail, mud, and snow.  We're sorry we were lazy and didn't clean you more often.  Also, thanks to the car's other part-owner, Andrew, for letting us take off with it for five months.

So what's next?  Well, we actually have great news - we're heading back to Newfoundland!  We've been invited to Roots, Rants, and Roars, the food festival of epic proportions in Elliston that we missed the last time round.  In a few weeks, we'll head back across the country (by plane, this time) to catch up with all our favourite Newfoundlanders, and can't wait to share the adventure with you.  In other words, there's more of this on the way.......

Thanks to everyone, and we'll see you again soon!

A Big Ol' List of Canadian Foods:

-blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, haskaps, seabuckthorn, partridgeberries, cranberries, cloudberries/bakeapples, sour cherries
-spot prawns, salmon, halibut, trout, Arctic char, whitefish, pickerel, sturgeon, oysters, mussels, scallops, crab, lobster, capelin, cod, seal, whale (and plenty of others from the sea!)
-sturgeon caviar
-seafood chowder
-fish cakes with Tomato chow chow
-lobster rolls
-smoked trout with potatoes and fennel
-fried cod tongues
-fermented whale fat
-Moose pastrami and black bear sausage
-moose, bison, bear, elk, caribou, muskox, beef, pork
-Montreal smoked meat sandwiches
-Nanaimo bars
-butter tarts
-plate-sized cinnamon buns
-butterscotch meringue pie
-wild blueberry pie  
-partridgeberry pudding with hot butter sauce
-oatmeal bread
-Montreal bagels
-pets de soeur
-sugar pie
-ploye pancakes
-East coast oatcakes
-sea asparagus
-wild mushrooms
-fir tips, spruce tips
-salal jelly
-wild bird eggs
-Red Fife wheat, Acadian wheat
-birch syrup
-maple syrup
-beet buns
-dandelion mustard
-cheese (such as Faiselle, Les Paillasson, Avonlea Cheddar, Grizzly Gouda, Romelia, Dragon’s Breath, etc)
-tomato wine (and of course, plenty of wines and beers!)
-sparkling iced apple cider
-Iceberg wine
-poutines rapee
-black garlic
-Jiggs dinner, and many, many more:)

















Life Lessons and Big Questions

And so, a mere 410 days after we first drove away from Vancouver, we’ve finished telling our stories from the road.  

Spring Island, British Columbia.

It took us approximately…..ummm…….seven months longer than we’d anticipated to finish writing (hence the talk about Nunavut’s winter while sweating our faces off during a Vancouver heat wave), but you know what?  We’re OK with that.

YU Ranch, Ontario.

We weren’t in any rush to finish, and that’s because FEAST has been so good to us.  From the first conversations we had about it, to actually warming the car’s seats for five months, to now having over 200 posts to look back on, we’ve had an extraordinary time. 

The Yaris, goodness knows where. 

The Yaris, goodness knows where. 

We have loved and appreciated every last experience, both for the ways they’ve educated us, and the memories they’ve provided - they’re the kind that fuel the soul.  There’s genuinely nothing better than busting out a good “One time, when we were standing in the middle of a herd of bison….” story at a dinner party. 

Also, you would not believe the exercise our arms got from car dancing. 

Through writing, we’ve been able to relive every fun, weird, tasty, and/or shocking moment we’ve had, like the time we paddled across two rivers to a farm, had a laugh with Al, hiked to a shipwreck, or put on (what seemed like) 250 pounds of fishing gear

Prime Berth Fishing Centre, Newfoundland.

Prime Berth Fishing Centre, Newfoundland.

It’s also allowed us to keep in touch with so many new friends - the dozens of people who welcomed us warmly, and taught us about life in their part of Canada.

Brian Lendrum, near Whitehorse, Yukon.

The fact we had this looney idea, and then that idea turned into an even more looney reality, is something we still struggle to comprehend.  Perhaps we never will, but there’s no denying it changed our lives.  Now we approach every idea with an attitude of “Yes, this too could work.  And if it doesn’t?  Well then, we’ll just dust ourselves off/scrape off the mud and try something else.”  

On the way to so-called "Bay Street," PEI.

We also surprised everyone (including ourselves, to an extent) by getting along so well; we spent almost 24 hours a day together for five months straight, and you would not believe how much of that time was spent laughing.  There was that one incident, when we tried to put a  stamp-sized tarp over our leaky tent before a rainstorm hit in the Northwest Territories, and things got a little tense, but now it's just a good story. 

For the most part, when one of us had a meltdown (and trust me, there were definitely meltdowns), the other kept it together, and usually had the good sense to cue up Bridesmaids on one of our computers.  We came to understand the importance of patience and perspective, as well as the power of a well-timed chocolate bar purchase. 

Beyond these kind of life lessons we learned from the road trip, there are answers to *THE QUESTION* we originally set out to explore: What is Canadian food?  That question, asked casually one day from our perches on this very log near Squamish…..

Squamish Valley

……is what started the whole thing.  But the truth is, we’ll never have one definitive answer.  Ever.  We believe that in itself, however, is something to celebrate.  Canada is just too darn large, and encompasses too much diversity to be reduced to a uniform culinary identity.  Or any single identity, for that matter. 

Roberta Olsen's house, Haida Gwaii.

We agreed that after having seen parts of every province and territory consecutively, we both think of Canada as a far less unified entity. 

L'Isle-aux-Coudres, Quebec.

We may have stayed within its borders, but at times it felt like we'd visited 13 different countries.  And that's pretty damn cool.   

The Tablelands, Newfoundland.

What we did learn for certain is that the Canadian food scene is enormous and compelling; within days of starting our trip, we’d learned about dishes, ingredients, and methods of preparation we’d never seen before, and this continued the entire way across the country. 

Bannock Stand, Northern British Columbia.

There were regional specialties everywhere, and yet when asked, “What is Canadian food?” the vast majority of people still defaulted to poutine or Nanaimo Bars.  Nobody thinks to offer up their locally classic dishes as part of Canada’s culinary repertoire.  So, in the next post, we’re going to do it for them!

Supper in the Field, Kelwood, Manitoba.

Check in again soon for our list of quintessential Canadian foods, as well as some of our favourite road trip moments.  Oooooh nostalgia, what fun……