From a pastry named after river creatures to a cocktail that’ll have you wearing your warmest woolly socks this winter, Canadian eats can get weird. They say if you want to learn more about a culture, start at the dinner table. Well, to learn some strange facts about Canada, start with dessert…or a stiff drink.
The BeaverTail—Beaver-free Since 1978
If you’re ever at ByWard Market in Ottawa and you hear someone say, “I’ll take a BeaverTail with bananas and Nutella,” don’t freak out. Instead, sidle up to the counter and say, “I’ll take what she’s having,” meanwhile wondering, “What is she having?” Well, since 1978 Pam and Grant Hooker of Killaloe have graced the world with their family recipe of dough stretched and fried to resemble a long beaver’s tail—only tastier, obviously. Piled high with confections and custards, this tail-shaped treat has become a mainstay in Canadian sweets, even representing the “Great White North” to Barack Obama—the POTUS with the mostest. Chock up the Hookers’ success to awesome marketing and a standout recipe, but at the end of the day, we all know there’s nothing better than a hot piece of tail topped with chocolate and whipped cream.
Icewine—The Coolest Sips in Town
In the agrarian region of Niagara, Ontario, locals keep their uncanny Canadian cool with Icewine. Before all you Julie Blais Comeau fans start fretting about the faux pas of putting ice in the wine, chill out. Icewine gets its name from the frosty, frozen grapes that produce distinctly sweet and flavourful sips—the perfect pairing with traditional Canadian food. For decades, foodies and winos have made the wintry trek out to the annual Icewine festival to sample the local liquid gold.
A Nanaimo by Any Other Name…
The Nanaimo bar only seems mild-mannered. After all, this tasty no-bake confection is layered with wafer crumbs, custard, and chocolate, and named after a harbour town in British Columbia. Well, the origins of the Nanaimo dessert is sprinkled with scandal. Created in the Modern Café, the Nanaimo bar’s origin went through a series of delectable debates over competing bars, including the suspiciously similar “Mabel’s Squares.” Test your detective skills and taste all the wannabes and posers in the search for the original Nanaimo recipe. It’s a lot of work, but isn’t the truth worth it?
Queen Poutine—The Belle of the Ball
If you’ve never eaten poutine, can you even say you know Canada? Whether you munch on this fast-food fascination from a paper cup or go gourmet, the best way to rack up some interesting facts about Quebec is to take a bite outta the continuing saga of poutine. Once a grab-and-go snack in rural Quebec, poutine has become the belle of the ball. We were smitten at “chips with cheese and simple brown gravy,” but many chefs have been going glam with additions like bacon, guacamole, and duck confit, and it’s serious business. Today polite, Canadian battles are waged over the superiority of Quebec City poutine or Toronto poutine, so you’ll have to decide for yourself.
The Sourtoe Cocktail—Yukon’t Make This Stuff Up
If you think the Yukon Territory’s culinary scene begins and ends with creamy mashed potatoes, you’ve obviously never bundled up what your momma gave ya and wandered over to Dawson City to toss back the famous sourtoe cocktail at the Sourdough Saloon. Funny food names aside, this drink is exactly what you fear: An amputated human toe preserved in liquor. Supposedly, Captain Dick Stevenson found the frostbitten digit of rum runner Louie Liken saved in good spirits back in 1973. The Captain decided this would make a great drink, apparently, and started serving the sourtoe shot. Good idea, Dick. We don’t know why someone would save their toe, and why someone else would want to drink even the most antiseptic booze from the same glass, but they do and so can you! You’ll even receive admittance to the super-excusive Sourtoe Cocktail Club—ooh, swanky—and a certificate of accomplishment after slurping back the sour toe shot. Show Grandma!
Eat Up, Eh!
Next time you’re ambling through the “Great White North,” you know what to eat (and what not to eat). So, order tails with reckless abandon and pile on the poutine, but maybe stick with mashed potatoes in the Yukon. Bon appetite!
What’s your favourite weird Canadian food?
Feature photo attribution: Attribution: Flickr/Creative Commons/Alexandre Normand/Via/https://flic.kr/p/5gekCD
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