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Canadian Cuisine and Recipes

Information about Canadian Cooking plus lots of Canadian Recipes


Cooking by Country - September 2006

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Situated on the North American continent, Canada is the second largest country in the world and has land borders with the USA and Alaska. It has a total coastline measuring 202,080 km on the North Atlantic Ocean to the east, the North Pacific Ocean on the west and the Arctic Ocean on the north.



As one might expect of such a large area, the climate is varied, ranging from temperate in south and West to sub-arctic/arctic in north. The terrain is mostly plains with mountains in west, prairies in the centre and lowlands in southeast. There are many rivers and lakes - over 8% of Canada’s area is covered in water.


Ancient Times and Influences on Canadian Cooking


Whilst there is a theory that man entered this part of the world some 50,000 years ago by crossing an ice bridge from Siberia to Alaska, a more popular belief is that migration was a much slower process over thousands of years.

Native Woodland Indians can trace their beginnings back over 3000 years. Most native peoples at this time were hunter-gatherers. So bountiful was much of this land at this time – thousands of lakes and rivers teeming with fish, a massive coastline, rainforests and prairies which supported large herds of buffalo and wild game - that it wasn’t necessary for them to practice organised farming or agriculture. Commonly eaten foods included buffalo, beaver, squirrel, elk, caribou, salmon and other freshwater fish, berries, wild turnips and wild rice which is one of the few grain native to North America. These peoples were often semi-nomadic, moving distances to keep pace with the seasons.

An exception to this seems to be the native Indians in the south east of Canada who, certainly by the time Europeans arrived, were living in fenced villages and farming corn, beans and squash to supplement their hunting and fishing. However, even these villages were semi- permanent: every 20 to 40 years, once the land or hunting became exhausted, they would relocate to another area.

Evidence shows that by 2000 B.C. pottery was being made and cooking techniques included roasting and boiling and implements made of stone and bone were being used.

The first contact from Europeans came in the shape of Norsemen around 1000 A.D. however evidence shows that there was little settlement or influence of foreigners until the 1400’s with the arrival of the British and French, both of whom were to have profound influences on the cuisine. By the 1600s France had settled permanent colonies.

Unlike much of the USA, Canada was not suited to large-scale farming or plantations. The Europeans’ initial interest was fishing, in particular cod, including the setting up of drying and salting plants and sea mammal hunting, in particular whaling. The native Inuit’s whaling technology was the most advanced in the world and together with the colonists’ deep sea fishing boats this trade reached world-wide proportions.

Although the fur trade began as an aside to the fishing industry, it did eventually reach epic proportions with one almost tragic spin-off food wise: the Pemmican trade. Pemmican is dried buffalo strips which are mixed with animal fat (tallow) and berries and has been made by the Native Indians for many years as a means of preserving their prized buffalo meat. Unfortunately, the amounts made to accommodate the fur traders contributed greatly to diminishing the bison population and by the early 1800s plains buffalo had become all but extinct.

Europeans are responsible for having introduced  cattle, pigs, chickens and sheep as well as wheat and potatoes.


Current Day Canadian Cuisine


Although Canadian cuisine differs slightly from region to region, it is still a reflection of its early beginnings. For example, food in Eastern Canada (except for Quebec) and British Columbia the cuisine sticks to its English, Scottish and Irish roots with salt-cured fish, beef, and pork being popular. Quebec is all things French …even the language. In Western Canada, the cuisine tends to be simple and hearty, an echo of the early settlers who had to make do with local ingredients, and in Northern Canada where the growing season is shorter, the cuisine is still influenced by the native Inuit diet including preserved ingredients.

The most recent culinary influences came by way of an influx of recent (1960s) Asian immigrants from countries such as India, Hong Kong, China and The Philippines and imported Asian ingredients and cooking methods are becoming more popular in parts of Canada.

Throughout Canada, maple syrup, which was introduced to the settlers by the native Indians and products are still very popular. 
As with the USA,  fast food items such as burgers, fries, hotdogs and doughnuts are popular throughout much of Canada.



Canadian Recipes - Click here for lots of Canadian Recipes


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