The food culture that is Canada

When author Anita Stewart first heard about the Canadian government’s new food truck parked in Mexico City, she laughed so hard she cried. The new Canada-branded, taxpayer-funded venture, which kicked off its three-week pilot project last week, is serving up a Mexican-ized version of poutine, using Oaxaca cheese instead of curds. Also on the menu are Alberta beef tourtière, and maple-glazed Albacore tuna.

The truck is trying to draw attention to Canadian products such as McCain French fries, and promote the ‘Canada Brand’ in Mexico.

Here is more, via @RGrier88.  By the way, I enjoyed this paragraph:

“Some of our initial research in Mexico to support the Canada Brand found that only 35% of Mexicans were able to associate Canada to a particular food product, with fish and maple syrup being the most cited,” Patrick Girard, a spokesperson for Agriculture Canada, wrote in an email Wednesday to the Post.

That said, whenever I travel to Canada, I feel I am entering quite a distinct food culture (city by city), it simply is a little hard to define upfront.


I'm sorry, but this does not sound appetizing: "maple-glazed Albacore tuna"?

"Open a can of Bubblebee and pour Aunt Jemima syrup on it"?

It doesn't sound appetizing if you're using Aunt Jemima. You should try actual maple syrup.

That whole food-truck story sounds like something the government of New Zealand might have done on Flight of the Conchords.

People should stick to advertising their core competencies. Food doesn't seem to be it for Canada.

It's hard to get people excited about crude oil from tar sands.

Being from Canada I'm inclined to ask why my taxes dollars are paying for a food truck in Mexico, last time I checked our multi-billion dollar food industry should be more than capable of paying for this kind of advertisement by itself...
Also any fish glazed with maple syrup and properly baked is a taste experience I highly recommend!

First of all poutine and tourtière are Quebec cuisine, not Canadian . The food in Quebec is generally better than in neighboring Canada or the US. An "Alberta" tourtière would be like a Minnesota bagel, though here I assume they mean the beef is from Alberta.

Second of all, if you substitute any other cheese for the cheese curds, then you have succeeded only in turning poutine into ordinary french fries with gravy and cheese. The squeakiness and firm texture of the fromage en grains contrasted with the soft gravy soaked fries is what makes poutine worth eating. Poutine without curds makes about as much sense as bi bim bap without rice.

I have been to Canada and they have a Quebec there too. Maybe that is the cause of the confusion?

Even in Canada there are people who think Canada = Ontario (and sometimes Quebec). In the US, it's pretty much the norm.

The association of Canada with fish makes a lot of sense. Canadian fish exports are pretty significant.

dan, Quebec may be part of Canada politically, but culturally Quebec and Anglo-Canada are simply different countries. A Canadian food truck serving Quebec cuisine is like a "China" food truck promoting the China brand by selling mostly cuisine from Tibet. Technically accurate I suppose, but also misleading.

Is it fair to compare the Canada-Quebec relationship to the China-Tibet one? Let the reader decide.

We're talking about food. Calm down.

Same state, different nations.

I am not a foodie at all, but the food in Quebec was a true highlight of my trip there.

Tourtiere is made differently in different parts of Quebec, even different families. It is a meat pastry, some have vegetables, some gravy, some dry. The meats were what was available. The best I ever had was from the Saguenay, my mouth waters thinking about it.

Quebec has much more provenance based food products than western canada. The cheeses come to mind, The west is very new, Quebec has had a couple of hundred years more to develop these things. We are starting to see the specialization though. It is a way to get a premium with a commodity product.

It has nothing to do with being "new" - Nova Scotia and Ontario are as old as Quebec, and New England is older. Quebec cuisine is much better than that of neighboring regions probably because Quebec industrialized later than neighboring areas, and the linguistic isolation greatly reduced population mobility compared to English speaking regions. As a result of those two factors, and possibly also the conservative hold the Catholic Church had on Quebecois life for centuries, rural food traditions, and the importance of family meals, were preserved over time in a way that is not true in Ontario or New England. I don't think it's the French influence per se. Prior to the industrial revolution when these regions were settled I don't think there was a huge difference in quality between rural English food and rural French food.

Actually, large-scale settlement in Nova Scotia and Ontario began a century after Quebec's settlement in the French regime. (Ontario was first settled by Loyalist migrants in the 1780s, and Nova Scotia by New England and Scottish migrants in the 1760s after the expulsion of the French Acadian settlers.)

I compared it to western Canada where the second generation is starting to die off. I don't disagree with what you say however. The special Quebec cheeses were often made by Catholic orders in monasteries since a long long time. What happened in the 50's to 70's with the public health advances along with the food distribution and marketing arrangements often conspired to make foods all the same; cheddar cheese was the same from BC and Ontario. I'm not familiar with Ontario, but a friend told me that the dairies and cheese makers in Eastern ontario had individual characteristics that were in demand, but as the production was bought up those differences disappeared.

Quebec did things differently. The monasteries had made unpasteurized cheeses with the bacterial cultures often embedded in the old buildings, along with the individual characteristics of the milk from local dairies due to soil composition. Small farms made cheese and sold it. I remember when I was a kid on rural roads seeing hand painted signs beside the mail box with 'Fromage' written on them. The Quebec government funded food scientists to work with these producers to come up with ways to replicate the flavors and textures using modern safe techniques, maintaining the unique products.

The US government policies conspired to produce uniform products wherever they were produced as well.

I'll leave it to others to judge whether the food served up is edible.

What is hilarious is that food trucks like this are illegal in many Canadian cities, including Toronto, despite a persistent and popular demand for them. Montreal has just approved food trucks, after a ban stretching back to the 1940s.

If by "approved", you mean that Montreal will have ten food trucks, chosen by a committee and in specially designated spots, to serve a few million people, then yes, montreal has approved food trucks

The food culture that is the Netherlands:

It's a hard sell. Mexico as a whole already has one of the richest and most distinctive food cultures.

Mexico is an integral part of a food culture that contributed many beloved ingredients to the world: avocados, corn, beans, tomatoes, chiles and chile salsas, complex mole sauces, chocolate, vanilla, papayas, etc.

The quality of Mexican cuisine is not on trial here. Frankly, I don't think oversaturation is a problem. Indian cuisine is equally staggering in its richness and diversity, which hasn't prevented Pizza Hut from making serious inroads on the subcontinent. The U.S. didn't exactly lack for ethnic choices ten years ago, but Korean and Vietnamese food among others have shown explosive growth in popularity.

Tim Horton's, eh?

Nova Scotia has no need to bow in the subject of seafood with any other location on the Eastern Seaboard. Which isn't so hard to define - the fish is simply better.

35% sounds awfully good. If I were asked about a Canadian food product, I'd say "maple syrup", and be stumped after that, even though I've been to Canada several times.

Maybe good Cantonese food in Vancouver? Steaks in Calgary? Not sure if I could name an actual Canadian dish that I'm aware of being distinctly Canadian.

I could get poutine and maple syrup... that's it.

The strangest thing I ever ate in Canada was a Québécoise girl.

Vinegar as a condiment for French fries

That is British.

I like the idea of promoting Quebecois food in Mexico. Its hardly known but by former visitors to Canada. I have opened a Canadian thematic restaurante in Mexico an I serve poutine with very much success. I would like to join this program to promote my restaurant. Its cozier than a food truck. Hehe.

Mild Austerity -> Deficit Reduction : "You said it wouldn't work, but it did! You idiots."

Mild Austerity -> Deficit Increase : "We told you it wasn't enough. Now see what a mess you got us in!"

Hardcore Austerity -> Deficit Reduction: "See, it works? We always knew that!"

Hardcore Austerity -> Deficit Increase: "It must have been some other confounding factor. Austerity gets a bad name for no reason. "

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