I am Canadian Eh and in celebration of this years Canada day or Fete du Canada, I have made a list of ten foods or memories of food that make me just a wee bit nostalgic.
Peameal Bacon (aka Back Bacon): This is what I miss the most. When I visit Toronto every couple of years, I notoriously visit the St Lawrence Market and buy 20-40 pounds, have it vacuum-sealed, freeze it at a friend’s house, then pack it into a cooler to bring home……How can I resist!
Made from the boneless pork loin on the lower piece of the tenderloin. (Hence “back bacon”), peameal bacon is pickle brined (never smoked) and rolled in fine cornmeal. Historically, peameal bacon was made with ground yellow peas, but as corn became more readily available, cornmeal was used, and remains that way today.
Peameal bacon is light and lean, very tender and juicy and perfect when sliced about a ¼ inch think. Grilled until the peameal edges start crisping and served on a fresh Kaiser with some really good honey mustard….you now have your peameal bacon sandwich! Let the flavor of the pork shine through!
Aero Chocolate Bar: Milk chocolate squares with bubbles? Yup! Stick a piece in your mouth and let it melt. You can feel the bubbles fall one at a time as the milk chocolate melts in your mouth. Nuf said!
Smarties: and not the ones you’re thinking of. These are candy coated little chocolates similar to M & M’s. What I remember most? The song!
Do you suck them very slowly? Or crunch them very fast?
Eat that candy coated chocolate but tell me when I ask.
When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last?”
Shreddies: All I can say is “Good Good Whole-Wheat Shreddies” and of course you can’t forget
Street Meat: Aaaah the ever presence of a hot dog stand on every major city street corner always brings a smile to my face. I still crave that grilled polish sausage, sliced diagonally and grilled, then place in a soft bun and handed to me in a single napkin. Add to that the Ketchup, Mustard, Relish, Diced Onions, Pickles (dill), Mixed Sliced Hot Peppers and you have the perfect “street meat”.
Swiss Chalet: The family restaurant you go to with your parents and grandparents and order that ¼ or ½ Rotisserie Chicken (white or dark meat), served with French fries, a bun and SAUCE (this is where I lose it)! The sauce is sweet and savoury (going with Canadian spelling now), spicy and tangy, and always an extra side of it is needed to sop up with the bun. And, if not finished with the bun, it is customary to lift the bowl to your lips and drink the rest…..I am NOT ashamed!!
Harvey’s: It might be what looks like your basic fast food burger joint, but to me there is that little something something that draws me back each time I am home. Each burger is grilled to order and then you get to choose your toppings. Now add to that an order of fries, doused in white vinegar, ketchup and gravy, doesn’t that sound good? Or maybe it’s the childhood bribes that keep me coming back. I remember dad trying to get us to do some chore and saying he’d take us to Harvey’s if we did…..of course we did, we weren’t THAT stupid.
Montreal Style Bagels: Yes, it is a style and one that I have yet to find in the USA, though I never give up hope. I remember living in Montreal as a child and going to pick up a bag of these handmade and wood-fired bagels with my dad and brother. To stand there and watch them hand-roll the dough and then boil the dough in a bath of honey water was so exciting to us. But to then watch as they cooked in a wood fired oven, with that smell of smoke, and sweet dough in the air? It’s no wonder we always purchased extra. Some for the ride home, and some for when we actually sat down at the table with the containers of cream cheese to eat the rest.
Chinese Roast Duck (Peking Duck): Oh how I love my Friend Alex. I’ve known her since the 3rd grade and for many many years we lived a block apart (barely). Her father was a chef in a Chinese restaurant and as an immigrant to Canada knew how to cook some seriously good food. But it was the Chinese Roast Duck that did it for me. Duck when roasted does not lose water, keeping the skin thin and crisp and one of the best tasting parts of the bird. The meat is moist and sweet with a very distinctive taste, I remember it being slightly sweet and very rich. Tasting the same as the smell that invaded my nose when I walked through Al’s front door for one of the many duck dinners I would share at her parent’s table. If you can find it on a menu, look for Peking Roast Duck.
Last but not least and by far the great joy of growing up on Montreal and Toronto
Ethnicity: There is nothing like growing up in a city where the majority of your friends, including yourself, are all first-born Canadians. Every meal shared at friends house was cooked by parents who still cooked in their traditional fashion.
Bacalhau, and Feijoada from the Portuguese, homemade pierogies from the Polish, rouladin, green kale and red cabbage from my German Grandmother, and the many Eastern European’s that owned the local Deli’s and Cheese Shops.
My favorite day of the week was Saturday, when my Mum and I would walk up to Bloor Street with our little cart on wheels to go grocery shopping. My favorite stop was the Village Meat Market where the owner would always hand me a hot dog (raw) or a piece of deliciously sweet Halva.
So there you have it, a short but sweet list of some of my favorite Canadian foods and food memories.