Canada is a vast country touched by three oceans, and it holds within its boundaries prairies, hills, mountains, semidesert and desert country, rocky thin-soiled lands, a multitude of lakes, enormous forests, and Arctic tundra. While the terrain varies greatly, there is a commonality across Canada, and that is the severity of winter. Few European immigrants in Canada's early history were prepared for the cold, and from the beginning, Canadians struggled with the elements for their survival. This was a defining factor in the development of Canadian cuisine. But it is the people of Canada who, more than the land and weather, created Canada's cookery. From the First Nations people to the waves of immigrants from every country in the world, Canada's cuisine became distinctly regional.
Diversity has been a characteristic of Canadian cuisine from the beginning of settlement. In the seventeenth century, the first Europeans in Canada encountered a highly varied population of Native Peoples, for example, hunters and gatherers including the Inuit in the Arctic; agricultural people in parts of southern Quebec and Ontario; buffalo hunters on the plains; and fishermen on the West Coast among the nearly sedentary Pacific North Coastal people.
Food and Culture of Canada
By the end of the eighteenth century, the dominant groups in Canada were British (particularly English and Scots), French, and American Loyalists. The cuisine that developed during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century reflected these influences. There were strong overtones of French cookery in Quebec, British influences in English-speaking Canada, and a strong import of culinary culture from the United States. While there were many ethnic groups in Canada by the end of World War II, British-American cookery dominated Canadian cookery. A partial exception to this generalization was the Chinese influence. Peasants from southern China immigrated to "Golden Mountain" (Canada or, more specifically, British Columbia) beginning in the 1850s. Many were employed in construction and the building of the railroad. As with other cultural groups, they were discriminated against, but they introduced Canadians to Chinese cuisine by opening Chinese restaurants in nearly every village and city across Canada.Venice
In spite of the cultural dominance of English-speaking Canadians, other ethnic immigrant groups often settled in regional pockets where they maintained their language and their culinary traditions. Coming from different regions in their home countries, they melded traditions together. For example, in the Ukraine, women made pysanky (eggs decorated with ritualistic symbols) according to their local traditions, but in Canada, they drew designs from many regions of Ukraine. Northern and Southern Italian foods such as pasta and polenta, likewise, were simply "Italian" in Canada.
Until after World War II, ethnic foods were rarely written about in Canadian food magazines or cookbooks, and ethnic recipes were highly modified. In a 1920s community cookbook, for example, a chop suey recipe was a mixture of fried hamburger, rice, tomatoes, and onions, baked for an hour; and spaghetti was cooked meat, spaghetti, onion, butter, green pepper, and canned tomato soup, baked with buttered bread crumbs; both were seasoned only with salt and pepper. In the 1970s the milieu changed when, under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau, Canada adopted a policy of multiculturalism. It then became the fashion to share ethnicity, and the easiest way was through cookery. The foods that ethnic groups had eaten in the privacy of their homes became de rigueur.
After World War II, fast-food eateries and chain restaurants serving inexpensive, mass-produced foods swept across North America. Franchises on the U.S. model were adopted and Canadians quickly developed their own fast food restaurants for hamburgers, fried chicken, and pizza. A favorite fast-food chain is Tim Horton Donuts, a coffee and donut shop. Popular Canadian restaurant chains that developed were "road houses" serving grilled foods and pasta. The Americanization of Canadian foods and foodways was influenced also by food articles in American magazines and by television food shows.
Canadian cuisine is strongly regional in character with American influences. The eating pattern of three meals a day, the popularity of many foods, the importation of fresh produce and manufactured foods, and the eating of particular foods at the feasts of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are common denominators of the cuisine of both the United States and Canada. The real difference is the highly visible regional cuisines of Canada, based on the available ingredients and the ethnic groups who settled in these regions. Canadian cuisine cannot be understood without examining these regional traditions.