23 June 2008

Mmm...Canada: Pizza, Feta, and the Original Kraft Dinner

The search for Canada's national food identity has been going on for as long as I can remember. No less a public figure than Pierre Burton looked into it for the CBC and decided, in the end, that our national food was pizza. Everyone eats it. Everyone loves it. Maybe not everyone, he admitted, but he presented as evidence the Saskatoon phone book which, at that time, was not a huge tome and which contained seventeen pages devoted to pizza. If a mid-sized city in the middle of the prairies could be so devoted to Italian food, what better proof could there be that Canada was all about pepperoni?

What Burton didn't know was that Saskatoon pizza is unlike pizza anywhere else, because Saskatoon's Italian restaurants are unlike Italian restaurants anywhere else. I grew up in Saskatoon and was nearly ten years old by the time I realized that Italian restaurants are not typically named "Athena" and "Delphi", and they do not typically offer baklava for dessert. Saskatoon's Italian restaurants, by and large, are owned by Greek restauranteurs and offer frajolaki as well as extra large loaded pizzas. With feta, if you'd like.

Pizzas in Saskatoon are substantial propositions. You don't face them casually, or alone. Rather than with sauce, cheese, and the toppings scattered on… well, the top… Saskatoon pizza involves a full layer of everything you've ordered. A layer of ham. A layer of pepperoni. A layer of sautéed mushrooms and a layer of green pepper and on it goes, until you get to the top where a thick layer of pizza cheese pins everything down. These are slices, or squares, you lift with both hands. I'm not saying this is an ideal way to make pizza. It's not delicate, and it's certainly an invitation to a heart attack. I'm just saying this is how it was, and that Burton didn't know what he was saying, really, when he held Saskatoon's pizza obsession up as a typical thing.

Burton, though a northerner and a westerner by birth, had been in Toronto many years by the time he filed that report. He was surrounded by Italians who ran proper Italian restaurants. How was he to know that Saskatoon was quirky, and Greek?

But this is the question, again and again, that we face when we try to determine Canada's national anything. What part of Canada do you mean? And what will you find when you get there?

This country is huge. Only Russia is larger. We know this, but there are so few of us and we're so accustomed to connecting across our distances that we don't always grasp it. Saskatoon is farther from Toronto than Madrid is from Copenhagen, yet no one is trying to find a food that ties Madrid and Copenhagen together. Clearly, that would be ridiculous.

What's more, we think we know each other's communities, and tastes, and specialties, because we do know a little about them. Alberta beef. PEI potatoes. BC apples. Yes, those things exist, and they are flavours of their regions, but you see them for the broad strokes they are when you're having excellent Ethiopian food in Calgary. It gets complicated on the ground.

So, do we abandon the search for a flavour of Canada? You might think, based on what I've said so far, that I would recommend it. We're too large and too diverse a nation to capture that way. Oddly, though, I do think there's a flavour of Canada, and I think Saskatoon's Greek pizza is a hint to what it is.

When I think about Canada and food, I don't think of maple or salmon or buffalo sausage. I think of feta on pizza. I think of every holiday celebration at school, when I would load my plate with Cantonese sticky buns and Italian scalidi and Ukrainian holobchi and whatever else my friends' parents had cooked for us. I think about the neighbourhood I live in now, where I'll visit a Caribbean grocery store and a Portuguese bakery on my home from the 7-Eleven. And I think about how a friend of mine is supposed to be sending me some kick-ass bannock, and how she tries to convince me that moose is the best steak around.

To me, the flavour of Canada, savoury or sweet, is everything, and lots of it, sometimes in strange combinations. You can dip holobchi or satay in pretty much anything and see how it goes. You can get comfortable with all kinds of food, not in a self-conscious "I am an urban sophisticate" way, but in the way that you're comfortable with anything else you grew up with, including Kraft Dinner. Which, by the way, Canadians in Europe have shipped to them, because they can't get it there —not the real thing—and they can't live without it.

That's my Canadian food. It's everything. It's baklava after pizza. It's Kraft Dinner. It's leftover satay thrown into Kraft Dinner. It's whatever I'm having for lunch today, which will be whatever I'm in the mood for. And it will be good.

Gayleen Froese,
Alberta, Canada

21 June 2008

This week's grocery bill

$2.76 4 tins black beans (on sale; saved $0.30 per 540ml tin)
$0.99 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
$2.03 370g pluots (4)
$0.40 6g garlic bulb (1)
$2.66 1x425ml barbecue sauce (on sale; saved $1.66 per bottle)
$5.66 172g Cantonnier cheese
$4.31 120g Prestige goat cheese
$3.82 142g Manitoba Madagascar Green Peppercorn Cheddar
$6.65 785g boneless leg of lamb (on sale; saved $6.66)
$3.29 1 bag natcho chips
$2.59 1L homo milk
$ 1.84 500g organic vanilla yoghurt (on sale; saved $1.85)
$2.69 1 jar pickles
$0.99 1 bunches green onions
$2.49 1 punnet strawberries
$1.70 170g bananas
$4.38 200g sliced mozzarella
$7.99 400g turmeric
$2.99 15 g organic, dried curry leaves
$3.99 200g black mustard seeds
$4.99 200g chilli pepper powder
$2.99 400g golden raisins
$4.99 200g cumin seeds
$3.99 200g coriander seeds


20 June 2008

McDonalds night

I can't remember the last time I ate at McDonalds. It was late and I was running around...plus someone brought ubersweet treats into work. I needed to balance out all the sugar with salt.

Tried the new angus burger...yeah...not doing that again. But I did have overly salted fries.

Dessert was a cherry turnover.


16 June 2008


Even though I've several servings of the chicken left, I had a huge craving for scampi. I'd never made it before, but I figured it was pretty simple.

Shelled and de-pooped shrimp sauteed in butter, olive oil, garlic, a few spoons of diced tomatoes, white wine and fresh parsley.

Served over pasta.


15 June 2008

Bacon-wrapped asparagus with oven barbecued chicken

Thank goodness the weather has cooled down a bit. It's almost perfect chicken roasting weather.

At the last minute I decided to joint the chicken and powdere it down with rub. Popped the pieces in the oven and basted in chipotle barbecue sauce.

With it, I had:
- a warm potato salad--olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and rosemary (I think it's been a year since I last made it).
- bacon-wrapped roasted asparagus
- corn

Yummy yummy.

Dessert was this month's DB challenge dish.


13 June 2008

Grocery shopping

I've been meaning to record my grocery bills for a while...

$2.89 One dozen XL eggs
$0.79 One head, Romaine Lettuce
$2.54 330g pluots (four)
$0.65 430g carrots (four)
$2.50 570g asparagus
$0.88 310g oranges (one)
$4.69 454g unsalted butter

Dinner: sausage on a bun; dessert will probably be ice cream...


12 June 2008

Summer Party

Okay--didn't make this, but I ate it. Went to a summer shindig. For whatever reason, I expected traditional BBQ fare, but it was pretty much kitchen fare.

Taco/Fajita bar (both chicken and beef)

Dessert table with
ice cream cake
butter tarts
Nanaimo bars



10 June 2008

Cheap Ticket Tuesdays

The economy must be bad if Cheap Ticket Tuesdays are back. Not the $2.50 I recall from my youth, but $4.20 is a better price than the usual $10.

After seeing the new Indiana Jones movie, the exbf and I headed out to Harveys and got burgers, fries, onion rings and pop.

I figure the evening cost us about $10 each. Not bad.


09 June 2008

June's Milk Calendar Recipe

I made it.

I ate it.

I'll post about it on CA later.


07 June 2008


I really need to read menus much more carefully before I order. Mind you, I had a headache and the reason I got takeaway was because I was tired and my head was throbbing.

Wanted the steamed rice wraps stuffed with pork and with bean sprouts and slices of Vietnamese sausage...got steamed rice wraps with bean sprouts and slices of Vietnamese sausage. Number 110 vs 111.