Canada stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and the Arctic Ocean in the north.
It is the second largest country in the world.
The cuisines of the country change with the geography. People eat primarily what grows around them and is available readily.
Joe Clark, a former prime minister, captured the essence of the Canadian cuisine by saying: “ Canada has a cuisine of cuisines. Not a stew pot, but a smorgas board”.
The earliest cuisine(s) are those of the First Nations; in the east Maliseet, Passamaquaddy and many others favoured lobster, mussels, clams, and cockles.
Prairie Indians favoured food was the buffalo, root vegetables, and wild ehrbs; in the west the Salish, Haida, Tsimshan, Gitxson, Nisgaa, Dene-thah, Tlingit, Kaskam, Dunen za, and Tahltan caught wild salmon, and smoked, or “planked” for their potlatches.
Then came the French and English bringing with them their specialties, and adopted techniques to local foods.
The French invented tourtiere, a pie of pork, beef, and game, and habitant pea soup; The English favoured roast beef, root vegetables, popovers, hard cheeses, and brewed beer to wash it all down.
Immigration in 19th and 20th centuries from literally all corners of the world introduced Central and South European, South Asian, Japanese, East Indian, Caribbean, and Persian specialties.
The modern Canadian cuisine was shaped by waves of immigration. You can see the testimonials of this in Toronto where more than 180 nationalities call it home.
In Montreal you are bound to encounter more French-speaking immigrants, and restaurants that cater to their tastes. In Vancouver Chinese and Japanese restaurants are successful because of demand by immigrants from Hong Kong, and Japanese businessmen, and locals who developed a liking to this type of food.
The traditional food of the Artic where Innuit and First nations inhabited for millennia is based on bannock, first introduced by Scottish immigrants, but now considered to be indigenous, pemmican, game, whale, and maple syrup.
Jews arriving in the late 1800’s brought with them the traditions of bagel, preserved and smoked secondary cuts of beef, and lox production.
Much of what id Chinese food available is modified to North American palates, and based on Cantonese cuisine where most immigrants originated. They were first brought in to build the Transcanada railroad. After the construction finished, families started to open restaurants fronted by men; the women worked in the kitchen.
The cuisines of Newfoundland and Maritime provinces derive mainly from British and Irish preferences for salt-cured fish, beef, pork, fiddlehead ferns, dulse and seal flippers.
Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia maintain strong British mostly beef based food traditions of roasts, stews, grilled meat, soups, caribou, Saskatoon berries, Winnipeg goldeye, wild mushrooms, and pies.
In the late 1970’s many culinary programmes European-trained instructors educated several talented students in the traditions of classical cooking. These students are now creating trend-setting restaurants, not only in large cities, but also in smaller towns. Young, well-travelled, professionals with adventurous palates and well-padded wallets happily support these establishments, and their specialties including fusion creations, unusual salad combinations, pulses and grains (quinoa comes to mind).
Modern Canadian cuisine(s) titillate the plate and it is well wroth experiencing these dishes in well-run, innovative restaurants where caring chefs offer the best the country offers.