From the scrunchions of Newfoundland to the infamous Sunshine Breakfast of B.C. Ferries, nothing puts the uck in Canuck like a good feed of Canadian junk. For Shania Twain, it’s dill pickle potato chips, but we all have our weaknesses: foods that inexplicably remind us of home; foods that the rest of the world just doesn’t get. They’re ours to crave, and if they’re considered disgusting by large segments of the population, so much the better.
The world is poorer for the list of Canadian confections yet to break internationally: the Nanaimo bar, for instance, or the Cherry Blossom, a nutty chocolate blob encasing a syrupy cherry. Or Hawkins Cheezies, with real Canadian Cheddar. Or Vachon’s Jos. Louis and Vi Lune cakes with their nuclear-powered filling. Coffee Crisp, a Canadian exclusive for generations, is only now breaking into the U.S.
Less mainstream regional foods, with the recent gut-busting exception of poutine, rarely flourish beyond their geographic boundaries. That is their charm, Scrunchions are best eaten in their native Newfoundland. They’re the tiny, crisp-fried pork cubes that add scrunch to fish ’n’ brewis, a concoction of
boiled salt fish and hard bread.
There’s a geography to food. The merest schmeck of a roasted pigtail evokes the lush Mennonite farms northwest of Waterloo, Ont. So, too, the briny joy of pickled pig’s feet-an acquired taste if ever there was one. For 25 years passengers on B.C. Ferries waged a love-hate relationship with the Sunshine Breakfast, a sort of eggs Benedict drowned in fluorescent yellow hollandaise. When bean-counters removed it from the ferry-service menu this spring, its demise was sadly noted in the legislature. A skate along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is unthinkable without scarfing a BeaverTail, a deep-fried pastry usually dredged in cinnamon, sugar and lemon. In Thunder Bay, Ont., there’s the exotically named Persian, an oblong, sugary depth charge of egg-enriched dough, slathered in pink icing.
Such things are never quite replicated elsewhere. Thus, Persians and Montreal bagels are flown cross-country with the urgency of transplant organs. Same for B.C. smoked salmon (the best airline food is in the overhead bins).
It’s a mobile society. Geography, and a certain sense of dietetic self-preservation, often limit our indulgence in the foods we love, it’s enough that they linger in our memories-and, unfortunately, in our hearts. KEN MACQUEEN
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