When I travel to Canada, I get to eat foods that are difficult to impossible to find at home.
Yes, poutine is on the list, though we are finding somewhat decent options at home.
The poutine version (above) contained double smoked bacon, an ingredient you see often in Canada but not the States, and pulled pork, which is everywhere.
Butter tarts are invisible once you cross into U.S. airspace. Wild blueberries might be found in the U.S. northeast, but not where I live. Peameal bacon, all-dressed chips, ketchup chips, smoked meat — easy to find in Canada.
I even tried maple bacon potato chips, though they were much more maple than bacon.
I find peameal bacon to be more like pork but tender pork with a somewhat mild flavor. My only critique of the peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market is that the sandwich needed mustard.
Ontario and mustard go hand in hand. The mustard place in the market offered samples of peameal bacon to be dipped in a huge variety of mustards.
I first noticed maple mustard at the Saturday morning Charlottetown farmers market last fall. Yes, this would be the Canadian equivalent of honey mustard. As much as I dislike honey mustard, I do like maple mustard.
The tastes go together well, and while sweetness isn't my thing, the taste was too good, especially with peameal bacon.
I did not think I would be eating a maple bacon butter tart I found in Toronto's financial district. This pastry was huge and breakfast was not the time to be indulging in a maple bacon butter tart. On this vacation, sweets ruled in the morning.
Unlike the potato chips, I could taste the bacon in the maple bacon combination. I'll eat almost anything in a tart shell, but this was near the top of the heap.
Elephant ears and fried dough are definitely "American" treats but there was something definitely Canadian about the maple butter Beaver Tail I ordered in the Byward Market in Ottawa.
I actually ordered the first Beaver Tail of the day, and it tasted so warm and fresh.
This was the same Beaver Tails location that came up with the Barack Obama "O" Beaver Tail when the newly inaugurated U.S. president made his first foreign trip to Canada in February 2009. Canada is traditionally the first foreign destination of a U.S. president, and Obama was greeted with open arms by Canadians.
Obama also stopped by Moulin de Provence to pick up maple leaf cookies for his daughters. The bakery inside the market won't let you forget that Obama was there. The television runs CTV footage from that day in Ottawa (ironically, CTV's Ottawa headquarters is in the Byward Market neighbourhood).
Tempting as the cookies would be, I didn't indulge. A local guide didn't recommend the cookies and I was getting plenty to eat elsewhere (not in a Rob Ford kind of way). The cookies did look pretty.
Wild blueberries were all over the place. I've had Quebec wild blueberries on previous trips, and got Quebec wild blueberries in Ottawa and Ontario wild blueberries in Toronto.
They are much less tart than their more well-known cousins. Not quite like candy, but very easy to eat in bunches. I got a chuckle out of some of the signs I saw from "tame" blueberries i.e., the ones you typically find in the States. Compared to wild blueberries, regular ones would be tame. Though based on taste, the tart in regular blueberries would be wild and the wild blueberries taste more tame. You have to applaud the marketing, especially when the two are sold side-by-side at the farmers market.
Potato chips does not normally constitute a meal, even on vacation. However, a couple of times on the run, potato chips complemented wild blueberries to tie me over until having a more substantial dinner.
We mentioned the maple bacon potato chips, but in another instance, a bag of all-dressed chips made a difference.
All-dressed potato chips is very common in Canada while being met with blank stares on this side of the border. They look like barbecue chips but taste like vinegar onion pepper chips. And that doesn't completely describe the all-dressed chips.
The idea behind all-dressed chips is that you don't need dip — the flavor is on the chip.
Even retelling the stories allows me to taste this food once again. The food that you find appealing may not be that far away from you, or may be an ocean away. Travel allows us to enjoy food we may not find at home. And when you're there, the food tastes better knowing that it's local where you are.
photos credit: me