I never really considered what it meant to be Canadian until a few years ago, when I spent 13 months on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula teaching English to befuddled middle-schoolers.
It was there that my inherent Canadianness first became apparent to me, with my students constantly peppering me with questions about life in the Great White North. While these queries typically revolved around my familiarity with Justin Bieber or sleeping in an igloo, they would inevitably turn to food once I assured the kids that I did not, in fact, know the Bieb’s phone number.
This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever talked to a native Korean about their national cuisine. They are food obsessed to the point of mania, and so possessive of their signature dishes that we’ve only seen Korean food begin to take hold in the Western world over the last few years, decades behind their East Asian counterparts.
So when my Grade 7s asked me what Canadians liked to eat, I didn’t quite know how to answer.
“Well, Canadians like poutine,” I responded nervously, trying to explain with some difficulty what exactly a cheese curd is.
Unconvinced, the kids pressed on.
“Tourtière? It’s, it’s like a pie with meat in it,” I said, before fumbling on. “Ummm, maple syrup?”
It was probably the first and last time I left this particular class speechless. They just couldn’t grasp why I didn’t have the same passion for fries, cheese and gravy as they had for spicy kimchi, and how could they?
The truth is we’ve long had an amorphous culinary identity. And while this cloud certainly has a silver lining, chiefly that we as Canadians enjoy a diversity of international gastronomic options that most other countries can only dream of, it would be nice to have something to call our own.
Thankfully, we have a wealth of creative chefs and restaurateurs across the country pushing the boundaries and striving to resolve this very dilemma. What’s become apparent over the last few years is Canuck kitchens’ unwavering commitment to serving local, sustainable fare. In fact, over 350 chefs polled by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association identified locally-inspired dishes as the most popular menu trend for the fourth year in a row. In the ever-fickle foodie world, that’s a monumental feat unto itself.
And maybe that’s where the soul of Canadian cuisine lies: in the ingredients. We are lucky enough in B.C. to have supremely fertile farming conditions and access to some of the best seafood and game in the world, and it’s those products, not a gimmicky new cooking method or tired stereotype of a dish, that should be driving our culinary image abroad.
As Whistler is often the first impression visitors get of Canada, we have the added responsibility of paving the way for discerning diners, giving them their first taste of the abundance of fresh, quality ingredients we have to offer. Good thing the resort’s restaurants are in good hands, with some of the country’s most celebrated chefs, like Bearfoot Bistro award-winning Melissa Craig and Araxi’s James Walt, an early pioneer of farm-to-table cooking, re-imagining Canadian cuisine.
And if a trip to one of those two pillars of Whistler’s fine dining scene doesn’t convince you of the heights our country’s cuisine can reach, then check out the resort’s premier food and wine festival, Cornucopia, beginning Thursday (Nov. 7) and running until Nov. 17.
Featuring some of the Canadian food world’s biggest names, like fine food and wine pioneer Harry McWatters and writer and TV personality Michelle Bouffard, Cornucopia also highlights some of the local chefs who continue to make the resort’s dining scene what it is today.
Visit www.whistlercornucopia.com for more information.
White Dog grand opening at Nita Lake Lodge
Come celebrate the official grand opening of White Dog Studio Gallery’s new location at the Nita Lake Lodge on Saturday (Nov. 9) at 10 a.m.
It’s been only a year and a half since gallery since the opening of White Dog’s original Function Junction studio, but owner Penny Eder decided to add a second location at the 1,000 square-foot ‘Train Station’ space in the lodge, where she’s held several events in the past.
The new studio opened for business Friday (Nov. 1).
Fifteenth Field Regiment band plays Millennium Place
Building on the success of their Whistler show from last year, 35 active and retired Canadian Armed Forces members will hit the Millennium Place stage on Saturday (Nov.9) ahead of Remembrance Day.
The Fifteenth Field Regiment band will perform a variety of upbeat classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including YMCA and Copacabana, and will also play a tribute to the 158 soldiers who lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan.
Tickets are $15, available at www.artswhistler.com or at Millennium Place. The concerts starts at 7:30 p.m.
Not one, but two headliners at Maxx Fish’s Comedy Rehab
It’s not often you get to see two of Canada’s biggest names in comedy perform under one roof, but that’s just what’s going down at Maxx Fish on Sunday (Nov. 10).
Catch one of the country’s fastest rising standup stars and Just for Laughs veteran Sunee Dhaliwal, along with Vancouver-born comic and actor Sam Easton, who’s appeared in several episodes of The L Word as well as Final Destination 3.
Tickets are $10 in advance at www.clubzone.com and $15 at the door. Doors at 9 p.m.