Thursday, November 19, 2009

Canada - French Canadian Tourtiere

I surveyed my Canadian friends on what I should cook for my Canadian meal. I know I live in Canada but it’s not particularly obvious what Canadian food is. Julia says it’s maple syrup. True. I could have made pancakes and doused them in syrup and called it a meal. And, of course there are other things that are uniquely Canadian. There’s Kraft dinner, Cow’s ice cream, ketchup and dill pickle potato chips, Coffee Crisp chocolate bars and double double coffee from Tim Horton’s. All these things are a part of the Canadian culture but they don’t exactly add up to a well-balanced meal.

But what do Canadian’s think Canadian food is? In my own small survey the number one recommendation was the French Canadian Tourtiere, or pork pie. Others recommended poutine - fries with curds and gravy, fiddlehead greens, wild rice, and beaver tail - deep fried pastry coated in sugar and cinnamon. Some even suggested seal meat, though I have yet to come across seal meat at any of the grocery stores here. My neighbor suggested that I make maple syrup glazed ham and accompany it with mashed potatoes – grown here in Ontario, of course. Perfect.

Canada night was a real winner in my family. After weeks of African couscous, coconut curries, bulgur wheat and strange sounding fish dishes we were going to feast on ham and mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and meat pies! (I found small individual size tourtieres at a bakery near my house). No seal meat for this crowd. In our minds we were finally eating something normal.

I don’t know if I have said it before but I’ll say it here: I love Canada. I am very content living in Ontario. It suites me. I love the friendly people, the diversity, the fantastic restaurants, theaters, museums, the lakeside towns, the French and British influences, how people say “mum”, how they pronounce “again,” and how they end their sentences in “eh?” I even love the progressive way they think, and, yes, I love their health care system.

Let’s think about this: Thousands of Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance. I would feel better knowing that a single, struggling mother does not have to make a choice between taking her sick kid to the doctor or paying the electric bill. And why, in God’s name, do we want to fight the insurance companies while we’re fighting for our lives if we happen to get some terrible disease? You can say what you want about the Canadian health care system – long waits to see specialists for instance – but no Canadian is going to go bankrupt because they got cancer.

And while I’m on a rampage I’ll get this off my chest: Americans need to pay more attention to their northern neighbor. It’s embarrassing how little Americans know about Canada. I confess, I didn’t know much about this country before I came to live here too.

Here are some basic facts about Canada that everyone should know:

* The Prime Minister is Stephen Harper
* The capital is Ottawa (not Toronto)
* There are two official languages : English and French
* Canada has ten provinces and three territories
* Their national sport is hockey
* Canada is the second largest country

I’m simplifying things with this list. There’s so much more to Canada. If you haven’t been here I highly recommend you visit. One of the most amazing things we did here was go to Quebec City, the capital of Quebec Province. It’s the ideal place to go if you want to go to Europe without going to Europe. When you get there you won’t believe you’re in North America. The old city sits on the Saint Lawrence River, its skyline dominated by the Chateau Frantenac Hotel. Kevin, the kids and I enjoyed strolling down the winding cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants and old stone buildings and all the while listening in on French conversations.

Canada will always have a special place in my heart, even long after we have moved away. It’s not perfect – I mean, come on, the weather sucks and things are frustratingly expensive compared to U.S. prices – but I wouldn’t grumble if I had to live here forever. The snow and the expense is a small price to pay when you consider all the amazing benefits; here in the land of the maple trees, a friendly and peaceful nation, that quietly lives.

Maple Glaze Ham

2 cups apple sauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp grated orange peel

Combine ingredients in saucepan and heat to melt butter. Stir to blend all ingredients and then use to glaze ham the last hour of baking.

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