Oh Canada. Our home and native land. The birthplace of poutine, the land where maple syrup flows. While these are our country's iconic foods, our inventiveness goes beyond that. Here's a list of seven foods invented in Canada that you might not have known before.
1. Peanut butter
Well technically, credit should go to the Aztecs, who were the first to invent peanut butter, but it was officially patented by Gilmore Edson of Canada in 1884. He created a peanut paste by milling roasted peanuts, for the purpose of making peanut candy. That was the humble beginning for this nut butter. It took three decades and a collaborative effort of two more people to successfully put it on the market for everyone to enjoy.
2. Caesar cocktail
"Canada's Bloody Mary" was the brainchild of a bartender from Calgary. In 1969, Walter Chell was asked to create a cocktail to celebrate the opening of an Italian restaurant in the inn he worked at. Drawing inspiration from his favourite Italian dish, his thought process probably went something like this: "I like spaghetti vongole, and I like alcohol. Why don't I just put them together?" His signature cocktail contained vodka infused with clam and tomato juice, lime, Worcestershire sauce topped with celery salt. It's drinkable spaghetti. Doesn't get any better than that.
3. McIntosh apple
Just to be clear, the fruit came before the computer. This tart fruit was invented by John McIntosh, a fellow hailing from south-eastern Ontario in 1811. When he was clearing the land, he discovered a secret patch of apple tree seedlings from a previously cleared area. He transplanted the seedlings to his garden and tried to nurture them, but only one survived. In attempts to preserve it, his son learned the art of grafting, and was able to mass produce the fruit from that one tree. Since then, then McIntosh apple has triumphed over other kinds of apples in terms of production numbers.
4. Coffee Crisp
This famous chocolate bar recently celebrated its 75th birthday. Though it was made in Canada, Coffee Crisp has a British heritage. Starting out as Rowntree's Wafer Crisp, it was renamed to Biscrisp when it came to Canada. In 1938, a coffee version was invented, dubbed with the name we all know: Coffee Crisp. Eventually Rowntree was taken over by Nestle in the 1980's, and they've been mass producing it ever since, exclusively for Canadians. In fact, Coffee Crisp is so sought after that in 2006, there was a petition started in the U.S. asking Nestle to sell the chocolate in American cities. No joke.
5. Yukon Gold potatoes
You've probably eaten these at least once in your life. Before Yukon Golds were invented, North Americans were stuck with eating boring white-fleshed potatoes. After 14 years of hard work, in 1966, Gary Johnston, a researcher from the University of Guelph, and his team successfully bred two varieties of potatoes to produce the yellow-fleshed spud. Johnston initially named it after the Yukon River, and a colleague suggested adding "gold" to its name due to its yellow hue. When it was marketed in the 1980's, the people went nuts for it, and our love for this potato has remained steadfast to this day.
6. Hickory sticks
Unless you were an 80's kid, I doubt most of you know what this is. Back in the day, Hostess Potato Chips was Canada's leading chips brand, until they decided that fruit-flavoured chips were a good idea. They weren't. When the orange, cherry and grape-flavoured chips failed (shocker) in the mid-1970's, the company stuck to safer flavours like sour cream and onion, dill pickle and ketchup, all of which sold well. Among their creations, Hickory sticks was another success story. I always thought of them as hickory-smoke-infused mini French fries. Sadly, their popularity seems to have died down since then.
7. Butter tart
Butter tarts are considered the quintessential Canadian dessert. They are believed to have dated back to the 17th century, when the Les Filles du Roi (King's daughters) arrived in New France. Back then, they used maple syrup, butter and raisins in their tarts, and the traditional ingredients are still used today. The recipe was passed down orally throughout the generations. Some believe the earliest recipe for butter tarts appeared in a cookbook in Barrie in 1900.
Whether it was through hard work or serendipitous discoveries, throughout the years, Canadians from coast to coast have thought up brilliant food inventions that have had a profound impact on our food culture. And for that, we thank them.