CBC Digital Archives

Canadian Food: Traditional native food

Is there such a thing as Canadian cuisine? The idea of ordering "Canadian" may have some scratching their heads. But Canada has given the world its share of gastronomic delights. From peameal bacon to poutine to pemmican, CBC Archives digs in to some distinctly homegrown fare.

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Canada's native people have heavily influenced this nation's cuisine. There's pemmican (dried meat mixture), buffalo meat, wild turnips and wild rice to name a few. The traditional method of preparing these dishes has been abandoned but not forgotten. As heard in this CBC Radio interview, two elders from Western Canada remember the days of slow-aged pemmican and bannock bread cooked over an open fire with sticks. 
• Some original native recipes include roast polar bear, boiled reindeer, sweet pickled beaver, squirrel fricassee, fried woodchuck, stuffed whale breast, steamed muskrat, boiled caribou hoofs and baked skunk. Mmmmm.

• Wild rice is a type of tall grass yielding edible grains. It is one of few grains native to North America. It's found near lakes and rivers. The native people have harvested and eaten wild rice for centuries.

• Early Scottish settlers first introduced bannock, a type of bread, to Canada's native people. Traditionally the dough mixture was wrapped around sticks and cooked over an open fire. These days bannock is usually fried in a pan.

• Pemmican is made by taking thin strips of meat, usually buffalo or caribou, and drying them in the sun or over a fire. The dried meat is then pounded flat and mixed with fat and sometimes saskatoon berries.

• Saskatoon berry is native to the Prairies. It resembles a wild blueberry and tastes like a cross between blueberry and cherry with a hint of almond.

• In June 2004, Britain temporarily pulled saskatoon berry products off its shelves over concerns about the safety of the berries since there was no history of people in Europe eating them.

• Mark Wartman, Saskatchewan's agriculture minister, criticized the ban, saying the members of the Royal Family enjoy saskatoon berries when they visit Canada. The minister said that if the berries are good enough for the Royal Family, they should be good enough for commoners. Canada is currently (2004) trying to overturn the ban.

Medium: Radio
Program: Our Native Land
Broadcast Date: Dec. 14, 1974
Guest(s): Mary Jane Obee, Madeline Thomas
Host: Johnny Yesno
Duration: 10:38

Last updated: March 14, 2012

Page consulted on December 18, 2014

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