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What makes a great butter tart?

The Story


"It's a nice little tart without much pedigree but I know you'll be amused by its lack of pretension," is how artist Charles Pachter remembers one particular butter tart. Canadians are serious about the pastry, which dates back to the turn of the century. The butter tart has become part of the national psyche. It's also one of the few genuine Canadian recipes that exists, says food writer Marion Kane in this CBC Radio clip. There are many variations on the butter tart and serious debates have been waged over what makes a proper butter tart. The seemingly innocuous question of adding raisins to the butter, sugar and egg mixture gets Canadians hot under the collar. Why there's even a butter tart eating stance. Writer Max Burns, who has been on a personal quest for the perfect butter tart for 40 years, describes the proper posture, which leaves host Peter Gzowski in fits of laughter. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Dec. 5, 1991
Guest(s): Max Burns, Marion Kane, Charles Pachter
Host: Peter Gzowski

Did You know?


• The 6th edition of the Collins English Dictionary (2003) includes such Canadian inventions as the Robertson screwdriver, Interac and the butter tart.

• The butter tart was a staple of pioneer cooking. According to food writer Marion Kane, one of the earliest recipes for butter tarts dates back to 1915.

• There are a few theories on the origin of the butter tart. Some believe the butter tart is related to the pecan pie brought to Canada by American slaves. It's also similar to Quebec's sugar pie and the backwards pie from the East Coast.

• Writer Sarah Brown wrote that there are three things which most Canadians have strong opinions on: religion, politics and butter tarts. "Never should these words, or any reference to them, be mentioned in social gatherings unless waging bloody battle is the intended result." (Globe and Mail 2001)


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