How I Wrote It

What is Canadian cuisine? Two cooks road tripped across Canada to find out

In Feast, Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller have compiled over 100 regional recipes that make Canadian food unique.
Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller are the co-authors of Feast. (Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller/Appetite by Random House)

What is Canadian cuisine? Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller travelled to every province and territory and tasted some of the unique dishes that make up this country. Their new book, Feast, compiles over 110 recipes from chefs, farmers and home cooks across Canada, as well as several of their own.

In their own words, Anderson and VanVeller describe how their national road trip became a cookbook.

Defining Canadian food

Lindsay Anderson: "I think people have a hard time with the idea of Canadian food largely because the country is so big and so diverse. People want a nice tidy answer and they're constantly seeking one or two dishes to represent the entire country, but that doesn't really make sense. Something that is indicative of Nova Scotia isn't necessarily indicative of Yukon or Quebec or Saskatchewan. We realized that a good place to start was by region. I think Canadians don't want to speak solely about the the food from their region as being Canadian food because they don't want to speak for the entire country. What we found as we were travelling is that the best thing that you can do is to celebrate diversity and look at regional cultures. The sum of those equals Canadian food."

Road trip memories

Dana VanVeller: "My favourite experience is actually a combination of two experiences from two different trips to Newfoundland. Both of those times we got to go out on fishing boats with fishermen in Newfoundland. We went out off the coast of a town called New Bonaventure with a fisherman named Bruce. The experience of jigging for cod feels almost magical because you have a hand line you drop in, it hits the bottom and within seconds there's a fish on it. It all just feels very dramatic and exciting. Also, you're participating in a very important historical and cultural tradition for Newfoundlanders. Cod is such an important ingredient on the island. Later on the shore, Bruce taught us how to gut and fillet the fish and then a chef prepared a lunch for us with it. It felt like a very privileged experience to be able to do that."

LA: "One of my favourite memories was getting to visit John Lenart's farm in Yukon. He lives outside of Dawson City, which was the farthest north that we went on the trip. John has this unbelievable farm. To get there, you have to drive outside of Dawson City, walk down to the riverbank, get in a canoe and cross a river, get out of that canoe and get in a second canoe to cross another river, go around the bend and eventually you arrive at John's farm. You would never stumble upon it. He has amazing greenhouses and all these different varieties of spruce trees. He grows melons and grapes in the summertime, as well as haskap berries, which we'd never tried before. He also works with the University of Saskatchewan to do research about apple tree varieties and which ones will thrive in the north."

Recipe translation

DV: "One of the challenges was that often there's knowledge that doesn't necessarily get written down in a recipe. Sometimes you have to act as the translator, especially with chefs. They'd send an ingredient list and maybe some actual measurements and a ton of assumptions. So there was a lot of translation, figuring out what this chef already knows and what of that knowledge needs to be communicated to a home cook who doesn't share the same brain. That was a really fun challenge."

Anderson and VanVeller's comments have been edited and condensed.


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