The Current

From cod tongues to butter chicken pizza: Lenore Newman's Canadian culinary journey

Food researcher says Canada's distinctive creole cuisine is significant because it is one indication that Canada's multicultural project has been a success in terms of a relatively peaceful deep blending, rather than just fusion, of cultures.
In her book, Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey, author Lenore Newman argues for a 'Canadian creole' in our cuisine. (Alister Doyle/Reuters)

From cod tongues to pouding chomeur to Tojo's Canadian sushi roll, Canadian cuisine has been a difficult thing to define.

But Lenore Newman, Canada research chair in food security and environment at the University of the Fraser Valley, set out to do just that, travelling 40,000 km back and forth across the country in a search for culinary unity.

"I think I got angry at people saying, oh, it's just American cuisine," she tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Or saying, the French or the Italians, they have real cuisine, we don't."
Lenore Newman, author of Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey. (Provided by Lenore Newman)

What she found — and what she describes in her new book, Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey — is what she calls a "Canadian creole."

"Everyone is familiar usually with fusion, the idea of taking two cultures' dishes and mixing them together," says Newman.

"But creole is deeper. It's when cultures co-exist until they form a cuisine together. And I believe that Canada has developed a bit of a creole."

She cites as examples butter chicken pizza or "Vancouver sushi," as exemplified by Tojo's Canadian roll, which combines Canadian ingredients like smoked salmon and lobster with Japanese technique.

And other than being a delicious journey, Newman says Canadian cuisine has political implications as well, in light of sentiments that have led to Brexit or the election of Donald Trump.

"I think we're standing on a bit of a precipice where do we retreat into nationalism or do we maintain multiculturalism in the face of incredible pressure coming from Europe and the south," says Newman.

"I think it's an interesting point in our cuisine and in our history."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.