Great Canadian foods: back bacon, poutine, partridge berries, salmon, lobster, frappie pie… and Big 8 Ginger Ale? We’re going to the US for the weekend, to visit my Gramie and meet up with my Brooklyn brother and his girlfriend. They, and my New Jersey sister have a list of food from home they desire. And none of them are the quintessentially Canadian foods promoted to tourists and gourmets around the world.
Here’s the request list: Animal Crackers, Big 8 Ginger Ale, Aero candy bars, Zero candy bars, and fish and chips from Comeau’s on the way to the border. At other times, friends and family in the US have requested Ganong’s Chicken Bones, Vachon cakes, Tim’s coffee, experimental candy bar flavours, ketchup potato chips, roast chicken potato chips, Pal O’Mine bars, Puppy Paws, Clodhoppers, Girl Guide cookies, President’s Choice coffee, etc. A few friends further abroad have craved Kraft Dinner, King Cole tea and a kind of Graves pickle only made in the fall, in the Maritimes. I don’t have any friends who stock up on smoked salmon when they’re home.
All of these things seem commonplace to me. And surprising that these so-so food products are unique to home. My sister insists she cannot find ‘real’ Animal Crackers. My brother claims that NYC only has top shelf Ginger Ale, none of which is any good. His girlfriend says Aero bars are hard to find and incredibly overpriced in NYC. A friend packs a whole suitcase of coffee and flakies to bring back. And we can’t mail food (unless it’s home cooked) to the US, so everyone brings back large quantities of their favourites against the time they’ll be able to get some more.
These foods were part of their daily lives here, and are somehow unique to our regional tastes. I find that quite comforting. I love that even mass produced, processed food can be unique.