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Ten Foods and Food Products I Discovered in Canada

Uncle Sam Watching You Eat, Ottawa, June 2011

The great part about immigrating to a new country is that you don’t lose anything—you gain new experiences and broaden your horizon. Sure, I occasionally miss French food (although I can quickly get sick of it) but I also discovered a lot of new products that don’t exist in France, or foods I just wasn’t familiar with.

Here are ten foods or food products I discovered in Canada, and that I now truly miss when I go abroad!

Philadelphia Cream CheeseI always complain how expensive cheese is in Canada, and I don’t really like the “fake” American cheese such, i.e. processed cheese. But I have a fondness for Philly Cream Cheese. It tastes like the French St Moret and it’s a good spread on toasted bread. I also use it for cooking, adding a tablespoon of cream cheese to vegetables—it makes a very light creamy sauce. It is also used to make cake frosting or to prepare the famous New York cheesecake—never tried to make either, though.

Kraft Vegetable Thin CrackersIn France, I used to eat biscottes (dry bread cooked twice, traditionally eaten at breakfast). In Canada, I discovered crackers, a flat seasoned baked biscuit. I usually eat crackers when I’m craving chips (this brand of crackers have much less fat!), sometimes with hummus. It’s a great snack with a salad. In Canada, a small bag of crackers is often given with soup in dinners or take-out places, but I never truly learned to enjoy my crackers with soup—is that a Canadian thing?

Muffins (any kind, really!) – The ubiquitous muffin is probably the first North American baked good I tasted (and enjoyed!). They typically come in different flavours, such as chocolate chips, blueberry, corn, banana, walnut, cinnamon, etc. and are sold in supermarkets or bakeries. Muffins are pretty high in fat though, and for me they are a treat rather than regular breakfast food.

Summer Fresh HummusIn France, I used to eat a lot of bread and I typically put butter, cheese, jam or Nutella on it. For some reason, I rarely buy butter in Canada—Feng doesn’t really eat any and I don’t crave it either. And because cheese is expensive, I had to find other kinds of spreads… such as hummus. Hummus isn’t Canadian at all, it’s a Middle-Eastern dip or spread made from mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. For some reason, this exotic spread is a popular staple in North America, and I quickly got addicted to it! I also like the various twists on it, such as avocado or eggplant hummus.

Summer Fresh TzatzikiThis Greek/Turkish specialty is my second favourite spread. It is made of strained yoghurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, usually olive oil, pepper, sometimes lemon juice, and dill or mint or parsley. The texture is more liquid than hummus but it is fresh and delicious on toasted rye bread. And again, this exotic dip is very much a staple in Canada and you can find it in every supermarket.

Banana bread or carrot cakeLike I recently explained, I was very sceptical to the idea of using carrots or zucchinis in breads or cakes, but it’s actually very good. It’s all about the texture, not the taste! I often bake these myself, they are a great snack.

Shin Ramyun RamenThis is a spicy brand of Korean instant noodles… one of the best in my opinion, and it’s very easy to find it in Canada. Ramen (noodle soup) is my quick-and-easy meal when I don’t really feel like cooking. The key is to pick Asian brands of ramen (don’t even try the ones made for Westerners… they taste like crap!) and to “pimp” your noodles. I always add an egg to mine (just break the egg over the boiling noodles and cover), broccoli, bamboo shoots and tofu. Let simmer for a while to cook the broccoli and the egg, and drain the soup if you just want the noodles. It tastes great!

Fancy lattes and iced coffee Even though like most French students I spent a lot of time in cafés skipping classes (math class at 8 a.m., anyone?), I never developed the taste for strong back coffee, the way it is served in France. But I fell in love with Canada’s Second Cup or Starbucks’ fancy lattes and ice coffees. Yes, I know they are expensive (it’s usually a weekly treat) and sugary (I like the low-fat milk no whip version anyway). But they are good! It’s like drinking a dessert!

Tabasco Sauce I’m not afraid of spicy food, so for me Tabasco, the Louisiana-made hot sauce, is a great product. I love it on my fresh Italian tomatoes salad, or as a condiment in Latino-style wraps. I also love the design of the bottle—it reminds me of Belize’s Marie Sharp’s hot sauce!

Dempster’s Corn Tortillas – French love their baguettes and miches de pain so much that it’s hard to find any other kind of bread. I got addicted to tortilla when traveling in Mexico and Central America, where they are served warm with pretty much every single meal. Thanks to the “no carbs” diet, flat bread got very popular in Canada a few years ago and it’s now easy to buy tortillas in supermarkets, so once in a while, I make my own wraps.

How about you? Any new food you discovered in Canada? Any food you adopted?

P.S.- No brand paid me for that article… but if they want to, they are welcome to do so! I also take chocolate, gold and feet massage as a payment option.

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