With some dishes I tried, I can't help but think… why? 🇨🇦
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Ever since I landed in Canada, I've been on a mission to discover the country's best-known flavours — and it's been a delicious journey.
As someone who didn't know much about Canadian food prior to arriving from Dubai, where I'd spent the last eight years of my life, there have been a lot of learning moments. There are so many dishes that I'm constantly impressed by (I'm looking at you, poutine). And yet with some dishes I try, I can't help but think… why?
So, here's a look at some dishes that absolutely managed to live up to the expectation... and some that sadly fell short.
Lived up to the hype: poutine
Poutine from Montreal's La Banquise.
Canada's most famous dish is an absolute winner — and for good reason. Cheese curds, gravy, a bed of French fries… it's an absolutely great combination of ingredients that are hard not to love.
That being said, a local did warn me that poutine can be hit or miss sometimes. So far, I've had nothing but good experiences, and a lot of respect for this Canadian staple. But I can see how having it in the wrong place might just yield cold fries soaking in gravy, to which I say… yikes.
Did not live up to the hype: butter tarts
I think much of my disappointment comes from having very high expectations around this classic Canadian dessert.
Granted, I tried one from a local supermarket and not a specialized bakery of any kind, but I found it a little too sweet and lacking in flavour.
Perhaps a store-bought one was just not the way to go? I want to try this one again and will keep an open mind. I promise.
Lived up to the hype: Caesars
A class Caesar in Toronto.
The first time I heard about the Caesar — Canada's unofficial national drink — I balked.
I mean, Clamato juice, vodka and hot sauce in a drink together don't exactly inspire confidence. But then I tried one, and I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. The drink tasted smoky, rich, flavourful. Like a bloody mary, but better.
All I can say is don't knock it till you've tried it!
Did not live up to the hype: ketchup chips
As a newcomer to Canada, I'm a little confused by the obsession with all things tomato. From Caesars to ketchup popsicles, there does seem to be an alarming amount of this, well, rather unusual flavour.
And while I definitely don't have anything against ketchup chips in particular, I'm not sure I get the hype either. They're something I would pop into my mouth if I were at a party. But not something I'd go out of my way to purchase.
Lived up to the hype: Montreal-style smoked meat
Janice Rodrigues with a sandwich from Schwartz's Deli.
I didn't quite know how popular Canada was for smoked meat, but that was before a visit to Montreal. Several kind folks there recommended I try the signature at Schwartz's Deli, and this has been my all-time favourite sandwich since.
The meat was so tender it was falling apart on the plate. Coupled with rye bread and a slathering of mustard, it was what dreams are made of. No really, I dreamed about it for months afterward.
Did not live up to the hype: Tim Hortons' birthday cake anything
Tim Hortons' birthday cake donut.
Don't get me wrong about Timmies. I'm an absolute fan, and can probably survive on a steady stream of their hot chocolate and French Vanilla. But if there's one item that always leaves me stumped — particularly because of its popularity — it would be its birthday cake, well, anything.
The Birthday Cake Timbits taste like sugar and look like something you'd create just to get the attention of a toddler. It just confuses me as this is usually listed as one of the brand's most popular flavours, but I feel like they have loads of better options on the menu!
Lived up to the hype: Jamaican beef patties
I fully recognize and understand that this is a popular Caribbean delicacy, and being on this list by no means takes away from its rich cultural history. If anything, this is an appreciation post for the humble Jamaican patty, which has become such an important part of Canada's food scene.
I tried them much on a whim and have since been addicted. After all, the dish is so rich, flaky, warm, filling, easy to eat on the go and overall just delicious. I've also since grown to love and accept patties of all fillings too. The veggie ones are absolutely yummy.
Did not live up to the hype: bagels
An everything bagel with cream cheese.
I know I might get some hate for putting this out there, but I still don't understand the fascination with bagels. After hearing (and reading) so much about them, I remember taking my first bite only to think… bread? Well, not exactly bread, but denser, thicker, breadier bread. I'm still not getting the appeal.
I've since tried slathering a huge amount of cream cheese on them as well as variations like the cinnamon raisin bagel with better results… but for the most part, I think I might just be eating it wrong. Granted, I haven't tried the Montreal-style bagel yet... maybe that's where the magic is really happening?
What am I doing wrong? Canadian bagel lovers, HMU with advice, please!
Regardless, I've enjoyed each and every part of trying out these dishes and wouldn't trade my experiences for the world. Next on my list of things to eat are Nanaimo bars and BeaverTails, and I'm already really excited.
Wish me luck!