Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Moosehead and Caesars, Salt Cod and Tarte Au Sucre - My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory

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So I know the title is a bit, WTH? But please, let me explain it all, and I am pretty sure it will make sense at the end. It's all about life, love, countries old and new and foods unusual and 'exotic'.

The first time I met my husband, I was a newly arrived, fresh off the boat Indian student in the UK. I hadn't been exposed to very many international cuisines and when I had, they were all heavily dolloped with hot sauce :) So some of the first authentic food experiences I have had are indelibly etched in my memories.

Italian food, for example. My friend D was an amazing Italian cook. His recipes were traditional and very Italian, and he made the best food I've had in forever, or at least I thought that until I tasted his mom's food, after which D paled a bit. I remember my first carbonara, my first real Italian wedding feast, and my first Italian grappa (ahem, that may be a story for another time)

On the other hand, my then boyfriend (now husband) Kay was a rare breed... a pescitarian Canadian.  I still remember looking at him in utmost bemusement when he said he didn't eat meat. Really? A non-meat eating 'Westerner'... that was a shock and surprise in itself. So, of course, the first meal Kay made me was a salad and stir fry and I looked at him and very politely and innocently asked him why there was grass on my plate? :) I am still not a green salad fan.

So yeah, the food of Canada didn't really have massive appeal to me at any point.



Caesars

Probably the first time I tasted something that could be called authentically Canadian was that quintessential Canadian drink, the Caesar. It was at the Maple Leaf Bar tucked away in a side street behind London's Covent Garden Market, and populated, or so it seemed, by big, redheaded Canadians, a smattering of Aussies, a few South Africans and a disproportionately large number of Eastern Europeans. I can only assume it was the ice hockey that brought them all there (wink).

Every time we visited Canada, my first request on Air Canada was a Clamato juice, and I was always obliged. It was a running joke in the family, that the first drink I had aboard a Canadian aeroplane would be a heavily salted, extra spicy clam juice... in hindsight, probably not the best for flying, but for me, that defined the start of my Canadian adventure.

Coming back to the title of the post, though, Kay and I started off with a tradition, almost from the first year we were together, and that was our annual Canada Day party. The first year we threw the shindig, Kay was working, so I ended up schlepping down to Central London, back to the Canada Store near Covent Garden and came back with a giant backpack full of Moosehead beer. Between that and copious amounts of Caesars, I can only remember so much of the party, but I imagine it was a success. We have continued that quaint tradition, and so we throw a Canada Day party even here in Canada! Unfortunately after the first few years, the Canada Store didn't carry Clamato Juice anymore, apparently there were customs restrictions, so we relied on Canadian friends and family to bring in this contraband drink.

I can assure you I am not a complete alcoholic, promise :) Its just that the last few posts seem to have had some version of alcohol in them, but I put that down to the summer.

My first authentic Canadian food experience (I didn't just have drink experience, swear) was, funnily enough, again with my Italian friend D and his wife Cee. We were all good friends, and one evening, as we were kicking about London, D started ribbing Kay about Canadian food. At which, Kay invited them over for what he called a very traditional Canadian lunch.

Kay, who also happens to be a rather good cook himself (I haven't beaten it out of him, haha), decided on a few different items. Thankfully no grass, ahem, salad :) He decided to do the traditional Quebecois salt cod fish cakes and for dessert, the very Canadian Tarte Au Sucre or maple syrup pie. It took us a while to source the salt cod for the dish, with a few trips to fishmongers around London. Thankfully our local fishmonger in Chiswick High Street told us he could order in salt cod, and we duly took delivery of it. And I am pretty sure we spent a fortune on good maple syrup too, it was certainly not cheap in London (not that its cheap here, mind!) but the taste of that pie is still one of my most favourite food memories, and the two together, are probably my first authentic Canadian food experiences. Now that title makes sense, right?

My recipe today is for the Bloody Caesar, probably Canada's favourite cocktail. I love it hot and spicy with a good glug of vodka. When in season, I love using asparagus to serve with it, though the classic accompaniment is celery sticks of course. I also like rimming my glass with sea salt, pepper and celery salt for an extra salty kick.

I will totally not claim any authenticity to this recipe, though, this is how I like my Caesars and I am pretty sure there are enough Caesar recipes as there are Canadian households :)

Caesars

PS - I made sure to conveniently forget my other two 'authentic' Canadian food experiences...one called Kraft Dinner and the other Tim Horton's :)

Bloody Caesar Recipe:

(Printable Recipe)

Makes 4 Bloody Caesars

100 ml (roughly 4 oz) vodka
500 ml (roughly 16 oz) Clamato Juice (I used Mott's Extra Spicy)
1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce or to taste
A couple teaspoons Worcester Sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon lime juice

To serve: 

1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
Wedges of lime
Celery sticks

Method: 

Muddle together the vodka, clamato, hot sauce, worcester sauce and lime juice. Taste and add more hot sauce, if you like your Caesar spicy.

Mix the salt, pepper and celery salt on a plate. Moisten the rims of your glasses and rim with the salt mixture. Pour in the Caesars and serve with a wedge of lime and a celery stick.

This post is part of the The Canadian Food Experience Project. Myself, along with the other participants are sharing stories about our Canadian food experiences, across this vast country we call home. We would love it of you followed along and joined us too.


6 comments:

  1. Michelle!
    I COVET the wooden box. Source? Seriously. Second, let's book a time and make the maple sugar pie together - one for each of us. I just bought the maple syrup and maple sugar from the Callingwood Market. The son of the farmers in Ontario that harvest the syrup. I would love to do that with you and it is on my bucket list. When are you free.
    It sounds like a drink or two might entice, you, as well! Lots of that here, too!
    ;0
    Valerie

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    Replies
    1. LOL, Val, drinks will always entice me, as will sugar :)

      The wooden box is from Sears, in their outdoor stuff, reduced to $5.99 and comes with those three baby milk bottles, bargain, imo. I am always on the lookout for things I can use as food props and Sears occasionally has a few gems.

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  2. You've just reminded me of my misspent youth (well, actually, misspent early middle age, perhaps) in the bars and pubs near Covent Garden. I've never tried a drink containing clamato juice (at least as far as I can remember) but I'm definitely willing to try. Oddly enough, I've just baked a French-style tarte au sucre but I didn't realise that there was a Canadian version with maple syrup. Sounds good to me.

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    1. Its an interesting combination for sure... the only thing I don't like about Mott's Clamato is that it has MSG in it, but tbh, the Caesar just doesn't taste like one without it. Its that umami factor, I guess. One day I have to get you to tell me those 'misspent youth' stories :)

      I love the maple syrup one... its just so calorific, I can't bring myself to make it more than once a year :)

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  3. Wonderful post Michelle!

    Your caesars look fantastic! Love those bottles.

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  4. Love it! Caesars are one of my favorite drinks.. especially when they are extra black and made with gin instead of vodka. So funny that your Canadian food experiences happened in London

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