A lot of the food and dishes that are “Canadian,” are in fact a result of the early years’ immigrations. As such, before I go on to the Canadian food inventions and innovations, I think it’s important to list a broad stroke of our timeline. Because of the length, I am breaking up the timeline into three posts.
1497: Giovanni Caboto (better known as John Cabot) sailed from Bristol, England, in search of a trade route to the Orient. Three months later, he returned home to tell of finding a whole New World of tall trees and waters so thick with fish that could be hauled aboard in buckets. This secured him a five-ship voyage to return. It was disastrous for him as he died on the voyage, but his ships returned and corroborated his fishy tales.
1534: Jacques Cartier sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Chaleur Bay, where he met a group of Iroquois. He was invited to a feast of seal, cod and sturgeon, maple sugar-glazed moose loin, corn soup and cakes.
1580: New varieties of food were discovered on a regular basis: avocados, chili peppers, corn, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, just to name a few.
1606: Samuel de Champlain, cartographer and explorer, established Port Royal. He created the Order of Good Cheer (L’Ordre de Bon Temps). Prominent members of the settlement took turns hosting special meals. The benefits were a healthy competition within the group, better nutrition and, it made it easier to wait for the spring. You can view my earlier post about this at https://tkmorin.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/order-of-the-good-time/
1670: England’s King Charles II granted the lands to the Hudson’s Bay Company. They, in turn, built trading posts and kept them supplied with trade goods and food. Every post was well stocked with butter, tea, biscuits, coffee, cane sugar, salt beef, and other necessities from home.
1755: The deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England began. Many were transported back to France but most dispersed to southern areas such as Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns. Years later, almost half the Acadians returned to Canada, bringing not only their old Acadian cuisine but also their new Cajun style of cooking.
1759: Immigration to Canada increased. Consequently, ships were loaded with settlers arriving almost daily, and the Canadian food experience switched from a pork, fish, wine and sauce-based cuisine to one built upon mutton, beef, peas and beer. Taverns became popular with beer and roast beef with mushy peas.
1769: The Experienced English Housekeeper, written by Elizabeth Raffald, was published in London, England, and became essential reading for those headed for Canada.
1775: The American Revolution began. Staples such as salt, molasses, spices, citrus, tea and coffee become unavailable.
Because of losing the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763), France ceded Canada to Britain, which precipitated a mass migration, especially from Ireland and northern Scotland. Britain offered emigrants free passage along with some provisions – such as tools, salt, food rations, and armaments. Big meat ruled, but it was all tough as nails. Luckily, the English had learned the trick of tenderizing meat from the Romans, and after a few weeks of hanging and a bit of mould scraping, there was your Sunday dinner. It was a bit ripe, but a good long roasting fixed that, and from this habit of culinary utilitarianism came the British reputation for overcooking food.
Late 1700s, potatoes became as ever-present as corn and apples. Potatoes did very well in the Maritimes because the soil was suited to growing them. In addition, just like grain and apples, the excess could be easily distilled into alcohol.
1783: United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution arrived in all parts of Upper Canada and the Maritimes. They brought both their cuisine and their slaves, with each having an impact on the evolution of Canadian cuisine – roast duck laced with cayenne pepper was a culinary eye-opener for Canadian settlers.
1786: John Molson bought a small brewery in Montreal and began creating a financial, nation-expanding empire that would include banks, lumber, steamships, a railway and larger breweries. Called the nation’s greatest entrepreneur, John Molson and his business endeavours created a demand for timber and grains.
1790: A salt boiling operation was established at Twelve Mile Creek (now St. Catharines, Ontario) by William Merritt, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, a city with a long history of salt production. The British government in Upper Canada discontinued the practice of supplying each settler family with a barrel of imported salt.
1793: Slavery was abolished in what is now Ontario. Therefore, villages opened inns and taverns whose kitchens offered employment to displaced cooks, escaped U.S. slaves and returning Acadians. Some of them were famous for their dinners that were usually Southern-inspired dishes like slow-baked Virginia-style ham and biscuits, crayfish pie, fried fish, frog legs, cornbread, yams, tomato salad, corn on the cob and syrupy dessert pies, along with traditional roasts of beef, mutton, and wild game. A treat for travellers, Southern-style foods found approval in home kitchens, a fact that led to the design of Canadian cooking stoves with tops that facilitated iron frypans and boiling pans.
Some of my earlier related posts:
Tomorrow’s post will cover the years of 1816 to 1890.