Researched by Jen Murphy and Kelly Snowden
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Journal: The Broken Pot
The personal tale of a classic French-Canadian dish, fèves au lard.
By Charles Foran
My mother soaked the navy beans overnight, then mixed in molasses, brown sugar and salt pork. The cooking took all day, the house overwhelmed by the fragrance and heat. It was July, not the usual season for baked beans. But she was preparing a backyard dinner for her husband's office colleagues. She was telling big-city Toronto about her small-town French-Canadian identity, using food.
I was 12, and aware that my mother spoke French in the town where she grew up and English in our suburb. Also, that her people ate tourtières (meat pies) and fèves au lard (baked beans) instead of the roast beef and ham of Toronto. Country foods, I supposed, tasty and filling. Even the glazed clay pot she used for the beans, once her mother's, spoke of who she was, deep down. She was no less proud of the pot.
Is that why I asked to carry it out to the picnic table? To show solidarity, in case the guests found her offerings too rustic? I was that kind of son: attentive, wanting to please. Down the porch steps I went, the bean pot pinched between oven mitts. Maybe I looked up to see who was admiring my gesture. Maybe I looked to see if she was pleased with her boy.
Tripping, I flew face first onto the cement landing, and the pot smashed to bits. So much blew up then and there, a little for me, a lot for my mother. Her face showed it, when I could bear to look.
My father had suggested she cook a roast beef as well, perhaps to hedge his bet about the beans. She served it instead, chewy and dull.
Charles Foran writes nonfiction and novels, including Carolan's Farewell and House on Fire. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario.
Journal: Canadian Bacon?
Two expats explain why peameal bacon is the real Canadian bacon.
By Samantha Bee & Jason Jones
The Canadian bacon sold in the U.S. is many things. It is relatively lean, it is tasty and it is round, cradling the eggs in your Benedict just so. But Canadian? Hardly. What you call Canadian bacon is really, to us Canadians, just ham. And it's OK and everything, but it's not the real thing, which, by the way, is called peameal bacon. For the record, peameal bacon (and we're not going to get into the particulars of its origins here) kicks Canadian bacon's ass, six ways from Sunday. It's the Marty McSorley of bacon products. But you probably don't get that reference either, do you, you adorable nation of misguided non-hockey fans?
A great slice of peameal bacon requires the convergence of three very important factors: a nice, lean piece of back bacon; a bath of sweet pickle brine; and a generous roll in a bed of cornmeal, to give the exterior a delicious crunch when properly pan-fried. It is not smoked. We repeat, not smoked. May God help you if you smoke it. (Well, truth be told, we're sure that it would be delicious, too; it would just be differently delicious and irrelevant for the purposes of this article. We're not going to lie, we would still eat it.) Fond memories of leisurely Saturday-morning peameal-bacon sandwiches are the reason we force our relatives to smuggle pounds of it across the border every time they visit. Don't worry, all their hard work is worth it. Well, not for them, of course; we never share.
Samantha Bee and Jason Jones are correspondents on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.