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The long road trip to finding true, Canadian cuisine

If you've ever had a friend from outside of Canada try to sum up Canadian cuisine, their answers usually fluctuate between poutine, grilled cheese and butter tarts.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with these tasty, hardy items - after all, the winters are long and it's important to stay warm - but Canadian cuisine is often under appreciated and still slightly undiscovered.

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

That's what Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller thought, so they decided to head out and test the cuisines of every territory and province in Canada.

The two Kelowna-made friends embarked on a cross-country food road trip, in search of what makes up the Canadian dinner plate and in the end returned with a far more varied palate and a cookbook to boot.

The two friends were in Penticton Friday night sharing stories from their trip and recipes from their new cookbook, FEAST: an edible road trip.

"We knew from the beginning it would be impossible to be able to pin it down to just one thing, the country is too big... however we thought, what if we traveled and basically told stories of Canadian food culture," said Lindsay Anderson, who grew up in Prince George.

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

Prior to the trip, Anderson had been working for Tourism Richmond met Dana VanVeller in Kelowna one summer. Dana VanVeller grew up in Sarnia, Ontario and had been working at a language school for immigrants in Vancouver. The two hit it off and when they returned to work in the Vancouver area, they kept in touch.

During their trip, they were surprised to find the amount of diversity just in one province.

"We definitely had the cliche items, and thought, 'on the West Coast, people think about sushi and smoked salmon, and then absolutely poutine and maple syrup and Nanaimo bars,' We definitely knew that there was a lot out there for us to find, but the thing that ended up being shocking was just how much there was that we didn't know about - and we're both fairly well traveled and really love food. And you know, we're quite exposed to the food world," said Anderson.
<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

Travelling west to east, their cliches were quickly shattered after visiting a rural area off the west coast of Vancouver island.

"Kyquot is a first nations community that's about a 20-minute boat ride off of Vancouver Island. So we were hiking around there with somebody who knows the area, and she picked some berries and popped them into our hands, and was like, 'Oh try these, they're salmon berries.' I had never even heard of a salmon berry before, that was literally days into the trip and I was being handed something I had never seen or tasted."

During that same visit to Kyquot, Anderson and VanVeller also experienced a traditional First Nations salmon roast.

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

"That way of preparation was new to us, and they also had dried salmon. I had had smoked salmon, candied salmon, but never had this...I thought I knew B.C. fairly well, but this trip taught us there's so much out there for you to learn, just in my home province."

"Never mind once we did get to Quebec or parts of the territories - there was just endless things basically for us to discover, which was great because it meant that there were tons of things to share about."

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

Once they reached New Brunswick, the tourism board arranged for a local woman to show them around the Kouchibouguac National Park.

After learning about the regions of the park and the Acadian history, the Parks Canada guide introduced them to her mother, a local cook who taught them how to make a traditional Acadian Dish, poutines rapees.

"We went to her house and she taught us how to make poutines rapees, which is this type of Acadian - basically boiled potato and salt pork dumplings, which we had never heard of. The poutine part of it felt like poutine in Quebec but totally different. So we got to make this lovely connection with them, and then later they contributed one of the recipes to the book. Now they're buddies of ours."

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

Anderson and VanVeller said that meeting the farmers, bakers, chefs and other people along the way, is what made the trip special.

"We wanted to share about food and share about that, but more important to us was sharing the stories behind that food and the people behind it."

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

After they got the book deal, they reached out to all the people they'd met and written about on the road trip, and asked them to contribute recipes.

"Every single recipe in the book - whether it is contributed by somebody we met, or developed by ourselves - they all have a story behind it."

<who> Photo Credit: Submitted

As you would expect, the two women ate plenty of fish throughout their trip, starting from the West and moving East. Even their last stop in Nunavut included a final fishy feast.
As far as what's next, they're continuing to travel and talk about their cookbook.
But Anderson said she wouldn't be surprised if a new idea takes them somewhere else on the road.
They travel well together and came back, still friends.
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What's your favourite Canadian cuisine?
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