History shows Canadians have made their mark in kitchens

In 1884, Montrealer Marcellus Gilmore Edson asked the U.S. government to issue a patent for a peanut paste he developed by milling peanuts. 


Originally meant to be used in candy, that peanut paste is believed to be the launch point of what we consider today as peanut butter — that creamy, delicious staple the Peanut Council of Canada says is consumed in 58 percent of Canadian households on a weekly basis. 


The nutty condiment even earned a nod from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Canada Day — a shout out met with a roar from the crowd.


Peanut butter isn’t the only Canadian culinary invention. 


Most Canadians are familiar with iconic dishes such as maple syrup, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, poutine, Nanaimo bars, instant mashed potatoes, butter tarts (Barrie, Ont., 1900) and Bloody Caesars (originally invented in 1969 by a hotel manager in Calgary). 


Canada’s contributions to the food world go beyond these Canadian delicacies. 


For instance, did you know Canada has a sushi connection? 


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The popular California roll — an inside-out sushi roll made with cucumber, crab (or imitation crab) and avocado — was invented by Japanese Chef Hidekazu Tojo when he moved to Vancouver in 1971. At the time, Canadian consumption of raw fish and seaweed was minimal, to Tojo’s disappointment.


The roll was so popular with tourists from Los Angeles that he called it the California roll. It is now a standard menu item at sushi restaurants around the world, including in Japan. (In 2014, Vancouver was home to more than 600 sushi restaurants and was considered by many to be the sushi capital of North America.)


The California roll isn’t the only Asian-inspired dish to be invented in Canada. 


In the 1970s, Chef George Wong needed a way to boost business at the Silver Inn in Calgary. He wanted to encourage his western patrons to try dishes other than steak, burgers and grilled cheese. So, he invented a delicious, sticky mixture of crispy beef and stir-fried veggies doused in a chili sauce.


Ginger beef, named for the fact customers mistakenly believed ginger was a key ingredient in the sauce, was a hit and remains a culinary must-have in Western Canada. 


Chinese buffets date back to when Canada’s main rail lines were being built. The story goes it was an easy way to feed the hundreds of men working at once. Meanwhile, family run Chinese restaurants, with their Canadian-Chinese cuisine, remain an integral piece of many rural communities — first created to give locals a place to meet for meal or a coffee. 


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Canadian culinary contributions go beyond the grill, too. 


It was a Canadian who first invented the egg carton —an idea that newspaper publisher Joseph Coyle apparently devised after overhearing a dispute about broken eggs between an hotelier and a deliveryman. Eggs at the time were delivered in baskets. 


The cartons were patented in 1918 and by 1919, Coyle had sold his newspaper so that he could work in the egg-carton business full time. However, as is so often the case, despite being credited with solving a centuries-old problem, Coyle never became a wealthy man. 


It was an Ontario farmer named David Fife who first figured out Red Fife wheat could survive, with some success, in Canada’s harsh growing conditions. 


It was a discovery that would eventually lead to a significant research project by William Saunders in conjunction with the Central Experimental Farm. Saunders wanted to cross Red Fife with other varieties in order to develop a wheat variety that could be harvested earlier. His research led to the development of Marquis wheat.


And, it was Canadian researchers who invented canola, which re-cently inspired a new exhibit at the Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa.


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Canada’s ingenuity in the kitchen and beyond is a history of ingredients that will inspire culinary greatness for centuries to come. Happy 150th Canada.

Kelsey Johnson is a reporter with iPolitics, www.ipolitics.ca.