Food and drink in Canada

Eating and drinking is one of life's great pleasures.

What do Canadians like to eat and drink, what foods are available, how much do they cost, how does shopping for food differ in Canada and do Canadians eat out?

What do Canadians like to eat and drink?

Canadians eat a lot of beef and chicken, less pork then and some lamb. Lamb is generally available only in small quantities and is expensive. Other speciality meats such as bison (buffalo) is fairly easy to find. Canadians seem reluctant to eat other animals. Horse meat and goat have not yet been seen by the author.

Canadians love to barbeque their meat. You will find barbeques in almost every yard (garden) and on many decks and balconies. Even a small balcony that is only large enough to hold perhaps two chairs will also have a barbeque. These are covered barbeques, not open like you find in the UK. The food cooks very quickly at high temperature. Canadians barbeque their food even when there is snow on the ground and the temperature is as low as -30°C!

Fresh fruit and vegetables are available all the year, they are imported when needed during the colder parts of the year. Quality depends of what you expect. The appearance is generally excellent, that being the measure that the supermarkets use to judge quality. Taste is a different matter, much of the food lacks flavour, especially the fruit and vegetables. Food is sold by appearance rather than flavour health benefits. Good looking produce is preferred to better flavour. Organic produce is normally available at a higher price. Generally prices are comparable to the UK. In terms of what Canadians earn, some foods are cheap while others are expensive. The following table shows some subjective price comparisons:

Item
Comparison with UK
Beef similar
Pork cheaper
Lamb much more expensive
Chicken similar
Eggs

Cheaper, but you are not comparing the same thing. Generally the eggs have white shells that are paper-thin. The yolk is pale yellow and the white is rather runny. Size - generally much smaller. Taste - bland and insipid.

Brown eggs are available, at a premium price.

Salmon better selection and cheaper; pink salmon caught in the pacific ocean is very cheap when buying the whole fish. North Americans are not very dextrous (to be blunt, they can't use a knife and fork) so this will not be popular. Much of the salmon is filleted and frozen, so it is easy to handle.
Other fish more expensive
   
Flour cheaper in bulk, very expensive in small bags
Rice cheaper in bulk, expensive in small bags
   
Apples similar prices
Oranges a little cheaper, sold by weight
Grapefruit cheaper
bananas much cheaper
plums similar but quality variable, often hard and fail to ripen
peaches cheaper but quality variable - these will often fail to ripen properly after purchase
nectarines cheaper but quality variable - on many occasions these fail to ripen and have to be discarded
Pineapples cheaper, generally available as small or large. Sources vary and so does the taste.
   

Cheeses

 
Cambazola very expensive
Cheddar type similar
Soft expensive
   
Bread
 
Speciality expensive
Sliced expensive

If you are european and used to cooking with fresh ingredients then you will be disappointed by what North American has to offer. Although the selection of food available is good and it is generally available all the year, the taste of that food leaves much to be desired.

Bread

Most bread is mediocre in quality and taste. It does not keep well. The white bread tends to go hard very quickly, in particular the long round loaves (french sticks). A much better alternative is to buy a breadmaker and make your own bread. The ingredients are inexpensive and the finished bread is much better tasting and fresher. It is difficult to believe that 'bought' bread can be made so badly from the ingredients that are stated on the label. Why not make your own bread - instructions for using an automatic breadmaker.

Bread used for hamburgers etc in fast-food outlets is almost always tasteless and bland.

Drinks

Canadians drink a lot of carbonated (fizzy) soft drinks, referred to in Canada as 'pop' or 'soda', such as cola and orange. These are sold in cans and bottles up to about 2 litres. Generally these are cheap, especially the larger sizes. Small sizes are available from vending machines in many locations although these are expensive when compared to buying the same item in a supermarket.

Bottled water is readily available, but the majority is still water. Carbonated water is not drunk to the same extent as in europe. Much of the bottled water sold in Canada is simply town water that has been treated by passing it through a filtration plant, it is not spring water or from a natural source. You need to read the label carefully to find this information. Supermarkets and filling stations (garages) sell large packs of small bottles of water at what look like economical prices, however, the prices shown are highly misleading because bottle deposits and taxes are added to the price.