Last week, the Canadian government opened up its first taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico City in an attempt to promote Canadian cuisine, which has kicked up a bit of a controversy back home. The National Post talks to folks such as Joe Beef's Dave McMillan and food activist Anita Stewart, who point out that "there is no cohesive Canadian food identity" and that the country's culinary identity is more of a regional thing. As McMillan says, "This whole 'Canadian music, Canadian art, Canadian wine' [thing] has to stop. It's just ridiculous. All the time, it's like everyone's financed by insecurity and the CBC. It's true, it's a joke. We have to stop thinking that way."
A spokesman for Agriculture Canada tells the National Post that the truck got its start once they found that "only 35% of Mexicans were able to associate Canada to a particular food product, with fish and maple syrup being the most cited." So then what has the government put on the menu at the Mexico City truck? Well, naturally there's poutine — but a "Mexican-ized" version that replaces curds with Oaxaca cheese. There's also beef tourtière and maple-glazed Albacore tuna on the menu. Chris McDonald, chef/owner of Toronto's Cava Restaurant says that this is just another case of falling into a cliché to describe a country's food, like pizza and spaghetti for Italian food.
This whole debate about Canada's culinary identity is slated to be the topic of discussion at next year's Terroir Symposium in Toronto, an annual gathering that brings in chefs from all over the world to discuss major issues in food. Chair Arlene Stein says there's been anxiety over Canada's food identity since last year when, once again, not a single Canadian restaurant cracked the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. She explains, "Everyone was like, 'Why isn't Canada represented? We need a unified brand that can showcase our culinary identity,' ... No we don't, we need to cherish and actually support our regional identities ? I think we're trying too hard to force ourselves in a unified sense in Canada."
· Ottawa sets up taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico [National Post]
· All Canada Coverage on Eater [-E-]