Anita Stewart's Canada: The Food, the Recipes, the Stories.


332 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 978-1-55468-231-7
DDC 641.5971




Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


Only a disciplined, dry-as-dust food-o-phobe could write a dispassionate review of Anita Stewart’s Canada. The emotions it stirs and memories it evokes are too profound and personal to permit such a travesty. Academic historians have made their careers explaining, often in arcane fashion, the elements of the Canadian identity. We’d have done better to begin with the food we—migrants and immigrants all—have gathered, grown, and served ever since we occupied the northern part of the Western Hemisphere.


A hint of Stewart’s unique approach is found in the chapter names: “The Original Palate,” “Maple, Honey and Molasses,” “Corn, Beans and Squash” “Salmon,” “Fish and Shellfish,” “Meat and Poultry,” “Grain,” “Potatoes,” “Dairy and Eggs,” “Fruit and Nuts,” and “The Contemporary Palate.” Incisive introductions place these food groups into geographical, ecological, historical, and ethnic contexts. Locally inspired recipes demonstrate the essential character of foods typical of the groups. Sidebars sketch the origins and arrivals of Canada’s culturally diverse settlers, often adding often quirky and little known information about foods and associated customs.


As for the photography, it is simply superb. For example, an uncaptioned photograph of a smokehouse door, slightly ajar, reveals vertical ranks of silver herring about to be smoked into leathery Digby Fillets or Bloaters.  The souvenir of a week’s ramble on Grand Manan Island is a wooden box of fillets bought at a smokehouse door. The photograph of Mark Stewart, fishing guide and chef, striding down a float, his mother’s salmon in hand, rouses memories in anyone who has ever held a fishing rod. This is one of those rare books that nourishes mind, body, and soul.


Stewart, Anita., “Anita Stewart's Canada: The Food, the Recipes, the Stories.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,