As technology grew and life became more hectic, mass food production hit
Canada by storm. Cereals became popular, fast food restaurants popped up,
and the coffee and doughnut craze hit the country. More recently, as an immigrant
destination, Canada's food is growing more and more diverse with dozens of ethnic
foods available in every medium-sized to large city.
Being a country of immigrants, there are no staple foods that exist across
Canada. Many of the immigrants, however have staples, from rice for many
Asian immigrants to corn tortillas for Hispanic immigrants.
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Quebec: poutine, now popular everywhere in Canada, is
French fries topped with cheddar cheese curds and gravy
Montreal: smoked meats are famous here; they are cuts of beef that
are slowly smoked & seasoned until very tender
Ottawa: beaver tails: fried dough topped with any number
Toronto: street meat, typically Polish sausage, hot dogs, Italian
sausage, & others
Vancouver: Indian & Asian foods are popular here due to the
Dining in Canada varies from highly sophisticated to extremely
informal and, fortunately, usually falls closer to the informal side of the spectrum.
With a fast food culture growing and eating on the run popular, eating as you walk
or in the company of others isn't considered rude, although offering some food
to those around you is polite. In these quick service restaurants there are no true
In more formal settings, place your napkin on your lap, wait to eat until everyone
is served, and use your silverware (cutlery) from the outside in. These rules also
apply if you're a guest at anyone's house, although there may be appetizers
you can snack on without waiting, plus some people are extremely informal so just
follow your host's lead.
If dining as a guest at someone's house in English Canada,
always arrive on time, bring a small gift (or a dish if asked), and follow the host's
traditions; this could mean a pre-meal prayer or toasts, which are typically limited
only to the host, but if others join in, all are welcome to participate. It is also
not considered rude to turn down a dish that does not appeal to you, however do
so quietly and ask for another dish instead. It is also commonly considered polite
to eat all the food you take; leaving food can be implied it was not satisfactory.
In French Canada rules vary a bit from the rules in English Canada.
People show up late for dinner and it is more of a social event than an eating event.
Wine also takes a prominent role in dining and most formal dinners begin with at
least one bottle of wine. After the wine arrives and the conversation begins, the
first course arrives, typically with more wine and conversation. This is of course
followed by the main course and wine, finally dessert and perhaps more wine. It
is expected that each guest orders a starter, main course, and dessert, but portions
tends to be small.
Paying also varies by region. In English Canada there are
no set rules; typically the host will pay, but you should offer to assist and many
times the offer will be accepted or the bill will be divided evenly. At a restaurant
in French Canada however, the inviter always pays, so if you invite others expect
to pay the entire bill and if you are the guest, it's still considered polite
to offer to pay, but after your offer is turned down, asking again can be rude so
graciously thank your host instead.
When eating out at a sit-down restaurant a tip of between 12-20% is expected (depending
on the quality of the service). Unlike in Europe, waiters
and waitresses get low pay and are reliant on tips as a supplement to their income.
In bars a tip of CAN $1 per drink is standard.
Celebrations & Events
Most of the holidays associated with foods in Canada are
traditional French holidays, including reveillon, which is a drawn-out
dinner on Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve. These meals are often filled
with expensive, rich, and luxurious dishes and ingredients and always include dessert
as the food is served into the night and the next day.
Canadians drink just about every type of alcoholic and non-alcoholic
drink depending on personal taste. Many sodas are popular as are juices, water,
and other non-alcoholic drinks, all of which are popular and easily accessible.
Wine, beer, and hard liquors are all popular, but beer reigns supreme. Depending
on your location and personal tastes in Canada, differing drinks are more or less
popular, including vodka, whiskey, and rum. Wine is growing in popularity, especially
The tap water is safe to drink in Canada. However, many people
may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be
different from what your system is used to if you are not from North America.