19 songs about poutine and other Canadian superfoods

by Mark Teo

September 5, 2013






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Photo: Yelp.ca

It’s difficult to pin an identity to Canadian cuisine, and that’s mostly because we’re a country that’s experienced wave after wave of cultural infusions. Halifax’s donair is a twist on the Lebanese shaved-meat doner; Calgary’s ginger beef undoubtedly has Canadian-Chinese fast-food origins; our quintessential soul food, Quebecois poutine, is all French Canadian comfort. Whatever our food’s origins, though, we know one thing: our staples—yes, including bannock and Kraft Dinner—are effin’ delicious. Here are 19 tributes to the foods—mostly poutine, to be honest—we love.


1. The song about how poutine was invented

This video, initially aired in 1992 by Montreal TV station CFCF, details the basics about poutine—it tells you the elemental structure of the iconic Quebecois dish, as well as its mysterious origins. (“Everybody in Quebec will tell you with a grin,” the lyrics state, “that their little village invented the poutine.”) But what’s not mentioned here is that poutine might have been a dish of multiple origins: The Acadian poutine of Atlantic Canada, though only a distant relative, was reputed to have predated its Quebec cousin, while both New Jersey and the Isle of Man were reputed to have blended cheese, gravy, and fries. Quebecois purists, however, maintain that cheese curds and sauce brun—usually a blend of beef, pork, and chicken gravies—are at the dish’s core. Ah, the mysteries of poutine.


2. The poutine danse

Since poutine (along with the all-dressed steamé) is quintessentially Quebecois, it only makes sense that we’d include a French track on this list. The “danse” in question, here, isn’t a literal dance—though a dude in a poutine outfit staggers around for a bit in the vid—it’s about the motions you go through to make a poutine. And there’s something wonderfully poetic about the line “ajoute la sauce et le fromage squeesh squeesh.” Our heart goes squeesh squeesh for this song. 


3. The American ode to everything smothered in curds and grav—er, brown sauce.

Dang, did the Baha Men really write a song about poutine? Guys, we’re flattered.


4. The poutine polka.

I’ll bet you were wondering, “Hey, what ever happened to those shanty-punk bands who idolized Gogol Bordello?” Just kidding. No one’s ever wondered that. But in case you were, here’s your answer: They’re writing songs about poutine.


5. The song about Can-cuisine’s underdog: Bannock

In Canada, bannock, a flatbread that’s typically fried, baked, or cooked over a grill, is a celebrated part of First Nations cuisine. (It’s also seeing somewhat of a cultural renaissance: Toronto restauranteurs Oliver and Bonacini opened a Can-cuisine emporium called Bannock, while restaurants like Tea ‘N’ Bannock serve up Indian Tacos using the bread.) Harry Davis’s song, however, doesn’t glamourize the staple—he just warmly recalls memories of eating frozen bannock for lunch.


6. The Skydiggers’ ode to maple syrup

Or, the only steamy, erotic song written about maple syrup ever. (Frankly, we’re surprised the Skydiggers beat David Usher to the punch.)


7. Jian’s ode to his favourite breakfast food

To be fair, this originated as a Pete Seeger song, and as an American, he was probably singing about Vermont’s affinity for maple syrup. (That’s right. Canada can’t claim absolute ownership over the stuff.) But Moxy Fruvous, complete with their glee club vocals, chose this song deliberately: This instructional track, including the added French passage, was probably the most Canadian song Seeger ever wrote.


8. Gordon Lightfoot’s song about syrupy love

God, what is it about Gordon Lightfoot? Listening to the dude just sounds like the Canadian outdoors, which the man hopes to protect: “People come to stand in line to rob the forest of her wine,” he sings. “But they don’t feel the cold.”


9. The bluesy tribute to donairs

Here’s the context to this song: A wayward bluesman in out in the woods, salivating over his favoured urban treat, the donair. It’s a song playing on the classic blues tropes of yearning, heartbreak, and lust—all for a faux-Lebanese post-bar pita drizzled in an evaporated milk-based sauce, patented at Halifax’s King of Donair but available at every single pizzeria in the Maritimes. We’re hoping this dude writes a song about Pizza Corner’s most divisive gut buster: the donair slice.


10. The ’80s outback ode to donairs

This song, reputedly written in the ’80s, displays the donair’s explosive popularity in the Maritimes—within 10 years, it had become the sweet, spicy after-bar-regret-food we know, and love, to this day.


11. The Nanaimo bar rap

This tribute to the Nanaimo Bar—which, typically, has a signature combination of chocolate, icing, crumbs, and sometimes even custard—reveals the confection for what it really is: Canada’s favourite sugary treat. But also a really, really good snack when you’re high.


12. The folkie’s lobster roll ballad

Despite the lobster roll’s new glorified status—thanks to bougie iterations of the sammy served up at places like Toronto’s Rock Lobster—this rustic seafood sub is having its moment in the spotlight. But freshness and simplicity are key to a roll done right, and you’ll only get both in the Maritimes. This particular folkie understands that.


13. The Great Canadian butter tart

If you didn’t know that butter tarts were distinctly Canadian, well guess what—they are, and have been Upper Canada’s dessert of choice since the Hudson’s Bay company covered the entire Eastern portion of the country in a striped wool blanket like, 400 years ago. So Canadian, in fact, that Midland, ON hosts an annual butter tart festival, and that’s precisely where this song was filmed.


14. Stompin’ Tom’s ode to the classic Canadian pairing: Ketchup and chips

There’s something essentially Canadian about Stompin’ Tom videos—they’re perpetually set in run-down, smoke-filled Canadian bars and filled with salt-of-the-earth types who look like they could inhabit any town in the Canadian Shield. Tom’s ode to ketchup (ahem, Leamington, ON tomato ketchup) hits at a central truth about the Canadian diet: We love potatoes and ketchup more than any other nation in the world. It’s why we’re the only place where ketchup chips actually exist.


15. Barenaked Ladies’ tribute to the chosen food of the Canadian lower, middle, and upper classes

Meanwhile, Stephen Page and co. stumbled onto another Canadian truism in “If I Had a Million Dollars,” their aspirational ditty about being wealthy. The song’s most famed lyric—”If I had a million dollars / We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner / But we would eat Kraft Dinner / Of course we would, we’d just eat more”—isn’t just a throwaway lyric; it captures an undeniable part of the Canadian national identity. We are the world’s top consumers of KD, and it’s the nation’s top-selling food item—we each eat 3.2 boxes of the orange stuff per year, 55 per cent more than Americans. It’s a phenomenon that led The Walrus, who dedicated an entire cover story to it, to declare that “KD, not poutine, [is] our national dish.” So, yeah, if we had a million dollars, of course we’d still eat Kraft Dinner. Duh.


16. A song about our national addiction: KD

This band’s self-described blend of “rock, blues, funk,  jazz, and rap” is an abomination you could find at any half-baked jazz bar in any half-baked university town in the nation. It’s a form of college rock—screw you, Malkmus—that’s as uniquely Canadian as our obsession with seven-minute instant mac ‘n’ cheese.


17. Hot Chip’s international perspective on KD

We were going to get indignant about this Hot Chip track, which reduces Kraft Dinner to a sad, solitary, after-bar treat, until we realized that it’s kind of true.


18. KI Kids tripped-out psych take on KD

Ayo, Olsen twins! Yeah, we’re talking to you, Mary-Kate and Ashley. You think you have the market cornered on psychedelic kiddie odes to junk food? Think again. Canada’s got this little vid—and we might have you beat.


19. Ginger beef

We have no real idea how this song relates to Ginger Beef, Calgary’s contribution to the Canadian culinary canon. But it’s also labelled as “THE BEST SONG EVER,” and after listening to it 16 times straight, we’re kind of inclined to agree.

Tags: Music, Cancon, Lists, News, canrock, Gordon Lightfoot, Hot Chip, jian ghomeshi, moxy fruvous






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