contacted me to participate in Mmmmmm.....Canada! the savoury edition, which is basically blogging about what memories or inspirations you (me) have about Canada and food. It came at a good time not only because of Canada Day on July 1st, but because lately I've been thinking about local cuisine and what it means to me.
Now personally, my family doesn't have any particular food traditions. Nothing that has been passed down from generation to generation. Mind you, I have a mixed national background and it has probably been homogenized along the way. When I think of Canadian food, my first thought naturally turns to Maple Syrup. After that - everything seems to be a variation on some other cultural dish: Poutine (fries, cheese curd, gravy), Back Bacon Sandwich, Nova Scotia Donair (donair kabob in a pita with sweet sauce), Canadian Pizza (bacon, pepperoni, mushrooms), Beavertails (deep fried bread with various sugar toppings). And on and on.
When I had a cultural day back in high school and had to bring a dish, I brought Johnny Cakes . . . which is very colonial but more well known in the US. This adds to the Canadian inferiority complex with America as we have very similar immigration patterns, geography, and access to similar food sources and ingredients. Only America often got there first in terms of claiming, naming and commercializing regional dishes. And of course this brings us to the Lord of the Wings.
I am Canadian. And I am a proud Canadian Blogger. Who loves chicken wings. And wings come from Buffalo. New York. USA. It almost makes me feel like a culinary traitor. I've been on a quest to find the perfect chicken wing: super hot, meaty, crispy, flavourful wings. I still haven't found it. And I've tried. I even went on a Great Wing Tour across the US, went to the Mecca of wings in Buffalo itself, and didn't find them. What I found was that I had better wing experience in Canada.
In my mental thoughts about Canadiana and food, I've been thinking about what makes a Canadian chicken wing? I've discovered the regional difference in Eastern Ontario to South Western Ontario in terms of sour cream as an accompanied dip. But that doesn't make the wing. A while back Rick suggested poutine wings - an interesting idea, but I don't know if I'd actually make it. Not long ago I had Ketchup Chip flavoured wings (Ketchup Chips being a very Canadian potato chip flavour). Interesting, but not something I think could catch on. Mixing Canadian dishes into wings, I doubt, would make for a wing the Canuck masses would embrace.
If 'Gimmicky' food combos won't do it, what makes for a great wing? I think it really just comes down to quality. Local poultry, homemade sauce, and properly deep-fried wings. The only thing that might make for a more Canadian style is the breading of wings. Traditional 'Buffalo' Wings are just deep fried and sauce. The breading adds an extra layer of crunch, and when done well, seasonings and flavour. I've also found that Canadian eateries and pubs tend to be able to make a wing really hot. Cliche artists might claim that we need hotter wings to keep warm in the frozen tundra, but I don't think that's it. BUT this still doesn't make for a really Canadian wing dish.
My first memories of Chicken wings were having them in the States. My family, on vacation across the border. It was a great time. Then there was a family trip to the Eastern provinces and I remember my parents complained because everywhere we went for dinner, I ordered the wings. In fact, for a long time I have ordered wings where ever I have gone, seeking to find the perfect wing - its only been the last few years I decided to make it official and blog about it. My overwhelming memory of chicken wings though, is being with friends.
My high school friends, Dude, Ricky, Bramanda were part of the old days in the Burg eating wings and even today finding a nice pub. Rick was the brainchild behind the Great Wing Tour. Dude is always up for a bar and has even started cooking wings himself. Jason and I have been out on adventures and we dine at all sorts of places were I often get wings.
In Toronto I have lots of friends that our hanging out somehow involved wings. Nee is always willing to help me find good wings. Juliana P was always there for me in the Chestnut Reports in the caf to get wings. Julianna L was there to cheer me on for my Wall of Pain at Duff's.
There were so many that I met at the Chestnut, were events and food and nights out involved chicken wings. The friends I ment in Hong Kong wanted to have a reunion where wings were the focus. And of course, LJ has always been there to make me happy with wings. Many of these people are not as crazy obsessed with wings like me, and more than a few never get wings. But I'm lucky that I can have it all with such great friends.
Chicken wings may not come from Canada, but they definitely have become a staple from province to province. I have been all over the world and tried wings everywhere. As mentioned above, the Great Wing Tour in the US produced sub par wings. When I briefly studied in Hong Kong, I had 'guy yik' (sp?) or chicken wings all the time (the cafeteria ladies came to know my 'regular' order), but they just weren't the same. I traveled through Europe and I only found wings in one location - and they were terrible. The first meals I wanted when I came home, or wanted to cheer me up, or celebrate or just have a good time is good old fashion Canadian chicken wings. A spicy, saucy, crispy hot chicken wing is really my taste of Canada. If home is where the heart is, than out with friends and some wings is truly being home in Canada. Chicken wings, good friends, and good times.