Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poutine, Butter Tarts, and Cooky Canucks

For most of us here in the United States, we look forward with anticipation to Thanksgiving-a time to bring out the turkey, pumpkin pie, fellowship, and of course, Black Friday deals.  I got to experience an early Thanksgiving earlier this month, October 6th, by celebrating with my Canadian husband, Canadian Thanksgiving, hosted by The Canadian Club of Houston.  

First of all, it was awesome to me that we live in a city that has such a creative organization to make "Canucks"  feel at home and to connect them with fellow Canadians throughout the city.  I had to laugh out loud a little when I read on the invitation that we would be celebrating with a Canadian meal followed by ice skating!  So stereotypical.  How about a little poutine as well, eh?  Which by the way, if you don't know what that is, I am going to explain it later on.  

So, we pulled up to the ice skating complex greeted by a huge Canadian flag, on a dreary, cool day (also quite befitting-also extremely rare for Houston). Immediately, I noticed how jubilant Canadians are as a whole-I don't know if this is because they were so excited to be celebrating a day apart from American culture or because they are just an extremely nice group of people.  My husband assured me it was primarily the latter.  We continued along where we were greeted by bartenders serving Molsen Canadian beer and Caesars.  Caesars are a similar version of our Bloody Mary's except clamato juice is used in place of tomato juice.  Personally, I find them to knock Bloody Mary's out of the water!  We mingled with various Canadians, learning many interesting journeys and stories that brought them to Houston, Texas.  I learned that Canadian Thanksgiving occurred 43 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, that their reason for celebrating originated as a harvest festival,  and that it was typically celebrated the 2nd Sunday in October, even though Monday is the official holiday.  Then, we got in line for our meal.  I was very curious as to how the food was going to be in comparison to our typical Thanksgiving fare in the United States.  Our plates consisted of light and dark meat baked turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean medley, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, and dressing (usually stuffing is used, but my husband assured me this was cornbread dressing to which my reply was "Well, we are in Texas.").  For dessert, we were offered pumpkin pie and/or butter tarts.  We actually had butter tarts at our wedding that Owen's mom and sister made for our Canadian dessert groom's table as shown below, so I was pretty familiar with these.  However, at this meal they were three times as big and the fillings varied.  After a lively discussion at the table about butter tarts, we came to the consenus that they typically consist of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg filled into a flaky pastry baked until the filling is semi-done, runny inside and crunchy on top.  Generally, raisins are in the traditional butter tart, but walnuts or pecans may be added.  Butter tarts differ from pecan pie in their shape and the absence of cornstarch, making them runnier.  A typical butter tart could also contain up to 500 calories, so it is definitely a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions!  

After lunch, we did a little ice skating, in which I was very embarrassed by little Canadian hockey protege children, as well as old men and women, making it look so effortless.  My only consolation was remembering that I grew up in the land of cotton, not the land of snow and the only similarities are that they are both white and fluffy.  After skating, we had poutine and Tim Horton's coffee.  Poutine is a common Canadian dish, originally from Quebec, consisting of french fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds.  The dietitian in me thought up a healthier (notice I said healthi-ER) way to modify this recipe-use fresh potatoes, cut them into wedges, and bake them with a little Canola oil versus frying them.  Then, instead of using cheese curds, use part-skim mozzarella cheese cut up into cubes.  I was getting hung up on the gravy alternatives though, especially of how to make it taste and look right, so I did some research on recipes and found this one that seems quite tasty and as I said, healthi-ER.  My only recommendation would be using the part-skim mozzarella cheese or some sort of low-fat/fat-free white cheese.  Poutine is found all across Canadian restaurants and fast food chains.  With regards to our coffee, Tim Horton's is one of the most famous Canadian chains, known for its coffee and donuts.  There are a few locations in the USA as well, primarily around the east coast, including New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and Michigan.  

From a food perspective, what did I learn from this event?  Well, Canadians like their fried, buttery foods just as much as we Americans do! I learned about variations of items that we have in the USA, such as the poutine versus fries, butter tarts versus pecan pie, and Caesars versus Bloody Mary's.  I found the people, the food, and the atmosphere to be most enjoyable and found myself being most thankful that I was able to celebrate a day of thanks with another culture of people, and in doing so, gained a better understanding and appreciation for their culture and heritage.  Below, I have some photos highlighting some of these adventures! 

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Food and Nutrition Expo (FNCE) conference held in Houston, so be checking back to hear about that experience! And remember, even though American Thanksgiving hasn't occurred yet, it is never too early to remember to give thanks.  



  1. It was nice to hear an American's thoughts on our Canadian Thanksgiving. It really is not much different that your American one except for the skating. Grandma

  2. What a wonderful article. Thanks so much for attending this years CCOH Thanksgiving. You can expect more butter tarts at Christmas! Cheers!

    1. Thanks Dave! Enjoyed the event and can't wait to attend more Canadian things in the future :)