At just 146 years old today, Canada is a young country. But despite our youth, there are many every day foods items that were created by Canadians. Some of our contributions to food, nutrition and health are more apology-worthy for letting them loose upon the world (like processed cheese!), while others are cause for celebration.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most prolific Canadian inventions to shape how we eat, cook and nourish ourselves.
Dry ginger ale.
The name says it all! Created in 1904 by an Ontario pharmacist, John McLaughlin, Canada Dry Ginger Ale was named so as to distinguish it from sweeter and spicier ginger beers on the market already.
Now popular worldwide, the boom in business during Prohibition was attributed to Canada Dry’s ability to mask the taste of homemade hooch!
Instant mashed potatoes.
They may be much derided nowadays, but instant mashed potatoes have helped to feed soldiers and campers alike since 1962. Edward Asselbergs developed the method for cooking, mashing and dehydrating potatoes while he worked at the Department of Agriculture.
Instant mashed potatoes are surprisingly versatile in the kitchen: from-scratch gnocchi, anyone? Here are some great ideas for “respectable” ways to use instant mashed potatoes.
Without peanut butter, Elvis’s favourite sandwich would have just been filled with bananas – boring! While peanuts were likely mashed into a paste by the Aztecs at some point, the first patent for modern-day peanut butter was issued in 1884 to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal.
Think trusty old PB is losing nutritional ground to fancier nut butters? Check out our Peanut Butter vs. Almond Butter Food Fight!
Simply vodka with clamato juice (clam + tomato), Worcestershire sauce and spices, the variety of garnishes offered with the Caesar – from classic celery to pepperoni sticks or shrimp – leave many people asking is it a drink, or is it an appetizer? It’s the perfect cocktail when you are hungry! That’s why May 13th is Caesar Day in Calgary.
The Caesar or Bloody Caesar is a true Canadian original. Created in Calgary in 1969 by hotel bartender Walter Chell, this odd-to-some cocktail is really only popular in Canada to this day. You try finding clamato juice anywhere else!
Chocolate has been around for ages, but it wasn’t until 1910 that a crafty Canadian first combined chocolate and nuts in a bar.
The story goes that the combination of chocolate and nuts was first intended as a snack for fisherman close the the Ganong Brothers Ltd. factory in New Brunswick… and it’s still open and operated by the Ganong family!
Invented in 1892, the electric oven or range was first used to cook food at the Windsor Hotel in Ottawa. In addition to the electric oven, the Canadian “captain of industry” Thomas Ahearn also filed patents for heating streetcars and the electric water heater.
It may not look like much, but this infant cereal developed in 1930 at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto helped to prevent rickets owing to vitamin-enriched formulation. At a time when infant malnutrition was a significant problem, pablum cut nutritional deficiency-related mortality at Sick Kids’ by 45%!
Processed cheese slices.
While it may be called American Cheese in the US, Kraft singles were actually created by a Canadian in 1916*. Sure, James L. Kraft moved to Chicago in 1906, but he learned everything he knew on the family dairy farm in Ontario!
Initially developed with good intentions for a less perishable and more food-safe cheese product, processed cheese is now synonymous with greasy fast food burgers. Kraft also created Miracle Whip and Velveeta, and his namesake company is now a processed food giant. We’re kind of sorry about this one…
Voted the #1 Canadian invention of all time on the aptly-named CBC mini-series The Greatest Canadian Invention, insulin therapy has kept millions of people with type 1 diabetes alive.
Yes, it is not a food product but it’s been revolutionary in the world of nutrition! Developed in 1921 by Dr. Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best (with assistance from Dr. John Macleod) at the University of Toronto, they extracted insulin from a dog’s pancreas (1).
Prior to insulin therapy there was little doctors could do for those with diabetes aside from very low carbohydrate diets, which didn’t prolong life more than a few years. But in January 1922, a 14-year old Leonard Thompson became the first person to receive an injection of insulin and had his extremely high 29 mmol/L blood glucose levels drop to 6.7 mmol/L. As they say, the rest is history! In 1923, Banting and Macleod received the Nobel Prize.
Happy Canada Day! Bonne fête du Canada!
1. Rosenfeld L. Insulin: discovery and controversy. Clin Chem 2002; 48:2270-88.
*Processed cheese was actually first produced in Switzerland in 1911, BUT Kraft applied for the patent in 1916 and has gone down in history as the father of cheese slices!