The Iconic Canadian Wayne Gretzky

There is this man, and he has motivated people all across our nation to work hard, be patient, and foster their own talents. He has inspired our children to act as leaders, with the power of what can be, instead of what currently is.

There is this man, and at the age of 14 he decided to leave his hometown and move to Toronto, with the hope of creating a better future for himself.

There is this man, and his name has rung through the ears of both faithful hockey fans, with their painted faces and waving flags, and the not-so-interested Canadians, who would have heard of him from ecstatic friends, endearing teachers, or proud parents. “Wayne Gretzky” has become a household name.

There is this man, and he plays hockey. He represents both Canadian diligence and resilience, and in his sport seems to be a reflection of our own ideals.

Still, how had he become such a hero? All across the web statements supporting his work and play can be found. On his public Facebook page, which totals almost 80,000 individuals, one middle-aged fellow stated that, “No other man, except my father, had such an important influence on my childhood.” Adults growing up at the same time as Gretzky watched him as a peer: excelling, growing, and eventually reaching an absolute pinnacle of stardom.

“Growing up” for Gretzky was spending hours on the ice rink his father made in their back yard practicing his shots, skating tactics, and stick handling. He was talented, for at the age of 10 he broke his first record in his hometown Brantford by scoring 378 goals in their atom league. Often he battled older youth on the ice, becoming increasingly prominent as he went, and he was the youngest person to ever score 50 or more goals in a season. Years later, his career totaled at 894 goals, and he was one of the only 3 players to ever score more than 100 assists in a season (he had done it 11 times).

But why is he an iconic Canadian? Is it because no matter what level of fame he acquired he still seemed to instilled a sense of humility to his fans? Or was it because despite his challenges he had been able to climb to the top of his sport? Was it because he was the youngest, the fastest, or the the most diligent? Was it a mixture of media favour and dumb luck?

It could be all of the above, and really, it could be because he was passionate about his goals (pun intended). He showed us that we all can do great things, if we were willing to put in the effort. Where would he have been if he didn’t spend those days on his father’s ice rink? What would he have done, if he had just hoped for the scouts to find him in his yard? It seems likely that not much would have happened. Talent needs fostering, and he understood that.

Speaking of that man today, with legacy running through hundreds of books, and in the minds of thousands of Canadians, one can only say that:

There is a man, and he is a great Canadian.

-Alicia Vanin

Canadian Cuisine

What is Canadian Cuisine? Is the lack of a defined Canadian culture a deficit to Canadian cuisine or is its diversity what defines it? I’m going to try to decipher the cuisine of our multicultural heritage.

The First Nations cooking traditions are the original Canadian cuisine. When European settlers first stepped foot on North American soil it was the aboriginal people that helped them survive and taught them respect for the land. Teaching them how to make pemican, maple syrup, and “pumpkin pie”(at this time in history Native Americans would hollow out a pumpkin filling it with maple sugar and spices, The original pumpkin pie). As we moved west we learned of bent wood boxes, bison and the long tradition of smoking fish.

During the time the settlers spent colonizing the country a few unique food items were created. Bannock was a bread made with baking powder. Originally it was cooked in a fire, but now it’s mostly cooked in a pan with oil or baked. Pemmican is a mixture of animal fat, salted meat, and dried berries that was made into “protein bars” which the fur traders would take with them on their long journeys.

In the Maritimes cod fishing was a way of life. It sustained the entire economy for five-hundred years until the almost complete overfishing lead to restrictions and bans on the industry. Ottawa just recently re-established limited cod catches off the south coast. The fisherman that made their living off cod cooked it in all sorts of ways. They made fish sausage, chowders, and salted or smoked the cod. Since the decline of cod, many of these recipes have had the cod swapped with oysters, lobster, or other fish that are more plentiful. Needless to say our great country has a long history of taking advantage of the abundance of the sea.

In central areas of the country like Ontario and Quebec a distinctively French influence would shape our cuisine. The Metis people (European/Native blood that can trace their roots to the Red River Settlement) and the French developed recipes that would use the local meats, vegetables, and fruits. I believe this relationship thrived because both the French and Metis had a strong sense of where there food came from. The French called it terroir and the Metis had a deep connection to the land through their spiritual practices. They believed that mother earth was powerful and needed to be respected (a practice I think we should all learn from). Dishes like Tortier, rabbit stew, and the pumpkin pie that we are all familiar with came out of this relationship.

Quebec had a strong Jewish population that in the early 20th century created a kosher-style deli-meat that we now call Montreal Smoked Meat, traditionally served with mustard and rye bread. This may be the single most famous food that came out of Canada (other than maple syrup which we did not invent, just harvest). You can still get a traditional smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen.

Eastern Canada is also the home of the poutine and maple syrup. The poutine is a simple yet awesome creation that combines French fries, gravy and cheese curds. It was created in the 1970s and is a favourite among the country’s younger population. Canada is the worlds largest producer of maple syrup. This has lead chefs and home cooks all over the country to beautifully incorporate it into their cooking. We have many maple flavoured desserts and savoury dishes. Whisky and maple glazed salmon is just one example.

The wild west has a slightly different food culture than the east. Meat and potatoes dominate the tables in the prairies. While for thousands of years the native people were able to hunt, and sustain the population of the wild Buffalo, unfortunately once the European settlers crossed the plains to the west of Canada, the sixty-million bison that roamed the countryside in the nineteenth century soon diminished to less than one-thousand. Ranches and conservationists helped bring this almost extinct animal back to a population of a quarter million. Bison meat is now a prized meat and hopefully the populations will continue to grow.

British Columbia’s food heritage is one to be proud of. Organic farming, sustainable fishing practices and a focus on local foods sets them apart from the rest of Canada. The weather is quite mild allowing them to have a much more abundant harvest. They have also contributed to Canadian classics such as the Nanaimo bar, and cedar plank salmon.

Canada’s farm land is unique. In the prairies it lends it’s self to grain and potatoes. Canola, wheat and barley grow across this enormous area. This has lead to a long heritage of beer making. Canada is known for its selection of fine beers that rival the best in the world. British Columbia and Niagara’s farm land is suitable for many fruits and vegetables. The summer in these areas allow for millions of Canadians to enjoy fresh, crisp and local produce. Grapes also thrive in these areas and, like the beers of the prairies, the wine and ice wine that comes out of these regions are some of the worlds greatest.

Canada has a unique food history that is painted with diversity that helps define our cuisine. French, Metis, English, Native, Jewish, and everything in-between has contributed to our unique bill of fare. Bison, cod, wine, and beer are just a few of the staples that define our heritage. I’m sure locally many more dishes can contribute to our growing history. Feel free to leave a comment telling us of your Canadian food history. I hope that the knowledge of the First Nations and the French’s sense of place helps us to continue to grow a fruitful and sustainable culture of food in Canada.

A Great Canadian Workout

How do Canadians stay in shape? Easily. In our great country we are lucky to have physical activity as part of our everyday lives. If you do these workouts a few times a year you will have that lean lumberjack figure you always wanted.

The ice fishing workout

You drill a hole in the ice working your whole upper body. Haul out your beer using your shoulders. Use your back and bicep to reel in your fish. Hike back to your igloo for your cardio. Do this workout once a week, eat the fish you’ve caught, and you’ll have your lumberjack body in no time.

Portaging workout

This workout is grueling. First you us your upper body to load up your backpack with gear and get the canoe in the river. Work-out your back by paddling the canoe until you cannot go any further and use your legs to drag it out of the water. Get the canoe on your back and hike, carrying it until you reach another body of water. Repeat until you reach your destination. If you do this workout a few times a summer your sure to impress the ladies at camp.

Lumberjack workout

This workout engages all the muscle groups. Take down a tree with your axe to work your upper body and core. Then once the tree is on the ground, get out the saw and work your arms and back. Now, that the logs are in smaller pieces you can start carrying them back to the cabin a few at a time to work your legs and for cardio. Don’t forget chopping the fire wood, this will target your arms and core. A few times a week and that plaid shirt will fit better than ever.

These are just some of the ways Canadians stay fit. We also ski, dog-sled, build igloos, and mountain climb to name a few more. Leave a comment or check out our Facebook page to let us know how you stay in shape!

Happy Birthday Canada

In May of 2011 The Great Canadian Online Magazine was started to answer the question, What has made Canada so great? Along the way I’ve asked this question to lots of Canadians. Some people have told me its our health care, others say its the glorious landscapes. But every person I ask seems to have another equally compelling reason for the greatness.

The Great Canadian Online Magazine currently has nine writers that are all excited to write about our great country, Canada. They want to write about our cuisine, our businesses, and our people. After speaking with several Canadians and reading all the articles on this site, I have come up with this conclusion: What makes Canada great is simply the people. Tommy Douglas helped shape Canada’s health care system, and from Wayne Gretzky to David Suzuki this country is packed full of great people.

So, tonight I am not only celebrating the birth of our great country, but, I’m celebrating all of the people. A country with endless opportunity, that helps shape the minds and actions of Canadians. Happy birthday Canada and thank you for all you have done for us.

Check out these other great Canadian sites:


Roasted Strawberry Shortcake With Basil Whipped Cream

Every now and then you make a new friend that is the bee’s knees (who knew bees had cool knees). For the first little while you two are inseparable. You call your newest, bestest pal all the time. Together you develop inane inside jokes and make outlandish plans that you’ll never see through. Every relationship, whether it be romantic or platonic, has a honeymoon phase. Such behavior is not only restricted to people. Believe me, you can form a sincere attachment to an amazing new recipe and currently I am happily honeymooning with roasted strawberries.

Yes, I said roasted!

Sweet and intriguingly tart, roasted strawberries are amazing (hot or cold) with pancakes, ice cream, scones; you name it and I will probably eat it! With Canada Day on the horizon I knew exactly what do with my new main squeeze. What better way to celebrate the advanced age of our beloved country than with the most patriotic cake around: Strawberry shortcake!

I mean, check out that color scheme! What a beaut!

Every year, without fail, my family marked Canada Day with strawberry shortcake. My Grandmother made the same recipe every year and it’s a classic in the truest sense. But since I am no longer a precocious four year-old sporting a mean sunburn and an awesome pair of mini-mouse sunglasses, I felt it might be time to expand my horizons and try something new.

I give you strawberry shortcake all grown up with roasted strawberries spiked with balsamic vinegar, topped with basil whipped cream. Sweet and savory, complex yet amazingly simplistic; this potluck favorite just got a little more sophisticated. Give these adorable little cakes a good home this Canada Day! You just might make a fantastic new friend.

Tip: You can make the strawberries and biscuits in advance, but wait to whip the cream until it’s time to serve.

Click on the recipe for a full page printable copy.