Food Culture in Canada

The movement of humans across the globe has led to cuisine changing across regions. This webpage looks at four different cultural components of popular food from their origin to their evolution in Canada today. Each offering media resources like videos, interactive maps, and artifact background to further supplement learning.


The Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network


First Nations people would make baskets such as these out of cedar bark and roots to cook, store, and transport food.


They were so skilled in basket weaving that often the baskets were airtight and could even hold liquids. If one wanted to use a basket for cooking they would fill the basket with water and add hot rocks, which would then steam the food.


The baskets were also used for picking berries and harvesting other crops, as well as for trading with other First Nations groups.

    4 Primary Indigenous Food Resources



    4 Primary Indigenous Food Resources



Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock

Cree Words Pronounciation


Fish Knife

Knives are the oldest technology in the world. The first knives were made from stone 2.5 million years ago. Even then there were different types of knives, ones for chopping and ones for slicing. As humans began to work with metal, naturally knives were also made from metal, and as tasks became more specialized and complicated, many different types of knives emerged.

Fish Knife

This knife is a boning knife, or gokujo in Japanese, because of its sharp point and narrow blade. It can be used for meat, poultry, and fish. Typically the ones for poultry and fish have a more flexible blade.

Sushi: Types and Names

A Brief History of Sushi

   Japan Interactive Map


Meat Grinder

The first meat grinder was invented in the 1840s by Karl Drais (also the inventor of the earliest form of bicycle and the earliest typewriter with a keyboard). Prior to this people would use a knife with a curved blade called a mincing knife. The invention quickly spread all over Europe and North America. Nowadays you can buy electric meat grinders and huge industrial-sized ones, but the design for manual meat grinders has largely remained unchanged since it was invented.

This meat grinder is originally from Germany. It survived two World Wars, was rescued in WWII from the bombed remains of the house of the family who used it, and was brought to Canada in 1954.

Cast Iron Flat Top

The first people to create cast iron were the Chinese in as early as the 6th century BCE. The first cast iron in Europe was produced starting in the 14th century. Cast iron was used for a lot of different things because it was fairly easy to produce.

Cast Iron Flat Top

Mostly used throughout time for construction and artillery (cannon balls), it became a popular material for cookware starting in the 17th century because of its ability to conduct heat evenly. Early cast iron cookware was limited to pots with lids and feet that would sit on or over a fire. In the 18th and 19th centuries flat-bottomed skillets became more popular and continue to be used today.

Cast Iron Flat Top

This flat cooking skillet has a handle that made it easy to hang over a fire. It could have been used to cook all sorts of things, including flatbread or pizza.

Oral History with David Azzi

Who Invented Pizza?

   Italy Interactive Map


Ginger Jar

These jars were used to store all sorts of spices in China. They are called ginger jars because when China began exporting spices to the Western World in the 16th century, the main spice was ginger and so that is what the West began calling them.

Ginger Jar

The oldest ones can be traced back over 2000 years to the Qin Dynasty. The most common jars are white with blue designs but can be found in many different colours and patterns. By the 19th century they were hardly used for spices anymore because of the demand for them as decorative pieces.

Ginger Jar

Our ginger jar does not have a maker’s mark to tell us where it came from or how old it is, but it resembles Shiwan-style ginger jars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Shiwan jars are hexagonal with a pattern pressed into each side. They are almost always glazed green.

Ginger Jar

These jars are made in the Shiwanzhen Subdistrict of the provincial city of Foshan, near Guangzhou, Guandong (a little northwest of Hong Kong). This region has been making pottery for thousands of years, but mass production started during the Ming Dynasty. One kiln, the Nanfeng kiln, has been in use for over 500 years. Shiwan pottery was considered rough compared to pottery from other regions in China.

Rice Paddle

A rice paddle is also called a shamoji in Japanese. It is said that the first rice paddle was invented by a Japanese monk in Itsukushima, which is in Southern Japan. Most rice paddles these days are made from plastic, but traditionally they were made from bamboo or wood. As rice can be very sticky, paddles were often dipped in water to keep rice from sticking. In Japan the rice paddle has been used as a symbol of unity between mother and daughter, and often they are passed down through the generations. Scotland has a similar utensil for making porridge, called a spurtle.

Making Fortune Cookies

   China Interactive Map