…if you are American.

Canadian bacon is famous as being an intrinsically Canadian food – it is probably the only food that Americans can associate with Canada. Michael Moore even created a movie starring John Candy called Canadian Bacon. But there’s a dark secret lying behind all of this Canadian fame. What Americans call Canadian bacon isn’t Canadian bacon at all!

Americans think we’re just a bunch of hams

If you have actually visited the U.S., you might have noticed this. What Americans call Canadian bacon is a smoked bacon; our bacon isn’t. As a result, American “Canadian bacon” has a flavour more reminiscent of ham than bacon. It usually comes pre-sliced, and it only requires a bit of warming up. It’s more like a sliced sandwich meat than what we think of as bacon.

What probably confuses the Americans is the fact that we Canadians don’t even call our version of bacon “Canadian bacon” – we call it peameal bacon. Our peameal bacon is a roast of meat from the back of a pig (hence the other common term – “back bacon”) that is cured in a briny solution. As I said, it isn’t smoked like the American “Canadian bacon.” It has a flavour that is more of a cross between ham and the marbled bacon we are all familiar with (and what we sometimes call “American bacon”).

Canadian bacon also usually only has a line of fat along the top of the individual slices, and that fat is edged with cornmeal. This, in fact, is where it got its name. Originally, this bacon was prepared with a meal of peas. When processers decided to change the meal to corn, the name remained even though the peas didn’t.

A short history of Canadian bacon

There’s also a lot of confusion as to why this happened, but the best guess comes from Ken Haviland, an exporter of Canadian peameal bacon into the US. He thinks that the whole mess started when there was a pork shortage in England in the 19th century. To combat this shortage, the British started bringing Canadian side bacon over to their country. However, when it arrived, they smoked it. When Americans in England saw this new “Canadian bacon” they thought that Canadians smoked all of their bacon. And when they began smoking their own bacon, they called it “Canadian bacon” in what they thought was our honour.

We need to educate our American cousins about what they are missing

So what does this mean? It means that our American friends don’t actually know what Canadian bacon – peameal bacon – is. I think this is definitely something we need to rectify – think of how it would improve U.S.-Canada relations! The next time you are are planning on hosting any Americans for breakfast (or lunch or dinner) it might be a good idea to serve them some peameal “Canadian” bacon. I have a feeling they’ll thank you for it.

You might also want to warn them about making fun of our beer. John Candy, in Canadian Bacon, learned this particular lesson the hard way:

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Image provided by Sifu Renka