Eating identity: challenging narratives of Canadianness through culinary identity building
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 15:06 by Natalie Ramtahal
This MRP will examine how food can be used as a tool for challenging traditional nation stories and growing notions of what it means to be Canadian. There is an opportunity to write and shape a Canadian narrative that is inclusive of its evolving demography while simultaneously reconciling its violent history by developing a Canadian culinary identity. Food is political, social and cultural. Food can bring people together and can provide a platform to have compelling discussions about what it means to be Canadian; who is included in the definition of Canadian; and, how we can develop a sense of Canadianness that speaks to an evolving population. Historically and at present, Canada’s story has often excluded or minimized the cultural, political and social contributions of Indigenous peoples and racialized immigrants. There remains a prevailing sense of Canadian identity being tethered to whiteness despite over a century of global immigration. However, the very idea of what defines Canadianness is relatively tenuous one. There are few traits, markers, or qualities that are seen as characteristically Canadian. This is even more true for Canada’s culinary identity. What exactly is Canadian food? Canada, as a nation, is a relatively new country without a clear culinary identity. Further, Canada is an expansive land mass covering different time zones, geographic regions, and climates. To further complicate matters, it is place for people from all over the world to immigrate. Nowhere is the impact of immigration and the diversity of people more evident than in Toronto. How the city has changed demographically is reflected in the diversification of it’s culinary landscape. The wide range of available foods reveals and affirms how the appetites and desires of those that live here have also changed. International foods, restaurants and markets are not only ubiquitous, but a defining characteristic of the city. Where, what and how people eat can provide insight into how historical systems of inequality and colonial narratives persist. Growing and developing Canadian culinary identity is a way of challenging the idea of whiteness as a prerequisite for being Canadian. It is a potential way to acknowledge and include immigrant contributions. Food is wrapped up in politics of inequality and injustice, just as much as it is in pleasure and desire. Mapping how food is used as a tool that furthers colonization and racist dogma is key for shifting food to a tool for education and understanding. Food has the power to open up conversation and reshape understandings of Canadian identity through developing and defining a distinct Canadian culinary position. If an understanding about Canadian culinary identity is inclusive of its complex and divergent cultural and political history, then perhaps there is an opportunity to rethink Canadian identity as a whole. The goal of this MRP is to establish that food can be used as an ideological intervention that examines, challenges and reimagines Canadian identity.