Every year when I briefly leave Manitoba and head back home to Nova Scotia for vacation I create a laundry list of food I simply must eat while on the east coast. Most Manitobans assume I can't wait to eat Atlantic seafood. This is true, the scallops, lobster, haddock, halibut, clams and mussels are simply amazing and plentiful, but you might be surprised at some of the other Nova Scotian foods not available in Manitoba that make my must eat list.
Dulse. I grew up near the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. For as long as I can remember, dulse, which is dried seaweed, has been part of my life. When the ocean retreats to low tide the dulse is harvested and dried. Then it is bagged and sold. You east dulse like potato chips, simply open the bag and pop a few pieces in your mouth. It is a chewy, salty treat that most people either love or hate. I love it. Once, a few years ago, my Nova Scotia family mailed me a bag of dulse. My Manitoban coworkers couldn't believe the salty smell that filled up the room as I opened the package. If you are in Nova Scotia keep your eyes open for bags of dulse at farm markets, and local convenience and grocery stores. Definitely give it a try and report back on your thoughts!
Moon Mist Ice Cream. There are thousands of kinds of ice cream in the world but as far as I know the only place to get moon mist ice cream is in Atlantic Canada. The name implies it is out of this world and it is - it is simply amazing! Moon mist ice cream is a combination of banana, grape and bubblegum flavours with swirls of soft pastel colours. It sounds strange, but trust me it is delicious and can be found at most ice cream stands all over Nova Scotia.
Larsen's Hot Dogs. Larsen's has a long time tradition of making the best and most popular hot dogs on the east coast of Canada. When Maple Leaf purchased Larsen's a few years ago they changed the classic recipe for the iconic hot dog. The people of Nova Scotia revolted and forced Maple Leaf to return to the classic and familiar Larsen's recipe and once again the delicious and original Larsen's recipe is available in stores - but only in Atlantic Canada. The best wiener roasts on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean are always with these Larsen's hot dogs. I even have transplanted east coast friends that cart dozens of packages of Larsen's hot dogs in their suitcases back to western Canada because they love them so much and refuse to eat any other kind!
Pepperoni. Nova Scotia makes some of the most delicious pepperoni I have ever eaten. I can't find anything in Manitoba that comes close to the flavours, textures and sizes available in Nova Scotia. Bluenosers love to cut it into chunks and deep fry the pepperoni and dip it into honey mustard. Oh so good and available at many Nova Scotia pubs and restaurants. Keep your eyes open when looking over Nova Scotia menus!
Hodge Podge. A strange name for a very simple yet delicious Nova Scotia summer staple. Nova Scotia is known for an abundance of local fruit and veggies and one of the most popular supper time side dishes is hodge podge, which combines fresh veggies with butter and cream. Traditionally it is made with local potatoes, green and yellow beans, carrots and peas, although various families throw in other favourites - basically whatever is in the local garden or available at the farm market is fair game. The vegetables are boiled together until cooked. Then the water is drained off and butter, cream, salt and pepper is added and warmed to create a satisfying soupy and creamy mixture similar to a stew or chowder. One of my all time favourite foods, hodge podge is a must for me on any Nova Scotia summer vacation.
Nova Scotia Brown Bread. In Manitoba when someone says brown bread they are usually referring to a regular, whole wheat bread. Not in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia brown bread is a delicious, thick, moist, brown bread made with molasses and oats. Traditionally in rural Nova Scotia this brown bread is best served with baked beans on a Saturday night. You can find Nova Scotia brown bread for sale in local bakeries and farm markets, and on the menu in rural mom and pop type eateries. It truly is a unique and delicious bread, and I have dreams of learning how to bake the perfect loaf and popularizing it in Manitoba.
Donair. A true Halifax creation, donairs are the choice of many Nova Scotians after a few beers, or for a quick lunch or supper. It is a combination of beef and spices that is cooked while rotating with low heat then shaved and fried. The donair meat is placed on top of a pita bread with onions and tomatoes and then smothered in donair sauce which is very thick and sweet. Best eaten wrapped up in tinfoil to prevent drips, it has been a Nova Scotia staple for many years, and is particularly popular with teenagers and late night twenty-something bar hoppers. It is available in all Nova Scotia pizza shops, and also comes in a variety of options such as donair pizza and donair sausages. Over the last few years donairs have slowly been making their way to western Canada, but no place makes them quite as good as Nova Scotia. Be sure to check out a Halifax-style donair when in the maritimes.
Summer Savory. This herb is very popular in Nova Scotia and is grown locally. It is available elsewhere in the world but I have had much difficulty locating it in Manitoba. Summer savory is used in Nova Scotia on turkeys and chickens, soups, roasting potatoes, and in dressing and stuffing. I can't really describe it except it kind of tastes like sage, and a turkey or dressing without summer savory just isn't as tasty! I remember quite well my first Thanksgiving in Manitoba. I went to various Manitoba grocery stores attempting to purchase some summer savory to use on my turkey and in my dressing but could not find it for sale anywhere - all I could find was ground savory which has a very different texture. My mom ended up shipping me a bag of summer savory from Nova Scotia so I could make my turkey and dressing correctly. Now I am always careful to pick up another bag when in Nova Scotia and pack it in my suitcase to get me through the next year in Manitoba.
Garlic Fingers. A classic Nova Scotia pizza shop treat where pizza dough is layered with garlic and cheese, and sometimes parsley and bacon bits. It is baked like pizza until the top is golden brown. It is cut into long finger like strips and then dipped in donair sauce (a white, thick and sweet sauce). This is quick and delicious finger food, and is a common east coast appetizer. I like it best toasted extra brown and with extra garlic. There are similar items in Manitoba, such as bread sticks, but none come close to the popular and tasty garlic fingers available in Nova Scotia. A must have for any transplanted Bluenoser who finds themselves home in Nova Scotia.
Besides seafood, what Nova Scotia foods are your favourites? Transplanted Nova Scotians - what do you put on your must eat list when travelling home to Nova Scotia?
If you haven't heard the song written by a Nova Scotian about the recipe change for the Larsen Wiener have a listen! I guess you could say that this song was part of the wiener recipe revolt that helped bring the original and best Larsen wiener recipe back!