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What do Canadians eat? French fries with gravy, for starters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The United States shares the longest nonmilitarized border in the world with Canada, yet many U.S. citizens haven't a clue what their northern neighbors eat.

That particular realization struck Don Burns as he contemplated hosting a Vancouver 2010 Olympics viewing party at his North Natomas home.

"I remember doing a viewing party for the Beijing Olympics, and we got a bunch of Chinese takeout," Burns said.

Canada, however, turned out to be a vexing puzzle for the self-described foodie. He couldn't find one restaurant to get help, so he asked Canadian neighbors, called The Bee and even contacted Canadian consulates in several cities.

"The best way to approach it is to say: 'What's Chinese food? What's Indian food?' The food here is just as immense," said Michael Smith, restaurant chef and star of several Food Network Canada shows. "There isn't one distinct Canadian cuisine."

Favored dishes in Canada often reflect the country's multicultural landscape.

Cathy O'Haigan's food memories swirl around dishes like tourtiere, French-Canadian meat pie, and ragout de pattes de cochon, a pork stew made with pigs' feet. A Sacramentan now, O'Haigan was born in northeastern Quebec and lived there for part of her childhood.

Her mother, an American who learned to prepare those and other dishes after marrying a French-Canadian, made her savory tourtiere with pork and onions.

"The main things that set it off are cinnamon and cloves," O'Haigan said.

There's poutine, which may be Canada's closest thing to a national dish.

French fries are topped with fresh cheese curds (which famously squeak when you eat them) and slathered with gravy in this artery-constricting dish. Poutine can be found in many parts of the country but is most prominent in Quebec, where it originated.

"It's French fries with gravy and cheese. What's not to like?" Smith said.

Read the complete story at sacbee.com