1. Thanksgiving dinner
A typical Thanksgiving spread. Photo: Deposit Photos.
While my entire family back home in Toronto will be feasting on a giant turkey on Monday, complete with the fixings such as cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing, I’ll be boo-hooing across the pond in Berlin wishing I had Canadian friends to celebrate Thanksgiving with.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is a public holiday that’s observed on the second Monday of October, unlike our neighbours down south who celebrate in November.
In my Canadian-Filipino family, we do it up potluck-style. This means that one of my aunts will bring in roast ham that’s too dry like she always does, someone will forget to make gravy and a few of my relatives will opt to bring Filipino food to complement the more traditional dishes.
As long as the turkey isn’t dry and there’s pumpkin pie or pecan pie for dessert, I’m a happy camper. Come to think of it, since I usually bring in dessert whenever I’m home for Thanksgiving, baking myself a pie this evening wouldn’t be a bad idea. Pumpkin or pecan?
2. Peanut butter
The good news is that you can actually find peanut butter in Germany. The bad news is that the variety and quality of peanut butter here stinks, perhaps because there isn’t huge demand for it. Very few Germans I know eat, let alone like, peanut butter.
In countries like Canada and the UK, the shelves are stocked with multiple brands of peanut butter offering a diverse array of flavours ranging from all-natural peanut butter with sea salt to peanut butter mixed with chocolate, cinnamon or honey.
But in Germany, this is far from the case. Here you can find a peanut butter product at most discount supermarkets (look for the American flag on the label), but having tried the product before, I’ve vowed never to buy it again.
You can also find peanut butter at organic shops and drug stores like DM and Rossmann, but for the amount you get, it’s pretty pricey. Recently I discovered you can buy one kilogram jars of peanut butter on Amazon at fair price points.
Still, generally speaking, none of the peanut butter I’ve encountered in Germany compares in terms of taste and texture to my favourite types (e.g. Kraft All Natural Crunchy) and brands from back home.
3. Montreal-style bagels
Hands up if any of you have gotten excited before at the sight of bagels in a German supermarket that looked legitimate, but when you popped them into your toaster later and took a big bite out of them, you were underwhelmed.
Well, if this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Not only are decent bagels hard to come by in Germany, Montreal-style bagels are virtually non-existent.
What are Montreal-style bagels, you ask? Only the best type of bagel on the planet. What makes them special is how they’re prepared: boiled in honey-sweetened water and baked in a wood-fired oven, resulting in a denser, smaller bagel with an incredible crisp to them.
Brought to Montreal, Quebec in the early 1900s by Jewish immigrants from Poland, other eastern European countries and Russia, nowadays bakeries in Montreal that sell the city’s famed bagels are open 24 hours a day.
But while you can find Montreal-style bagels all over Canada, they’re hard to find anywhere outside the country. Which means I’ll just have to live without them for now unless I finally try my hand at making them myself.
No, that word is not spelled incorrectly and I’m not referring to the President of Russia (someone always makes a Putin joke whenever I talk about poutine).
One of Canada’s top national dishes, poutine is comparable to Currywurst or Döner in Germany in the sense that it’s fast food you can eat anytime of day, but Canadians especially enjoy it as a late-night snack.
So what is it exactly? Classic poutine consists of french fries smothered in beef gravy and topped with cheese curds. Simple as that. But the way the hot gravy melts the cheese and the squeak of the cheese curds when you bite into them will change your entire conception of fries, I'm sure of it.
For now I’ve yet to encounter authentic poutine in Germany. According to TripAdvisor, decent poutine can be had at a restaurant in Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia. But travelling over 600 kilometres whenever I’m hit with pangs of poutine cravings is out of the question.
I wouldn’t mind making the dish myself, to be honest. The only issue with that idea is I’ve never been able to find cheese curds in any cheese shops or supermarkets in Germany (and it’d be ludicrous to dare use another type of cheese such as mozzarella instead).
5. Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Photo: Deposit Photos.
While pancakes with bacon and maple syrup is a dish that isn’t exclusive to Canada, it’s still definitely a popular brunch choice in the country whether at home or in restaurants. Plus it involves maple syrup, which automatically ups its Canadianness.
But good luck finding the speciality in Germany, a country where pancakes aren’t even served at McDonald’s. It’s rare to see North American-style pancakes at any cafes and restaurants here – probably because it just doesn’t appeal to German palates.
On several occasions I personally have been met with shocked looks at the mere mention of eating pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. People can’t seem to wrap their head around the sweet and savoury combination.
Having given up on my search, I’ve resorted to preparing this dish myself, often at the weekends. That said though, while it’s relatively easy to find maple syrup here, finding thick cuts of bacon in German supermarkets is another challenge altogether.
6. Ketchup chips
— Derrick Eh Hamner (@DAHammz) December 24, 2012
For me personally, the best thing about these chips (or crisps, for you British readers out there) is actually not its unusual smoky, salty, sweet and tart taste, but rather, its colour.
A staple in Canadian grocery stores – which by the way nowadays also offer maple-bacon flavoured chips and poutine-flavoured chips – these bright red snacks are probably something I miss dearly only because I grew up eating them.
Despite controversy over whether they actually originate from Canada or the US, what remains undisputed today is that they have been a quintessential Canadian snack since the 1970s.
Needless to say, similar to most other countries outside of Canada, in Germany, ketchup chips are tricky to find. But those whose cravings simply cannot be suppressed might be happy to know that Lays, one of the pioneer brands of ketchup chips, can be purchased on Amazon.
7. Coffee Crisp
— Derek (@revolize) August 13, 2017
Born in the UK in the 1930s and introduced to Canada afterward, Coffee Crisp is a chocolate bar made in Canada that is named rather appropriately.
This is because the bar is completely covered with a layer of milk chocolate, feels light in your hand and is indeed crispy when you bite into its combination of vanilla and coffee-flavoured layers.
And I’m just one more Canadian among a large group of us worldwide who have long lamented the chocolate bar’s relative unavailability in countries other than Canada.
8. Butter tarts
Canadians are so proud of this dessert, they’ve even created festivals dedicated to the humble butter tart.
A staple in Canadian cuisine, butter tarts are pastries I very much associate with my childhood as I often bought them at the bakery across from my elementary school. Too bad I can’t find them in any bakeries here in Germany now though.
Named somewhat appropriately, butter tarts do contain lots of butter. The tart’s pastry shell is made up of butter and flour and then it is filled with a luscious combination of eggs, butter, sugar and maple syrup before the dessert is tossed into the oven.
After they’ve been baked, when eaten the tart filling is slightly runny, resulting in an ooey, gooey, sticky experience that is so out of this world, I almost feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t yet tried this dessert.
Some recipes call for walnuts or pecans to be added to the tarts, which isn’t as controversial as some people’s preference for raisins to be added to the mix.
9. Tim Horton’s coffee
— Tim Hortons at HHOF (@TimHortonsHHOF) October 8, 2017
Now before you ask me what’s so great about Tim Horton’s coffee, let me explain. To set the record straight, I don’t actually think there’s anything special about Timmy’s coffee.
What I will admit, however, is that one of the best things about being back home for a visit is the ease of being able to get your hands on a cheap cup of decent-tasting coffee pretty much everywhere you go.
Across Canada, the Canadian fast food chain is so popular that in the big cities such as Toronto and Montreal, you can find one at almost every major intersection. This convenience is something I miss dearly.
Meanwhile in Germany, it’s taken some time but I think I’ve finally learned to live without Timmy’s coffee. That being said though, who knows whether it'll come here one day; the chain has already expanded to countries such as the US, Oman, the Philippines and the UK.
10. Nanaimo bars
Shamelessly decadent, nanaimo bars contain a layer of yellow custard that’s soft and pillowy in texture sandwiched between a coconut-graham crust and chocolate ganache.
Named after the town of Nanaimo in British Columbia off of Canada’s west coast, this culinary curiosity is a beloved Canadian treat that's also up there with foods I fondly associate with my childhood.
In Nanaimo, there’s even a ‘Nanaimo Bar Trail’ for visitors which includes 39 bars, cafes, restaurants and food shops which each offer a food or drink that incorporates nanaimo bars. One restaurant for instance serves nanaimo bar spring rolls and another one has deep-fried nanaimo bars.
But in Germany, similar to most countries outside of Canada, spotting even classic nanaimo bars is uncommon. If you’re dying to know how it tastes though, you could always make it yourself.
One German food blogger points out that custard powder is harder to find in Germany compared to Canada; her nanaimo bar recipe includes a homemade version of the custard layer.