New Brunswick: If the People Don’t Have You Speaking Franglais, the Beer Just Might

In the last few weeks we’ve demystified bakeapples in Newfoundland, drooled over Canada’s “Food Island” in P.E.I. and explained what separates Halifax donairs from the rest in Nova Scotia, so today we’re rounding out Canada’s Maritime provinces with New Brunswick.

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Est-ce que vous speaker Franglais?

What makes New Brunswick unique from the other atlantic provinces is that it is Canada’s only officially bilingual province (aka- French and English are given equal importance).  This has lead to a very interesting amalgamation of both languages known as Franglais or Frenglish.  Phrases like Je vais driver downtown (I’m going to drive downtown) or Je care pas (I don’t care) are just a couple of examples of what you might hear throughout the province.  Alternatively you can just speak English with a French accent and you’ll achieve a similar effect, although this may lead to some confusion when someone actually tries to speak French with you…

Comment est-ce que Franglais start?

Ok we promise we’ll lay off the franglais for now.  But in all seriousness, this combination of languages did not come about by french and english people happily sitting on a hillside having a picnic together.  The reality is that the province had a pretty turbulent history.  

The first peoples to inhabit the land were the Mi’kmaq, Malecite, and Passamaquody First Nations.  Unlike the other Atlantic provinces, it was the French who were the first Europeans to arrive in New Brunswick, inhabiting a large part of the land they called Acadia.  Things started to get ugly in 1713, when the British arrived and took over.  By 1750 they had all but defeated the French and kicked most of the Acadians out.  Obviously this did not put the French and English on good speaking terms, but as the Acadians eventually returned, so did their language et voila.

But what about the Food?

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So here’s the thing- New Brunswick is not an ideal place from an agricultural perspective.  Most of the land is covered in forest, and the soil is so acidic and low in nutrients that food crops don’t grow well in it.  Any of the soil that is workable has any number of limitations, which severely limits the variety of crops they can grow.  (We know- we’re painting a pretty dismal picture for you here, but bear with us- it gets better!)

Seafood, seafood and more seafood

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Thankfully for New Brunswickers, what the province lacks in agricultural production they make up for in variety and availability of seafood.  Bay of Fundy Lobster has risen to a certain level of fame on the east coast, with its distinctive flavour possibly attributed to the depth and chill of the water it’s pulled from.  Editor’s note: neither of us have tried Bay of Fundy lobster, but if we ~had~ to do a side-by-side taste test we would not be upset.

So what else can I eat in New Brunswick?

Despite the lack of agricultural land, you can still find plenty of good food in New Brunswick, so don’t cancel that trip just yet.  There is a decidedly French influence in the cuisine of the province thanks to the Acadians, and without the ability to work the land, New Brunswickers have had to get a little more creative, so prepare for a more unique culinary experience…

Chicken Fricot 

Also known as Acadian stew, this is New Brunswick-style chicken and dumplings, with all the comforting Fall and winter-ish things like potatoes and carrots (veggies that grow decently well in less-than-ideal soil).  

Poutine Rapee 

Not the french fries-and-gravy image you’re conjuring up in your mind right now.  This is another Acadian dish made with potato dumplings filled with pork.  Not gonna lie, we kinda think this sounds more awesome, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Fiddleheads 

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They do eat more than just potatoes over in New Brunswick.  Fiddleheads served with butter is a favourite side dish for anyone who needs a little green on their plate.

Dulse 

Edible seaweed.  It only makes sense that without many other options the good people of New Brunswick would have gone foraging on the coast line for anything edible, and now dulse is a favourite snack of locals throughout the province.  

Ployes

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Another one to thank the Acadians for!  This is basically a buckwheat pancake.  They are thin and only a few inches wide and can be served as bread or traditional pancake-style with maple syrup.

Brown Bread 

This is not what you’re thinking.  In New Brunswick (and in the rest of the Maritimes, for that matter) brown bread does not mean whole wheat.  Maritime brown bread is made with molasses, which gives it that dark, rich hue.  If maple syrup is liquid gold than consider molasses to be liquid bronze because maritimers slather that ish on everything.  It only makes sense that the thick, sticky syrup would end up in their bread.

Lady Ashburnham Pickles 

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These are not pickles after all, but instead a type of relish.  Who is Lady Ashburnham you ask?  During the early part of the 20th century she was the local telephone night operator.  Thomas Ashburnham, the earl of a prominent British family living in Canada, fell in love with her voice and they married. (And we think online dating seems like taking a risk…yeesh).  When his older brothers died and he inherited the family estate, their home became the center of the elite Fredericton social life.  Apparently this woman’s relish was the bomb, because it has stood the test of time and is still a staple in New Brunswick pantries today.

How do I get a taste of New Brunswick food culture?

We’re so glad you asked!  While New Brunswick may not have the robust agricultural traditions that characterize the other provinces of Atlantic Canada, it still has its fair share of food festivals to share its culinary traditions with the world:

Flavours New Brunswick 

This is the festival you want to attend if you want to get an all-encompassing of what New Brunswick has to offer.  Every May chefs, producers and hospitality come together to show off what New Brunswick has to offer.  Click here for more details.

Indulge 

Every October New Brunswick hosts this food and wine festival for those who like to wash down their seafood feast with a glass (or two, or three) of the best wine and beer the province has to offer.  Click here for more details.

Taste of the Maritimes 

Formerly known as The Fundy Food Festival, Taste of the Maritimes is a bunch of food parties crammed into one big food party thrown in St. John’s every May at the Marco Polo Cruise Ship terminal. You can have your fill of everything from BBQ to fine dining, wine, beer, and everything in between. All the food and entertainment is provided by local restaurants, wineries, breweries, artists, and even students. The best part? It’s in support of the Boys and Girls Club, so you can wine and dine knowing that karma is on your side. Visit their website for more information.
As you can tell, there is no shortage of delicious and unique foods to stuff your face with while visiting New Brunswick, and considering these maritime people like to have a… merrytime… you’ll probably be able to find a food festival or two to enjoy. Now you’ll have to excuse us, we’re going to search for some poutine rapee.

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