Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Nanaimo Bars

Mar 27, 2019

Today's New York Times has an article about the Nanaimo Bar, that custardy treat that according to the Times all of us up here north of the border just can't get enough of. (Does that make me less of a Canadian? I have never liked them, too sweet.) There is even a recipe.

The origin of the bars has always been hard to pin down. The Times puts it in the 1950s and suggests that they were synonymous with something called London smog bars. "Even its name is proudly Canadian," writes The Times. But the word Nanaimo derives from Snuneymuxw, the Vancouver Island First Nation which still lives in the Nanaimo area. Does that mean that the sugary square should be called the Snuneymuxw Bar?

The article refers to Susan Mendelson's classic cookbook, Mama Never Cooked Like This, published by Talonbooks in 1980. My own food-stained copy, purchased in 1987 when I moved back to Vancouver from eastern Canada figuring it was a perfect way to re-acculturate myself, stills occupies a place on my cookbook shelf.