Snacks: A Cana­dian Food His­tory

by Ja­nis thiessen

The Walrus - - ON THE TABLE - — Benjamin Er­rett

a snack, by def­i­ni­tion, is a culi­nary sideshow. And yet, ac­cord­ing to Ja­nis Thiessen, a Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg his­to­rian, what snacks lack in nu­tri­tional heft they make up for in cul­tural im­port: think, for in­stance, of ex­plain­ing ketchup chips to a vis­i­tor from abroad.

Snacks in­ter­weaves labour his­tory and food, and does a sat­is­fy­ing job of fill­ing in the blanks on some mi­nor Cana­dian mys­ter­ies. What ever hap­pened to Humpty Dumpty chips? (Old Dutch bought them in the Great Chip Con­sol­i­da­tion of 2006.) What are chicken bones ?( A cin­na­mon choco­late candy made ex­clu­sively by New Brunswick’s Ganong Bros. Ltd.) But Thiessen fal­ters when she comes to ex­plor­ing our re­la­tion­ship with these snacks, call­ing for a food fight that pits writer Michael Pol­lan (most fa­mous ad­vice: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much”) and his health-con­scious com­pa­tri­ots against the hard-work­ing em­ploy­ees of junk food com­pa­nies such as Old Dutch. Ab­sent are mod­er­ate voices like those of, say, the peo­ple be­hind Canada’s Food Guide, which sim­ply ad­vises “lim­it­ing foods and bev­er­ages high in calo­ries, fat, su­gar or salt” — in other words, a par­adise in which Hawkins Cheezies and ar­ti­sanal kale chips can co­ex­ist, some­times even in the same cup­board.

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