Snacks: A Canadian Food History
by Janis thiessen
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.