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Canadian Culture

One way to explore Canadian culture is through the country's favorite food and drink.

The origin of maple syrup can be traced back to Canada's indigenous ingenuity. The Algonquins were probably the first to tap trees for the sinzibukwud (roughly translated, “drawn from wood”) they used in cooking and spiritual ceremonies. The modern syrup-making process has been mostly industrialized, but it hasn't dulled the country's love of working in the Great Outdoors. Today, many Canadians draw their own sweet tree sap and celebrate spring in “sugar shacks” stationed across the country.

Poutine, a distinctly French dish, represents another aspect of Canadian culture -- the tastes and innovations of European colonials. This sinful, gooey treat -- a pile of french fries drowned in heavy gravy and farm-fresh cheese curds -- originated in Montreal and quickly took the country by storm. Many restaurants put their own unique touches on the dish, adding foie gras and caviar to pricier variations, or including a dollop of guacamole or pico de gallo for a south-of-the-border flavor. Poutine, like all of French Canada, offers an unusual yet tasty flavor for sampling.

An East-meets-West culture makes for an exciting food scene in Vancouver, where fusion dishes bring out the best of Asian and European flavors. Visitors can seek out izakayas (Japanese-style tapas), Chinese dim sum (dumplings) and the fruits of Pacific Northwest waters, like mussels, crab and salmon.

And, of course, there's beer. Canadians take their brews very seriously, and a number of national festivals earn bragging rights for favorite labels. Loyalty often is divided by province: For example, fruit-infused organic flavors earn raves in British Columbia, while carefully crafted, Old World-style microbrews are quaffed in Quebec. Though divided into 13 provinces and territories -- and further divided by regional tastes and traditions -- Canadians put aside any differences over a pint of their favorite beverage. This is a country known for its friendly atmosphere, where tourists are welcome to explore the land from coast to coast.