Canada is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, and we thought we’d have a look throughout the year at a few products that we’ve either grown up with or are identifiable as Canadian. There are lots of items out there that have stood the test of time and have been gracing our tables for generations. Maybe the company that originally made them has been purchased by an international conglomerate, but we still call them our own. Sort of like our favourite movie stars.
In the discussion of quintessentially Canadian Foods it seems only natural that we must have a look at split pea soup. Certainly Canada is not the only country where you can find this gastronomic wonder; soup made with split peas has been around since ancient Greece, and versions of it are popular all over the world, from Scandinavia to India. But for reasons gustatory, sentimental and historical, split pea soup holds a special place in many a Canadian heart, especially in Quebec and Eastern Canada.
The tradition of split pea soup in Canada goes back over 400 years, traced back to Samuel de Champlain who started his Order of Good Cheer (Ordre de bon temps) back in 1606 to lift the spirits of Les Habitants, the French settlers in Port Royal in Acadia who were suffering through yet another particularly brutal winter. Cured meats and dried beans and peas were easy to carry over the Atlantic, and these simple ingredients made a soup that really stuck to your ribs, and has since become a part of Quebec-and Canada’s-culture.
Making your own split pea soup is super easy, but it is rather time consuming, so it makes sense that with the advent of the twentieth century the magic was literally put in a can. In 1918, Habitant began making and canning its famous split pea soup. Keeping it simple has been the key, one of the reasons that this iconic soup is still going strong, and why 99 years later you can still find it in supermarkets and corner stores all across the country. True, the company has changed hands several times throughout the years, and is now owned by a little company called Campbell’s, but the recipe, the imagery and the taste is still the same. The slogan, Homemade Tradition Since 1918 still adorns the bright yellow label. A true Canadian Classic.