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Jul 21, 2007 09:25 AM

Canadian vs. US groceries

I'm a Canadian who lived in the States for 25 years and I just recently moved back to Canada and I'm having some trouble adjusting to some of the grocery products (or lack of them).

- Butter is rarely (or way more expensively) sold in sticks in Canada. How do you bake with it? I was used to using the tbsp. marks in the paper wrappers.

- Can you buy pre-packaged soft corn tortillas in Canada? Everybody seems to have flour ones, but I haven't found corn ones yet (crispy fried ones, but not soft).

- In the States sweetened condensed milk comes in tins that are almost 400 ml; in Canada the tins are only 300 ml. SHould I be adapting my AMerican recipes?

- Can you buy Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice mixtures in Canada? I have found several simliar things, but not the "regular" kind that serves four and comes in a small, rectangular box and in either the longer or quicker cooking versions.

- Old English cheese in a jar?

- Lemon flavoured yogurt?

Thanks for your help. :-)

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  1. Can't answer most of your questions, except that you'll probably adapt, and like what we have. What is Old English in a jar? There are crocks of Stilton available at Xmas.

    What I miss most from the U.S. are inexpensive dairy and poultry. After 25 years living here, I still miss Perdue chickens, for a quick inexpensive dinner. Canadian chicken was four times as expensive, and dairy products twice as much when I got here in 1980, and those prices have gone steadily upward ever since, protected by marketing boards.
    Wine is a lot cheaper in major U.S. markets, like Chicago, N.Y.C., and Ca.
    Our L.C.B.O. could be a lot more competitive, if they had competition!

    But in the final analysis, I'm happier to pay higher prices and taxes to get OHIP and the social benefits lacking elsewhere.

    1. I looked everywhere for the corn tortillas..and finally found them in the freezer section of my health food stores. Natures Fare sells them. I like to buy the long grain and wild rice mixtures in bulk...and as for old english cheese in a that similar to Imperial Cheese in the tub? You might want to try that. I agree...our groceries are alot more expensive than in the States. If you have a Superstore in your area, that might cut your cost a bit..especially on boxed, dairy and meat items. I still prefer the farmers market for produce in the summer..can't beat fresh fruits and vegies! I live in BC and know alot of farmers in the area so it's nice to know where my food is coming from.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Veggigal

        Speaking of fruits and vegetables--I live in Toronto, and we have a lot of little green grocer shops: I find the produce is good *and* the prices on stuff there is *way* less than in the States. I do go to farmers' markets in season too. But I agree too that meat and poultry are a lot more expensive here. Until you had mentioned it, jayt90, I had forgotten about how annoyed I am when I have to pay a lot of money for chicken! :-P

        I'll check the health food stores for corn tortillas. My most recent solution was for my sister to bring me 3 bags from the States, which are now in *my* freezer!

        Old English cheese is more like Cheez Whiz actually. We have a recipe for crab muffins (Old English cheese, can of crab meat, some mayo spread on English muffins, cut into quarters and broiled) that calls for that cheese. I just tried them last week with Imperial cheese, and it didn't work too well--not as melty as the other. And ironically, in another thread, I just touted Imperial Cheese as being a wonderful Canadian product that you can't get in the States!

        1. re: Karieann

          Costco is a great leveller of food prices. They have similar items at comparable prices across the continent, and they buy locally when possible. Their Saskatoon jam might make it to New Jersey, as well as Canadian bacon, Alaska sockeye, and foods from Central America, OZ, etc. ending up in all the warehouses..

          Maybe diced Velveeta will work on the muffins. It's great for grilled cheese sandwiches. (Hope that doesn't start a grilled cheese war!)

          1. re: jayt90

            As someone born in the U.S., but who has lived in Canada for about 35 years, I feel I can comment on a few of your points.

            Butter - yes, this is one of the most frustrating grocery items on the shelf. In the U.S., virtually all butter is sold in 1/4 lb. bars. In Canada, all but the most expensive brands (Lactantia, for instance) are sold as 1 lb. lumps. I usually end up cutting the lump into 1/4 lb. bars, an inaccurate and messy process.

            Corn tortillas are hard to find in regular supermarkets (although one chain has its own house bvrand for a while, and then withdrew it, evidently some cluckheaded corporate decision). Most big cities will have at least a few latino markets (in Toronto, a few on Augusta) which usually have them.

            Bear in mind, though, that a truly authentic tortilla is almost impossible to obtain in non-Latino countries.. Made withiout perservatives, they get stale within a day. In Mexico, people buy them at special shops (tortillerias) and eat them the same day, often on their way home.

            I can't say I miss Uncle Ben's rice, which always struck me as being over-processed and not bearing much resemblance to real rice, albeit very healthful I usually buy a big sack of Thai Jasmine rice at an Asian supermarket, of which there are many, lug it home (it weighs about 8 kg.)and cook it with no added salt or anything, two parts water to one of rice. That's the way rice should taste.

            Also, have you noticed the difference between U.S. and Canadian cottage cheese? The first is firm and tangy (usually), the second, lumps in a rather unappetizing milky goo. A few stores in Toronto that specialize in Kosher foods import cottage cheese from the U.S. (such as Breakstone's), at a hefty price.

            1. re: ekammin

              as far as cutting up your butter, if it's what you must do, you should just stick it in the freezer for ten minutes or so and then heat your knife with a creme brulee torch (best) or in extremely hot water, that should make it less messy, its not that inaccurate, you can always go the old fashioned route and actually measure it in tablespoons or by measure it by weight..... you should be able to add butter to taste or know how it should make a product look while baking if you cook often enough.....

      2. Re: Uncle Ben's wild rice. I've never tried it, but I'd point you in the direction of President's Choice Texmati Rice. I hesitate to admit it here, but I do use it, and quite like it.

        1. We are in the same boat; I just moved back to Edmonton after 20 years. I can only find soft corn tortillas at a little Mexican grocery shop, it seems to be the one and only place it the city that sells them. You may have to look around wherever you are for something like that.

          Some convenience foods that catch on in the US don't always earn a place on the supermarket shelves here. If you can't find your rice mixes at the bigger grocery stores like Superstore you may have to find another product you like.

          Butter in sticks, excessive packaging aside, was a convenience when it came to measuring. Sigh. Get out a tablespoon and start measuring the way your mother did.

          Do you mean that cheese spread in the small blue ceramic crock? I haven't seen that anywhere for 10 years.

          2 Replies
          1. re: inuksuk

            Can I ask - which store did you find the corn tortillas in and was the quality any good?

            1. re: anonymoose

              I got them at Paraiso Tropical:

              9136 118 Avenue NW
              Edmonton, AB T5B 0V1
              (780) 479-6000

              You can read a little bit about the shop in the middle of this article: The tortillas are made in a factory in Toronto and are wholly adequate. However, one week the store ran out and made up a batch out of instant masa. Stay away from those crumbly wrecks or any other tortillas in an unmarked bag.

          2. True about the butter packaging, but Lactantia happens to taste better than most, if not all, of the other brands. I use the Lactantia brand because it tastes better. But it really isn't hard to measure the butter. Just use a measuring spoon to scoop it from the block or buy a cheap plastic measuring gizmo at any decent kitchen store. You just need to get used to it. (I'm originally from the States.) Butter packaging in the eastern and western parts of the US also differs. Actually, precise baking would have you weigh the butter. What is much more important with regard to baking is the flour! US and Canadian flour are VERY different and, while many US baking recipes do come out okay, others don't.

            I haven't seen soft corn tortillas in a supermarket in several years, but you should be able to find them at a natural food store, a place such as Whole Foods, or a store catering to Latinos. (Possibly in the Keele St area or in Kensington Market).

            Yes, you'll need to adapt if a recipe calls for "one can". (Decent recipes shouldn't use "can" as a measurement, but that's a different issue.) What I find very frustrating is products that come in imperial sizes converted to metric. You'll need to get used to things such as 454 grams...

            I see the Uncle Ben's products around. I don't use them, so I can't advise whether they are equivalent to what you are missing. I believe you can get this type of convenience product in the President's Choice brand. But you have much greater choice in this realm than you would in the States. There's an actual rice store at St Lawrence Market, and endless varieties available at various ethnic stores.

            In a more general realm, check out the range of President's Choice products at Loblaw's. Most of these have no US equivalents and many are excellent.

            I'm not familiar with "Old English" cheese. Cheese Whiz and Velveeta are available everywhere and there are almost certainly other products comparable to what you're missing. I was going to suggest Imperial cheese, which is delicious, but you mention that it didn't work. The range of quality cheeses available in Toronto is much greater than in most of the States. I'd suggest grating some 4 year old cheddar into your muffins instead, but that's just me.

            Lemon yogurt shouldn't be a problem. My favourite is the Western brand, 8% version, but you should be able to find the lower fat stuff easily. We have a much greater selection of yogurt flavours here, but I know it's a bummer when you can't find your favourite brand.

            I know it's a nuisance, but adapting isn't really all that difficult. Then, again, I've been here for almost 40 years and I still miss Nathan's hot dogs. But it's no different when you move from one region of the US to another.

            Welcome back :-)