Food - Drink
The Sweet History Of Canada's Iconic Nanaimo Bars
BY RYAN CASHMAN
Throughout history, cultures have used their unique culinary powers to create iconic regional desserts, and one of Canada's quintessential sweets is the Nanaimo bar, a no-bake dessert with a coconut and graham cracker base, a yellow custard center, and a chocolate top. This treat's unusual name actually comes from its place of origin.
Nanaimo is a major coal mining city in British Columbia, and the first recorded Nanaimo bar recipe appears in the 1952 edition of the Women's Auxiliary "Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook,” though it was simply called a "chocolate square." A year later, a similar recipe was published in "Edith Adams' Cookbook" under the name Nanaimo bar.
This treat remained fairly exclusive to its birth region until the 1970s, when college student Susan Mendelson began selling Nanaimo bars to pay for her tuition, and eventually opened The Lazy Gourmet cafe and catering company, which claims to be the first business to sell Nanaimo bars. The bar soon spread far beyond British Columbia.
Today, Nanaimo is home to its own Nanaimo bar tasting trail, and different recipes use different ratios of ingredients, though the middle custard layer is usually the heftiest. Regarding the custard layer, some Canadians say it's not a true Nanaimo bar if it isn’t made with Bird's Custard Powder, the ingredient that gives the custard its yellow hue.