(This post originally appeared on my old Open Salon blog on February 17, 2009)
America, please allow me to introduce you to what real Canadian bacon is.
Behold. The Peameal Bacon sandwich.
When you ask a Canadian for Canadian bacon, chances are you’ll get a good glance of confusion. They’ll wonder if you’re talking about regular bacon that just happens to be from Canada or that not-at-all-funny movie by the late John Candy (also a Canadian). However, ask for Peameal Bacon or Back Bacon, and you’ll get this – a wonderful sandwich of thinly sliced cured lean bacon from the back of the pig that is rolled in a fine cornmeal coating. The peameal name comes from the ground yellow peas that the bacon was originally coated in, but it’s been changed to cornmeal as its more readily available. You can fry it, grill it or roast it, but the most common way you’ll find it on the Canadian table is on a bun for breakfast.
I went to Carousel Bakery at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, widely considered to be the Mecca of the Peameal Bacon sandwich. When you first go in the entrance of the market, you’ll be inundated by stand after stand that claims to make “THE” original sandwich or even “this is the place for peameal!” Keep walking until you find Carousel. The sign is hard to find, but the best thing to keep your eye open for are all the various magazine and newspaper articles plastered all over the outside of the bakery vouching for their awesomeness.
Grab a freshly made sandwich and a seat nearby to watch the market crowd go by. Unwrap your sandwich and inhale the wonderful salty, very porky smell. Take a slow bite and savor. There’s no butter or spread on these sandwiches (although if you want ketchup or mustard, there’s some available, but really. Make your first Peameal Bacon sandwich a virgin) because the natural juices are enough to add a little wetness to the bread without making it soggy. The bread is fluffy and white with a light crust on the top. Just enough to make it a delight to crunch into your bread before you bite into the salty, tender bacon.
Your eyes smile as you bite. Stay around the market long enough as other people get their sandwiches and you’ll see their eyes smiling too at first bite. It’s a very happy place.