Americans visiting Canada for the first time will find much that's familiar, from American sitcoms on television to the iconic logos of the major fast-food chains. That familiarity extends to meals, which by and large will be familiar and comfortable for Americans. Canadian breakfasts, for example, generally resemble those enjoyed by Americans. Still, sharp-eyed observers will spot a few national and regional quirks.
The Classic Egg Breakfast
Bacon and eggs -- or ham and eggs, or sausage and eggs -- is a home and restaurant staple, just as it is for Americans. You might be disappointed to learn that the bacon is almost always strips of plain old ordinary side bacon, rather than "Canadian" bacon. Canadians call that kind back bacon or peameal bacon, and it's more commonly used as an ingredient in other meals. Canadians are likely to eat their eggs over, rather than "up," though restaurants will prepare them however you wish. Aside from the pre-formed patties at fast-food chains, the hash browns at Canadian restaurants are diced potatoes -- pan fries or home fries, in American terms -- rather than shredded.
Hot and Cold Cereals
Cereal for breakfast is just as common in Canada as the U.S., and most of your favorites are available north of the border. You'll also find a few domestic or U.K. brands, usually similar to one of the American varieties. Hot cereal for breakfast is a longstanding Canadian tradition, unsurprising given the number of long, cold winter mornings. Oatmeal is king in Atlantic Canada, where Scots ancestry is common, with creamy white wheatlets and a variety of multi-grain cereals sharing the love nationally. They're normally eaten with milk or cream, and varying degrees of sweetener.
Pancakes, Waffles and French Toast
Pancakes, waffles and French toast -- "pain perdu" in Quebec -- are also widely enjoyed in Canada, and are broadly similar to what you'll find at home. One notable difference comes in the syrups you'll be offered at the table. Ordinary pancake syrup is the default at most restaurants, as it is in the U.S., but you'll often be offered alternatives. Quebec and New Brunswick are among the world's largest producers of maple syrup, and that iconic sweetener is usually available at a slight premium. Blueberry syrup, in the East, and Saskatoon berry syrups are other common alternatives. In Western Canada, a popular brand of "golden" syrup based on cane sugar is the longstanding traditional favorite.
A Grab Bag
If you travel widely in Canada, you'll see many variations in breakfast offerings. A massive "lumberjack breakfast" or "farmer's breakfast" typically includes multiple eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and pancakes all on one massive plate. In Newfoundland, on the East Coast, a fisherman might sit down to a breakfast of fishcakes and baked beans. High-fiber granola and muesli, or light cups of yogurt and fruit, have their devotees just as they do Stateside. Coffee and a muffin, or coffee and a pastry, are perfectly valid options. Montreal is justly famous for its bagels, slightly thinner and more old-country authentic than their New York counterparts.
- Anita Stewart's Canada: The Food -- The Recipes -- The Stories; Anita Stewart
- The Best of Mme. Jehane Benoit; Jehane Benoit
- StephanieFrey/iStock/Getty Images