Hold the Ketchup, an NFB gem from 1977

“4 million people came to Canada after the war – and that is a lot of different cooking!”

Ketchup stands in for mass-produced ‘Canadian’ food

In 1977, Albert Kish did an overview of what Canadian newcomers ate, where they shopped, and how their tastes were infiltrating into the Canadian market – and vice-versa. The unpretentious NFB short-doc features members from Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese communities and more. They introduce spices and products and demonstrate dishes like Streudel (with dough so thin you can read a newspaper through it), Sushi (always more than 4 ingredients, because 4/Shi means death in Japanese) or Transylvanian layered cabbage (itself a mosaic of ‘borrowed’ ingredients). One Portuguese shopkeeper proclaims, “We can sleep like a Canadian, dress like a Canadian, do things like a Canadian, but we can never eat like a Canadian.” Another woman is transported to the beaches of Málaga with barbecued sardines.

In Japan, western food is all the rage but in the diaspora Japanese customs are upheld

Today there is a sushi in every neighborhood and we can get ethnic ingredients in any grocery store, but back then some of these cuisines were just starting to make their way into Canadian kitchens and consciousness. The datedness – and campy narration – adds to the fun.

Watch Hold the Ketchup by Albert Kish, on the National Film Board of Canada website.

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