Italy boasts one of the richest gastronomic inheritances of any country. It seems unfair that any place, let alone one tiny corner of that country, Emilia-Romagna, should be home to so much culinary gold: parmigiano, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar, mortadella, and pasta fresca. As mouthwatering as that list is, keep in mind that it excludes an even longer list of gastronomic treasures from other parts of the belpaese: Piedmont's white truffles, the risotto of Piedmont, Lombardy, and the Veneto, and Tuscany's olive oils. And that's just a selection of northern Italian specialties, there's still the south. And the wine.
Yet I can't help but feeling that Italians cheat themselves. Don't get me wrong, this italophile wishes he could wake up many mornings in Bologna or Rome, start the day with a cappuccino, and then gorge on local specialties. But have you ever eaten marvelous foreign food in Italy? Yes, there exists the occasional Chinese or Indian restaurant, but they are largely an afterthought in a country where gastronomic xenophobia is the norm. What chance does food from the other side of the world have in a country where food from the other side of the mountain is viewed with disdain?
Canada -- English Canada, really -- is a different story altogether. With perhaps the exception of Newfoundland, we have no native cuisine. The Great White North is a gastronomic Great White Canvas. Over the past century, we've begun filling that canvas with the smells, tastes, and textures of the countless ethnic groups that weave the fabric of this country. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident that in our major urban centres. Walk the streets of Toronto, for example, and you'll be confronted by a series of delights from around the world.