I know a lot of the foods appearing here are not very interesting to American (or Canadian) readers because it's pretty much the same food they can get anywhere, but it might be more interesting to readers overseas where the burger (for example) isn't an ubiquitous food item. Also, longtime readers know that i absolutely love food and all the stories it tells.
So, of course, i opened with some spring rolls, which are sometimes called "egg rolls" in Canada, for reasons unknown. Sometimes "egg rolls" are another type of deep-fried dish in Canada, a larger chimichanga-like thing with bean sprouts and possibly even some meat inside. It depends on the restaurant, and you never know until after you order. On Google people sometimes whine and complain when the "egg roll" isn't "authentic" because it's not the same one their local Chinese restaurant makes, even though an actual 鷄蛋捲 egg roll in China is something completely different - it's a sweet hollow wafer that is similar to what people in the west put into icecream.
Anyway, the pictured "egg roll" is just the standard American/Canadian Chinese spring roll, with cabbage and carrot inside, served with that sweet marmalade-like sauce in a plastic pouch.
Also from the Chinese restaurant in Pangman, here is their fried rice, which is probably the most "authentic" (as in, most like actual Chinese food in China) dish that you can get from a Canadian Chinese restaurant. If your fried rice is brown from the soy sauce, that's probably a good sign. (Unless you ordered the famous 揚州炒飯 Yangzhou fried rice with shrimp and BBQ pork - that one is white.)
Coming up next is one of my most disappointing meals, primarily due to the excessive cost. In Weyburn the only non-chain restaurant i could find that was open was a bar, and their "speciality" was a pickle poutine, which sounds awesome. It turned out to be a lazy grated cheese poutine with battered and deep-fried pickle (gherkin) spears on top. The cheese and gravy was too heavy and gloopy, so it tasted more like a mashed potato casserole. Also, i don't think deep-fried pickle spears are very nice. They are just salty and slimy and don't have the kind of satisfying crunch that a "fresh" pickle has.
Also, as a side for that dish, a serviceable garden salad with a piece of garlic bread. Including beer and tip, this all ran me over $35.
Now contrast this with the fish and chips, with beer, and salad, that i found at the bar in Stoughton, $25 all up. And they amusingly made a vinaigrette for me out of white vinegar and cooking oil, instead of giving me the bottled "vinaigrette" which i think is usually just a cheap balsamic vinegar with nothing else. It actually didn't taste all that bad. To the non-Americans... when you order salad in North America, they always ask "what dressing" and you're expected to know the 27 different standard dressings that exist. Every single one of the dressings is not vegan, because they are basically all "mayonnaise plus some other shit". It sometimes seems like North Americans can't bear the thought eating a vegetable without coating it in eggs, cheese and/or sugar. Occasionally you get the very exotic option of "vinaigrette" which is the salad dressing everyone in Europe knows simply as "salad dressing".
Oh joy of joys, it's the bannock taco (aka Indian taco, aka Navajo taco). I already gushed about this on the travelogue, but basically it's frybread with a Tex-Mex taco salad on top. If you are from Europe and don't know what Tex-Mex is, it's the Old El Paso style "taco" that outside of North America is commonly mistaken for Mexican food but actually is Texan.
And then for dessert, a saskatoon berry crumble. It was so sweet it was really tough to get through. But i am burning so many calories cycling i just ate it all anyway.
This is the fantastic loaded potato soup that a diner owner gifted me when i told her my sad story of the broken spokes. I was on the road in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan. She said i'd need energy to get through to Virden. It was one of the best things i have eaten all trip. Yeah, it had cheese and bacon. But the flavors were awesomely balanced. Truly a hidden gem.
Hooray! Vegan food! Yes, it's just deep-fried mushrooms and curly fries, made by the bartender at the bar in Virden, but it's vegan (well, perhaps not the aioli dip). Deep-fried mushrooms are a bar snack that are available everywhere in Manitoba and they are excellent. Much better than deep-fried pickle spears, a million times better than mozzarella sticks (a truly vomit-worthy snack) and maybe even better than a jalapeño popper. I am a convert. Manitoban deep-fried mushrooms should grace every bar menu.
Oh my God. You guys. Fucking civilization. When i got to Brandon, i was in the largest "city" i had been in since BC. The town had a traffic light! Several, in fact! And graffiti! It was amazing. They also have an Ethiopian restaurant, so i ordered a vege platter. I don't know the names of all these lentil dishes, but they were all delicious. The injera (sort of Ethiopean sourdough pancake) was awesome. The spice level was pretty low compared to other Ethiopian places i have eaten in bigger cities, but by prairie standards it was solid. So good. I almost cried with joy when she put the food in front of me.
Also in Brandon, a proper classy coffee shop, with an espresso machine! It's a miracle! And a raspberry shortcake thing.
Big city Brandon, they also had a Latin American restaurant, so i ordered another vege platter, which came with a tamale, empanada and taco. Extra guacamole. Horchata to drink (and a beer). Bliss. Heaven. Real food. I think i actually did cry when i got this.
A ridiculously massive-sized cinnamon bun from a coffee shop in Boissevain.
This is a breakfast croissant from the restaurant in the Peace Garden. There's more of a story here, though, for Europeans, because i know what you're thinking - "that doesn't look like a croissant!" No, no it does not. I'm not sure who invented the breakfast croissant in North America, but i suspect it was the fast food chain Burger King. They have something on the menu to distinguish themselves from McDonalds (who have the McMuffin english muffin), and it is called the Croissan'wich. It is something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a croissant. On the inside is egg and either ham or sausage, with American cheese, exactly the same as a McMuffin. Because it's fast food, it tastes almost exactly the same too. Still, i thought it was so amusing to find one in what was theoretically not a fast food restaurant, i had to order a vegetarian one (no meat). It was piping hot, so the American cheese dripped out like lava. It was disgusting. And delicious. It was disgustingly delicious.
Ah, the chicken fried steak. This is real "taking the grandparents out for dinner at 5pm" to me. It reminds me of those godawful Friday Night Dinners i had to go to with J's family, where we inevitably ended up at a "premium casual" restaurant chain, always either a steakhouse or Italian chain, two of literally the worst possible cuisines in the world. I never found anything on the menu i liked except for extremely overpriced baked potatoes and Caprese salads. Very occasionally we would go to more low-brow deli type places, usually for lunch, and they would have an assortment of sandwiches, but sometimes also dishes a bit more like this one - meat and two veg with bread and butter on the side, plus copious amounts of gravy. I did feel like a grandma eating it, but it was pretty good.
Vege burger and sweet potato fries from a drive-in at Treherne.
Vege burger and regular fries from a drive-in at Stonewall. These drive-in burgers are surprisingly not bad. They are relatively cheap, like $10 for the combo and no tip required. They look like fast food burgers, and taste like them too, but there's something oddly satisfying about getting a fast food burger now and then, especially from independently-owned huts on the side of the road, instead of a big chain.
And here we are back in civilization again. Selkirk, just a short way outside of Winnipeg. At a deli-type restaurant with all the usual deli standards (club sandwich, Reuben sandwich and so on), but also a vegan sandwich with avocado, vegan cheese, cranberry sauce and spinach. Tasted like Thanksgiving. Tasted great. Fat English-style chips. Coleslaw. Sweet chili sauce on the aioli, how adventurous! And a pickle spear, just to rub it in that i am getting back toward the east coast. Soon there will be bagels raining from the sky.
So that's it! Definitely a more varied set than the dry prairies of southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan, but admittedly it's a bit of cheat because i'm including Brandon and Selkirk, which are much bigger towns than anywhere i visited across the first stretch of prairie. It seems once you hit a certain level of population density, vegetarian and even vegan options aren't so weird any more. And in towns that actually have more than one immigrant in them, you might even find an entire restaurant dedicated to cuisine that isn't bland.
Tomorrow or perhaps tonight i will put together the Manitoba picture post (minus Winnipeg). Winnipeg itself is pretty nice so far, it feels a bit like a tiny little baby version of Chicago. Or maybe like a smaller Minneapolis. I'll update you on that when i actually get to Minneapolis. I have my COVID test today, so wish me luck.