Butter Tarts For All!

by Alexandra Molotkow

butter tart

Chris Randle’s Hazlitt feature on the butter tart is
 very good reading. The butter tart, for you Americans, shares “certain similarities with the francophone sugar pie, or those British desserts teeming with treacle, or an American pecan pie, minus the nuts and the extreme sweetness.” It’s a high-caliber pastry, except when it contains raisins because only a total sicko could enjoy a desiccated doll testicle.

Butter tarts:

sometimes get used as a signifier of “Canadian-ness” in the same lazy way as ancient CBC programs, where the truest Canadian is always Anglo — a habit Anupa Mistry recently called, on this website, “this basic binary of national identity: white, hockey-playing Tim Hortons guzzlers and an indistinguishable horde of immigrants.”

But it is a very useful jumping-off point for an essay on Canadian cuisine and culture. (The prose sells it, IMHO, if you happen to have zero interest in either of those topics.)

When I was growing up in Toronto, the local bakery had its birthday cakes shaped like football fields or candied ziggurats, and my own family would sometimes travel miles for the ideal croissant — that crisp crunch revealing warrens of dough — but we got butter tarts six to a pack at Loblaws. I can’t remember if they came with raisins or not. It didn’t matter. The flavour never changed.
As far as I knew, butter tarts still came in brittle six-packs from the supermarket, maybe a little bakery up near cottage country if you were lucky. There were no dessert menus promising “deconstructions” of them. You can buy poutine-inspired kimchi fries in Toronto, but you can’t find butter tarts filled with red bean paste or pulped plantains.

Looking forward to Chris’s dispatch on the Nanaimo bar, and if anyone knows where I could get a Nanaimo bar in New York City I’ll make you a double double and let you make fun of my accent.

Image by David Huang, via Flickr. Clipped for space.