Legend has it that in the 1930s the women of Nanaimo British Columbia started putting a sweet chocolate square in the lunch buckets of their miner husbands. The recipe for the square first appeared in the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Women’s Auxilary Cookbook under the title Chocolate Square. In 1953 the recipe was reprinted in Vancouver’s Edith Adams Cookbook and named Nanaimo Bars.
I did a little digging into the history of the Nanaimo Bar because it is currently at the heart of a social media controversy. It started when the New York Times put the above post on Instagram. It created a great hue and cry from Canadians who said the AMERICAN newspaper had falsely represented the dessert which a 2006 National Post poll had found to be CANADA’S favourite confection. The New York Times kitchen had made the base of the Nanaimo Bar too thick. The chocolate icing should not have been rippled but according to some Canadian critics “smooth as newly Zambonied ice.”
I didn’t think I had ever made Nanaimo bars before, so after reading about the controversy I decided to try. I used the recipe of fellow children’s writer and popular Winnipeg food blogger Harriet Zaidman. I think my bars turned out pretty well thanks to Harriet’s great photos and instructions. My husband said he could tell they were made with love.
I have learned some cool facts about Nanaimo bars………
- They served Nanaimo bars for dessert at the White House the night Michelle and Barack Obama hosted Justin and Sophie Trudeau at a state dinner in 2016.
- The city of Nanaimo’s mascot is a walking Nanaimo bar named Nanaimo Barney.
- On an episode of Master Chef Canada contestants had to make a dish inspired by Nanaimo bars.
- In 2019 Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar
- Different locations in and around Nanaimo serve maple bacon, peanut butter and deep-fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar spring rolls, Nanaimo bar waffles and cheesecake and Nanaimo bar coffee and cocktails.
- Nanaimo bars were a huge hit at Expo 86 in Vancouver and are a popular sales item on BC ferries.
- Nanaimo bars have their own entry in the Oxford Dictionary