On July 1st, 1867 the three British Colonies to the north of the United States (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada) united to form the country we all now know and love called, Canada. On July 1st of every year, the anniversary of Canada’s birth is celebrated all over Canada in a similar fashion to how the United States celebrates their Independence from the British: food, fireworks, parades and sensational nationalism. This day, formerly known as “Dominion Day,” is now simply called, “Canada Day” or, if you’re French Canadian, “Fête du Canada.” Whatever you call it, it’s an excuse to throw a party, eat, drink, and generally be merry — even if, like me, you aren’t the tiniest bit Canadian.
Canadians are great at many, many things. Don’t ask me what those things are, though because I haven’t the slightest clue — I’m American. I’m a New Englander. We are basically raised to think that English speaking Canada isn’t really a “big deal.” But here’s what I do know about Canada: they are better at providing healthcare for their citizens, many great bands are from there, they are good at hockey even though they lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins this year. Most relatedly though, their cuisine is somewhat of a hodgepodge of the beauty of French cuisine, the drabby goodness of English cuisine, and the “whateverness” of American cuisine.
Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to befriend some real live Canadians. Well, I mean, as “real” as one can be when they’re from Niagara Falls, which is practically upstate New York. I’m just being cheeky. Jokes about their hometowns and funny accents aside (they actually really do pronounce things properly – PS: that’s a word they seem to like to say a lot), these Canadians are pretty great and proper folks. And lucky for me, they’re all vegan! So, when I was invited to a small, impromptu gathering centered around celebrating this wonderful country’s birth with authentic persons, I gladly accepted. And I agreed to do something pretty scary — feed Canadians something Canadian. I thought, “Well as long as I center the dish around sugar, nothing can go wrong.” And so that’s what I did. I baked, rather — un-baked, because Nanaimo bars, one of Canada’s most famous desserts, don’t require baking.
I’m not sure I can tell you very much about Nanaimo bars other than that they are easy to make, fun to make, fun to eat, deliciously messy (see photos) and very hard to resist. Basically, they’re a three layer bar of glorious unapologetic indulgence. The bottom layer is a chocolate, cookie, coconut, and nut base, the middle is a layer of sweet vanilla pudding, the top is just all-out chocolate. Yeah, it’s like celebrating Canada Day in your mouth. The best part is, you don’t even have to be skilled at Canadian cuisine to make them or enjoy them and it doesn’t have to be Canada Day! I can’t really testify to much else about how amazing these bars are so, you’ll just have to make them and see for yourself! I can say this though: there were six of us and less than half were left after 5 minutes. You do the math.
Because vegan graham crackers are hard to find, I used vanilla snaps that happened to be vegan. You could use ginger snaps, but the flavor might be a bit too overpowering. I adapted this recipe from the Joy of Baking website. There is a helpful video there that walks you through the process (pronounced “PRO-cess” if you’re Canadian). Don’t be misled that this is “hard to make” because there’s a video. It’s quite the opposite. Happy un-baking! And an extended Happy Canada Day to all!