I was recently on a road trip in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It’s a great place for road tripping because it’s hilly, forested and scalloped by a scenic coastline. Of course, no road trip is complete without making frequent—some might say unnecessary—pit stops along the way to try out local eateries.
Eating fresh and local is a way of life for Nova Scotians. The province is surrounded by water and fortunately lobster, shellfish, haddock and cod are plenty in the Nova Scotian waters.
The island of Cape Breton packs in plenty of charming spots that showcase local ingredients to create unique sweets only sold in the region. During the holiday season, there are three local delicacies found in most bakeries and homes that feel like they came out of a very old Canadian cookbook chock full of old fashioned, classic recipes.
Adding to their intrinsic quirkiness, the sweet treats also all have playful names. While discovering these delicacies, I asked around as to where these names came from and funny enough, no baker, owner or staff member had an answer.
Firstly, Fat Archies have several names; they also go by Moose Hunters, Ginger Giants, Pubnico Cookies or just Fat Molasses Cookies. I think the last name is the most fitting. They are oversized, thick, soft, cake-like molasses cookies (the opposite of gingersnaps). They’re a holiday classic because they’re full of warm, winter flavours and spices.
Legend has it that a baker by the name of Dougall Archie made the best molasses cookies around and the name was shortened to Fat Archies because the cookies themselves were thick and plump. Many believe the tale runs deeper.
Some places where you can buy Fat Archies in Nova Scotia:
If you know one thing about Cape Breton, you'll likely know that the folks who live there love their Oatcakes.
I love that they’re not too sweet and a little bit salty. Best of all, each local bakery (or café) in the region may often add their own spin to their oatcakes. I’ve had ones that are soft, buttery and slightly crispy on top. I’ve also had ones that are a cross between a scone, a cinnamon bun and oatmeal cookie.
There are so many ways to eat them too — strawberries and honey, peanut butter and banana; however, I've come to prefer them with a simple light schmear of sweetened butter.
Some places where you can buy Oatcakes in Nova Scotia:
Naturally, when you think of pork pies, you likely think of savoury, hearty meat pies made with a sturdy pie crust to handle the filling. However, Cape Breton pork pies are quite the opposite.
These pies are actually buttery little tart shells filled with brown sugar and dates, topped with a dollop of maple frosting.
Despite the name being 100 per cent misleading, they are a Cape Breton holiday tradition and just old fashioned Acadian sweet treats. Pork pies allegedly got their name due to a resemblance to a pork pie hat.
Some places where you can buy Pork Pies in Nova Scotia: