Kelly’s friend Liz said to me early on, “What you need to do is get a paper map.”
“Ok, this sounds dumb, but where would I even get one of those? CAA?” was my reply
She was wearing dark glasses at the time, so as far as I know, she didn’t roll her eyes as she replied, “A gas station.”
Instead of a gas station, I found my map in a Coles bookstore. Coles, Canada’s answer to Barnes and Noble and the Oprah Book Club.
I went there to pick up a copy of Apron Strings by Jan Wong, a Canadian Journalist who explored home cooking by hitting up France, Italy, and China. I’d heard about the book on the CBC radio show “The Next Chapter” hosted by Shelagh Rogers. I tried to buy the e-book version, but my American Amazon account wouldn’t allow it, so I had to get a real copy in a real Canadian bookstore, which lead me to a map.
Welcome to Hogtown
One of the many nicknames for Toronto, “Hogtown,” comes from the fact that at one point this was the number one source of pork products in the British Empire.
There’s an even better reason to keep this nickname: Toronto is shaped like a primal cut of pork: The Belly (or Side). Vanilladreampuff once described Atlanta, GA as a, “cross-section of a ham,” so comparing a city to a pork product isn’t new.
While the comparison with Toronto isn’t perfect, it has a lot going for it.
Mississauga is the “ham shank” end.
The city of Pickering is where the belly becomes the “picnic shoulder.”
Scarborough, running up to Willowdale is the “spare rib” portion of the city. Which is perfect because all the pork spareribs with fermented beans I’ve had at dim sum places have been in this portion of the city.
North Etobicoke is the “salt pork.” Salt pork is more about the flavor and has less actual meat, and Etobicoke has the lowest population density in the city!
Yes, folks! I’m reaching!
One of the most prized portions of both the pig and Toronto is the lower belly. We’re talking “bacon.” We’re talking downtown Toronto, and Little Italy falls roughly in pancetta territory.
Don’t forget about Toronto’s signature piece of pork, peameal bacon, which is actually “back bacon.” That means that this cut is not just pork belly, but instead, it comes from the same top to bottom cross-section cut as the pork chop.
This signature Toronto pork cut is kinda’ sorta’ perfect because it is a cross-section of the city from North to South! Peameal Bacon = Yonge Street!
Okay. All of this is a stretch, but it’s helping me with geography and food knowledge, and it’s all at least as good as the “Michigan Hand” or the “Cape Cod Bicep.”
Hopefully, you’ll all appreciate this last part. Please don’t throw me out of the country…
The Toronto Islands hang off the lowest part of the belly into Lake Ontario. Here you’ll find a classic amusement park and a nude beach, the city’s fun summer playgrounds! Anatomically these locations correspond to a pig’s nipples, which as Chef Heston Blumenthal demonstrates below, is also fun.