CANADIANS in search of cuisine have staked out some indigenous ingredients. While national borders hold firm, the boundaries for cooking territory are less clear. Some foods, such as jerusalem artichoke, Canadians claim as their own though others might disagree; other foods have misleading names. In any case, many apparently Canadian foods aren't always what they seem.
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE: Not an artichoke at all, really, but dubbed artichaut du Canada by the French explorer Champlain. A relative of the sunflower and native to North America, the jerusalem artichoke was probably carried to Europe by Champlain, where it was apparently renamed after the sunflower--girasol in Italian and eventually slurred into its present name--and is used extensively, especially in Germany. In this country, it ends up where most confusing vegetables go . . . when all else fails, stick it in salad. Actually the vegetable is very easy to grow and can be slivered for a kind of slaw, or fried or cooked au gratin like potatoes.
CANADIAN BACON: Bacon it isn't. It's really the eye of the pork loin (the meaty part of the rib chop, after fat and bone have been removed). Sometimes called back bacon, it is usually sold fully cooked so that it requires nothing but heating and serving, or just slicing for sandwiches and eggs benedict.
Canadian bacon must come from Canada; if it comes from American pigs, it must be called Canadian-style bacon. Cured like ham, it can contain up to 10 percent added water provided it is labeled "Canadian-style bacon, water added."
WILD RICE: Not really rice, but a close relative. It cooks like rice, has the nutrition of oats (high protein) and has a distinctive, nutty flavor. It might as well be called gold bullion, however, because relatively primitive harvesting methods and its limited growing area around the lakes of Canada, Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin make it a relatively expensive commodity.
Since the 1960's, drainable paddies have been constructed in Minnesota to enhance harvesting ability. Now, says Dr. Irvin Oelke, agronomy professor at the University of Minnesota, wild rice can be harvested by combine like conventional rice.
Canadian cookbook author Jim White says Canadian wild rice, some of which comes as long as pine needles, is superior to the American version in that its flavor is nuttier, and that is because it has not been domesticated but is still harvested in the traditional fashion--by Ojibwa Indians who paddle their canoes through the paddies.
SMOKED BLACK COD: Known here as smoked sable, or sablefish, it's not a cod and it's not a sable. It is shaped like a cod, however--a streamlined fish that grows up to 3 feet long and 40 pounds. This fish is high in fat (comparable to swordfish and pompano), therefore makes a likely candidate for smoking.
Sable run from the Bering Sea to California, but most of them are fished from waters along Alaska and Washington State.
While there's a dearth of sablefish in local seafood markets, many of the new "super" supermarkets and kosher-style delis sell it. Prices range from $5.35 to $6 per pound.
CANADA GEESE: Often incorrectly called Canadian geese, these popular game birds (Branta canadensis) are not full-time residents of Canada. Like their Homo sapiens counterparts who drive from Montreal to South Florida, these geese travel up to 60 miles an hour, 12 hours a day, to winter south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
"If it weren't for our wintering grounds," says Dr. Pete Bromely, a wildlife extension specialist in Blacksburg, Va., "there wouldn't be Canada geese."
This is prime quality game, says Bromely, who needs no urging to slip nostalgically into recollections of goose-centered Christmas dinners in the wilds of Western Canada.
But Canadian? Well, says Bromely of 15 species of Canada geese, there are some that never leave Virginia. Those that do, get courting and mating over with in the U.S., so they can begin nest-building the minute they return to Northern Canada in late February or March. Bromely adds that these geese are monogamous, but isn't sure that this is entirely a Canadian characteristic.