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Getting our just desserts

Ben and Jerry's wants Canadians to name its new ice cream.

Ben and Jerry's wants Canadians to name its new ice cream.

The Canadian arm of the Vermont-based company is running a Facebook contest in which consumers are invited to christen a combination of vanilla ice cream, fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a fudge swirl.

"It's a flavour combination that's distinct to Canada," says Ben and Jerry's Shoshana Price, on the phone from Toronto. The company is encouraging Canadians to choose a permanent name for the flavour it has temporarily titled We Are Waffling.

OK, how about We Are Marketing.

Or maybe We Are Trying To Carve Out A Canadian Identity.

Can't blame Ben and Jerry's for that, though it does raise the question of what a distinctly Canadian ice cream would taste like. Maple-flavoured would be too obvious. Pemmican 'N' Poutine would have an authentic, alliterative quality, but no one would come back for seconds. B.C. Bud would work too well: Eat one bowl, then get the munchies and scarf the whole tub.

A truly Canadian ice cream would be something like Neapolitan -- a cultural mosaic, as it were, as opposed to the American melting pot where all the flavours blend together when you leave the freezer door (or perhaps the Mexican border) open.

Of course, some Canadians complain that the package used to come with way more vanilla, to which the chocolate fans reply that it's about time the balance shifted and the strawberry guys say both of you shut up, we were here first. Alas, Canada is not free of flavourism.

One would think ice cream would be a natural fit for a country in which even the lawnmowers need block heater cords. Lord knows we're not terribly inventive when it comes to other desserts, at least according to the experts.

CBC Radio once aired a show in which one foodie asserted that there are only two true Canadian confections, only two with their roots in this nation -- the Nanaimo bar and the butter tart. Whoever made this claim also said you can even tell which church bake sale the butter tarts come from: Catholic tarts are dark and deep, Anglican tarts are crusty and the United Church ones kind of light and flaky. (Personally, I'm terribly offended by this remark and think anyone who is upset should complain to the CBC Radio - or at least not me - C/O Your Tax Dollars At Work, 666 Satan Place, Godless, Ont.)

Which leaves us with Canada's greatest contribution to global cuisine, the Nanaimo bar. We tend to take this homegrown treat for granted, most of us not even aware of its ingredients. ("I'll tell you what's in a Nanaimo bar," sang folksinger Bob Bossin. "Smoke and peelers, cocaine dealers, red neck loggers, non-stop talkers, hookers with daughters, yes, yes, yes.")

Truth is, the Nanaimo bar, sweeter than Sidney Crosby's overtime Olympics goal, would be the most addictive substance on Earth if it didn't tend to clog the crack pipe. Anywhere else with a treasure this precious would guard it as jealously as a psycho boyfriend hovering over his girlfriend in a, well, Nanaimo bar.

If the Nanaimo bar came from France, the French would make sure no one else got to the use the name, just as they fought to ensure only champagne from Champagne is sold as such. Just as only whiskey made in Scotland may be called scotch. Ditto for Italy's Parma ham.

In fact, the European Union has given legal protection to 1,300 foods, everything from Bordeaux wine and Roquefort cheese to Newcastle Brown Ale and, as of this February, something called Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, which is grown in the dark (and harvested by candlelight) by a dozen farmers in the north of England.

If you went to a swank restaurant and they offered you a choice between forced rhubarb and a Nanaimo bar for dessert, which would you choose? I rest my case.

We should ask the Supreme Court of Canada (or, just to mess with their heads, the European Union) to guarantee exclusive use of the Nanaimo bar name. There can be no waffling if we want our just desserts.