#Travel Fever

Christmas in Alberta: Community and BBQ

What should have been an icy, subzero Christmas in Canada turned into a warm community filled adventure with great food.


Canadian flag with a snowy backdrop

Over the years, I’ve traveled extensively throughout the US and Asia, but somehow I’d never made it across the border to Canada. Maybe it was the colder weather, but truthfully I just hadn’t gotten around to it.

My wife and I finally made a trip over the summer, meeting up with her sister and nephews in Alberta before heading to the Philippines. It was a short trip, staying for only a couple days, but once I finally got a taste of Poutine, we knew we’d need to make another trip.

Basket of poutine - Fries covered in cheese curds and gravy
Poutine - French for a delicious basket of mouthwatering goodness.

Then, another of my wife’s sisters moved to Alberta for work and magically our Christmas and New Years plans were settled. Back to Canada we go! In the middle of winter, where temperatures range -15 to -40 Fahrenheit (-25 to -40 Celsius)!

Turns out, we lucked into a heatwave. Instead of the usual sub-zero December, temps hovered around 40-50 Fahrenheit (5-10 Celsius). The surprising warmer weather made it perfect for exploring.

I might live in Colorado, but the cold and I don't get along.

Alberta’s Rockies were a familiar sight, traveling from Colorado, but the majority of the landscape is surprisingly flat - like a much colder mirror of my home state, Nebraska. After the last several years of city living, there was a homely comfort in the prairies and farmlands stretching across the region.

If anything, that’s exactly how I’d describe our trip, comforting and quiet. Not quiet in a boring way, mind you. People think rural living is dull with the lack of ‘nightclubs’ and major shopping centers, but the truth is that there’s far more to do than you’d imagine. Between bartering with the hutterite colonies, preparing food and games for the local Christmas party at the community center, hockey games, birthday celebrations, beers by the firepit with friends, and more, we kept ourselves so busy that we didn’t even get to everything we’d planned!

Image of the author standing next to a Jollibee statue.
I made friends.

The locals were exactly like folks from smaller communities back home: friendly and welcoming. It was fun comparing and contrasting our cultures and sharing experiences.

The food was where I noticed the biggest differences. Just like the US, beef, pork and chicken were plentiful, but it was the abundance of wild game meat in the region like elk and moose that influenced barbecue preparation and seasoning. Barbecue relied heavily on sauces and marinades for preparation and was marked by sweeter and more savory sauce mixes.

Contrast this with my experiences growing up with Texas and Kansas City barbecue, which took influence from our southern neighbors in Mexico with its use of peppers and spices. Sauces are sweet but infused with pepper and spice for more kick and are hardly central to the dish. Barbecue prep focuses instead on using direct seasoning to draw out the natural flavors of the meat with sauce being an added bonus. Not to say one style is better or worse than the other, but highlighting the differences in taste and texture.

To share my barbecue experience, I prepared a brisket for our Christmas party. With a simple seasoning rub of salt, black pepper, chili flakes, and paprika, slow-roasted over hickory wood for 18 hours until the brisket melted like butter.

Image in gallery of images. Unable to set alt for galleries.
Image in gallery of images. Unable to set alt for galleries.

I'm aware this should be cut against the grain. Don't attack me.

I noted before that local barbecue in Alberta was influenced by an abundance of leaner meat such as elk and moose. This led to shock when I explained we were roasting the brisket to 203 degrees Fahrenheit (94 Celsius), because cooking leaner meat past 165 Fahrenheit (75 Celsius) was a crime against food, creating dry, inedible, bricks of meat. However, with fatty cuts of meat like beef brisket or pork shoulder, it’s once you break 200 degrees Fahrenheit that the fat within the meat breaks down and creates a buttery blob of deliciousness.

Needless to say, it was a hit, especially when combined with my homemade potato rolls. The brisket and rolls vanished in the blink of the eye! Between the brisket, the Filipino dishes, and the Canadian barbecue (Moose steaks, sausage, and spicy salmon jerky), I definitely gained some vacation weight on the trip.

Between the landscape, the people, the amazing food, and abundance of activities, we had a fantastic time in Alberta. There’s still so much to experience, both in Alberta and the rest of Canada.

Group of cool people with cool fireworks celebrating the new year.
Happy New Year 2024!

We’ll definitely be visiting more often, but for now… cheers, Canada!


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