|Alternative name(s)||Mabel bars, W.I. bars|
|Place of origin||Canada|
|Region or state||Nanaimo, British Columbia|
|Main ingredient(s)||Crumb, icing, chocolate|
|Variations||Many types of crumb and icing|
The Nanaimo bar is a dessert item of Canadian origin popular across North America. It is a bar dessert which requires no baking and is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. It consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing which is covered with melted chocolate made from chocolate squares. Many varieties exist, consisting of different types of crumb with different flavours of icing (e.g., mint, peanut butter) and different types of chocolate. Two popular variations on the traditional Nanaimo bar involve mint- or mocha-flavoured icing.
The bar originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Mabel Jenkins, a local housewife from Cowichan Bay, submitted the recipe to the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Women's Institute Cookbook. This cookbook was sold in the early 1950s in the region as a fundraiser. It became popular in many of the province's households, especially in company towns, and was sold in many of the coffee shops on Nanaimo's Commercial Street. Tourists in the region, especially US tourists on pleasure boats, came to refer to these as "Nanaimo Bars". In Nanaimo and points south to Duncan, however, these were originally referred to as "Mabel bars," or "W.I. bars". The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe using the name "Nanaimo Bars" appears in a publication entitled His/Her Favourite Recipes, Compiled by the Women's Association of the Brechin United Church (1957), with the recipe submitted by Joy Wilgress, a Baltimore, Maryland, native (p.52). (Brechin United Church is in Nanaimo.) This recipe also is reprinted in Kim Blank's book, Sex, Life Itself, and the Original Nanaimo Bar Recipe (Umberto Press, 1999, pp.127-29).
In 1954 the recipe "Mabel's Squares" (p.84) was published in "The Country Woman's Favorite" by the Upper Gloucester Women's Institute (New Brunswick). The recipe was submitted by Mrs. Harold Payne, the daughter of Mabel (Knowles) Scott (1883-1957). The ingredients list, quantities, and fabrication closely match the recipe found on the City of Nanaimo web site.
The first printing of recipes featuring Nanaimo Bar ingredients is found in the 1952 Women's Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook.[original research?] They are referred to as the "Chocolate Square" or the "Chocolate Slice". Some[who?] say the first use of the name Nanaimo Bar was in an Edith Adams cookbook printed in 1953.
Other unconfirmed references date the bars back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as "chocolate fridge cake". Some New Yorkers claim the recipe originated in New York and refer to them as "New York Slices". However, Tim Hortons coffee shops, a Canadian chain, sell them in New York as "Nanaimo Bars". One modern reference even refers to the bars' existing in nineteenth century Nanaimo.
The popularity of the bar in Nanaimo led local residents to mobilise to have it voted "Canada's Favourite Confection" in a National Post reader survey. In 1985, Mayor Graeme Roberts initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe, and the recipe submitted by Joyce Hardcastle, a resident of Nanaimo, was unanimously selected by a panel of judges.
Recipes for similar desserts are found in various places and under various names in North America and Europe. The designation "Nanaimo Bar" is Canadian; Nanaimo Bar appears in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary but not in other language or dialect versions. 1988, Stephano's Bakery in Killaloe, Ontario, created a version of Nanaimo Bars that they sold on college campuses throughout Ontario.  The term is also common in the American Pacific Northwest and has been used in places such as New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Sydney because of international popularization of the bar by the Seattle-based Starbucks coffee chain.
In the 2003 Christopher Guest movie A Mighty Wind, the character of Mickey Crabbe (a Canadian) says, ". . . I'd consider going home, making a nice tray of Nanaimo bars, lying in bed and watching TV--that's what I like doing".
In 2011 The Ron James Show, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, explored the origins of the Nanaimo bar in a "mockumentary" segment where James traveled to Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Similar delicacies are found outside of Canada, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and New York City. They have been sold in Southport, United Kingdom, in shops and restaurants since the 1980s. In 2009, Dirt Candy, a New York City restaurant owned and operated by Chef Amanda Cohen, put a version of Nanaimo bars  on the menu, inspiring several Canadians  to protest that their unique dessert was being Americanized. Nanaimo bars can also be found in Australian coffee shops in large cities. Nanaimo Bars are also sold in Vientienne, Laos, at some small coffee shops along the Mekong River.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Nanaimo bar|
- "The Country Woman's Favorite". University of Guelph, McLaughlin Library. (Call number: TX715.6 C687).
- "The Country Woman's Favorite". Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. (Call number: TX715.6 C6959 1954).
- "Nanaimo Bars". Nanaimo Hotel. January 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- "Nanaimo Bars". City of Nanaimo. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- Matt Preston (August 9, 2005). "Tried Trio". The Age. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- "Democracy never tasted so delicious". National Post. June 30, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- "Nanaimo Bars". The Buccaneer Inn. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- Barber, Katherine (ed) (2004). [[Canadian Oxford Dictionary|The Canadian Oxford Dictionary]] (2nd ed.). Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-541816-6 Wikilink embedded in URL title (help)
- Elaine Gold (2007). "Canadian Oxford Dictionary (review)". University of Toronto Quarterly (University of Toronto Press) 1 (76): 321–322. doi:10.1353/utq.2007.0095.