Editor's Note Winter 2017
Written onNovember 14 , 2016
“If you’re going to Québec City, you have to visit a cabane à sucre,” said Claire.
I figured she should know. Married to a Québecois man, and a frequent visitor to our neighboring province to the north, Claire (who wrote an article on poutine for this issue, see page 6) gave me this advice with an air of authority. And her good advice was confirmed as soon as my partner and I walked into Cabane à Sucre Leclerc in Neuville on a chilly, snowy evening.
It was mid-March, the height of maple sugaring season, when Québec residents celebrate the sap by gathering in banquet halls and auditoriums and restaurants and sugar shacks to feast on maple-infused foods. The word cabane means hut, cabin, or shack in French, and sucre means sugar. So yes, we were visiting a sugar shack, but not just one where people make maple syrup; one where people party.
As we approached this particular cabane—run by the Leclerc family—we heard oom-pah music coming from inside the banquet hall and realized from the license plates that we would be the only Americans there. Glad that we both speak conversational French, my partner and I told the lady at the entrance that we had a reservation and sat down at a long group table covered by a plastic red-checkered tablecloth.
Pretty soon, we were feasting on maple-glazed sausages, maple-glazed ham, pea soup and potatoes, simple baked beans, white bread with butter, and a custardy, mapley dessert. We were able to chat with others at our table (whenever the DJ’s music quieted down long enough for us to hear them), but we unfortunately couldn’t sing along to all the Québecois folk songs that everyone was chanting heartily.
My partner, being an adventurous fellow, decided to participate in one of the group games that followed the meal. Two men sat in chairs and competed to see who could more quickly roll up a heavy water bottle attached by a long string to a wooden rod. I then participated in the “ladies’ game,” which was to toss a ball around a circle and try not to get caught with it when the music suddenly stopped.
I had wanted to put together a special Québec issue of Local Banquet long before I attended my first cabane, but the experience affirmed for me how lucky we are to live so close to another culture—one with its own folk songs, celebrations, and culinary traditions. It’s a culture worth exploring—not as a tourist, but as a guest.
In this issue, we offer a bit of insight into Québec agriculture, not by providing a survey of what’s grown there, but by looking at the relationships being built between Québec farmers and Vermont growers and food producers. By all accounts, Vermonters in the local food industry are feeling very welcomed by their counterparts to the north—just as my partner and I felt warmly welcomed inside that cozy cabane.