• Editor's Note Winter 2017

    Editor's Note Winter 2017

    “If you’re going to Québec City, you have to visit a cabane à sucre,” said Claire. 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.

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  • Set the Table with Poutine

    Set the Table with Poutine

    I grew up in California, in a world of dayboat salmon, tofu, and spinach salad. I only became vaguely aware of the odd sounding “poutine” when I moved to Vermont. French fries with gravy and cheese curds? I mean, that all sounds weird enough without including the word “curds” at the end.

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  • Along the Route des Vins

    Along the Route des Vins

    In the first unpredictable weeks of spring, workers at Québec’s Léon Courville vineyard lay the bones of 1,200 tiny bonfires between the vines.

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  • So Close And Yet So Far

    So Close And Yet So Far

    Ask people in agriculture about the challenges of selling Vermont food in Québec, and folks tend to have the same first reaction.

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  • Au Marché

    Au Marché

    On a sunny, crisp day in early September, a friend and I meandered over the border to visit three Québec farmers’ markets.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Every week at Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, six tons of flour is mixed, kneaded, and transformed into 18,000 loaves of bread.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Some 20 years ago, when Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds was living in Holland, Vermont, just on the border with Québec, he met Laurier Chabot at a biodynamic agriculture conference.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    When David and Linda Boyden started Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge in 1996, they had zero experience in viticulture or oenology, save for a class that David had taken at Cornell University.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Imagine two Caesar salads: Both are tossed in that classic salty dressing and topped with croutons, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. And both salads have, as their base, crisp and crunchy romaine lettuce.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Fields  of  Gold

    Neighbors to the North—Fields of Gold

    Jack Lazor called me at 8:00 p.m. the other night, which surprised me. I’m used to dairy farmer hours, and 8:00 p.m is past bedtime for most dairymen and women I’ve known.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Vermont Salumi, a small company making fresh sausages and hand-tied salami in the Italian tradition, is based just outside Plainfield.

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  • To Market, to Bank

    To Market, to Bank

    Québecois grower Jean-Martin Fortier draws a distinction between a good living and a good life.  “’A good living’ mostly refers to how much money you make,” he tells me during a phone call. A good life, in contrast, takes into account “how your time is spent, and to what purpose.”

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  • Last Morsel—My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Last Morsel—My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Whenever I catch a whiff of cinnamon or cloves, my mind drifts to my mother’s kitchen and the French Canadian food traditions that shaped how I learned to cook.

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Editor's Note Winter 2017

Customs and Immigration border inspection station at Morses Line, Vermont, 1940; photo courtesy of Department Of Homeland Security
Customs and Immigration border inspection station at Morses Line, Vermont, 1940

Written By

Caroline Abels

Written on

November 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.
                —Caroline Abels

About the Author

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels is the editor of Local Banquet and the founder-editor of Humaneitarian.org, a website that inspires people to buy and eat humanely raised meat.

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Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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