La Cabane à Sucre, known in English as a “Sugar Shack” is a traditional end-of-winter, beginning of spring tradition in Québec. This is the season where the maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup. (Random trivia point: Québec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, more than all US production combined!). So the sugar shack meals starts with some bean soup, with bread and a lard-and-onion spread called “creton.” Then comes the omelette, bacon, sausage and “oreilles de crisse” – deep-fried cruncy pork fat. And if you are wondering how the maple syrup comes into all of this, you are supposed to pour maple syrup onto your eggs and pork fat. Believe it or not, it actually tastes pretty good.
And to make sure we get some vegetables in our diet, you get some cole slaw and you get to help yourself to some picked cucumbers, beets and onions. Also, be sure to save room for dessert – every imaginable combination and permutation of eggs, butter, cream, brown sugar and maple syrup.
(Below) Maple Taffy (Tire à l’érable) Maple syrup is boiled and then poured on fresh snow to form maple taffy. You pick it up with a popsicle stick and enjoy!
Québec cuisine is based on good ol’ meat and potatoes. Fatty and filling, it hits the spot just right considering the frigid climate. Below is a picture of Sophia and I trying our hand at raclette – actually a Swiss specialty – which involves cooking potatoes and meat on a grill and then topping it with melted cheese.
The meal was rounded out by some fried eggs and some salad. At the same restaurant, I got to try some tourtière de caribou – a kind of caribou (the term for wild North American reindeer) meat pot pie.
And here (above) is the Québec specialty known as poutine. French fries (or as they are known locally, “patates frites” but definitely not “freedom fries”) topped with gravy and cheese curds (that’s the white bits). We tried the spicy and the regular variety. The spicy one was definitely more interesting, but not all that spicy.
Another culinary highlight from Québec (not pictured) is “fondue chinoise” – Chinese fondue. I’m not quite sure why they call it that, because there is nothing particulary Chinese about a meat fondue where you cook your meat in vegetables in a brown, pre-packaged sauce and then dip them in various mayonaise-based sauces. I guess it does kind of resemble Japanese nabe (鍋) or Chinese “hot pot” (火鍋) in concept but not really in flavor.