Let’s Eat! The Traditional Food of Québec

By / Food / March 1st, 2010 / 2

Steak, corn, potatoes… While digging in a traditional shepherd’s pie, have you ever noticed that these three ingredients recall the different cultures which forged the first eating habits in Québec?

I recently heard about this exhibit mounted at The Château Ramezay Museum in Montréal. The curator explores the varied influences on the cuisine of Quebec. For instance, corn can be attributed to the First Nations, and beef, to the French colonists, while potatoes remind us of the British presence. The exhibition is called Let’s Eat! and runs until September 2010.

Here are some of the surprising discoveries about eating habits of the past and how they have influenced our present day food-heritage that the exhibit creators are presenting.

Did you know that…

– The famous sugar shack meal comes straight out of British kitchens;
– In New France, Canadians could eat beaver meat during Lent… with the benediction of the Church;
– Wine was consumed for therapeutic purposes;
– In the 17th and 18th centuries, the settlers in Upper Canada had better diets than did the French in Lower Canada.

Let’s Eat! explores different facets of the culinary culture in Québec, from the arrival of the first colonists to the modern days. Not only will this exhibit reveal what was served in 17th-century plate-bowls or 19th-century china saucers, but it will also show food preservation methods, meal preparation, the impact of agricultural techniques on food, dining etiquette and customs, foodstuff importations, as well as the more recent contributions of newcomers to the Québécois culinary repertoire.

More than one hundred artefacts will show the evolution of consumption habits, from the cider press and the toothpick case, to the ginger beer bottle, the chocolate maker, and even Schwartz’s own smoked meat knife!

Let’s Eat! is a great opportunity to test your knowledge of so-called traditional meals and discover the cultural influences which have shaped our culinary repertoire through the centuries. If you happen to be in Montréal, check it out and let me know what you think of it.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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