This word, unique to Québécoise French, denotes two
related species of freshwater fish, one a small-mouthed
bass, the other a large-mouthed bass, both feisty
favorites of sport fishermen. The word was borrowed
early into Canadian English and French from the
Algonkian languages, Cree and Ojibwa, where achigan
means 'struggler', 'splasher', 'fighter'. North of
Montréal flows the Rivière de l'Achigan 'Bass River',
which counts among the pleasant hamlets along its
meandering course Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan. The river
begins at Lac de l'Achigan.
Baboche. Baglosse. Bagosse. Petit Blanc. Robine.
All these colourful Quebecesims refer variously to
homebrew, moonshine whisky, and hootch, with the
implication in the words that the distillate under
discussion is not of the highest quality. In other
words, these are pretty good translations of "rotgut".
Like all tongues, la langue Québécoise has a lively
hoard of booze words and phrases. To wet one's whistle
can be translated se mouiller le canayen. To be a female
on the wagon is être Jeanne d'Arc. To be a male who has
given up ruinous drinking habits is être Lacordaire. If
one falls off the wagon, one is likely to
have mal aux cheveus, a hangover, but literally "a
hair-ache". So don't go on a bender, that is, partez pas
sur une balloune.
The last word on the above list of hootch terms is
robine, borrowed from that poisonous tipple of
impoverished alcoholics called in English rubbing
alcohol, and incidentally the source of the Canadian
disparagement, rubbie. A rubbie or wino or sodden
bum in Québec can be called un robineux.
This is the distinct Québec word for a pork jowl, an old
dialect form that has disappeared from modern French
where the standard term for jowl is bajoue. The suffixes
-ot and -otte were originally diminutive endings,
popular add-ons in the vernaculars of most Romance
languages. Bajottes could be baked or grilled by
themselves or ground up along with every other part of
the pig except the squeal to make pork sausages. Bajoue
was first a compound, in Medieval French bas joue 'low(er)
In Québec, this is a slice of bread generously buttered.
The standard European French word for a piece of
buttered bread is tartine. One might add jam, or on une
beurrée de miel, honey. Even more redolent of la cuisine
Québécoise would be beurrée de sucre d'érable, a stout
cut of home baked whole-wheat bread, slathered with
sweet Lactantia(TM) butter, and sprinkled with maple
Les Binnes or Fèvres au Lard.
It's pork and beans, sweetened not with molasses and
brown sugar tonight, but with ambrosial rills of maple
syrup. Diced salt pork makes up the meaty bits. Stirred
in will be a hefty spoon of fiery dried mustard. As we
slip the large casserole into the oven for its
five-or-six-hour baking, we may place a tender chicken
breast in the beany midst of the dish.
And never, never shall the meat consist of some quick,
slipshod, made-do protein like sliced hot dogs. Tabarnac!
Why, such sausageoid abominations might contain the
curly tails of hapless piggywigs, the noble ears of once
proud steeds, the very genitalia of innocent lambkins
who lately bleated their bliss on hillsides green. The
legal ingredients in hot dogs in Canada -- believe it or
not -- also permit a certain amount of "mouse droppings
and insect parts". That quote is from the Agriculture
Canada regulations. For a bracing corrective, I
recommend some eventide a close reading of what is
permitted in processed meat in Canada. Read it a
considerable time after supper.
Va aux bines! is a provincial slang expression
equivalent to "buzz off!" in English.
This North American French term for corn first appeared
in print in 1603. A variant was blé indien. Both mean
'Indian corn'. The French in North America called it blé
d'Inde because some Aboriginal peoples encountered by
early Europeans told them that the cultivation of corn
occurred first in the islands des Indes Occidentales 'of
the West Indies'. In fact, the Taino, the Caribs, and
other island peoples brought knowledge of corn growing
with them from the mainland. The earliest corn remnants
found by paleobotanists and archaeologists at Tehuacán
in Mexico have been carbon-dated as being 7,500 years
old. Corn's cultivation had spread southward and
northward long before Europeans arrived in the "New"
World. Explorer Jacques Cartier found it being grown
plentifully along the St. Lawrence in 1535.
Although blé means 'wheat' in modern French, earlier it
referred to corn in the sense of seeds of any cereal
crop. Corn still has this meaning in British English.
The word blé appears in French manuscripts as early as
1080, with subforms like blet, derived from the language
of the ancient Franks where blad meant 'something
harvested from the earth'. The ultimate Indo-European
root of blé is * bhle- 'flower, leaf, plant part'. The
asterisk preceding an IE root citation labels the form
as hypothetical, a root based on comparative research
and conjecture as opposed to printed proof. Since the
earliest speakers of Indo-European were pre-alphabetic,
no inscriptions survive.
In standard French, corn is maïs, as it is maize in
Great Britain, both derived from Spanish maíz. Spanish
conquerors first encountered corn on the island of
Hispaniola being grown by the Taino people. The Taino
lived on several other Caribbean island groups such as
the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas. They and their
Arawakan language are now extinct. Corn in Taino was
In ancient France, bouillon was the broth or stock
rendered from boiling (bouiller 'to boil') vegetables or
meat, and many a humble kitchen kept a stock pot ready
to simmer in a permanent place on the stove. In classic
French cuisine, bouillon is the liquid part of a
pot-au-feu. But among the first French settlers and
explorers of what became Canada, a bouillon came to
refer to a hearty stew of whatever vegetables and meat
or fish were readily to hand. So pervasive was its use
that the word passed into Canadian English. Various
recipes and local adaptations of bouillon d'habitant
'farmer's stew' were carried across the country right to
the Pacific and into our North by French traders,
trappers, and much later by bûcherons 'lumberjacks'.
One writer about the
rolling lands of our Dominion was Stewart E. White who
sings the delights of this stew in The Forest published
in 1903: "[trout] mingled in the famous North Country
bouillon, whose other ingredients are partridges, and
tomatoes, and potatoes, and onions, and salt pork, and
flour in combination delicious beyond belief".
From the same verb bouiller 'to boil' comes another
common food noun, bouilli, which in France, as still in
Québec today, is a boiled dinner.
A Note on
A few words are of interest here concerning
the people who brought the old recipes to
Québec and who through the centuries have
grown so much of its food. At different
times in the history of Québec, this
familiar word has had different meanings.
Habitant began as a legal term in the "new"
feudalism of New France. A habitant was a
free proprietor who held land in tenure
within the seigneurial system. This system,
in legal force from 1627 until 1854, was a
way to distribute and occupy land in a new
colony. Seigneuries were large tracts of
land granted to the richest colonists of New
France, often sons of French nobles.
In return for
their probision of teaching and medical
services, convents and other religious
bodies could also be seigneuries. These
large tracts of land were also granted to
high military officers and certain civil
administrators. In turn, the seigneur
divided his land grant into parcels, and
leased these smaller farms by contract to
tenants, called censitaires or habitants.
The habitant was obliged to put the land
into fertile production as soon as possible,
to grow enough food to sustain his family,
and to be productive enough to have some
crops or money left over to pay his tenant's
rent to the seigneur. This fee was the
famous cens et rente, the cens being a small
feudal tithe, the rent being money or its
equivalent in produce. The habitant also had
to pay a grain tax called les banalités.
The seigneur was given other rights
pertaining to his land. A seigneur could set
up a court of law, a mill, a commune, and
sell licenses to hunt, to fish, and to cut
wood on his land. The habitant was under
legal obligation to grind grain at the mill
of his seigneur. As well, the seigneur could
demand a certain number of days of free work
from each tenant. This required labour was
une corvée. As the corvée was technically
illegal, it generated resentment, and was
eventually suppressed. By the 1850's, corvée
gained a new meaning and denoted the
volunteer work that local people performed
to help build a barn, a new silo, or a
As the 19th
century dawned, almost 80 percent of
Québecers lived as habitants, and another
system of land distribution, the township
system -- still familiar to us -- began to
grow alongside the seigneurial holdings.
Tenured land favoured the wealthy seigneurs,
and prevented economic and industrial
progress, so, as the century reached
midpoint, a bitter struggle to end the
seigneuries ensued. Finally, in 1854, it was
abolished and habitants could claim
farmlands as their own.
By the end of the 18th century, a growing
number of people held no land even in
tenure. They worked as farmhands for landed
peasants, and they, too, came to be called
habitants in North American French.
Eventually in Québécoise, habitant meant
simply any 'farmer'. In modern Québec
French, it also carries a subsidiary meaning
reeking of classist put-down. For example,
un habitant can mean 'a person with boorish
manners'. Faites pas l'habitant icette could
be translated: 'Don't try that country hick
act around here'. In the 19th and early 20th
centuries, habitant in English referred to
anyone from rural Québec, not always in a
Here is a modern, spritely portmanteau word that
combines calvados and Québec to name an eau de-vie or
brandy distilled from apple cider. Calvados is a
department of Normandy in northern France noted for its
apple brandy, also called calvados. In France, the short
form is widely used when ordering in restaurants: "Garçon,
un calva, s'il vous plaît". So it was natural to name a
local apple brandy un calva de Québec or un calvabec.
It means 'ground meat' in Québec, and also has the more
general slang sense of 'grub'. Chiard also names a
tasty fried hash: hamburger or leftover meat chopped up
and fried with potatoes and onions, seasoned with the
most popular herb in la belle province, savory. Diced
salt pork was once a favourite ingredient of chiard or
chiards blancs (white hash because of the potatoes).
Once fried, this "grub" would keep for a day or two, and
could be packed as a meal for a fisherman, hunter, or
trapper going out on a short trip. In fact, it has
variant names like chiard de goélette 'fishing-boat
hash' and chiard du pêcheur 'fisherman's hash'.
Extended figurative meanings occur as well, where un
chiard is 'a mess', 'a large crowd of people', and 'a
small fight, a scrap'. "Quel beau chiard!" "What a
Some authorities -- those few who deign to speculate on
the origins of French slang -- suggest that the prime
meaning of chiard is 'mess', and that it begins as a
popular cradle word for a child, and stems from the
vulgar French verb chier 'to shit', ultimately from
Latin cacare. Thus, chiard has the verbal stem chi- and
adds the common French pejorative and agent suffix -ard,
so that its literal meaning is 'shitter', but in its use
as a French nursery term, chiard is playfully applied
and means 'little shitter' as an endearment. In the
slang of present-day France, chiard is still used this
way. So, could it have once named a fecal-brown hash?
Seems quite likely.
The Petit Robert, a
well-known French dictionary, states that chiard to
describe a child is a coinage of the mid-20th century. I
suggest, first, that we know the verb chier has been in
French since the 13th century, and, second, that chiard
was coined hundreds of years before the mid-20th
century, and carried by immigrants from northern France
to the new world as a humorous tag for a peasant hash.
Here is a word for a layered meat pie familiar to all
who love Québec cookery. Not so well known is the
delightful linguistic dispute attached to this term.
Both French and English claim its origin. According to
most recent etymological probings, Québec's cipaille is
just the English phrase sea pie wearing French spelling.
Borrowed from British nautical slang -- where it named
leftovers of meat and vegetables layered in a big pot
since at least 1751 -- sea pie now is a deep-dish meat
pie made by layering assorted uncooked, cubed meats
inside a pastry-lined Dutch oven. Herbs, onions,
potatoes are added, then bouillon, and perhaps wine.
Nineteenth-century British sailors spoke of two- or
three-decker sea pies.
But one alternative
source is warmly embraced by French etymologists who
state that cipaille derives ultimately from Latin caepa
'onion' because both the dish and bulb have many layers.
To arrive at the French form cipaille, one might posit
an intermediary diminutive or affectionate form like *cepallus
'little onion'. *Cepallus is a hypothetical construct --
that's what some linguists call an informed guess, and
that's what the asterisk means. However, caepulla 'onion
bed' is an attested form in a farming handbook written
in postclassical Latin in a manuscript dated around
AD350. Latin caepulla is the source of the modern
Italian word for onion, cipolla. In fact, the Italian
could be the transmission form into French, through one
of the southern French dialects, in a chain that might
look like this: cipollo > cipallo > cipaillo > cipaille.
Which origin is correct? Well, the British sea pie is
the earliest in print, by 1751. But that is no proof
that French borrowed it from English.
We must await printed or
written evidence that cipaille appears earlier than sea
pie. Then perhaps we can begin to sift such evidence. On
every list of traditional Québec foods, cipaille was and
is a particular favourite at Réveillon, the Christmas
feast after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Throughout
the province there are many regional variations of
cipaille, and in some places the food is called
tourtière (see entry in this chapter), although that
term usually describes a shallow-dished,
thinner-crusted, unlayered meat pie. The Aboriginal
Montagnais people of Québec adapted wheat flour, which
arrived with white settlers, to create their own
distinctive version of cipaille where the meat is a
selection of wild game. In their earliest recipe, the
dish was cooked in an earthenware pot and the dough
pastry was put only on top of the pot contents near the
end of the cooking.
A big sea pie is still
the favoured provender of a high feast among the
Montagnais and may simmer for six hours, with each vast
pot feeding twenty-five feasters. Traditional
meats in a cipaille included venison, pheasant, hare, or
duck. After imported spices had been made
regularly available in the province, the sweet pungency
of cloves became de rigueur in the cipaille of some
districts of Québec. Nowadays, the ubiquity of these
wizened little flower heads of the tropical clove tree
have made cooks blasé about their inclusion. Often,
today, spicing of cipaille consists of salt and pepper
and a trite mélange of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and
In some Québec places, cipâte is a synonym for cipaille
to name a layered meat pie. There is even a local
variant, cipâre. The Gaspé region boasts a salmon cipâte.
French folk etymology suggests that cipâte is a
shortened form of six-pâtes 'six pastries', alluding to
the numerous layers.
This is a children's candy in the form of a cone of
taffy. The name of this candy kiss is derived from a
brand name, Klondyke, after the gold rush locality of
the Klondike. The candy is also referred to in spoken
Québécoise as kiss or tire.
This, the favourite potted meat dish in the whole
province, is a coarse pâté de champagne of medieval
origin, made of ground pork and pork fat flavoured with
cinnamon and cloves. The pâté is made from parts like
pork shoulder and kidney put through a meat grinder and
then into a saucepan with onions, garlic, salt and
pepper. Add water; heat to a boil; simmer for two hours.
The mixture is put into cold bowls or moulds (thus
"potted"), and let stand to cool. Then it goes into the
fridge to "mature" for one or two days.
In Old French, creton or criton designated a piece of
pork fat fried in a pan. But creton has virtually
disappeared from modern European French. The dish called
cretons in Québec is similar to pot de rillettes, a
potted mince of pork which is one of the specialties of
Tours. Other European synonyms are rillons or rillettes
by itself, both from 15th-century French rille 'a strip
In Québec, a croquignole is a homemade doughnut fried in
lard. In France, it's a small, dry, crunchy biscuit, its
name derived from croquer 'to crunch (between the
Here's a Québec coinage, in print from 1862, to name a
social and working occasion, a corn-husking bee, a
shuckfest as it's called in Iowa. Although these
pleasant get-togethers have vanished with the advent of
automatic husking machines, another use has sprung up,
in the current phrase, épluchette de blé d'Inde 'corn
roast', held as a party, part of a family reunion, or to
raise money for charitable purposes. Éplucher 'to peel'
is ultimately from Latin ex 'off, out' + pilus 'hair,
skin, fur'. Latin pilare 'to deprive of hair or skin' is
the source of our English verb, to peel. Latin
pilus also gives us the pile of a carpet (its 'hair').
This is a sharp, salty blue cheese made by monks of the
Benedictine monastery at St.-Benoît-du-Lac in the
eastern townships of Québec and named 'the hermit' or
l'ermite because the place is a well-known Roman
Catholic retreat. The Saint Benoît in the name of the
locality is, of course, Saint Benedict of Norcia,
founder of the Benedictine Order. The lake is the nearby
and wonderfully named Memphremagog, which is a slight
mangling of its first name in the Abenaki language,
mamhlawbagak 'wide stretch of water', referring to the
forty-four-kilometre length of the body of water.
Galette des Rois (Twelfth Night Cookie).
Three Kings' Biscuit is a treat baked on the church
feast of Epiphany, January 6, commemorating the coming
of the three wise men or Magi to worship the baby Jesus.
The feast of Epiphany is also called Twelfth Night in
English. Roman Catholic immigrants to North America
brought this traditional confection from France. Each
little cookie usually contains one bean, la fève des
Rois, the bean of the Magi.
The word galette has been in continental French from the
13th century to denote a flat round cake, derived from
an older but still extant word galet 'a flat beach
pebble polished by wave action'. Galet is a diminutive
form of gal 'rock, stone' from Gaulish gallos 'stone'.
Other Uses of the Word Galette.
An older bit of comic dismissal in joyal, the lively
slang of Québec, is: baise ma galette! or buzz
off! Literally, of course, it means 'kiss my cookie'. In
old nautical French, galette was the word for hard tack
biscuit, and it was used among French-speaking
travellers across early Canada to refer to bannock bread
done over a campfire or shanty cook stove. As
well, galette is used to denote certain crêpes. In
Québec and in some old regional dialects of France, une
galette de sarrasin is a buckwheat pancake, while flat
cornmeal cakes are galettes de blé d'Inde.
This is French fries, cheese curds, sliced chicken,
peas, and coleslaw, sometimes slathered with chicken
gravy. The name of this homey slop arises from a
vernacular French verb, galvauder 'to bum around', with
other connotations like 'misuse', and 'desecrate',
especially with reference to words or names. So it might
be said that this dish galvaude(s) the good name of
poutine, of which this is really a culinary variation.
See the poutine entry later in this chapter. Galvauder
can also mean 'to chew food noisily', 'to mess up
something', and 'to rummage around (in a drawer or
closet)', therefore, as a recipe name, it might be
translated playfully as
Gateau Jos. Louis.
Gateau Jos. Louis is Québec's favourite packaged little
cake invented by the Vachon family in the town of
Sainte-Marie-de-la-Beauce. I grew up in southern Ontario
and gobbled myriad Jos. Louis as a kid, to the undelight
of parents and dentists.La Beauce, south of Québec City,
home of vast maple stands, is one of the prettiest of
Québec regions. The nickname of residents there, les
Beaucerons, is les jarrets noirs 'the black hocks'
referring to the black hocks of horses' feet that pulled
farmers' wagons hauling produce to town along the muddy
roads in days of yore. Among the local culinary features
of la Beauce are viande boucanée, salt pork smoked in
the rafters of a maple sugar shack, and an omelette
beauceronne stuffed with lardons, tomatoes, and the mild
cheddar de la Beauce.
A word coined in France to mean 'dirty joke' or
'trifling thing', gaudriole in Québec referred to a
mixture of oats, peas, and sometimes buckwheat, ground
to a flour or rough meal and used to fatten pigs.
Although it usually fed livestock, this mélange was
eaten by humans in dire straits, according to the
diaries of several early Québec settlers.
Gibelotte de Sorel is a catfish or perch stew from les
Îles de Sorel, islands off the little city of Sorel in
the Côte du Sud region on the south shore of the St.
Lawrence, and east of Québec City. Every July there is a
Gibelotte festival in Sorel, the fourth oldest city in
In popular speech of the province gibelotte has
extensions of meaning like 'grub', 'messy affair', and
the less common connotation of 'twaddle' or 'gibberish'.
As a food term of France, gibelotte's oldest meaning
(1617) refers to a method of preparing fish. Then it
came to name a fricassée, a stew of rabbit or fowl.
Gibelotte is a variant of the earlier gibelet 'a dish of
bird's flesh' from Old French gibier 'to hunt fowl'.
Middle English borrowed gibelet to give giblets, the
edible viscera of birds.
A French dialectic variant of grelot, whose original
meaning was a bell tied to an animal's neck, gorlot
referred in Québec first to sleigh bells on a cutter or
on a horse's neck. By later analogy, gorlot denoted a
very small, round, "new" potato. A juicy bit of
provincial slang arose using this word as well, when
gorlot acquired the slang meaning of 'mouth' or 'voice'.
"Ferme ton gorlot" equalled "Shut up!" or literally
'stop your sleigh bells, shut your mouth'.
In some regional dialects of Québec, the original French
form grelots 'sleigh bells' has the vulgar meaning of
'balls' or 'testicles', while its metathetical form
gorlot can mean 'dumbbell' or 'practical joker'. A busy
pair of wordlets, this grelot-gorlot duo.
Goudille or Guédilles.
Un goudille is a heap of mayonnaise-gooped coleslaw
served on a hot dog bun, a sort of very deprived and
forlorn submarine sandwich. One slightly improbable
source of this Québecism has been suggested, namely, the
English vernacular term, goody 'something good to eat, a
treat, a tasty food'. A particularly notable regional
variation from the Gaspé is quadielle or pieces of
boiled lobster in butter presented on a toasted hot dog
Gourgane is one of the most popular of Québec beans, a
large green bean with red stripes, especially popular in
cookery of the Charlevoix region and in the Saguenay
where soupe aux gourganes is a local delight. The
gourgane is a variety of the fève des Marais, a French
bog-bean from the famous area around Paris brought to la
Nouvelle France by the earliest colonists. Farms in the
Oac-Saint-Jean area grow billions of gourganes for
export every season.
Standard French for grandfather, in Québec this is a
dumpling boiled in water, soup, or broth, and eaten with
Herbes sâlées were the result of a special way that
cooks in New France preserved herbs through the long
winter. They mixed fresh herbs and
vegetables in alternating layers in thick brine, bottled
it, and used spoonfuls of herbes sâlées 'salted herbs'
to flavour winter soups and stews. Many chefs both at
home and in restaurant kitchens declare that no pea soup
'soupe aux pois' can be pronounced authentically
Québécoise unless it be flavoured with herbes sâlées.
Especially zingy bottles of herbes sâlées are often
available in gourmet food shops throughout Québec, the
best being Herbes sâlées du bas du fleuve made by J. Y.
Roy at Ste.-Flavie, gateway to the Gaspé region, or as
its promotional literature reads "la Porte de la
Lardons begin and accompany many traditional recipes of
Québec. They are what the British call streaky bacon,
that is, salt pork strips fried to make browning fat or
eaten crispy as a side dish, much like fat back or
Newfie scrunchins. Salt pork lardons often join cod and
other fish in a gently heated frying pan. Fine-cut
lardon slices are also part of some omelettes.
Popularized by some of Montréal's 125,000 Lebanese
people and others from the Middle East, this is the
Arabic word for barbecue, usually a whole side of wild
boar or venison or bison(!) rotated on a motorized spit,
slowly, at a family reunion, company picnic, or wherever
food for a large party is needed. Arabic mechoui is
literally 'skewered', hence 'barbecued'.
The most renowned of Québec cheese, Oka gains its unique
flavour during a special curing process in which the
semihard cheese rounds are painted with brine,
originally by Trappist monks at their Abbey of
Notre-Dame-du-Lac, called La Trappe, just west of
Montréal and still one of the largest Cistercian
monasteries in the world. Much in the news is the nearby
Kanesatake reserve where more than 800 Mohawk people
live. Oka takes its name from a former Algonquian tribe
who named themselves after their totemic animal, the
okow, called the dory or golden pickerel in Canadian
English, a golden-coloured, sweet-tasting fish still
said to frolic in nearby waters and known commonly in
Québec as poisson doré.
This prize eating fish of Lac-Saint-Jean, Lac Mégantic,
and certain other lakes in Ontario and Québec is now
very scarce and was never plentiful. It is a small,
landlocked, fresh-water salmon of the Atlantic salmon
family, whose zoological tag is Salmo salar ouananiche.
The word was borrowed directly in Canadian French from
the Montagnais language where wananish means 'little
salmon', -ish being a common diminutive ending in this
Algonquian tongue. Excessive sport fishing and
industrial pollution sealed the fate of this
delicate-fleshed creature. Near the town of Roberval
there still flows the Rivière Ouananiche, but few
'little salmon' leap upstream to spawn now.
There are several interesting expression unique to
provincial French that contain the word for 'bread',
among them pain-fesses, a double bread-loaf shaped like
human buttocks. After all, English has its 'buns'. Être
né pour un petit pain is 'to be born into the
underclass', to be a second-class citizen by birth and
to be assured of only bread scraps. Homemade bread in
Québec is pain d'habitant. French toast is pan doré.
Perdre un pain de sa fournée is literally 'to lose a
loaf in the oven' but means 'to be very disappointed' or
'to have cold water thrown on one'.Ambitionner sur le
pain bénit means 'to go way overboard', 'to take
outrageous advantage of a situation', le pain bénit
being the consecrated bread of Holy Communion.
My favourite bread term from old Québec is pain Jack, a
square loaf of a French bread said to derive from pain
Jacobin, which might have been bread baked by Dominicans
at their first convent in Paris situated on the Rue St.
Jacques near an old Parisian entrance route, St. James'
Gare, which was porta Jacobina in monkish medieval
Latin. Or pain Jack might recall a loaf popular with the
later Jacobins, the ruthless terrorists of the French
Paté chinois is basically shepherd's pie, called Chinese
pie in Québec. Julian Armstrong, in her excellent
recipe book, A Taste of Quebec, gives the following
origin: "The name has been traced by Quebec food
historian Claude Poirier to a town in the state of Maine
called China. In the late 19th century, thousands of
Quebecers migrated to the northeastern United States to
work in the mills. Those who settled in the town of
China returned eventually to Quebec with a recipe for
shepherd's pie which they called pâté chinois."
Although this is the standard French word for guinea
hen, used in France and Québec, pintadine here is a
large guinea hen specially bred as gourmet fowl on the
Île d'Orléans. One of the scrumptious local recipes for
it is pintadine de L'Île d'Orléans aux groseilles or
guinea hen in a red currant sauce. Pintadine is a French
expansion (1819) of pintade, a word for the African
guinea fowl borrowed in French around 1643 from
Portuguese pintada 'painted [bird]'.
This is a type of Québec pork pie made of seasoned,
chopped pork topped with a cap of pastry dough and
fried. Plorine means 'old horse', 'nag', or 'ugly
Among Acadiens and speakers of Québec French, this is a
hot toddy given by mothers to children with colds and --
with more alcohol added -- a traditional drink to warm
an adult after a winter outing. Hot water, alcohol,
honey, and lemon are the common ingredients of this
toddy. Dozens of variations exist using cognac, gin,
rum, and spices like nutmeg or cinnamon sticks.
Ponce is a northern French dialect form of ponche,
itself a variant of punch, borrowed into French as early
as 1673. Later French writers, especially Voltaire and
Rousseau, popularized the spelling punch. Punch had
entered English by 1632, brought back from India by
returning officers of the East India Company who had
enjoyed a mixed drink there made with five traditional
ingredients: rum, water, lemon, sugar, and spice. Punch
is the Hindi word for the numeral five. In Persian, five
is panj; in Sanskrit, a classical language of ancient
India, five is panchan. These are all Indo- European
languages distantly related to English, German, Latin,
and even to Greek where the word for five is the similar
pente, as in our terms pentagram and pentagon.
Another putative origin lies in a British naval word for
a big barrel used on board sailing vessels to store rum,
a puncheon, a large cask from which sailors were offered
Poulamon or Petit Poisson des Chenaux (Tommycod).
Tommycod, once abundant in the St. Lawrence, have been
much reduced by pollution. But there is still an annual
ice fishing derby for these petits poissons des chenaux
held every January and February at Ste - Anne-de-la-Pérade.
Tommycod come out of the St. Lawrence in midwinter,
swimming into smaller streams to spawn. Then the Saint
Anne River is crowded with hundreds of heated fishing
cabins put on the thick ice. Tommycod is fished through
holes in the ice inside the little cabins. Lit up at
night, the windows of these cabanes give wintry
twinklings to the frozen stretch of river which seems
suspended in light between white snow and black
Poulamon was borrowed into early North American French
in our Maritimes where it is the word for tommycod in
the language of the Mi'kmaq people. To ichthyologists,
tommycod is Microgadus tomcod.
This word named many kinds of food in Québec and Acadia.
Here we discuss only the modern Québec dish and
provincial uses of the word. For details on Acadian use
as in poutines râpées and poutine au pain, please see
the poutine entry under Acadian food words.
Now pronounced [poo-TSIN] in Canadian French, the word
stems ultimately from the English word pudding.
Fascinatingly, it has been borrowed at least four
different times into French. Le pudding was in French
print by 1678 to denote a pudding steamed in a cloth
bag. This acquired several variants including le pouding
and, in northern France, poudin. Then again in 1753
French geologists borrowed an English phrase, pudding
stone, that named a certain kind of conglomerate of
pebbles embedded in a finer matrix. This went into
French geology as la poudingue. The third borrowing
happened along the shores of the Mediterranean. Pudding
had been borrowed into Italian by i nizzardi, natives of
the city of Nice and surrounding territory. In the
dialect of Nice, pudding became la poutina, but it named
a mess of fried sardines and anchovies done in lemon and
oil and used to accompany a soup or even to fill an
omelette. In the south of France, maritime cooks
borrowed the Italian word and named this fishy Italian
fry poutine. Finally, northern French people immigrating
to North America, to become eventually Acadians,
reborrowed pudding as poutine and began the evolution of
its present pronunciation [poo-TSIN].
The most recent reincarnation -- or should we say re-empuddingment
-- of poutine happened in Québec in the fall of 1957,
and made poutine the most familiar Québec food word in
North America, to the chagrin of Quebecers proud of the
gourmet delights of their provincial cookery. Why,
they wonder, does poutine get all the fanfare while
truly exquisite and scrumptious recipes like pintadine
de L'Île d'Orléans aux groseilles do not receive the
attention they deserve? Perhaps more people like junk
food than appreciate guinea hen in a red currant sauce?
Today's poutine is a serving of thick-cut French fries,
topped with fresh cheese curds and hot gravy poured on
top of the curds before serving or, by some cooks,
served in a little gravy dish on the side so the fries
do not get soggy. Two men claim to have invented
this poutine in the fall of 1957 in a region of the
province's Eastern Townships called Bois-Francs
"hardwoods" just south of the St. Lawrence. In Warwick,
Québec, near Victoriaville, halfway between Montréal and
Québec City, Fernand Lachance, "le père de la poutine",
and his wife Germaine operated the Café Ideal. One of
the piliers du café 'regulars' was truck driver Eddy
Lainesse. Now the region of Bois-Francs is dairy
country, famous for its fresh cheese curds, and M.
Lachance sold little boxes of the fresh curd in his
eatery. One autumn day, Eddy Lainesse suggested mixing
the cheese curds with fries. Et voilà!
The gravy was not beef
gravy at first, but Germaine Lachance's special recipe
of brown sugar, ketchup, and a plop or two of
Worcestershire sauce. After interviewing these three
innovators for the October 9, 1997, edition of the Globe
and Mail, reporter Tu Thanh Ha points out just how
popular this poutine is in the province: "Burger King's
decision to add it to the menu in 1992 generated an
extra $2-million in curds business for Warwick's
Fromagerie Côté." Wherever Quebecers travel in numbers,
from Alberta to New England, they like to see on distant
menus some home dish; for some residents especially that
mets à la maison is poutine. I've eaten it in a
Manhattan restaurant -- but the cheese curds had been
stored in a refrigerator too long and were rubbery.
Restaurants in Florida that cater to vacationing
snowbirds from Québec actually fly in fresh curds by air
The special Canadian, now obsolescent use of this
medieval French word for festive celebration involved
the canniness of the superintendent factors of the North
West Company, and later the Hudson's Bay Company.
Drinking on post property was discouraged. But when
trappers were setting out on a long, possibly hazardous
canoe journey, probably returning to tend distant
traplines, they were issued a pint of rum, with the
understanding that said spirits should be drunk well
away from the fort or trading post. A rum régale might
be passed out to men coming in after a lengthy trip too,
as long as they went off in the bush to drink it. A
ration of liquor, usually a noggin of rum, given out on
New Year's Eve or near Christmas, was also a régale.
When whites and Aboriginal trappers had been given their
rum ration and were getting ready to party, their wives
and womenfolk, long before the preparation of festive
foods, often took the initial precaution of hiding all
the knives, rifles, bows and arrows, and other objects
that might become weaponry if party antics escalated to
Distinct, modern Québec terms for what the British call
"a right piss-up" or wild drinking party include une
buverie, une fringue, une ripe, and une soûlade.
Smith Brothers Cough Drops (TM).
Smith Brothers cough drops are throat soothers invented
by a restaurant owner in St. Armand, Québec, one James
Smith. After his death, when his two sons, William and
Andrew, took over the cough drop business, they put the
engravings of their own bearded selves on the box as a
trade-mark. Many suckers of cough drops thought the two
hirsute worthies were inventions of an advertising
artist, and that their names were Trade and Mark.
Tart à la Ferlouche.
Tarte à la ferlouche is a yum my raisin-and-molasses
pie. Several spelling variants exist, like farlouche,
ferluche and forlouche. It is popular from the Outaouais
region along the Ottawa River on the Québec side all the
way east to Acadian country. The word may be of
Aboriginal origin, but I have been unable to find an
exact source. Anyone who knows the provenance of
ferlouche, please write and tell me.
Tarte au Sucre.
This familiar Québec brown-sugar pie has an addition
when done à la Gaspésienne. Scottish-style rolled oats
are mixed with the brown sugar -- sometimes maple sugar
or maple syrup is added -- and spread over a pastry
crust. A latticed pastry top covers the pie, and
evaporated milk is poured through the pastry strips just
before ovening. No calorie=counters should nibble
even a small slice of tarte au sucre! In regional
varieties of this pie, crunch is added to the filling by
the inclusion of different kinds of nutmeats, while
other cooks put fruit preserves in the sugar-and-oats
A tourtière is a shallow meat pie with onions, often
flavoured with the traditional French medieval spice
combo of cinnamon and cloves. In kitchens along the
majestic Saguenay River, a tourtière can be quite a
production, consisting of cubed meat, potatoes, onions
baked in many layers in a deep, pastry-lined casserole:
in other words, what would have been called a cipaille
or pâté de famille in older days is here a tourtière de
In 1836 in Québec, a tourtière was a pork pie. One local
tourtière became a favourite of Scottish and British
soldiers posted to the citadel at Québec City who then
stayed on, buying outskirt farms and growing oats. Thus,
in one Québec City tourtière oatmeal thickens the ground
pork filling instead of the traditional French potatoes.
The food tourtière took its name from the utensil in
which it was baked. The original tourtière, in French
print by 1573, was a pie pan for baking tourtes. In old
French cookery, a tourte was a round pastry pie with a
pastry top and filled either with meat and vegetables if
it was a savoury or with fruit and cream if it was a
dessert tourte. This word stems from
the street Latin phrase tortus panis 'a round of bread'.
The word tourtière also names the mould used to make
these pastry tourtes. This tourtière has an expandable
circum-ference, can be made of porcelain, clay, or
glass, and can serve as a pie dish, a tart mould, or a