Very few things excite me as much as food, which is why it’s one of my top priorities when I travel. I think I probably spend more money trying local dishes than anything else. Though I try to grab pictures, it’s nearly impossible because I dig in so fast. I left out a handful of foods not because they weren’t good, but because, for the sake of brevity, I would rather just talk about my favorites.
Many of the foods specific to the Quebec region were created with the long, cold winters in mind. Heavier and higher in fat content, nourishment was intended to last long hours and to keep the body warm. I like to think of most of what I ate as Canadian comfort food. Immigrants from France and Ireland had a huge influence on Quebecois cuisine and many of the foods we know as traditionally Canadian were popular among the impoverished due to the availability and price of the ingredients.
The obvious go-to meal for me was poutine. Cheese, gravy, fries, what is there not to like? It seems like every restaurant, including the classy ones, offer varieties of poutine. I mean, it’s not hard to see why. There are even fast food chains entirely dedicated to this culinary masterpiece. We stopped at one of the best-known locations in Quebec City called Chez Ashton and we didn’t regret a single greasy, delicious bite. The fun thing about this dish is that it can be customized so many ways. One of the more popular joints in Montreal called La Banquise offers an entire menu of creative poutines. I for one fully back the choice to make this miracle the national food of Canada.
Breakfast isn’t actually that different from what I’m used to in the states. Commonly, a plate will include eggs, bacon, sausage, and potatoes. However, the addition of tourtières and fèves au lard are where Canadian and American breakfasts differ. Tourières are meat pies similar to those served in England and Ireland. Fèves au lard are extremely similar to the baked beans we know in the States except they are made with lard and maple syrup.
Pea soup (soupe au pois) was one of my favorite things after being out in the cold for hours. Made with lard and bacon or salt pork, this is not a light soup, nor was it intended to be. I had this dish twice while I was in Quebec City though I wish I had it a few more times. In some places, the soup is blended and creamy and in others, the peas are left whole but no matter what, this soup can easily fill you up.
On our last day in Quebec, we visited a restaurant called Aux Anciens Canadiens which is the place to go if you’re looking for authentic Quebecois food. During the day they have an extremely reasonably priced three-course menu. Here, I got to try ragout de boulettes otherwise known as meatball ragout or meatball stew. This dish differs from the traditional Italian style meatballs because they are usually seasoned with spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves and served in a thick, gravy-like stew with potatoes. This is another dish I wish that I had the opportunity to try again.
Pouding chômeur also known as poor man’s pudding, was invented by poor women working in factories during the Great Depression. Out of necessity, they had to use as few and as cheap ingredients as they could get their hands on. Now, this dessert is served across the country due to its popularity. We had ours in a restaurant called La Buche in Quebec City, where they give you the option to add bacon and ice cream. This was probably my favorite dessert I had while I was there which says a lot because I love a good crème brûlée. I couldn’t help myself and took a bite before I took the picture, sorry!
As the leading exporter of maple syrup in the world, it’s no surprise that Canada’s candies and desserts are almost all maple syrup based or flavored. One of the coolest experiences I had was when we visited a cabane à sucre, a sugar shack. These shops are full of maple products ranging from teas to fudge. What’s really entertaining though is trying a snack called tire sur la neige (loosely translated to taffy on the snow) or tire d’érable (maple taffy) which they make right in front of you. The shopkeeper took us to the trough of snow kept at the front of the store to make the treat for us. She took a pitcher of warm maple syrup and poured it directly on the snow. Over time the syrup cooled and thickened and she used a stick to fold it over a few times until it had the same consistency as caramel. I never knew that straight up maple syrup could taste so good!