Jul 032020

On this date in 1608 Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and diplomat, at the site of a long abandoned St. Lawrence Iroquoian settlement called Stadacona. Champlain served as its administrator until he died in 1635. The name “Canada” originally referred to this settlement, although the Acadian (i.e. French) settlement at Port-Royal was established three years earlier. Quebec came to be the cradle of North America’s Francophone population (although some Acadians migrated south to Louisiana where “Acadian” morphed into “Cajun”). Supposedly the indigenous people had named the area Kébec, meaning “river narrows”, because the Saint Lawrence River narrows near to the promontory of Quebec and its Cape Diamant. Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. While many of the major cities in Latin America date from the 16th century, among cities in Canada and the U.S., few were created earlier than Quebec City.

The population of the settlement remained small for decades. In 1629 it was captured by English privateers, led by David Kirke, during the Anglo-French War. Samuel de Champlain argued that the English seizing of the lands was illegal as the war had already ended, and worked to have the lands returned to France. As part of the ongoing negotiations of their exit from the Anglo-French War, in 1632 the English king, Charles I, agreed to return the lands in exchange for Louis XIII paying his wife’s dowry. These terms were signed into law with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The lands in Quebec and Acadia were returned to the French Company of One Hundred Associates.

In 1665, there were 550 people in 70 houses living in the city. One-quarter of the people were members of religious orders: secular priests, Jesuits, Ursulines nuns and the order running the local hospital, Hotel-Dieu. Quebec was the headquarters of many raids against New England during the four French and Indian Wars. In 1690 the city was attacked by the English, but was successfully defended. In the last of the conflicts, the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War), Quebec was captured by the British in 1759 and held until the end of the war in 1763. In that time many battles and sieges took place: the Battle of Beauport, a French victory (31 July 1759); the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which British troops under general James Wolfe defeated the French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on 13 September 1759 and shortly thereafter took the city after a short siege. A French counter-attack saw a French victory at the Battle of Sainte-Foy (28 April 1760) but the subsequent second Siege of Quebec the following month however was the final British victory. France ceded New France, including Quebec City, to Britain in 1763.

At the end of French rule in 1763, forests, villages, fields and pastures surrounded the town of 8,000 inhabitants. The town distinguished itself by its monumental architecture, fortifications, and affluent homes of masonry and shacks in the suburbs of Saint-Jean and Saint-Roch. Despite its urbanity and its status as capital, Quebec City remained a small colonial city with close ties to its rural surroundings. Nearby inhabitants traded their farm surpluses and firewood for imported goods from France at the two city markets.

I have covered some aspects of Quebecois cuisine, including poutine, here: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/edwards-v-canada/

Here, then, is a wonderful video showing the recipe for a tourtière, a classic French Canadian meat pie, typically made with three meats, pork, veal, and beef, with the addition of potatoes and other vegetables and heavily spiced. The chef speaks Quebec French which adds its own flavor.

  4 Responses to “Quebec City”

  1. These recipes should be accompanied by the Acadian staple flatbread/pancake, ployes.
    1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup light buckwheat flour
    1 tbsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    Water, enough to make a fairly thin gravy like consistency in order to keep them very thin.
    Cook on a hot cast iron griddle, only on one side until completely dry on the top,
    The ployes will form “eyes” while cooking and are done when the top turns a light golden color
    I usually flip them just to make sure the top gets well done.
    Traditionally served with Cretons, a type of head cheese.
    I like peanut butter.

    • Many thanks. I rarely get recipes in my comments (even though this is a food blog — in theory). More often readers get caught up in the narrative content, and the recipes get pushed aside, even though they are all dear to me. I will admit that these days I am getting rather lazy and put up more videos than written recipes. In this case I thought that the chef was classic.

      • I got that from my wife’s Grand Memere.
        She had the best “meat pie” …. moist but not a drop ran out when cut, and her baked beans were to die for.
        There is still a lady in Van Buren, Maine that makes a tasty Cretons (much like Scrapple,…everything on the pig left over after butchering, without the cornmeal)
        My ancestors are from the lowlands of the Netherland, circa 1725, but I do enjoy the Acadian comfort food cuisine.

        • I understand how family comfort foods get embedded. My wife was from Kentucky, but we lived for all of our marriage in New York. Sometimes I would come home from work and find her in the kitchen making cornbread or burgoo or some such because she missed home.

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