Thursday, October 27, 2011

Becoming a Quebecoise Cook

It's not that Quebec is different than any other region of say, North America, or anywhere for that matter.  There are these simple, traditional dishes that you can find almost everywhere, but in each region they are done just a little bit different.  For that matter, each household diverges from the "standard" recipe as well.  When I first moved to Quebec, I spent a lot of fruitless time looking for familiar ingredients to make meals I particularly liked from the southwest region of the U.S.  Some of those ingredients are here, but let's face it, Quebecois are about as likely to regularly cook Mexican food as a country village in China.  My mistake was in holding too tightly to my food memories.

I did manage to make the things I loved, but many had to be altered.  For instance, I cannot find soft taco shells made from corn (or Masa Harina) here.  They are all flour based.  So I bought Masa Harina and thought, I'll just make my own.  Oh how I laugh now.  Not only did I have a dickens of a time just getting the dough right, pounding out and flattening and then pre-frying each one before even being able to fry them up for the actual meal proved far too intensive.  My stomach wasn't that picky.  So I switched to flour and though I still think corn tortillas are the best, I'd rather have my tacos than be prissy.

I think the transitive day as a cook living here for me was the aha moment of realizing there were so many wonderful dishes here that would be categorized as comfort food at its finest, and I could get the recipes with one phone call.  Duh.  Shepherd's pie in the states, in my opinion holds no candle to Pâté Chinois. Roast beef? Huh uh. Try Bouilli aux Legumes.  Sloppy Joes?  Nope.  Pain a la Viande.  It's not that they are fancier.  On the contrary, many are far simpler.  But all sorts of things make them so good.  Pâté Chinois for example is supposed to be made in a very particular order (as taught to me by my Mother in Law - who incidentally taught me all of these recipes, so they are bent to the particular household I have connection with of course.)  Bouilli aux Legumes is all about the right vegetables, the browning of the meat, deglazing with dark red wine and the specific herbs used.  I could go on and on and on.

Then of course there are the dishes that are just French.  You haven't tasted love till you've had a great bowl of Boeuf Bourgignon or big slice of Tourtiere.  I'm starting to salivate, excuse me.

I used to love to try all sorts of exotic dishes.  Lately, I'm in my "Aliment-reconfort" phase.  Bring on the butter, the mashed potatoes and gravy and don't forget the wine!


De said...

Yep, I'm salivating now, too.

I was surprised to find out that the stew I thought my husband had thrown together (which he may well have) actually has a name and a history.

Lynnea said...

De, the history behind the food sometimes makes it even better.