This was the day I ate poutine! Apparently the roadside cafe we went to at Montebello does the best poutine! What is it? Well, it’s a Quebec dish originating in the 1950s, consisting of french fries – chips to us Brits - with a topping of fresh curd cheese, and then smothered in a light gravy. The Quebec pronunciation is something like pootsin. The word poutine MAY derive from the English word pudding , but could alternatively come from a word for a not very appealing mixture of various foods!
Fries? Fine! Gravy? Good! Fries and gravy? Mmm? Maybe! Curd cheese? Not too sure! All of the above together? Not very sure at all! However I was prepared to give it a go, and you know, it wasn’t too bad!! The curds were like small chunks of melted cheese and didn’t taste sour as I had thought they might do ! However, I’m not a fan of soggy chips/fries at the best of times, so poutine would only be a once-in-a-while dish for me!
Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a photo – not like me at all, eh? – so you’ll just have to imagine it!
Just along from the cafe I had spotted a small house, with its garden full of Canada geese! I went to investigate and found very plausible life-size fake geese – probably hunters decoys – as the house turned out to be a shop for hunters and fishermen!
Now who would have known they weren’t real – except for the feet!
From there we carried on in the car a little way to see another rather fabulous and unusual Fairmont hotel, the Chateau Montebello – the great red cedar log-cabin hotel!
Built in just a few months in 1930 it was at first a private retreat, but when it was taken over by Canadian Pacific Hotels and opened to the public it soon became a popular place to visit. Over the years, various famous people have stayed here, including politicians and royalty. The website has some beautiful photos in its introduction to the hotel and others on their photo gallery which you can find on the intro page, but I’ll show you mine here! The main building centres round a huge tall hexagonal stone chimney with a lounge area on the ground floor and a fireplace on each of the six sides of the chimney.
and are connected by beautiful rustic wooden staircases.
The bedrooms are in the several wings that radiate out from the main building - it must look like a child’s drawing of the sun from above – along with the dining room in a further wing. It too has a gallery round it at the first upper floor level.
What a place! It would have been nice to sit and relax for a while over a cup of hot chocolate and a cake but we had to get home as Ken was due to be coming for tea.
After a quick walk in the grounds and a look at the Ottawa River, it was time to go, and sadly when we got back we found that Ken was unwell and not able to call round, and in fact I never did meet him, his problem persisting throughout the whole week. So we ate the pizza bought for the meal and the chocolate cake that was to have been Ken’s birthday cake, and in fact breakfasted off pizza and cake for the next couple of days too!!! I wasn’t complaining! So instead we had a quiet evening at home, during which I caught up with reading some off the letters that were written in the mid 19th century to Gail’s ancestor by the ones who stayed in Scotland. It was fascinating to read of their lives – who was ill or who had died; what prices of potatoes or wheat etc, were, had the crops been good this year - and interesting how some of the Scottish family were considering joining the new Canadians, asking questions about how easy it might be to get a place on a farm,what would the pay be like, would it be long before they could afford their own farm, what was the land like, was it good soil, etc. I think the freedom in sending goods between the two countries was most interesting – from apples to machinery it all just went by ship with no customs or rules and regs about what could or couldn’t be transported. Letters were sent in a box with the expectation that they would get there sometime - it took months sometimes - and letters that arrived back home in Scotland were passed around so that news from Canada was probably received several times over by the different families.
Gail began to transcribe the letters some time ago but the writing was hard to decipher in some cases and virtually impossible in others! What is most incredible though is that the letters were retained at all, and passed down through the family in the writing case that the old fellow himself had used. Once again I can’t think why I never photographed that old box and its contents!
In a couple of days on our way to Montreal I was to see the little church built by Gail’s ancestor at Grande Fresniere, and the little churchyard where he and his descendants are buried .
Talk again soon.