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Cultural food views

big preserve vendor

We had the good fortune of traveling up to the province of Quebec to celebrate the New Year.   Though I grew up in St. Lawrence County, I had no idea the traveling was so easy.  The train zips straight up there from Cornwall.  It was my first time, while Bob’s been able to enjoy it on a few occasions.  I had heard some murmurings of their stronger food culture, but had no real sense of how significantly it varied from here.  We went to three winter markets, all indoors.  The final one in the Marche du Vieux-Porte in Quebec City was the most amazing.  It was filled with farmers.  They tended to their land during the growing season, many selling fresh vegetables. They continued earning throughout the winter by producing value-added goods to sell.  Everything was from the province.  We enjoyed cured sausages, raw milk cheeses, wild-crafted mushrooms, black currant vinegar and fresh spruce soda.  Just to name a few. It felt distinctly Un-American.   There was a store of spirits with meads, ciders and hard alcohol exclusively produced there. 

The essence of the food has left a lasting impression on me.  Three weeks later and I still think back on the flavors and camaraderie between producer and consumer. Regretfully, you can travel here in the States and be hard pressed to find more than a convenience store or chain joint.  No inspired flavors or connections to the source.  I’ve become partially numb to this reality, and so the difference was STARK. Somehow there, with the proper support for small-scale producers and a priority on quality food, they’ve captured something special.

I won't overlook the fact that with our current spending patterns, many folks in the North Country don’t have a sufficient food budget to afford that style of eating daily.  And I can’t speak to the average income there.  But I can’t help thinking: What if our priorities shifted?  What could be sustained then?
lunch of cured meat, cheese, antipasta and cannoli
Farewell for now,

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