Books & Magazines · Neighbourhood

It’s sugaring-off time

Some time ago I realized that my favourite childhood stories always involved food. I remember my mother reading aloud to me a tale about a wily red fox trying to catch a little red hen, so he could make chicken soup and dumplings. (Yum. I didn’t blame the fox one bit.) Then there was a story about a woman who made a giant pancake for her family of hungry little boys, and the pancake promptly jumped out of the pan and rolled out the door, with the hungry little boys in hot pursuit. (Had I been their sister, I would have been at the head of the pack.)

And there were the Little House books, which always had such good eating in them, in Farmer Boy especially. I was also fascinated by the story of sugaring off in Little House in the Big Woods…how Laura’s grandpa whittled and hammered little troughs into the trunks of maple trees to collect their sap, and how he would boil the sap in a big iron kettle that he hung between two trees to make the maple sugar. One year, there was a sugar snow, a last cold snap that caused an extra-long of sap, so that there was enough for Laura’s grandparents to throw a party, with music and dancing and “hot hasty pudding with maple syrup for supper,” and best of all, maple candy that they made by pouring the hot syrup onto pans of snow.

Well, this may not be the Big Woods of Wisconsin, but Québec has its own maple syrup traditions, and I got to see some of them for the very first time this weekend.

These pictures were taken at La Sucrerie de la Montagne, which I am told is by far the best sugar shack in the region. They have an excellent, all-you-can-eat menu of traditional Québecois cuisine, a boulangerie with an enormous wood-burning oven where they bake all their bread, and all-season accommodations so that you can come and enjoy the surrounding woods. Sugaring-off season has just started and will continue until April. Don’t miss it!

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