Foodstalgia

St-Viateur 3

I never really understood why my partner got so excited every time he would receive a pack of Caramello Koalas by mail when we were living in Montreal, Canada. Nor did I understand what was so extraordinary about a Golden Gaytime that justified being (almost) forced to eat more than 20 of them every time we would travel to Australia. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine… but that’s what they are to me: fine. Or should I say, that’s what they were to me until I moved to Australia.

 

As it was my turn to live far away from my family and friends… it hit me: I discovered Foodstalgia (food… nostalgia…I know, I just made up that word). It’s funny how moving abroad influence your perception of food… and help you understand your partner’s excitement for some products. Today, I realise that there are actually 3 things that you miss as an expat: your family (yes, mom, I miss you too), your friends… and your food. And that’s the beauty of food. It is so connected to emotions and memories, that it becomes YOUR food, not just some food. Even if you could rationally admit that some of the dish or products you’re deeply attached to are quite banal, you somehow realise that they are high on your “bucket list” for your next trip to your hometown. In that case, it’s more about the meaning and the rarity of the food than its taste, though some of them taste damn good.

 

I’m just back from a trip to visit my family and friends (and food) in Quebec, and I thought I’d share my Foodstalgia bucket list.


Foodstalgia
Bucket list:

#1: give in to gaining 3 kilos by eating at least 1 poutine from La Pataterie and 1 from a stand on the road in regional Quebec
Why is it on the bucket list?
Extreme comfort food. French fries, fresh cheese curds that squeaks in your mouth, and brown gravy. Sounds very simple, but it’s SO HARD to find a decent poutine outside the province of Quebec. In a simple dish, you must nail every ingredient.
I haven’t unpacked my bags yet and I already miss poutine. That’s how foodstalgic this greasy but Oh how much addictive this dish is. It’s almost worth spending $2,000 on a flight to Montreal just for this. Ok, maybe not.
La Pataterie, located in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, may not be on most poutine eaters’ radar, but it’s one of the good places in Montreal for a traditional greasy one. I simply wanted to kill two birds with one stone by visiting the suburb I lived in for more than 9 years.
As for a stand on the road in regional Quebec, I simply wanted to go back to the roots of non-pretentious but savoury food. When visiting the beautiful region of Charlevoix, east of Quebec City, we were recommended to stop at Casse-Croute chez Ginette. It was my first poutine during this trip and it was definitely worth stopping!

 

Foodstalgic memories:
It’s the typical “3am after the nightclub” meal. Every bite reminds me of those nights in my early twenties in Montreal’s gay village. Otherwise, it’s also a good road trip meal. I guess it’s the Aussie equivalent of the burger with the lot (though nothing compares to poutine).

Poutine-2chez ginette 1


Delicious poutine at Casse-Croute chez Ginette, Saint-Irénée, Charlevoix. I
might have found my new favourite stand in the province!

 

#2: get a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s
Why is it on the bucket list?
Schwartz’s is definitely an institution in Montreal. No matter the time of day, there is always a line-up to pick-up what is considered the best smoked meat in the city. I personally believe there are many other places that are as good, but Schwartz’s offer a unique experience.
You can find smoked meat in other cities, but nothing compares to the Montreal-style smoked meat. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of Montreal-style smoked meat, all scenarios lead to the Jewish Diaspora from Eastern Europe. Along with bagels, smoked meat is now deeply rooted in the city’s food heritage.
I decided to go for the usual smoked meat sandwich with their famous side of pickles. The verdict? Not as good as a poutine, but very satisfactory.

 

Foodstalgic memories:
Eating a smoked meat sandwich while cheering for the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The smoked meat there is nowhere near as good as Schwartz’s, but for me, smoked meat + Canadiens is a classic combination.

Schwartz's 1smoked meat


Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich is a must for any foodie travelling to Montreal.

 

#3: order a beef tartare from Holder’s
Why is it on the bucket list?
Ok, I know that beef tartare is clearly not a Quebecois dish. However, there is definitely plenty of good typical brasseries françaises in Montreal, thanks to our French heritage.
In my opinion, it’s simply the best beef tartare in Montreal. And for the record, I ate there with a French ex-colleague who had to admit it was one of the very best he ever had. Plus, it’s located in Old Montreal, which has a European feel. For one night, it’s like a mini-trip to France and sophistication.

 

Foodstalgic memories:
When I worked at Bleublancrouge – an advertising agency based in Montreal – I had the chance to work in a small team of 3 tartare aficionados. 2 or 3 times a year, our boss would thank us for the good work by inviting us to Holder’s. We would go there for lunch, and realise that it would be time to leave when other guests started to come for their dinner reservation!

 

 

#4: enjoy the sweetness of an ice cider after dinner
Why is it on the bucket list?
I clearly don’t miss the harsh winters, but they contribute to produce two of the best products in the world: maple syrup and ice cider.

Ice cider is made from frozen apples. Apples can be left on the trees and picked when frozen during winter, or they can be left outside after being picked during autumn. The Quebec winters are ideal for the apples to dry out and concentrate their sugars. It’s a very sweet digestive that you normally drink chilled. You don’t necessarily want to drink this often, but on a special occasion it’s delicious. As I’m writing about it, I wonder why the hell I didn’t bring some back.

 

Foodstalgic memories:
For me, drinking ice cider is synonymous of Christmas holiday with my family in Abitibi. The region is covered in beautiful white snow, everyone is dressed their best, and it is the perfect occasion to drink a good glass of ice cider from La Face Cachee de la Pomme.

Ice cider

Ice cider is a sweet way to end a great meal with friends.

 

 

#5: fall for the taste of dry sausage from Les Cochons tout ronds
Why is it on the bucket list?
I just love good charcuterie with a glass of wine. While it’s easy to find great wines in Australia, I find it more difficult to find good dry sausage. Besides, Les Cochons tout ronds produce award-winning sausage. This small company who was founded in the picturesque region of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, is also known for treating their pigs very well. Turns out their sausages are fatter than others, but so much better!

 

Foodstalgic memories:
Pre-dinner drinks with my friends Melinda and Jeanne who also can’t resist dry sausage from Les Cochons tout ronds

 

Now that I’m back in Melbourne, I understand what’s special about Caramello Koalas, Golden Gaytime, sausage rolls, sausage sizzles, and so on. They are more than food, they are moments. But I have yet to understand what it is about Vegemite. Sorry, I can’t…

 

Author: Marc-Andre Savard, Senior Consultant at Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.

To explore customer emotions and behaviour in food further, drop us a line at hello@harvestinsights.com.au

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