Canada 150, Quebec

With the weather largely cool and wet in the east so far this summer, it seems appropriate in this cross-Canada tour to picture Quebec in winter. Here is such a view from Roaming the Big Land in a chapter entitled “Taking Stock:”

Like the poet and songwriter Gilles Vigneault, when I think of Quebec, I see winter.


I see my family strung out like fish on a line, herringboning their way up a ski trail…Evergreens at the sides of the piste are swabbed with cotton batten from the snowfall the night before, their broad, drooping branches casting dark shadows across a ski track that glistens in late-afternoon sunshine. White top hats cover the round boulders that rest on the bottom of frozen streams like ushers at a suspended wilderness wedding. It is silent except for the soft pad of our skis and the click of our poles as we gingerly take another step up the slope.

On the twisting streets of old Quebec City I see snowbanks so high they look like a newly erected line of defence against an anticipated Anglo invasion. Yet I can also see our mitten-and-toque-clad family tramping the cobbled, snow-packed lanes and pasageways, undeterred by this intimidating show of strength. Puffing clouds of steam, we’re seeking the best shop to buy our morning croissants aux amandes. Or, after dark, when gaslights somehow mask the cold and warm the heart, we are peeking through the frost-fringed windows of restaurants that invite us into rustic rooms with blazing, open-hearth fires and candle-lit tables. Which one to choose when all are so appealing?

Not global warming. Picture taken in June!

High on the bank of the broad, ice-choked St. Lawrence I see the mighty Chateau Frontenac, and “the best toboggan run in the world” floodlit on a winter night on the hotel’s famous Dufferin Terrace.

If, in my mind, I go inside, I am always in a huge ballroom filled with tables, mostly occupied by large families…Everyone is smartly dressed; there are lots of black ties and evening gowns. For it is Christmas dinner at the Chateau Frontenac, a long-standing Quebecois tradition. I hear music, singing, and laughter…and what is this? I hear bagpipes! In Quebec? Yes, even in Quebec. Bagpipes! What else would do to herald the arrival of a procession of waiters bearing baked Alaska, with peaks of golden egg whites like the mountains of Quebec itself, and the ice cream beneath evoking thoughts of a rich, enticing culture.

The recipe for this chapter is “Marooned Pasta,” a dish you can make from refrigerator leftovers when you are “snowed in” next winter.

Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada is available from Penumbra Press at, or from the author by emailing:


About t. a. keenleyside

author of travel/food books and popular fiction
This entry was posted in biography, Canada 150, Canadian travel, contemporary culture, cross-country skiing, family literature, food literature, Quebec, Quebec City, recipes, travel books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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