French Feast in Ontario
by Aurélie Goudal
On the evening of July 13th 2008, the Association France-Canada hosted a very special dinner to celebrate the French Revolution.
Why have a dinner on July 13th when the Revolution was on the 14th?
Gaï de Ropraz, president of the Association France-Canada, revealed that “the tradition of having a dinner on the evening of July 13th captures the revolutionary spirit. The Fall of the Bastille on the 14th was prepared on the evening of 13th. Therefore on the night of the 13th, dances/parties last late into the night.”
The 2008 dinner attracted about a hundred guests including members of the Association, Francophiles and the acting Consul General Bruno Jouannem, all drawn by the astonishing dishes prepared by the Chef of Le Petit Gourmet Christian Boniteau. Speakers talked about the importance of this day in history as well as the activities organized by France-Canada and the French presence in Ontario. The trio, Marcel Aucoin, invited all to dance to the rhythm of the accordion that is typical of traditional French music.
Beef Bourguignon, Salmon, Salads and Fraisier
Founded on November 13th 1948, the Association France-Canada -which targets French citizens living in Ontario and Francophiles all over the country -pulled out all the stops with respect to the quality of the food.
The menu demonstrated why French cuisine is so famous. It included hot and cold finger food, various salads and poached salmon in dilled cream sauce. There was also beef Bourguignon and Beaujolais Villages, served with rice or steamed potatoes and for desert: an amazing strawberry cake (called “Fraisier” in French).
After talking some more with the chef, we realized that these dishes were only the tip of the iceberg: “Poulet à la basquaise, coq au vin, salade niçoise, Toulouse cassoulet, blanquette of veal, beans…” are among his other fabulous French recipes. The main reason behind choosing these ones for the celebration was symbolic. “Boeuf Bourguignon is very French, while salmon is specific to Canada. We wanted to offer a mix of France and Canada,” explained Christian Boniteau.
French Cuisine and Current Trends
Aside from Le Petit Gourmet, restaurants such as Le Didier, St Tropez Marcel, Le Select, Ma Bretagne also represent French cuisine in Toronto. Christian Boniteau reveals that some of his ingredients come from Québec, especially farm produce, cheese, foie gras, black pudding, merguez, giblets, and chives, since Québec has its own “French culinary tradition.” Ontario also has a French presence and tradition at many levels. After all, it was Étienne Brûlé, sent by Samuel de Champlain in 1615 to find a passage to the West, who discovered the region.
Nowadays, the French presence is vibrant and active. More recently, this can be seen on a cultural level: with respect to the cinema (participation in the Toronto International Film Festival, Cinefranco), and music (the Alliance Française organized the Fête de la Musique).
According to Bruno Jouannem, there are 10,000 people registered with the General Consulate of France in Toronto. Organizations throughout the province offer more and more services to newcomers from France. Whether it is Toronto Accueil, France-Canada, or, as the acting General Consul informs us, “…the employment office at the Consulate, which has been very successful for the past two years, with workshops helping newcomers in preparing résumés and rehearsing interviews ”, this support network is very successful. “We are currently able to find employment for 150 to 300 people per year, through The General Consulate of France in Toronto,” he mentions.
In a nutshell, culinary traditions and the French presence in Ontario are both part of the history and the multicultural landscape of Canada.