Historiann’s most recent trip to Québec was late last August, and the city was shined up and ready for its international closeup in 2008. Its nickel roofs were gleaming, and all of the historical sites and churches in Vieux-Québec were recently renovated, painted, and looking good. All of you Englishers (or Bastonnais, as French Canadians used to call Anglo-Americans) either in Canada or in the U.S., should get on up there and expand your view of what early American history is. By car from Maine, you could take the old route up the Kennebec and Chaudière River valleys through the Beauce region, which was the route that Benedict Arnold took to his ill-fated siege of Quebec in 1775. It’s very pretty in the autumn, with the changing leaves, and very safe because there’s much less smallpox going around these days. (This route is probably similar, if not identical, to the one that Esther Wheelwright and other mission Abenaki took to Québec earlier in the century, by canoe and portage, but it’s Arnold’s failed invasion that is commemorated along the way instead. Right there is a little lesson on the importance of boundaries, language, and nationalism in historical memory–but I digress.)
To celebrate the anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s founding of Québec, here’s a seasonal new drink that I call a Québec Libre (Free Québec, after Charles de Gaulle’s famous speech declaring “Vive le Québec libre” on July 24, 1967.) For each serving:
- Two ounces of brandy (French brandy, natch)
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 t maple syrup (or to taste, up to 1 T)
- seltzer water
Mix the first three ingredients well in the bottom of a tumbler (12-16 oz). Fill the tumbler with ice, and then top it off with the seltzer water. If it’s late summer and you’re in Québec, garnish with slices of locally-grown stone fruit on a fancy skewer, or (better yet) with a few ground cherries on a toothpick, with their papery skins still on. (I suppose you could also call this the mojito del norte grand y blanco, but shhh…don’t tell!)
If you’re not in Québec, here’s the celebration’s theme song, “Tant d’histoires”(“So Many Stories”) by Danny Boudreau. (Warning: its not in fact sung by Celine Dion, but it’s not a stretch to imagine her singing it.) You can see what’s going on in Québec today here. It’s going to be a heckofa party–or très éspecial, as the locals might say.