Vive le Quebec libre!

Happy 400th birthday, QuébecJe me souviens–et vous, mes amis?  Do you remember the world before 1759?

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.

0 thoughts on “Vive le Quebec libre!

  1. Hi Hysperia–thanks! I had already drafted this post when you wrote in yesterday to mention July 3. I’ve heard that the tourism in Quebec is not what they hoped it would be–perhaps more will arrive now that it’s high summer, and the weather will be gorgeous for the next 3 months or so.

    Every time I visit, I’m reminded what a small world it is for Francophone North Americans. I hope that the city and the province can make some money off of the tourism promotion this year. The old city is truly a treasure, and the citizens have worked so hard to preserve their history–I hope they’ll be recognized and rewarded for it.


  2. I watched the celebrations on Radio Canada today (the CBC’s translations were too annoying). Too bad about the pelting rain during all the speeches but you’re right that Quebec is a beautiful city, well worth visiting. It’s been too long since I was there last!


  3. I’ve never been that wet in my life. But the party was GREAT! I love Quebec City so much – I spent a lot of time here when I was a teenager, working as a waitress in the dining room at the Chateau Frontenac, sleeping in the lumpiest bed ever in a room that smelled like the river on a bad day. But loved it. Quebecois food, no matter how humble, is too wonderful. The board walk in front of the Chateau on days and nights off, the open air cafes – la difference! C’est magnifique!

    Thanks again for you cool post. Bonne nuit et tout le meilleur de la belle province!


  4. Hi-Lo from Sydney! It’s the 4th of July down here, although I guess it’s actually late on the 5th. Something like that. Anyway, I left on the second to reach here on the 4th! Trans-Atlantic flying would seem like a local commute by comparison after this. Lots of historians on hand here, not a few of them early Americanists, and the fur is flying, so to speak. It really IS winter, too, but the temperature’s too bad. But darkness falling at 5 p.m. is a bit weird. That Quebec Libre sounds like it would go great on top of a pancake, esp. if the first and fourth ingredients were, say, tripled in volume!


  5. Hi all–I tried the drink Thursday night. It’s basically a lemony brandy soda. I definitely wouldn’t increase the maple syrup above 1 t, unless you’re a real maple freak.


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