The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 11.28.06


Quebec politics, Quebec desserts

We all know that discussion about politics and religion are to be avoided -- according to tradition -- if you want to have a successful dinner party.

However, add a little wine and the conversation eventually turns to… you guessed it… the aforementioned topics.

Quebecois in particular seem to jaw about the latter as they sit around the supper table. Political discussion is second only to discussing the weather in these parts. Which brings me to a topic that is no doubt circulating between bites of mashed potatoes this season.

Forgive me, dear reader, if I put down my wine for a moment to raise the issue of 'Quebec as a nation.' It's the hot dinner topic of the week, don't you know. Listen carefully…

The term "nationalism" is generally used to describe two phenomena: (1) the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity and (2) the actions that the members of a nation take when seeking to achieve (or sustain) self-determination.

(1) Raises questions about the concept of nation (or national identity), which is often defined in terms of common origin, ethnicity, or cultural ties, and while an individual's membership in a nation is often regarded as involuntary, it is sometimes regarded as voluntary.

(2) Raises questions about whether self-determination must be understood as involving having full statehood with complete authority over domestic and international affairs, or whether something less is required.

It is traditional; therefore, to distinguish nations from states - whereas a nation often consists of an ethnic or cultural community, a state is a political entity with a high degree of sovereignty.

While many states are nations in some sense, there are many nations that are not fully sovereign states. As an example, in this country aboriginals may constitute a nation but not a state, since they do not completely possess the requisite political authority over their internal or external affairs appropriate or not and with little exception.

If the members of a nation(s) were to strive to form a sovereign state in the effort to preserve their identity as a people, they would be exhibiting a state-focused nationalism.

It stands to reason then that the Bloc Quebecois should more appropriately be presenting motions to the house, which use terminology in line with a notion of state as opposed to "nation" as their clear intent is to achieve recognition for Quebec as sovereign.

As for the House voting on this notion in Ottawa, I can only leave you to surmise what the result would be. If it were to be voted on (and it has) in Quebec's national assembly, it is a forgone conclusion.

Ready for a truly national dessert?

Maple Crème Brûlée

1/2-cup maple syrup
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2-cup whole milk
Maple sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter 4 crème brûlée ramekins. Whisk maple syrup, yolks and egg in medium bowl to blend. Combine cream and milk in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture.

Divide custard among prepared ramekins. Set ramekins into roasting pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover pan with foil. Bake custards until set in center, about 55 minutes. Chill custard uncovered until cold, at least 5 hours. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover; keep refrigerated.)

Before serving, top with maple sugar and burnish carefully with a blowtorch, or put under the broiler 2 minutes until sugar is melted. Make these a day ahead of time to give them time to chill.

Serves 4