Good Cheer is a Great Idea!
Almost twenty years ago, Paul Kennedy produced an IDEAS documentary about Samuel de Champlain's "L'Ordre de Bon Temps", which basically kept early French colonists at Port Royal, Nova Scotia alive through the brutal winter of 1606. Paul Kennedy recently learned that a group of foodie friends in Ottawa has turned Champlain's historic meal into an annual celebration. They gather together in the middle of every winter, to prepare a feast for family and friends, basically inspired by the menu and the recipes provided during that original broadcast.
It's a feast of survival in a new land. It was about surviving the winter, but it was also more that. It brought together the French and the Mi'kmaq, and it created a friendship that lasted for years, and years, and years.
– Jo-Marie Powers, retired professor of culinary science at Guelph University.
Paul invited Chef Michael Smith from the famous Inn at Bay Fortune, near Souris, Prince Edward Island, to revisit that old show, and discuss the merits of the meal. Together they make a modest proposal to elevate this quintessentially Canadian event into a national winter holiday.
Chef Michael Smith has authored many cook books, and other best-selling volumes about food. He has also appeared on, or hosted, even more television shows or series — from The Inn Chef and Chef at Home, to Iron Chef: America and Chopped Canada.
Recipe for L'éclade (Mussels with Pine Needles)
This recipe for l'éclade is over 400 years old. It was first cooked by fishermen along the shore near Brouage, France, the birthplace of Samuel de Champlain.
- 6 lb | 3 kg mussels
- 1 large bag of dried pine needles
- Pine board about 18 inches square
- Bread and butter
- Collect a bag of pine needles and let them become very dry.
- One hour before cooking, soak the pine board in water. Beginning at the centre of the board, arrange four mussels in the form of a cross. Insert mussels one by one between each mussel in the centre. Enlarge the circle until the board is covered with mussels. Cover with pine needles, about 6 to 8 inches thick.
- Light each corner and re-cover with more needles (4-5 inches thick). Use a fan to help flame. The shells will become nearly black. Fan the ashes off the mussels (a calendar works well).
- Open and serve on a serving plate. Serve with thick slices of buttered bread.
There are countless books about Samuel de Champlain, who was obviously one of the most important figures in the early history of French exploration and colonization in North America. By far the best biography is Champlain's Dream (2008) by Pulitzer Prize winner David Hackett Fischer. Unfortunately, it contains only a few paragraphs about Port Royal in the winter of 1606, and there's even less about The Order of Good Cheer.
**This episode was produced by Paul Kennedy.