Tag Archives: Acadians

Canadian Cuisine Timeline 1497-1793

Canadian Food Graphic

A lot of the food and dishes that are “Canadian,” are in fact a result of the early years’ immigrations.  As such, before I go on to the Canadian food inventions and innovations, I think it’s important to list a broad stroke of our timeline.  Because of the length, I am breaking up the timeline into three posts.

1497: Giovanni Caboto (better known as John Cabot) sailed from Bristol, England, in search of a trade route to the Orient. Three months later, he returned home to tell of finding a whole New World of tall trees and waters so thick with fish that could be hauled aboard in buckets. This secured him a five-ship voyage to return. It was disastrous for him as he died on the voyage, but his ships returned and corroborated his fishy tales.

1534: Jacques Cartier sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Chaleur Bay, where he met a group of Iroquois. He was invited to a feast of seal, cod and sturgeon, maple sugar-glazed moose loin, corn soup and cakes.

1580: New varieties of food were discovered on a regular basis: avocados, chili peppers, corn, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, just to name a few.

1606: Samuel de Champlain, cartographer and explorer, established Port Royal. He created the Order of Good Cheer (L’Ordre de Bon Temps). Prominent members of the settlement took turns hosting special meals. The benefits were a healthy competition within the group, better nutrition and, it made it easier to wait for the spring. You can view my earlier post about this at

1670: England’s King Charles II granted the lands to the Hudson’s Bay Company. They, in turn, built trading posts and kept them supplied with trade goods and food. Every post was well stocked with butter, tea, biscuits, coffee, cane sugar, salt beef, and other necessities from home.

1755: The deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England began. Many were transported back to France but most dispersed to southern areas such as Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns. Years later, almost half the Acadians returned to Canada, bringing not only their old Acadian cuisine but also their new Cajun style of cooking.

1759: Immigration to Canada increased. Consequently, ships were loaded with settlers arriving almost daily, and the Canadian food experience switched from a pork, fish, wine and sauce-based cuisine to one built upon mutton, beef, peas and beer. Taverns became popular with beer and roast beef with mushy peas.

1769: The Experienced English Housekeeper, written by Elizabeth Raffald, was published in London, England, and became essential reading for those headed for Canada.

1775: The American Revolution began. Staples such as salt, molasses, spices, citrus, tea and coffee become unavailable.

Because of losing the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763), France ceded Canada to Britain, which precipitated a mass migration, especially from Ireland and northern Scotland. Britain offered emigrants free passage along with some provisions – such as tools, salt, food rations, and armaments. Big meat ruled, but it was all tough as nails. Luckily, the English had learned the trick of tenderizing meat from the Romans, and after a few weeks of hanging and a bit of mould scraping, there was your Sunday dinner. It was a bit ripe, but a good long roasting fixed that, and from this habit of culinary utilitarianism came the British reputation for overcooking food.

Late 1700s, potatoes became as ever-present as corn and apples. Potatoes did very well in the Maritimes because the soil was suited to growing them. In addition, just like grain and apples, the excess could be easily distilled into alcohol.

1783: United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution arrived in all parts of Upper Canada and the Maritimes. They brought both their cuisine and their slaves, with each having an impact on the evolution of Canadian cuisine – roast duck laced with cayenne pepper was a culinary eye-opener for Canadian settlers.

1786: John Molson bought a small brewery in Montreal and began creating a financial, nation-expanding empire that would include banks, lumber, steamships, a railway and larger breweries. Called the nation’s greatest entrepreneur, John Molson and his business endeavours created a demand for timber and grains.

1790: A salt boiling operation was established at Twelve Mile Creek (now St. Catharines, Ontario) by William Merritt, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, a city with a long history of salt production. The British government in Upper Canada discontinued the practice of supplying each settler family with a barrel of imported salt.

1793: Slavery was abolished in what is now Ontario. Therefore, villages opened inns and taverns whose kitchens offered employment to displaced cooks, escaped U.S. slaves and returning Acadians. Some of them were famous for their dinners that were usually Southern-inspired dishes like slow-baked Virginia-style ham and biscuits, crayfish pie, fried fish, frog legs, cornbread, yams, tomato salad, corn on the cob and syrupy dessert pies, along with traditional roasts of beef, mutton, and wild game. A treat for travellers, Southern-style foods found approval in home kitchens, a fact that led to the design of Canadian cooking stoves with tops that facilitated iron frypans and boiling pans.

Some of my earlier related posts:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the years of 1816 to 1890.


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Remembering a Hockey Legend

Earlier this week we lost a hockey legend, Jean Béliveau.  Can I introduce you to him?

He was born on August 31, 1931 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.  He died on December 2, 2014 at the age of 83, in Longueuil, Quebec.

Photo of Jean Béliveau

Hockey legend Jean Béliveau

He was a professional Canadian ice hockey player who played parts of 20 seasons with the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Montreal Canadiens from 1950 to 1971. He began to play professionally in the Quebec Major Hockey League (QMHL). He made his NHL début with the Canadiens in 1950, but chose to stay in the QMHL full-time until 1953. By his second season in the NHL, Béliveau was among the top three scorers. He was the fourth player to score 500 goals and the second to score 1,000 points. Béliveau won two Hart Memorial Trophies (1956, 1964) and one Art Ross Memorial Trophy (1956), as well as the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy (1965). As a player, he won the Stanley Cup 10 times, and as an executive he was part of another seven championship teams, the most Stanley Cup victories by an individual to date. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

Nicknamed “Le Gros Bill” (The Big Bill), Béliveau ranks among the ten greatest NHL players.

Interestingly, Béliveau can trace his ancestry to Antoine Béliveau, who settled in 1642 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. The Béliveaus were expelled along with the Acadians in 1755 and the family settled in the Boston area before moving to Québec to the Trois Rivières area in the mid-19th century.

He suffered from many ailments for decades now.  He’s suffered two strokes, and was diagnosed with cancer (he recovered after a punishing course of treatments).

Another defining moment in his life, Prime Minister Jean Chretien offered Béliveau the position of Governor General of Canada in 1994.  However, he declined the offer to be with his daughter, Hélène, and two grandchildren, Mylene and Magalie. Their father, a Quebec police officer, committed suicide when the girls were five and three.

Of many legacies he leaves behind, one of the greatest (I think) is the charitable Jean Béliveau Foundation, established in 1971. In 1993, Béliveau transferred the foundation to the Society for Disabled Children.

We have missed him on the ice and admired him for his steadfast vigour for living life to its fullest.  Thoughts and prayers for his family, friends and fans.


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Not Cowboys & Indians, Part 2

For the month of April, I’ll be continuing the series of “Indian wars in Canada,” this post will cover the 17th century.  Now, I have to say that there were skirmishes, battles and wars.  I can’t, obviously, cover every one.  So with a broad pen stroke, let’s keep going.

Beaver War Map of colonial settlements.

Map of the location of major tribes involved in the Beaver Wars laid against a period map showing colonial settlements.

In the mid-17th century, the Beaver Wars began. They were also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars. These battles were fought in eastern North America.  Two of them were:

On June 19, 1610 the battle of Sorel began and continued intermittently for almost a century, and ended with the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. It pitted the nations of the Iroquois confederation, led by the dominant Mohawks, against the Algonquian people of the Great Lakes region.  They were supported by the Kingdom of France.   Actually, the first deliberate battle in 1609 was fought at Champlain’s initiative. William Brandon, in his book, The American Heritage Book of Indians (1984), wrote that Champlain is said to have written, “I had come with no other intention than to make war.”  Unfortunately, this battle created 150-years of mistrust that diminished any chances that French-Iroquois alliances would be durable and long-lived.

Another was the Lachine Massacre (present-day Montreal, Quebec) on the morning of August 5, 1689. 1,500 Mohawk warriors attacked 375 inhabitants.  The event was precipitated by the Iroquois who wanted to avenge the 1,200,000 bushels of corn burned by the French.  But since they were unable to reach the food stores in Montreal, they kidnapped and killed the Lachine crop producers instead. 3 Mohawks and 72 French settlers were killed.  When one survivor reported to a local garrison, 4.8 km (3 miles) away, two hundred soldiers, along with 100 armed civilians and some soldiers from nearby, marched against the Iroquois.  Numerous attacks from both sides followed, but the two groups quickly realized the futility of their attempts to drive the other out.  The Montreal Treaty of 1701, concluded with the Iroquois promising to remain neutral in case of war between the French and English.

Map of King William's War.

Map of King William’s War.

Another major war of the 17th century, besides the Beaver War,  was King William’s War, from 1688 to 1697.  It was also known as the Second Indian War, Father Baudoin’s War, as well as Castin’s War. This war had many battles.  To offer a sense of the war, here is one of many battles in that war.

At Siege of Pemaquid, in 1696, New France and the tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy, led by St. Castine and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, returned and fought a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy before moving on to raid Pemaquid (Maine). After the siege, d’Iberville led a force of 124 Canadians, Acadians, Mi’kmaq and Abanakis in the Avalon Peninsula Campaign. They destroyed almost every English settlement in Newfoundland, over 100 English were killed, many times that number captured, and almost 500 deported to England or France.

In retaliation, Church (Colonel Benjamin Church is considered to be the father of American ranging. He was the captain of the first Ranger force in America) went on his fourth expedition to Acadia and carried out a retaliatory raid against Acadian communities on the Isthmus of Chignecto and Fort Nashwack (now Fredericton, New Brunswick), which was then the capital of Acadia.  He led his troops personally in killing inhabitants of Chignecto, looting their household goods, burning their houses and slaughtering the livestock.

My next post will cover the 18th century.




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Like Looking Through the Wrong End of a Telescope!

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7...

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7am on my balcony on Quinpool Rd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When the Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia in 1755, “planters” from New England were brought in to take their place.  As a result, Nova Scotia opened the first Parliament in what is now Canada on October 2, 1758.

Governor Cornwallis,the builder of Halifax, had been given instructions to “summon and call general assemblies of the Freeholders and Planters according to the usage of the rest of our colonies  and plantations in America”, but had done nothing about it.  He was succeeded by a tough soldier, Colonel Lawrence, who might also have done nothing except that his hand was forced by the settlers from the American colonies.  They were accustomed to self-government and demanded it for Nova Scotia.

On  February 7, 1758, Governor Lawrence and his council passed resolutions providing for the election of sixteen members for the province at large, with four from Halifax and two from Lunenburg.  As soon as any community had a population of fifty, it could elect two members.  Nobody could complain about lack of representation when there was a Member of Parliament for every twenty-five people!

The first Parliament in Canada met in the Court House at the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets in Halifax on October 2, 1758.  It remained in session until April 11, 1759, with breaks for the usual holidays.  The members voted to serve without pay.  The total cost of the first session was £250, of which £100 went to the clerk.

The Church of England was formally established, but Protestant dissenters were allowed freedom of worship and conscience.  The same privileges were denied “members of the popish religion.”  the British criminal code was adopted, including penalties of the stocks pillory, flogging, branding, cutting off ears and hanging.  As late as 1816, a man was sentenced to have his ears cut off.  For instance, the use of profane language was a criminal offence.

Nova Scotia’s Parliament was conducted with great ceremony.  Charles Dickens, who visited Halifax in 1840, said it was like looking at the British Parliament through the wrong end of a telescope!

October 2, 1758, was commemorated by the Canadian Club of Halifax which erected a memorial tower along the picturesque Northwest Arm of the city.


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Quiet Until Napoleon

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Little noticed and seldom visited are the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off Burin Peninsula, south-west Newfoundland.  They are all that is left of the vast possessions France once held in North America.

France seemed glad to get rid of Canada through the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, but she kept St. Pierre and Miquelon as bases for French fishing vessels.  fishing rights along the coasts were probably the most valuable thing Canada had to offer in those days.  Britain agreed to France’s retaining St. Pierre and Miquelon, provided they would be used only as fishing bases.  No fort could be built, and the police force was never to exceed fifty men.

France put the Baron de l’Espérance in charge of the islands on July 14, 1763.  Although many Acadians had drifted back to Canada after the expulsion of 1755, some of them refused to become British subjects.  The Baron de l’Espérance gave them land in St. Pierre-Miquelon, and hoped they would become good settlers.

This was a mistake.  The Acadians were farmers and the soil of the island was unsuitable for agriculture.  Many of them were so unhappy that they were taken to France.  They were unhappy in France too, and decided that the barren soil of St. Pierre-Miquelon was preferable to the tyranny and oppression in France in 1768.  So back they came!  A large number made a living by fishing and not farming.  Smuggling was a profitable sideline. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Admiral Montague, Governor of Newfoundland, evacuated nearly 2,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre-Miquelon and sent them to France.  Most of them returned at the end of the war and there was quiet until Britain became involved in war again with Napoleon and the French Revolution.

Landscape of Miquelon.

Landscape of Miquelon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were even problems during World War II when France was governed by Vichy.  It was always possible to Germany would take over France completely, and that St. Pierre-Miquelon could be used as bases for submarines or spies.  The inhabitants were allowed to stay on the islands, but a proposal to build a powerful radio station was cancelled.

Gradually, St Pierre-Miquelon, through their direct link with old and new France, are becoming increasingly attractive to tourists.  the tourist trade will probably become the island’s most important source of revenue. To learn more about St. Pierre and Miquelon, I have a few places to suggest: a good place to start is at St. Pierre et Miquelon Tourism where they have lots in information and photos. I also suggest viewing a video on YouTube. It’ll give you a very good idea, I think, of what it is like there!


Posted by on July 14, 2013 in On This Day


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Mosquito Fleet = Scoundrels

Mosquito Fleet, Galveston, Texas.

Mosquito Fleet  (Photo credit: SMU Central University Libraries)


When the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, parts of Nova Scotia had been settled by people brought from the colonial states to replace the Acadians. There was a great deal of sympathy for the American cause and an organization was set up to support it.

A delegation to the Congress at Philadelphia gave the names of 600 people who were ready to join the rebellion, and Nova Scotians even attacked Cumberland.  They were easily defeated, however, and the uprising in the Maritime never became serious.

One of the rebel leaders in Nova Scotia gave the Americans advice on how to win the Maritimes, urging them to equip small ships that could run up the tidal waters of Nova Scotia and attack the settlements inland.  This was done very successfully.  The American raiders sailed close to shore, where heavier British warships could not catch them, and a great many communities were raided and plundered.

Eventually, however, the operation backfired.  Many of the American ships in the “mosquito fleet” were little better than pirates, and Nova Scotia soon turned against them. The leading citizens of the fishing village of Lockeport sent a protest to Massachusetts saying, “the scoundrels took 19 quintals of codfish, 4 barrels of salt, 3 salmon nets, 60 pounds of butter, 1 green hide, 5 dressed skins, some cheese and other things … These things are very surprising in that we in this harbour have done so much for America, that we have helped three or four hundred prisoners to go along to America and have given part of our living to them.  If this is the way we are to be repaid we desire to see no more of you without you come in another manner”

Quintal: The quintal or centner, from Latin centenarius (“hundredlike”), is a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units of either pounds or kilograms. – Wikipedia

They came back in the same way.  However, this time, as most of the menfolk were away, the women and children, living up on a bluff, wore red coats and carried broomsticks which looked like guns.  One woman marched up and down with a drum.  The raiders thought they were soldiers and departed.

The Government of Nova Scotia organized a tiny navy to oppose the rebels.  Rebel strength was further depleted by battles, such as the one on July 10, 1780, between rival members of the “mosquito fleet.”


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The Men Will Behave Very Orderly …

English: Fort Lawrence - Nova Scotia by John H...

Fort Lawrence – Nova Scotia by John Hamilton 1755 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia in 1755, they were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.   There might be some argument about which side was which!  Some of the Acadians lived in  Cape Breton and what is now New Brunswick, belonging to France while the others lived in the rest of Nova Scotia, which was British.

The French governor at Quebec issued a proclamation commanding all Acadians to take an oath of allegiance to the King, and enrol in the French militia.  Britain made similar demands on the 9,000 Acadians in her territory, although not requiring them to join the militia.

There was a French fort at Beauséjour (which had been preserved as a historic site), while the British had Fort Lawrence, not far away.  Governor Vaudreuil at Quebec sent instructions to Governor Vergor at Beauséjour to devise a plan to attack against Fort Lawrence.

The British had a spy in Beauséjour, who revealed the plan to Governor Lawrence of Nova Scotia and who also got in touch with Governor Shirley in Massachusetts.   Shirley, with his usual enthusiasm, raised a force of 2,000 men.  When they embarked to sail to Nova Scotia they were instructed: “The men will behave very orderly on the Sabbath Day, and either stay on board their transports, or else go to church, and not stroll up and down the streets.”

The force landed at Fort Lawrence on June 4, 1755.  Governor Vergor had his men set all the houses on fire between Fort Lawrence and Beauséjour, while a famous Roman catholic priest, Father Le Loutre, had his Acadians working on the fortifications.  In the meantime, Vergor had sent an urgent message to Louisburg for help, but learned on June 14 that none would be coming.  The British had fired their guns at Beauséjour for several days when a shell fell through a roof and killed three officers.  That was enough for Vergor and he surrendered the fort on June 16.

As the New England troops could only be kept for one year, and the French were expected to try to recapture Nova Scotia, it was decided to expel the Acadians.  Their exodus took place later in the year.

Want to read more about Governor Vergor and the surrender of Beauséjour? You can begin with Nova Scotia’s Electric Scrapbook, and then the History of Nova Scotia. To read even more, there’s Tantramar History Sites and the Acadian-Cajun Geniealogy & History, and then, for a few very interesting anecdotes, you have to visit 1775: L’Histoire. All good places to start.


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