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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quebec dining: foie gras and fries

Mike Morin

As much as I love New Hampshire stay-cations, Lady Baba and I decided to take an eh-cation this summer with a trip to Canada, eh? Despite Barb’s strong Boston accent and my fleeting fluency in French from high school classes 40 years ago, we headed for Quebec City for three days for what we were told was a very European-type city.

I was actually pretty excited to at least attempt interpreting French-language signage in Quebec. Prior to this trip and despite my own French-Canadian lineage, the only time those French classes came in handy were the years I served as a minor league hockey broadcaster on radio and later as a public address announcer for the Toledo Goaldiggers team. It just feels good to shout, “Goal scored by Francois Boulanger!” French just rolls off the tongue when you say it right. “Boo-lawn-JHAYYYY!”

Here’s a tip for enthusiastic Francophile wannabes: Unless you’re ready to carry on a full conversation in French, do not open your greeting with “bonjour.” This is a cue that you speak French, which, of course, you do not. You are just trying to impress your host with one single word. Bad idea. If you can’t remember that bit of advice, memorize this one: “Est-ce qu’il y a quelqu’un ici qui parle anglais?” Be sure to say that in your best Jersey accent so they know you’re not from South Quebec.

I found opening with “hello” to be the best way to have a conversation in English. Once you’ve completed your exchange, feel free to drop a “merci” as you leave. My compliments to the merchants and residents of Quebec City. Many speak much better English than most Americans speak French.

The food was wonderful. Dining outdoors in Vieux-Quebec is the norm in warm weather. The French offer foie gras everywhere you dine. It’s a dish made with duck or goose liver. I saw sheep’s brain on another menu. I must say, French fries in the U.S. are better than the ones I had at some very nice Quebec restaurants. How’s that for irony, Madame?

Then there’s Canadian currency. The week we were there, an American dollar was worth 94 cents Canadian, a six-cent hit to my wallet. No big deal. Many merchants treated our dollars one-for-one, while others charged a premium for taking our bucks. Then, the day we returned, the U.S. stock market dropped 500 points and the U.S. dollar jumped up to 98 cents. I don’t get that.

Remember years ago when your greenback was worth about $1.20 across the border? Well guess what — the Canadians took great pride in playfully rubbing my nose in the declining dollar.

And I heard this line more than once: “Our money is so pretty. Yours is so boring.” OK, Francois, I’ll remember that when you come to the States to buy your Boston Bruins jersey. Oh, did you hear? The Bruins beat the Canucks for the Stanley Cup this year.

For that I say, “Merci.” Au revoir.

Hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5-10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID. Contact him at His column runs the first, third and fifth Tuesdays of the month.