Informant: “So, “les pets de sœurs,” it means “Nun Farts” it’s a traditional dessert in Quebec. They are basically a little pastry, kind of like a cinnamon roll, only um, more like a biscuit than a… you don’t use yeast, and its maple rather than cinnamon. To make it, you use pie dough, butter (2 tablespoons), brown sugar, and of course maple syrup. Let’s see, um, that usually makes a lot, like 2 sheets worth. So, first you heat the oven, I think its like 350 degrees (Fahrenheit), then roll out the dough, it should be pretty thin, then spread the butter over the dough and then add a layer of brown sugar. Um, then, over the dough and brown sugar pour maple syrup, just eyeball the amount… some people use both, maple syrup and cinnamon too. Then just roll up the whole thing, and roll it tight so it doesn’t unroll but not too tight cause otherwise the maple syrup and sugar spills out. It should look like a long tube and then kind’ve like a cinnamon roll on the end. Then cut it in slices and put them on a baking sheet, I think like 1 inch or ¾ inch slices. Also, it’s easier when you put parchment paper on the sheet so they don’t stick. You know they’re done when they turn brown, that should be after about, say 20 minutes. Oh, and the maple can get hot so be careful. Also, don’t bake ‘em too close together, cause they don’t separate very well. But yeah, they’re pretty good.”
The informant is a middle-aged man, who lived in France for about a year and then in Montreal for about two years. He speaks French fluently and has French Canadian heritage, as his family traveled from French Canada in the 40s and 50s to Maine and Connecticut. He appreciates learning about history, and he especially enjoys experiencing and learning about French Canadian culture because it is his heritage.
The informant learned about this pastry while visiting a friend in Quebec when they had dessert. There, he saw them made, and then repeated the recipe. He likes this foodway because the recipe is “pretty easy and they taste good.”
In Quebec “les pets de soeurs” are popular traditional desserts season round. These pastries are not to be confused with “les pets de nonne” (also called “beignets soufflés”) which also means “nun’s farts” that are more like doughnuts. These versions are more like fried dough with powdered sugar or maple syrup drizzled on top and are popular in France.
“Les pets de sœurs” translates directly to mean “the farts of a sister,” or “nun farts.” The odd name of this food derives from the tenuous relationship that developed between the Quebec people and the Catholic Church. Today, in French Canada, many curse words are terms that refer to Catholicism and the Catholic Church. According to the informant, this is because in the early 19th century there was a strict social control of the French Canadian people by the Catholic Church, and thus words that referred to God were not supposed to be said because they were sacred. Originally taboo, these words were eventually used to vent frustration and began to transform into profane words. In fact, I have heard the informant use words like baptême (baptism), câlice (chalice), crisse (Christ), tabarnak (tabernacle) when he is annoyed. Thus, calling the food “Les pets de soeur” which pokes fun at the Church would have been amusing. Other theories concerning the name of this food maintain that this dessert received its name because it is “light and dainty.”