It feels amusingly stereotypical to be writing about maple syrup as a Canadian citizen. But, besides all the joking around, maple syrup truly is one of the most important components of Canadian economy. After all, the maple leaf is at the center of national flag.
One of the informant’s fondest memories of her time in Montréal, Quebec was the maple syrup festival.
Canada is reportedly responsible for 85% of the world’s production of maple syrup, and Quebec is responsible for most of Canada’s production. Considering this it is perhaps not surprising at all that there is such a passionate love and celebration of maple syrup in Quebec.
The festival takes place every year in March and April. As it turns out, Easter is not just about rebirth and bunnies and chocolate – it also coincides with the most productive time of the year for maple sap. During the festival almost all Sugar Houses, or “cabane à sucre”, are open to public, providing not only candies and desserts and condiments made from maple syrup, but also an opportunity for the public to witness and participate in the extraction and refinement of maple sap into syrup, butter, and sugar.
Beside the pure, bottled maple syrup and the common dishes served with syrup – waffle, ham, pancake – a famed delicacy of the festival is the maple taffy, or “tire d’érable”: candies formed when boiling hot maple sap cools as it’s poured into fresh snow.
Another famous practice that shows off the esteemed Canadian nice-ness lies in the sugar houses. Since sugar houses are technically nothing more than production housings, they are mostly not equipped or meant to be restaurants. Hence the common practice – which as it turns out adds a marvelous sense of homely comfort and intimacy – is to have nothing but a long table in the middle of the sugar house, and the owner would serve the guests whatever they desire, as if it’s simply a house party.
The informant is my mother. She took a special liking to the maple syrup festival when she spent two years in Montréal. Most of these details she recalls from one visit she took to the festival while I was 7 months old in her womb.
The maple syrup festival serves as a nice opposite to many of the other pieces of folklore that I’ve collected. Certain communities’ folklore (like those of the Dota 2 community and the anime community) may feel more or less a little exclusive and inaccessible, referencing several pieces of existing information at the same time. A festival such as this, however, is a very much inclusive experience; anyone is welcome to participate and anyone can, without having any prior knowledge about anything. It is, in a sense, a folklore as an exhibition.