Montreal in the Canadian Culinary Imagination

Type of resource
Montreal in the Canadian Culinary Imagination
Using Montreal as an example, the author argues that the culinary imagination is not only mimetic in the sense of representing socio-historical and cultural context, but also constitutive of place itself. That is, the city's cultural productions contribute to shaping as well as articulating a sense of place (where place is understood according to usage in the field of human geography). Examples explored by the author include cookbooks, restaurant histories, interviews with chefs, in addition to Gabrielle Roy's popular novel set in Montreal, Bonheur d'occasion (The Tin Flute), a historical commentary on the Montreal fire by Afua Cooper, and an acerbic poem about Montreal's language politics seen through the lens of a food menu by F.R. Scott. In particular, through an extended glance at the role of Jewish foods and foodways in Montreal’s culinary imaginary, including a discussion of the endurance of Jewish foodways within the city via the restaurants, popular/iconic food items, and literary stories despite the city’s changing demographics, the author points to the enduring hold of certain “culinary imaginaries.” In this way, she believes the city’s culinary cultural productions are constitutive of place, where place is understood to be both process and practice. Further, the author’s case study of Montreal reveals that the culinary imagination is at once, and paradoxically, dynamic and enduring. She concludes that in the case of Montreal, it seems like the culinary imagination holds sway - and carries certain imaginaries through time, across space, and between cultural groups - even as demographics shift, neighbourhoods evolve, and new food imaginings enter the mix.
Book Title
Canadian Culinary Imaginations
Montreal and Kingston
McGill-Queen's University Press
Cooke, Nathalie. “Montreal in the Canadian Culinary Imagination.” In Canadian Culinary Imaginations, edited by Shelley Boyd and Dorothy Barenscott, 117–145. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020.
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