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Québec

Bourdain’s Field Notes

QUÉBEC, May 2013—Food-fucked: to be fed more food of a ridiculously high quality and deliciousness than deemed judicious by any reputable health authority whilst in no position to refuse.

Chefs Martin Picard, David McMillan, and Frederic Morin are masters of food-fuckery. They are loved, respected and feared by chefs from all over the world who’ve visited them at their restaurants in Montreal (Picard’s Au Pied de Cochon and McMillan and Morin’s Joe Beef and Liverpool House). They are justifiably feared for their generosity with fine wines and liqueurs, their profligacy with ingredients like black truffles and foie gras.

They are also, arguably, the most important, most influential chefs in Canada. Even a glancing association with any of their kitchens gives a cook in Brooklyn or Los Angeles an immediate hipster cred. This is, of course, particularly ironic given Mr. McMillan’s frequent threats to beat passing hipsters to death with a shovel.

They are Canadian. They are Québécois. And what they bring to gastronomy is a particular embrace of French Canadian lumberjack appetites and joie de vivre—coupled with a deep respect for the traditions of dining and hospitality unique to their region.

They do not look like intellectuals, historians, or gentlemen farmers. They look more like a motorcycle gang or well-fed fur trappers.

And in the week I spent with them recently for the making of this episode of “Parts Unknown,” they fed me as I have never been fed in my well-travelled life.

You will see food porn in this week’s episode so epic, so enticing, so devastating in its richness, flavors, and sheer volume as to endanger the life. If I have ever made an episode of television where even WATCHING food being served can cause livers and other vital organs to explode or malfunction, this is it.

This episode is listed as being about Canada. But it is clearly not. It is not even, really, about Québec. It is, however about three characters—and the world they move around in—that could not have existed anywhere in the world BUT QUÉBEC.

They are the magnificently mutated offspring of an old and glorious culture. They respect and cherish and preserve the best of the old while creating and inspiring the new. They are dangerous, dangerous men.

I know you will like them.

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Local Lingo

Cuisine ancienne: Per Bourdain, “dishes you haven’t seen in like forever.” AKA good, old-fashioned, often homestyle cooking.

Pastagate: In 2013, Québécois language authorities notified Buonanotte, an upscale Montreal Italian restaurant, that they were in violation of French-language laws because they used Italian words like “pasta.” The incident prompted an outcry against officials, as well as a discussion on bureaucracy and the province’s Francophone identity.

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