By Cheri Sims
I just received my annual invitation, from my favorite hotel, to attend the Quebec City, Canada “Festival d Ete: a music festival held in July. I guess after having stayed at the Chateau de la Terrasse seventeen times they think I am a sure bet. We actually attended the festival twenty times but on three occasions had to stay at the “Le Concorde” hotel because the trips were last minute and the Chateau was full on our dates. Our first trip to Canada was on our first wedding anniversary in 1968 and we did not get any farther than London, Ontario, Canada; a one day drive of 525 miles. It was a five day vacation in our VW and we only spent $77.00 on the whole trip; $77.00 won’t even buy one night hotel now.
On our second vacation, many years later, we flew into Montreal, Canada; I had not flown for many years and did not do well on the plane. For some reason I had become afraid to fly which had not been the case when I was a teen. Hubby thought I acted weird for a couple days; he seemed to think I had jet lag, I think it was anxiety. We rented a car on that trip and drove north to Quebec City, a place Hubby had read about as being a 300 year old walled city. I had done many hours of research in the Charleston Library; I think I checked out every Canadian travel book they had, which is where I found the hotels we stayed in for the whole trip.
I clearly recall all the hours of work I spent researching this trip without the aid of the computer and when I think about how easy it is to research with a computer I shudder. I had to write to the Canadian travel Bureau because a phone call cost $5.75 and we could not afford that expense and save for the trip. The Quebec Bureau sent a wonderful travel packet with individual booklets on all the Provinces; we both spent hours reading these books and this started our love for traveling to Canada. Some of the books were in French, which Hubby spoke and read and he especially liked those books. Now it takes me about a minute to research a Province but I will admit to spending lots of time reading the internet material.
The next year we decided to drive to Quebec City and thus began our two week road trips and our love of the Eastern USA. By this time we knew a lot about the Quebec Province and decided to explore Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine on these drives. After thirty-five years of traveling the Eastern seaboard we always spent the last four days of the trip in Quebec City, We then explored more of eastern Canada in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island. Finally one year Hubby suddenly decided he had seen enough of the east and we decided it was time to go west. The next few years we traversed as much of the western states and northwest Canada as we could; culminating in our longest driving vacation of three weeks to Banff, Canada and the Canadian Rocky mountains. In forty-five years we visited every state in the United States except Hawaii and Alaska and the Alaska trip was planned but never executed. We also drove through all the Canadian provinces but did not get to spend as much time in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as we would have liked and did not get the chance for a boat trip to Labrador.
The Quebec Festival has been canceled the last two years due to the pandemic and I know from talking to my friends at the hotel that they are suffering financially. Quebec has festivals all summer long with the “Festival d’Ete” being the longest and largest with travelers coming from all over the world. Our last trip was in 2017 but my girlfriend had the Quebec trip planned for 2020 and had to cancel due to all the restrictions but I can honestly say that I have really missed going to Quebec, especially for the food. Poutine (French fries with Poutine gravy and curd cheese) is my favorite with their smoked meat running a close second. Luckily, now I can buy Poutine sauce packets on Amazon and even though what I make at home is delicious, it is not the real thing. Buying real Montreal smoked meat is another problem entirely; we had a source in Boston, a few years ago but they have since stopped mailing meat.
So will you be taking a vacation this year? I am not sure if I am ready to venture very far from home yet; the virus threat is still out there and the precautions are somewhat invasive if you ask me. I am told that border crossings have eased up a bit and just today the CDC has changed precautions so now we don’t know what to do again. Many of my friends have started to travel again and I admit a bit of envy when I am told of their plans. I have been trying to figure out where to go first and it is a bit overwhelming. I have always wanted to ride the Canadian Pacific train across Canada and I would love a boat trip on the Mississippi River. I have researched both and they look amazing. I am sure I will never realize my ultimate trip to England, Scotland and Wales but I can still dream. I have so many wonderful memories of all our travels and Hubby’s paintings, of our trips, to look at every day that I have so much for which to be thankful.
As I have mentioned food played a big part in our travels, we always tried to eat at small local restaurants and diners and we liked to try foods of the area. Since most of our trips to Canada and the Eastern USA were taken in July it was pretty easy to find local foods made with fresh ingredients. I am a seafood fan and Hubby liked steak so we would alternate our evening meals so we would each have a special meal. My meals consisted mainly of baked haddock or lobster sandwiches and a blueberry dessert and Hubby would vary between burgers and steak and join me in a blueberry pie or pastry. On the nights we could not find a suitable steakhouse we would opt for poutine and smoked meat or Canadian wood fired pizza. Blueberries are grown in many areas with which we have traveled and also grow wild in many places we hiked. Since it is getting close to the time where we here in Illinois will be able to buy good tasting blueberries I thought I would share one of our favorite blueberry desserts.
Plan a trip even if you don’t go, it is cathartic.
This recipe is from North Bay Produce in Traverse City Michigan.
* 1 package of puff
* 2 pints of blueberries
* Juice of one lemon
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3 tbs flour
* 3.4 cup sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* Egg wash
* Decorator sugar
* Cream cheese glaze
Don’t want to go through the hassle of braiding the pastry? Make this into a rustic pie by adding the fruit in the middle of the pastry and folding the edges around the filling. Add egg wash to the pastry and bake per instructions.
In a large bowl, add blueberries and toss with lemon juice. Sprinkle flour and sugar over blueberries and toss to coat. Set aside.
To assemble, place one puff pastry sheet on parchment removing the papers between the layers. Roll out pastry a little extending the edges about an inch around the perimeter. The pastry will have indents where it was folded. Face the lines vertically in front of you and fill the center section with half the blueberry mixture leaving about an inch gap at the top and bottom.
Brush egg wash around the edges and fold the top inch over the top and bottom of blueberries. Take 1/4 cup of butter and drop from teaspoons along the middle of the blueberries.
To cover blueberry mixture, take a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife and cut slices on the other 2/3rds of the crust cutting right until the blueberries start. Start at top and braid puff pastry strips over blueberry mixture sealing edges as you go to contain mixture into the middle. Cover with egg wash and sprinkle with decorator sugar.
Bake at 375F for 40 minutes or until pastry is browned and blueberries are starting to bubble a little pit from the seams in the middle. Let cool for 10 minutes before adding optional cream cheese glaze. Serve at room temperature or warm with ice cream. (https://www.northbayproduce.com/recipes/blueberry-strudel)