My 27 year-old archaeologist daughter turned to me today and whispered, “This is proof positive I have no life”. We were seated in a large conference room of the Chateau Ramezay Museum, listening to Jean-Pierre Lemasson, one of Quebec’s leading food historians, lecture about the origins of Paté Chinois – Chinese Pie – (an indigenous Quebec variant of Shepherd’s Pie), which was recently voted Quebec’s National Food.

Professor Lemasson took us through his research on the name origins of this dish, concluding however that these were in the end very unclear and speculative at best. Interestingly, he believes that the origins have nothing to do with Shepherd’s Pie itself, a notably Scottish dish that predates Paté Chinois by at least a hundred years if not more. The seminal role of corn in Paté Chinois is apparently what makes the dish so distinctively North American, although its appearance seems to date only into the early 1900′s.

His presentation was interspersed by four servings of this famous dish, ranging from the classical, to a version made with bison meat in BBQ sauce, and culminating in a dessert incarnation. All quite delicious. The lecture hall was packed, although the average age would have been about 55…hence my daughter’s comment.

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