Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Strawberry Socialists

Canada Day weekend got started with what seems likely to become a lasting “…an endless banquet” tradition: the Ormstown Strawberry Social.

Strawberry Social, Ormstown fig. a: June 29, 2007, Ormstown, QC

We’d been talking about going to one of Quebec’s many, many strawberry socials for years now. Home-baked shortcake, fresh Quebec strawberries, whipped cream, a little socializing—what could possibly go wrong? So this year Michelle took the bull by the horns and started doing a little research. That’s how she found out about the Ormstown Strawberry Social in MacDougall Hall. Though it’s situated just 60 km southwest of Montreal along a stretch of the Chateauguay Valley that we know quite well, we’d never been to Ormstown before. Michelle had a good feeling, though. So good, in fact, that she could picture the whole thing: the old Victorian architecture, the well-kept gardens and shade trees and the tidy lawns, the central church, and MacDougall Hall, a stately old town hall sitting next to it. She didn’t have an address, but she claimed she didn’t need one—she’d just know when we got there. And that’s pretty much the way things played out. Ormstown was just as attractive as Michelle had imagined it to be, she knew exactly when and where to make a turn, and, sure enough, there was stately old MacDougall Hall perched just to the left of the central church. It was early still, it was warm and beautiful out, and we’d brought some sandwiches along for a picnic, so we sat down on the lawn in the sunshine and had our dinner and a beverage before joining the social.

New old Sprite, Ormstown fig. b: everything old is new again

Things on the inside of MacDougall Hall were more or less just as Michelle had pictured they’d be too. With our tickets in tow--$6 for a large and $3 for a small—we made our way to the eat-in counter (the take-out counter was located in an alcove off to the right of the front entrance). There we exchanged your ticket for your portion of freshly baked shortcake slathered with the ripest, sweetest strawberries imaginable (barely stewed to perfection), and a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.

strawberry shortcake plates, small and large fig. c: l-r: small and large strawberry shortcake plates

Once we’d gotten our plates, we sat ourselves down at a smartly appointed table and were immediately greeted by a friendly man bearing cups and a pot of freshly brewed coffee. We thought we were dreaming. Then we tasted the shortcake and we were sure we were dreaming.

strawberry shortcake, Ormstown fig. d: still life with strawberry shortcake

People were definitely kind of curious about us—everybody else seemed to know each other—but when some of the organizers found out that we’d come in from Montreal it caused a bit of a stir. “You drove all the way in from Montreal just to come here?” “How was the Mercier [Bridge]?” “D’ya get stuck in traffic?” “Where did you hear about us?” “What? You read about us on the internet?” When the storm had blown over, we went back to our table, finished our strawberry shortcake, and talked about how, at that moment, there was nowhere else we’d rather be. We meant it, too.

Want to check out your very own Montreal-area strawberry social featuring real Quebec strawberries? Try the Hudson Strawberry Social in Hudson, QC, just to the west of Montreal at the mouth of the Ottawa Valley. It takes place next Saturday, July 7 at the St. James Church. Start time is 5:30 PM, and, yes, there will be a dessert auction.



Amy said...

Oh my--that's gorgeous. Stewed strawberries, eh? I always just cut 'em up, sugar 'em (just a bit!), and let them get juicy, but I could see how a quick cook would be nice. Yes, I will be making this soon... I have Jazz Fest tickets on Saturday, otherwise I'd love to go to Hudson.

JoyBugaloo said...

This is off-topic, but I was wondering if you could direct me to the place where you guys went raspberry-picking last year? You detailed the place that had currants, but not exactly where the neighboring raspberry farm was. I would appreciate the info!


Stockton said...

strawbeery sandwhiches, anyone? sliced, sprinkled with a little sugar...glass of rose...?

teri said...

that sounds like such a perfect way to enjoy a summer evening + a glut of strawberries. i may have to drive on down to hudson this weekend.
p.s. i got APOQ in the mail on friday - it's lovely!

aj kinik said...

Hi everyone,
thanks for all your comments.

Hi Gina,
Michelle's not exactly sure where the raspberry place was in relation to Pavillon de la Pomme other than to say it was nearby. Happy hunting!

tiny banquet committee said...

Strawberry interlopers! I love these photos. The lighting is exactly as I would hope it would be at a strawberry social.

annie said...

Did you make it out to this year's social? I missed it!

aj kinik said...

better late than never: always a pleasure to hear from you--you're right, the light was perfection

no, we missed it this year, unfortunately--can't remember what our pathetic excuse was, but whatever it was, it feels even more pathetic now as I'm writing this