The Journey of the Bean: History of the Gourgane!

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By Mary Clements

With no news of significant progress in negotiations, the next wave of longer then one day teacher strikes here in Ontario, Canada maybe coming very soon. I received a lot of positive feedback regarding our newsletter that outlined some creative ways to practice French at home, particularly on the cooking section, so I thought this week we’d expand on the delicious opportunity for connection and learning that we participate in 3 times a day 🙂

Recipes and cuisine are a great jump off point for learning more about history and culture. Just googling famous Quebec Recipes alone offered so many choices rich in origin stories and today I have landed on a very special bean soup, “La Soupe aux Gourganes” or Fava Bean soup. (I love soup and beans, so versatile, so delicious!)

Known as “Gourgane” in the Charlevoix and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jeanregions, this Fava bean was brought to Quebec by the inhabitants of new France and became one of their main staples. The mention of the Gourgane began to appear in 17th century literature mentioned as the “big bean” and since the 19th century it has been associated almost exclusively with the Charlevoix region so much that an ethnologist even referred to it as the “pays des gourgane” (land of the gourgane) .  The regional dish of “Soupe aux Gourganes”, is a simple soup with many variations consisting of vegetables and Fava beans.

I chose this recipe because even today, the recipe for “Soupe aux Gourganes” is passed down orally over generation to generation and is unique to each family. These are the types of traditions that can become a treasure in one’s memory, so I thought it would be a great idea to explore your own selected France or Quebec dish, discover it’s history, have your child help you translate the recipe and bring a new tradition that includes your child’s French education into your family unit.

Lastly, there is a GOURGANE FESTIVAL (yes, to me a festival dedicated to one single bean is worthy of all caps!) Since 1974 in Albanel, Quebec, this festival pays tribute to the giant legume, runs for 4 days in July, has lots of free family activities AND a giant bean mascot! (Yes, click the link to see what a bean mascot looks like, it’s only a little scary, I promise!:) Even for those non-bean enthuisasts out there, this is an excuse to drive along the St. Lawrence River coast, take in the picturesque rolling hills and beautiful farm scapes that this region offers…I think I might be planning my own trip right now!

So let us know if you create your own version of La Soupe aux Gourganes, if you plan on attending La Festival de La Gourgane this July or if you have a recipe that you think would be interesting for me to explore further. As always, we love and appreciate your feedback 🙂