Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada
Introduction A Taste of History Hard Times for the Colonists Port-Royal: A Landmark of Preservation
A Taste of History
Interpreter as Champlain at the table © Parks Canada
The Order of Good Cheer
Proposed in the winter of 1606-07, the Order of Good Cheer provided good food and good times for the men to improve their health and morale during the long winter. Although it lasted only one winter, the society was a great success. As Lecarbot reports, every few days, supper became a feast where, on a rotating basis, everyone at the table was designated “Chief Steward.”
“This person had the duty of taking care that all around the table were well and honourably provided for. This was so well carried out, though the epicures of Paris often tell us that we had no Rue aux Ours [this street, still in existence in Paris, was the street of the rotisseurs, or sellers of cooked meat]. Over there, as a rule we made as good cheer as we could have in this same Rue aux Ours and at less cost. For there was no one who, two days before his turn came, failed to go hunting or fishing, and to bring back some delicacy in addition to our ordinary fare. So well was this carried out that never at breakfast did we lack some savoury meat of flesh or fish, and still less at our midday or evening meals; for that was our chief banquet, at which the ruler of the feast or chief butler, whom the [native people] called Atoctegic, having had everything prepared by the cook, marched in, napkin on shoulder, badge of office in hand, and around his neck the collar of the Order, ... after him all the members of the Order, carrying each a dish. The same was repeated at dessert, though not always with so much pomp. And at night, before giving thanks to God, he handed over to his successor in the charge the collar of the Order, with a cup of wine, and they drank to each other.”
The members of the Order of Good Cheer were likely prominent men in the colony. Membertou and Messamouet, Mi’kmaw chiefs in the area, were frequent guests. Earlier, Messamouet had sailed as a guide to Champlain in search of copper mines in the Bay of Fundy. As a young man, the chief told Champlain, he had journeyed across the Atlantic in a Basque fishing vessel and visited France where stayed at the home of the governor of Bayonne. Of other Aboriginal guests, Lescarbot writes, “We always had twenty or thirty [native] men, women, girls, and children, who looked on at our manner of service. Bread was given them gratis [free].”
Fare for the table
The gentlemen were able to procure a wide variety of meats including: fowl (mallards,
geese, partridges and other birds), moose, caribou, beaver, otter, bear, rabbit, wildcat, and raccoon. In North America at the time, beaver was a delicate meat like that of mutton. Some of the more commonly used spices then were pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Herbs such as thyme, chervil, bay leaves and marjoram were familiar flavourings. A dish that the Habitation settlers might consider bland could well be strong or wild to our modern tastes.
Some good examples of modern dishes that might provide the flavour of a Good Cheer dinner: potage à la citrouille (pumpkin soup), anguille à létuvée (steamed eel), esturgeon
à la Sainte-Menehould (sturgeon), fricassée d’épinard (fricassee of spinach), topinambours en beignets (Jerusalem artichoke fritters), tarte à la chaire de pommes et de poires (apples and pear pie), and tarte de massepain (marzipan tarts).