Ottawa Postscript: Remembering “National” Meal-time Rituals

Ottawa always attracts attention. The city and its government business present opportunities for socializing, celebrating, and politicking over a meal.

Painted in Waterlogue

Here are two famous Canadian writers (outsiders to the city) reflecting on capital fare both real and imagined. Can you guess their identities? Tweet us @canlitfare. or post your answers below!


Painted in Waterlogue
By special invitation, this famous author attended the Governor General’s Saturday night “grand fête” for a winter gathering at Rideau Hall in 1884. A bonfire burned at the centre of the grounds, and Lord Dufferin’s “pet rink” enchanted its night-time skaters, as Chinese lanterns glowed from the surrounding tree branches. After the outdoor frivolity, refreshments and a late-night dinner were served indoors:

“The only thing that I did not like was that when I was left in the tea-room every body kept staring at me, and some edged nearly up to me, and I kept hearing — ‘That’s her’….

There was first a refreshment table in the saloon of tea and delicious coffee and cakes of all sorts and fruit. I just drank a cup of coffee only…. There was grand supper at 11— but we did not go into the room. There was such a crowd of hundreds of people — all seemed bent on making the most of the liberal hospitality of His Excellency.” (238)


Painted in Waterlogue

During federal elections, would-be political leaders suddenly become expert pancake flippers at community breakfasts across the country. Critiquing such demonstrations of “hospitality” in the early 20th century, this author believed “the hotel business formed the natural and proper threshold of the national legislature” (27). The candidates in this fictional riding know that victory is won through the stomachs of their constituents and through a convincing performance of solidarity across a humble table:

“Perhaps you have never seen a country being ‘organized.’ It is a wonderful sight. First all the Bagshaw men drove through crosswise in top buggies and then drove through it lengthwise. Whenever they met a farmer they went in and ate a meal with him, and after the meal they took him out to the buggy and gave him a drink. After that man’s vote was absolutely solid until it was tampered with by feeding a Conservative.
In fact, the only way to show a farmer that you are in earnest is to go in and eat a meal with him. If you can’t eat it, he won’t vote for you. That is the recognized political test.” (140)

Written By: Shelley Boyd

Photo Credit: Shelley Boyd

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