Food in Canadian Film, Part 2: J’ai tué ma mère

by Samantha Nardi

The plot of this film is driven by the incessant arguments of mother Chantale (Anne Dorval) and son Hubert (Xavier Dolan), from issues as small as the noise the mother makes while she eats, to the more serious argument that arises when she discovers her son’s hidden homosexuality. These scenes, among others in the film, are marked by the presence of food. Mentions of food, the presence of food in key moments, and most importantly, the multiple dinner scenes throughout are catalysts to the plot’s highly emotional and volatile plotline. Within a traditional familial sit-down dinner setup, these food scenes are the perfect backdrop to highlight minor grievances between mother and son. The opening sequence, framed through Hubert’s skewed perspective in a deliberately heavily edited format, is key in establishing the importance of food in the film.

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Food in Canadian Film, Part 1: I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

The following post is the first of a five-part miniseries on food and contemporary Canadian film, prepared by students from Olivia Heaney’s ENGL 393 Canadian Cinema course at McGill University. Bon Film.

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

by Jackie Halloran Cooper

This film follows Polly Vandersma (Sheila McCarthy), a 31-year-old amateur photographer and ‘temp-girl’ whom Gabrielle St. Peres (Paule Baillargeon) hires as an art gallery secretary during their meeting in a Japanese restaurant. Polly’s unsuccessful navigation of what is, for her, an unfamiliar cultural setting, illustrates how an individual’s status can be judged by the sophistication of their cultural taste. Immediately following the restaurant scene, Polly returns to her bachelorette apartment, where the relationship between taste and sophistication is destabilized in her interactions with food, music and objects in her home.

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Sbattutino Is Love

We asked Montreal author and editor, Licia Canton, for a recipe and a story. For this Valentine’s Day, why not make sbattutino for the one you love?


“What’s the most important ingredient in this meal?” I grew up with that question.

I did a lot of the cooking after school. I was taught that every meal is made slowly and caringly. Love is the main ingredient to every meal.

Of all the foods I learned to prepare, from my mother and father, the sbattutino* is the one that I equate with love. My mother’s love. My mother is the only one who has ever made sbattutino for me. It’s quite simple to make really: simply beat an egg yolk with two tablespoons of sugar until it becomes a creamy white mixture and the grains of sugar are no longer distinguishable. Getting it just right involves constant beating for about fifteen minutes.

The sbattutino is comfort food – it tastes good and it’s uplifting. I yearn for my mother’s sbattutino when I am really down. A few years ago, when I was bedridden after a car accident, my mother asked if there was anything she could do for me.

“Can you make me a sbattutino?” I asked. “That’s all I want.”

Very early the next morning, she came over and made my childhood treat for breakfast.

The other day I visited my mother, now 80, in her Montreal-North home. She wanted to feed me, of course. She had left-over polenta and guinea hen. She had homemade biscotti.

“How about a sbattutino?” I asked.

She went over to the kitchen, took out the eggs and the sugar bowl.

We had some on bread – spreadable sbattutino. We had some with espresso and milk. And I also had some with Marsala.

Over the years I’ve made sbattutino for my children, but it just doesn’t taste the same as my mother’s.


*Literally sbattutino means “little beaten one.” (Isn’t it interesting that this drinkable food is uplifting.) The word has its root in the verb sbattere – to beat, as in “to beat an egg.” Sbattuto means beaten. And the suffix “ino” is the diminutive. For those who know a little Italian: it is “lo sbattutino” or “uno sbattutino,” not “il” or “un” because the “s” is followed by a consonant.


Text and Photos by Licia Canton

Drinking Food

Drink of all kinds populates Canadian literature and over the next few months we aim to sample some of it, nay imbibe, though purely in the name of research. The cupboard doors to my liquor cabinet have been thrown open and its contents scrupulously examined . . . for something other than a growing assortment of champagne flutes and, inexplicably, several tiny bottles of Poire Williams eau de vie.

Who better than Austin Clarke to begin the proceedings. In his culinary memoir Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit, he has dedicated an entire chapter to “drinking food.” For, as his mother sagely advised, “If you know that you going be drinking a lot o’ liquor in the evening, you make-sure that you line your stomach with some good food, hear!” (239). Clarke proposes biscuits with cheese, cou-cou and salt fish, or corned beef with fried peppers and onions.


I opted for the corned beef. Though I must admit to having later replaced it with a little smoked meat. This is Montreal after all and what is beef if it’s not pickled and smoked.



Serve with a side dish of hot pepper sauce and a main dish of rum, “straight, man!” (238).




Clarke, Austin. Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit: Rituals of Slave Food : a Barbadian Memoir. New York: The New Press, 1999. Print.


Photos and Text by Alexia Moyer