I have learned many things from Michel Tremblay’s La Traversée des sentiments, the first of which is this: when you fry baloney, sooner or later the centre of this beloved – and occasionally maligned – sliced luncheon meat will puff up, resulting in a little meat hat. Un chapeaux de baloney.
Serve it with potato hash and ketchup and call it a meal.
Maria Rathier, née Desrosiers, makes this meal for her children, Rhéauna (Nana) and Théo, because they love it and because it’s cheap and filling.
I can attest to this. I made the meal for less than $1 per serving.
Maria cannot abide the smell of fried baloney, a smell that clings obstinately to her clothes and to her hair. These little hats remind her of hardship and unhappiness in long ago and far away Saskatchewan.
She sticks to drinking tea.
Strong tea, it turns out – and this is the second of my findings – reduces the unwanted (read fattening) effects of such fry-ups. “J’te dis, ça va te dégraisser l’estomac,” says Maria to the somewhat dubious Nana, who does not like tea and who counters with her own bit of newly-gleaned kitchen wisdom. Vinegar, not tea, is the key to weight loss. Just ask Marie Antoinette.
It is this kind of book knowledge, or rather the tone with which twelve-year-old Nana shares the effects of her voracious reading habit that irks Maria to no end. The equally bright, practical and resourceful Maria has no time for history lessons on the queens of France.
Nana earns herself a scolding.
The argument over tea is symptomatic of a larger conflict that is at the centre of the novel.
What Maria really wants is to have a week’s summer vacation in Laurentian-bound Duhamel in the company of her sisters, without her children. Nana wants desperately to be included in her mother’s plans, craving that lost connection with her rural roots.
So much chatter around a cup of tea while the milk served in this scene remains virtually silent. Silent but not without significance in Tremblay’s writings. Stay tuned for a little more drink in Tremblay in next week’s post.
Tremblay, Michel. La Traversée Des Sentiments: Roman. Montréal: Leméac, 2009. Print.
Photos and text by Alexia Moyer