The Order of Good Taste – Nova Scotia, Canada
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The Order of Good Taste – Nova Scotia, Canada

Samuel de Champlain founded the Order of Good Cheer in the winter of 1606-07 to provide good food and good times for the colonists to maintain their health and morale through the long winter. The Order was a dining society and members took turns providing fish or game for a banquet and maintaining a jolly atmosphere. Reports show that every few days dinner became a feast, and on a rotating basis everyone at the table was designated as Chief Steward.

The head butler had a duty to ensure that everyone at the table was well cared for. This was said in Paris with the same good cheer as in Rue aux Ours and at a lower cost. Each Steward, 2 days before his turn, would go hunting or fishing to bring back a delicacy to add to the regular fee. This was carried out so well that they ate meat or fish for several of the following breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

For the banquet, the Mayordomo Mayor, having had everything prepared by the cook, entered the room with a napkin over one shoulder, insignia of his position in his hand, and around his neck the collar of the Order followed by all the members of the Order, each with a plate. The same was repeated in the dessert. Before giving thanks to God, the Mayordomo Mayor handed over the necklace of the Order to his successor and they toasted with a glass of wine.

The leading members of the colony were probably members of the Order of Good Cheer. Frequent guests were Membertou and Messamouet, Mi’kmaw chiefs from the area.

Earlier, Chief Messamouet had sailed with Samuel de Champlain as a guide in search of copper mines in the Bay of Fundy. The Cacique told Champlain that as a young man he had sailed the Atlantic in a Basque fishing boat and had visited France where he stayed at the house of the governor of Bayonne.

Lescarbot wrote of other Aboriginal guests who always had twenty or thirty men, women and children, who watched their manner of service and were given free bread.

The lords acquired a wide variety of meats, including: ducks, geese, partridges and other birds, moose, caribou, beaver, otters, bears, rabbits, bobcats, and raccoons. At that time in North America the beaver was a delicacy. The most used spices were pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Herbs such as thyme, chervil, bay leaves, and marjoram were also widely used. To our modern tastes, a dish that would be considered bland by the colonists of Port Royal would probably be strong or wild to us.

Here are some examples of modern dishes that could have been served at a Good Cheer dinner: pumpkin soup, steamed eel, sturgeon, spinach fricassee, Jerusalem artichoke fritters, apple and pear pie, and marzipan tarts.

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