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The Order of Good Cheer – 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 keep up their health and morale during the long winter. The Order was a dining society and members took turns to provide fish or game for a banquet and in maintaining a joyous atmosphere.The Society only lasted one winter but was a great success. Reports show that every few days supper became a feast, and on a rotating basis everyone at the table was designated as Chief Steward.

The Chief Steward had the duty of making sure everyone at the table was well taken care of. This was told back in Paris as having the same good cheer as in Rue aux Ours and at less cost. Each Steward 2 days before his turn would go hunting or fishing to bring back a delicacy to add to the regular fare. This was so well carried out that they ate meat or fish for several of the breakfasts, lunches and suppers following.

For the banquet the Chief Steward, having had everything prepared by the cook, walked into the room with a napkin over one shoulder, badge of office in hand, and around his neck the collar of the Order followed by all the members of the Order, each one carrying a dish. The same was repeated at dessert. Before giving thanks to God, the Chief Steward would hand over the collar of Order to his successor, and they would toast each other with a cup of wine.

Prominent members of the colony were likely the members of the Order of Good Cheer. Frequent guests were Membertou and Messamouet, Mi’kmaw chiefs in the area.

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

Lescarbot wrote of other Aboriginal guests that they always had twenty or thirty men, women, and children, who looked on at their manner of service and free Bread was given to them.

The gentlemen procured a wide variety of meats including: ducks, geese, partridges and other birds, moose, caribou, beaver, otter, bear, rabbit, wildcat, and raccoon. At that time in North America beaver was a delicacy. Commonly used spices were pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Herbs such as thyme, chervil, bay leaves and marjoram were also well used. To our modern tastes a dish that the Port Royal settlers would consider bland would likely be strong or wild tasting to us.

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

Source by Avril Betts

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