Maple season is upon us, and with the ongoing pandemic, prepping a sugar shack for the annual festivities is more complicated than it usually would be. This is the second year in a row that COVID-19 has affected this experience. Luckily, the community is committed to keeping the tradition alive and is finding ways to provide everyone with their yearly maple fix.
Since 1997, La Cabane à Midas has been serving the population every spring. It specializes in traditional, family-style sugar shack food. Located in Saint-Chrysostome, it aims to have a warm welcome and ambience when you eat there. Carole Vincent explains that the whole experience is “really family based and very authentic. It’s all of my grandmother’s recipes so it’s very traditional.”
Unfortunately the business was drastically affected by the pandemic last year: “It really affected us a lot. We opened at the end of February and had to close on the 15th of March. The season always starts slow and then picks up, so we really didn’t have a season. It was absolutely nothing.” The hard part of maintaining a business like a sugar shack is that the off-season is so long.
Vincent explains that this causes a big strain when you lose a whole season: “This is how we fund our entire year. Sugar shacks are two and a half really intense months and that’s it. And it looks like this year might be the same as last year.” They do qualify for the government aid program for sugar shacks, and have applied. They are hopeful that they will receive help to lift some of the financial burden.
To cope with the new reality, La Cabane à Midas, which opened March 3, will be offering takeout meals to satisfy the customers. Until April 25, its classic meals and desserts will be available both at the sugar shack itself and at various IGA locations around the Valley. The shack is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., from Wednesday to Sunday.
The importance of sugar shacks in Quebec stretches way beyond the delicious treats that are found at each one. They are, as a whole, an integral part of our provincial identity, as Vincent articulates: “I find it really important, just like how any country is represented by certain things like this, for us it’s maple.” The fear is that these two consecutive abnormal years will cause us to lose most of our sugar shacks: “It’s truly Québécois. It represents us, the sugar and the maple. We have less and less sugar shacks and if we let them all disappear or let them all go out of business, we won’t have any part of that left.”
So, what is the solution to saving this tradition? “It’s so important to shop locally and from Quebec,” Vincent says. “Because of the pandemic, we’re all more aware of this.” It’s great that the government is helping, but the biggest thing that the population can do is to support local businesses, she adds: “We really need to encourage everyone to do it, because so many places are going to be affected. Restaurants, small businesses, etc. If we don’t encourage it, we’re going to lose those places and the local economy will fall.”
After being open for more than two decades, La Cabane à Midas is truly devoted to keeping up the maple festivities in the Valley. Though it is not what its owners were expecting for their season, they are making the best of a complicated situation, and this classic approach is comforting and familiar at a time when so much feels uncertain.
La Cabane à Midas, 111 rang Saint-Joseph, Saint-Chrysostome, 450-826-0172.