Do classics ever change?

With the news this week of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, I was awash with memories and nostalgia. A sadness overtook me.

“Such a shame, that future generations won’t be able to see this classic historical place,” I thought.

It occurred to me that having food as a passion saves me that sorrow, as one has only to make a dish to recreate the magic. (Hence my associated passion with heirloom seeds and passing on traditional recipes.)

But then I was reminded, even a classic can be altered and still be considered worthy of the title.

The other piece of news I found interesting this past week was the release of the latest postage stamp series in Canada.

It’s called Sweet Canada; it features five classic Canadian desserts. Well, you can imagine my delight at such a tribute.

One of the desserts was one of my favourites: butter tarts.

Well, herein lies the rub: butter tarts are a classic as much for their controversial ingredients as their presence at the table.

Should they have corn syrup, or not? The oldest recipes have only vinegar along with the butter, brown sugar and eggs, but many cooks say they gained popularity when the corn syrup was added, giving a better texture (so they say — I’m in the old-fashioned “vinegar only” camp.

If you’d like to try my recipe, here it is.

The list goes on. Currants? Absolutely not, say some; of course, say others.

Raisins are generally agreed as not being an original ingredient but are not without their fans. The same goes for adding nuts to the filling.

The only thing that is agreed upon among butter tart bakers is that one must use a homemade pastry.

Although the butter tart recipe was first recorded in Ontario, this is a Prairie classic, too. Butter tarts are baked and eaten across our great country.

There is some speculation that butter tarts could have been a derivative of the famed “tarte au sucre” (sugar pie) from Quebec.

This classic was said to be an adaptation made by bakers who emigrated from France and wanted to recreate a rich dessert with the ingredients at hand. (And, by the way, it’s another one of the desserts featured in the stamp collection.)

How about that for a classic? You could have a revolt if you tried to legislate a single way to make the butter tart.

I revised my thinking about Notre Dame Cathedral accordingly once I digested all this news. After all, the spire that was destroyed in the fire was not part of the original Medieval design; it was added in the 19th century.

It was part of what I knew as the classic landmark, but not always.

I heard an interview on CBC radio with a Medieval expert who defended the idea of maintaining classic historical structures, reminding the audience that they could not possibly be static, but rather had to be adapted over the centuries if they were to survive, both structurally and culturally.

This weekend is an important religious holiday for many, being both Passover and Easter this year.

There are a multitude of traditions that exist, and all of them are important. They are important for the people who follow them, keeping them alive through generations and adding them to their family’s stories.

They are just as important to our larger cultures, for they make up many of the threads that weave our societies into a cohesive and comforting whole.

I am not a religious person per se, but I remember an Easter service at St. Peter’s Square where I was overcome with a wondrous love for humanity (all 200,000 of them sharing the square with me, including the nuns from New York with whom I shared lunch.)

The week after that, I got to show my Mom the beauty of Notre Dame. I’ll never forget the sparkle in her eyes as she turned around to see the majestic buttresses and bell towers watching over the Seine.

I know she shares my sadness, knowing it won’t look the same. But she is a wise student of history. I bet she is already imagining what wonderful changes they will bring to it as they rebuild.

I also cherish the Easter hunts my brother and I had, and I like to think I haven’t lost the spark of childhood. I may have had a part in distributing some of the wealth a certain long-eared fellow might have passed along at Rabbit Hollow.

After all, spring is for smiles and laughter and hugs – all good things to share.

Wishing you and yours peace and happiness this week, as you spend time keeping your classics alive.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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