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“Tu veux un Queues de Castor?” A Sweet Lesson in Québécois

August 13, 2018

Profile picture: Samantha Farquhar
Samantha Farquhar

“« Tu veux un Queues de Castor? » asked my newfound Québécoise friend.

I looked at her strangely. « Pardon? » I replied.

She repeated: « un Queues de Castor? »

I thought very hard. Surely I was mistranslating this. Do I want a tail of beaver?”

Canadian Studies FLAS fellow Samantha Farquhar spent the summer studying Québécois French with Bouchereau Lingua International (BLI) in Quebec City.  She writes:

“I had been in Québec for a few weeks and thought I had grasped all the cultural nuances: I had dined on poutine (French fries with gravy) and pâté chinois (Sheppard’s pie); I celebrated Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the holiday of Québec pride; I learned colloquial phrases like ‘Tu es dans les patates!’ (You are in the potatoes–aka you are confused); I even went to my host family’s secluded chalet for a few days of fishing. All in all, I was feeling pretty Québécoise.

But here I was confused. I knew that venison was a common dish in Québec but I had never heard of beaver. I asked her, « Est-ce bon? (Is it good?) »

She looked at me shocked: « Mais bien sûr! C’est  tendre et doux (Of course! Its tender and sweet!). »

Now I was really confused. Not knowing what else to do, I said, « Ok, Je vais essayer ça (I will try it). »

We walked down some narrow streets of Québec’s old city and rounded a corner. To my surprise, I immediately smelled something sweet and crispy, similar to funnel cake. I saw many people lined outside a small red food truck labelled ‘Queues de Castor’, but those walking away were carrying an oval shaped pastry with Nutella, chocolate, or other sweet things. As it turns out, Beaver Tails were a dessert!

Quebecois sweet called 'Queues de Castor'

Queues de Castor. Image credit: Samantha Farquhar

My friend was surprised with my reaction: « Quoi (What?) »

I responded : «Je pensais que c’était un vrai castor (I thought it was going to a real beaver.). »

Promptly after this, my friend nearly fell over laughing so hard.”

Samantha is a graduate student in Marine Affairs who is studying French for use in a career focused on marine management strategies which balance protection of resources and needs of communities.  She is particularly interested in Canadian marine policy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

FLAS Fellowships are funded by the International and Foreign Language Education Office of the U.S. Department of Education. FLAS fellowships support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in acquiring modern foreign languages and area or international studies competencies. Students from all UW departments and professional schools are encouraged to apply. Find out more about the FLAS Fellowship here.