National Treasure #116: Jehane Benoît

Or Madame Benoît to you, maybe.  I remember her from her CBC show – a tiny woman with eyeglasses bigger than she was, a strong French accent, frizzy hair, and a cheery on-screen persona.

The Canadian Encyclopedia calls her a food consultant, author, and TV and radio commentator, and says that she was instrumental in explaining Canadian cuisine to Canadians.  In 30 books.  Who knew that our cuisine required so much explanation?  

Madame Benoit knew Canadian cooking from coast to coast, and described it as combining “French refinement, English basics, American traditions, and ethnic influences.” – Library and Archives Canada

She studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and graduated from the Sorbonne as a food chemist in 1925, which seems pretty impressive to me, just in general and especially for the era.

I guess the Order of Canada folks agree, because she received that award in 1973.

Jehane Benoit has been described as an archivist of Canada’s culinary past who raised cooking from the status of ‘women’s work’ to an act of love that was one-part science and one-part celebration. This may be her most important legacy. – Library and Archives Canada



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