7 :34 a.m. at the town’s coffee shop
There is no better story to tell you about this morning than a project undertaken by one of our readers, which I read about in the comments. Kudos to you, Lucienne C., who achieved your dream of writing the history of your hometown, located in the small Acadian peninsula of New Brunswick. Isn’t it the sweetest of feelings? To finish a project that had long simmered in your mind, that you had prepared long and hard for, doing tons of research through which you learned new things, met new people and accumulated piles of documents. I salute your boldness, courage and tenacity. Bravo! When I saw your last name, I immediately called Denis C., our Atlantic supervisor who shares your last name, to ask if he might be related to you, but he isn’t. Denis supervises the 14 Cora restaurants in the Atlantic, including the six located in New Brunswick: Dieppe, Fredericton, Main Street and Mapleton Road in Moncton, and Brunswick Square and McAllister Drive in Saint John. According to Denis, the woman who owns the franchise in Dieppe is likely from your area.
Go ahead, dear Gervaise O.-R., don’t hesitate any longer! Try wearing colour, especially the warm fall colours dazzling our eyes at the moment. Do you know that loads of travellers invade the Laurentian Mountains each fall? They come in big tour buses with the latest camera equipment. They often come from as far as China and Japan, whose landscapes are as spectacular as ours, to contemplate our vibrant, magical fall colours. The tourists are fascinated by the changing colours: from green to yellow, then amber, crimson and purple. Try it for yourself, dear Gervaise! Surprise your loved ones with the renewed energy that colour brings. I experience it every season, and I am rejuvenated by it.
And thanks to Johanne B., who told me “BRAVO” for my boldness. We have to dare to leave our shells, move into the light, reveal ourselves and say, here I am. And if I don’t summon the courage to live a little, not even the earthworms will dare to nibble my little toes. You mean so much to me, dear readers; thanks to you I feel more alive, fulfilled and happy.
I had the pleasure of getting a taste of my own medicine last Saturday. Do you remember the story about the candy at the end of the last Gaspésie travel letter? I was driving in my car and had grabbed a cream of coconut mint out of the candy bag. The mint part of the candy tasted good, but the coconut was flavourless. Disappointed, I bit down on the candy and that’s when I discovered the delicious coconut cream.
At that moment I concluded that it is often the same with our encounters: We meet someone, we chat a bit and, most often, we part ways. We throw away the candy. But when we insist, when we shatter and move past the first impression, we often discover the delicious, the marvellous.
And that’s exactly what happened to me last Saturday at the public market in Val-David, a picturesque village located in the Laurentian. I had spent the week at Cora’s head office performing duties as the founder, so I hadn’t needed to shop for food. But the walk through the market offers too many temptations. I walk around it twice. I am unable to resist a few nicely wrapped spinach puff pastries at the TROUPEAU BÉNIT kiosk. A little further on, I’m tempted by an assortment of honey candy from the region’s beekeeper. At the next kiosk, I pick up a generous bag of small carrots, fresh from the earth, and further along, I grab a serving of gluten-free date squares that happen to be the best I’ve bitten into in a very long time.
And I finally sit down for a coffee. At the table next to me, a pleasant couple seems to be savouring life as much as their coffee. The cream of coconut mint candy comes back to mind. I feel like talking to them, but I don’t. All of a sudden, a woman who appears to be around my age approaches me and looks me straight in the eye. “Are you Madame Cora? You are! I read your letters, dear Madame. I love them! Especially those about your trip to Gaspésie.” And the woman at the table next to me jumps in to inform us that she’s from Gaspésie herself. Excitement grips us as we talk about this beautiful part of the country. The man interrupts. “Are you really Madame Cora?”
And on we go, talking amongst ourselves for a good 10 minutes, happy like chicks pecking at fresh grass. Eventually the woman leaves us and the couple introduces themselves to me. Emma is a pharmacist, who just sold her business after 26 years of devoted service, and Pierre, a retired businessman, is now a volunteer coach for young entrepreneurs. They have recently moved to the beautiful mountains. I dare to shatter the first impression and I discover two incredible people. We exchange email addresses, telephone numbers for text messages and their home address, so I can send them the biography that was written about me, De Cora à Cora déjeuners, by Jacqueline Cardinal from HEC Montréal.
I never really had the time to create real friendships during all the years I spent working hard to build a restaurant chain. I suppose I was extremely ambitious; all I was interested in was the next restaurant opening. And so, precious years slipped by, as did the opportunity for making good friends. Well, I am making up for it today. My new friend Pierre even texted me this week to invite me to Emma’s surprise party, which I have the intention of attending and will bring a few jars of my homemade jams.
It’s high noon. My belly screams hunger. I close the iPad, pick up my notepad and leave the coffee shop. I cross the street and walk into the blue house where they sell the best steamed hot dogs in the neighbourhood. I order two with mustard, coleslaw and lots of onions, plus French fries and a soft drink for less than $10. Once in a while it’s allowed.