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Le Cercle des Gourmettes internationales fonds (P724)

1948-2006, mostly 1988-2006. - 25 cm of textual records and other documents..

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

Le Cercle des Gourmettes internationales was thought to have been established in 1950 by Mrs. Juliane (Maurice) Billard, with the help of two consular women, Mrs. Sevenster, wife of the Dutch consul general, and Mrs. Frederic Kaeti, wife of the Swiss consul general. There is, however, evidence that the group may have started two years earlier, in 1948. The objective of the group was to provide members with the opportunity to share the cuisine and customs of their home country and to encourage social gatherings and friendships between Canadians and consular women.

The Cercle was composed of roughly 24 members, half of whom came from the diplomatic corps. Each prospective member had to submit her application to the executive committee for approval and had to be willing to share her country's gastronomy. The exclusive, closed membership was comprised of female consul generals, wives of consul generals and Montrealers. Only one member per country was permitted, except for Canada. The executive committee consisted of a Canadian president, a vice-president, a consular liaison vice-president, the past president and a secretary-treasurer. Collection of yearly membership dues and of fees from invited guests was the responsibility of the secretary-treasurer. Each hostess was responsible for the costs associated with her luncheon, although she was reimbursed for costs associated with invited guests.

Each season began in October with the president's luncheon and ended with the black-tie event where husbands and escorts joined the members for dinner. There were on average nine meetings throughout the year: seven luncheons, one Christmas tea and the black-tie dinner. Each Gourmette was responsible for preparing a luncheon based on the gastronomy of her country of origin as well as providing a recipe for one of the dishes served at the meal. Sometimes the extra step was taken of incorporating a theme or inviting special guests, such as television personality and chef Philippe Mollé. In order to maintain a friendly atmosphere, all Gourmettes were considered to be on an equal footing. Seating arrangements were subject to a draw, with no observation of protocol.

Long-standing members of the group included writer-journalist Lucette Beauchemin, wife of the Czech consul general Elizabeth Delafield, comedian and founder of La Poudrière theatre Jeanine Beaubien, one of the leading figures in art philanthropy in Montreal, Lilian Stewart, and Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, who was the first woman elected to Quebec's National Assembly and its first female cabinet minister.

Le Cercle des Gourmettes internationales ceased activities in 2006. Social services and networking had become more accessible for the consular wives, who also found it more difficult to devote time to the various activities. Tensions arising between warring nations and the high costs associated with hosting a luncheon were also among the reasons given for dissolution.

Scope and Content:

This fonds pertains to a Montreal women's group of the late 20th century and focuses on the gastronomy of both Quebec and foreign nations. The lives of some of its prominent members are portrayed through photographs and newspaper clippings. The structure of the organization is described through yearly membership letters that outline policies and rules. The fonds consists of administrative documents, newspaper articles, international recipes, seals, scrapbooks, guest books as well as photographs and negatives.

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P724/A: Historical Background (M2008.128.1.1)
  • P724/B: Administration (M2008.128.1.2)
  • P724/C: Correspondence (M2008.128.1.3)
  • P724/D: Recipes (M2008.128.1.4)
  • P724/E: Albums (M2008.128.1.5)
  • P724/F: Objects (M2008.128.1.6)
  • P724/G: Photographs (M2008.128.2.1-8)