The Thrifty History Of Quebec's 'Unemployed Pudding'

French Canadians have proven that just because times are tough, that doesn't mean you can't make delicious food to eat. During the 1930s many residents of the Canadian province of Quebec were unemployed as an economic depression struck the world, according to Atlas Obscura. The French Canadians turned to what they had on hand — stale bread and brown sugar sauce — to create a dish similar to bread pudding.  

A modern recipe for "pouding chômeur," which translates to "unemployed-person pudding," from the Food Network calls for heavy cream, sugar, butter, whole milk, vanilla extract, eggs, flour, baking powder, and most importantly, maple syrup. Maple syrup is a big part of the French Canadian culture, Marie Asselin wrote for Food Nouveau. As a French Canadian, Asselin shares that people living in Quebec take great pride in making and enjoying maple syrup. According to Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, 70% of the world's maple syrup originates in Canada, and of the maple syrup that Canada produces, 91% of that comes from Quebec, per Review Lution.

The addition of maple syrup to pouding chômeur helped to increase its sweetness, but the French Canadians who first made the pudding didn't usually have the luxurious maple syrup to use.

A budget-friendly dessert

The story goes that pouding chômeur was first created by women working in a factory who made use of cheap ingredients most people would already have in their pantry, per SOS Cuisine. Not only was pouding chômeur accessible to the masses, but it was full of calories to help fuel the workers. In the 1930s, the popularity of pouding chômeur grew in the areas that were especially hard hit by the depression. 

In the years following the depression, people began to incorporate higher quality ingredients into their pouding chômeur as their finances improved. These additions, per SOS Cuisine, included butter, milk, eggs, cream — and the very important maple syrup. Food Nouveau says some recipes call for the essence of maple syrup, but most people prefer to use maple syrup. According to Taste Atlas, recipes differ on how to incorporate maple syrup in pouding chômeur. Some blend the syrup into the batter, while others pour the syrup on the pudding. While pouding chômeur may have been created from simple and cheap ingredients when times were hard, French Canadians have remained proud of the dessert because it combines Canadian ingredients with French cooking techniques (via Atlas Obscura). Modern chefs have gotten creative with pouding chômeur and incorporated new ingredients, such as nuts and fruit. If you are looking to make a maple syrup-flavored treat, a pouding chômeur is bound to satisfy you, no matter your budget.