When I was growing up, visiting a sugar shack in March was a tradition. It was the quintessential Québécois family activity. It seemed as though everyone knew someone in his or her close or extended families who had a sugar shack, so we would all go and spend a sunny weekend day there, running among the maple trees, dipping our fingers in the maple sap (which was at the time still collected in buckets—at least at the farm I remember visiting), and eating as much maple taffy as possible.
My aunt and my mom harvesting buckets of maple sap.
It was a classic school outing, too: yellow buses would bring dozens of excited kids to larger installations, which were used to manage volume (in numbers and decibels). At commercial sugar shacks, there were often musicians playing traditional instruments such as the accordion and harmonica, and wooden spoons were passed around so patrons could add more rhythm to an already raucous atmosphere.
We would sometimes go to the sugar shack just to help with gathering the sap, play around, and eat maple taffy, but when we’d eat a meal there, it would be for brunch. The traditional menu gathered several traditional Québécois dishes such as split pea soup, maple ham, eggs cooked in maple syrup, meat pie, baked beans, crêpes, and pouding chômeur. The formula was all you can eat, and the rule was that everything had to be doused in maple syrup (especially savory dishes—a practice that is probably at the source of my addiction to treats that are both sweet and salty).