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Montreal's industrial foundations - built on chocolatey marshmallow goodness


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THE WHIPPET: QUEBECKERS' CLASSIC COOKIE

Montreal's industrial foundations - built on chocolatey marshmallow goodness

 

 

PETER RAKOBOWCHUK

 

The Canadian Press

October 31, 2007

 

 

MONTREAL -- Apopular cookie that's still being gobbled up by Quebeckers today is being given some of the credit for helping to launch the industrial growth of Montreal.

 

The decadent Whippet cookie, a chocolate-coated, marshmallow-topped treat, is more than a century old.

 

Housed in its familiar gold- and chocolate-coloured box, the Whippet made its debut in 1901 and the rest, as they say, is cookie history.

 

The Whippet and Viau Biscuits Corp., the company that made it, are featured in an exhibition at the Écomusée du fier monde, a small museum in the city's east end.

Print Edition - Section Front

 

 

 

 

Museum director René Binette says the Whippet was launched when the founder of the company tested it at a hockey game.

 

"People at the game liked it so much that it confirmed to Charles-Théodore Viau that he was on to a good thing," Mr. Binette said in an interview.

 

The cookie, first introduced as the Empire, was considered a luxury item and its sales helped Mr. Viau to expand the company's operations.

 

But Mr. Binette said the cost of vanilla and chocolate also put the Empire out of reach of the average Quebecker.

 

So in 1927, Mr. Viau decided to change the recipe and the name and created the more affordable Whippet.

 

Mr. Viau started the enterprise in a small bakery in Montreal's east end in 1867 and created the Village cookie - a plain, but hugely popular shortbread that Quebeckers loved to dunk in their tea.

 

He continued to expand the business until his cookie and candy factory became one of the area's major employers.

 

Part of Montreal even became known as Viauville, and a church in the neighbourhood was named St-Clément de Viauville.

 

One cookie lover tells the story of his parents buying several boxes and being warned by them not to touch the treats because they were destined for "Whippet-starved" relatives in Ontario.

 

Viau became history in March, 2004, when the company was sold to Kitchener, Ont.-based Dare Foods Inc., another family-owned business, and the factory was closed.

 

But Whippets are still being produced under the Dare banner at the company's plant in St-Lambert, south of Montreal.

 

A Dare spokeswoman says the company markets the Viva Puff, a similar cookie, in Ontario. The Quebec Whippet has "real" chocolate while its counterpart is made with a "compound" chocolate.

 

Contrary to what many Quebec cookie lovers may think, the popular Oreo sandwich cookie has not been around as long as the Whippet.

 

A spokeswoman for Kraft Foods Inc. says it was only introduced in Canada in 1949, although the Oreo was launched in the United States in 1912.

The Viau factory has now been converted into a condominium complex that has been appropriately named La Biscuiterie, the cookie factory.

 

Aficionados can visit the Viau: Cookie History exhibition at the Écomusée du fier monde until March 23, 2008.

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