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Tasting this sweet treat for the first time feels like biting in a donut gifted by the open sea. A sweet & fishy taste. For years, my mother and aunts gathered to cook the yearly production of croxignoles. This day has always been long-awaited - the simple sight the date on the calendar makes the whole family dream dreams of finger-licking good foods.

Croxingnoles are a traditional dish made of donut dough that gets kneaded, rolled up and braided right before being fried in seal oil. For the event, my mom and my five aunts get together in the family cottage. Preparation and cooking take place outside of the house because of the heavy smell of frying that lingers for days. It also allows the women to get together for a minute, away from the daily drudge.

Every spring, the six of them call each other to agree on a time and place. On the eve of the big day, they prepare the dough, dig in the drawers for the handkerchiefs that'll cover their hair and pack lunches for the long day of work.

A family baking croxignoles

The activity is at the core of the family traditions, passed down from mothers to daughters in the households where the precious seal oil is still put aside during the hunting season. My aunts' croxignoles are deliciously crunchy. The whole tasting experience starts with the smell of fried fish reaching your nostrils, and there's that thin layer of oil that covers your fingers at first contact. Then come the flavour and texture, very similar to a donut's. A donut with a fish & chips aftertaste.

On the Maggies, we pair this treat with a cup of tea or coffee. Some aficionados even eat it for breakfast. Don't let the maritime scent drive you away - the fish taste fades away with the first bite to give way to a mouthful of crunchy dough and sweet nutmeg aromas. 


We roll the dough, then cut it in rectangles and slice through it 6 or 7 times before braiding it. The braids or knots are then deep-fried in boiling seal oil. On the very morning, everyone arrives with their own bowl of dough. Each woman gets her tasks: kneading, rolling, cutting, braiding, cooking - the roles are swapped through the day. Between two braids, they sometimes talk about the kids. Around the table, they switch roles as recent news get passed along - who's getting married, who's about to give birth, who's finally found love once more. And whenthe work is over, they start playing cards.

At the end of the day, they each go back home with the empty bowl they carried the dough in and bursting bags filled with dozens of pastries to throw in the freezer. Some of the treats are already spoken for - a dozen for Luc, another dozen for France... and of course, a dozen we'll keep hidden to surprise our favourite guests next summer.

Par Suzanne Richard

Suzanne Richard is an author, a speaker and a musician. She published a collection of short stories entitled La mer, trois kilomètres à gauche. Her conference — Les mots et la mer — is about maritime words and expressions commonly used in the French language.

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