Meatgasm in Montreal: AAA 2011

When I first heard the AAAs were going to be held in Montreal in November I was like: “finally, an AAA I can skip with a clear conscience.” I mean, I live in Honolulu. I almost got pneumonia at the AAAs in New Orleans, where the average temperature was a frigid 75. So although I hope to talk more about what went down at AAAs this year, but I thought I’d kick the coverage off by acknowledging how mislead I was: Montreal turned out to be an absolutely fantastic town and venue-wise the meeting was a great success.

You had to walk a couple of blocks from the convention center to get anywhere interesting, but once you did Montreal turned out to be delovely. When I told a European friend of mine how much I liked it he nodded his head and gave me a smile that indicated that I was beginning to realize what he’d known all along: “This is the best city in North America” he told me. Frankly, I’m ready to believe it. It seems unfair to characterize Montreal as a mix of other things rather than the carrier of its own unique should, but that is the language I find to describe it: The architecture looks like Paris and Chicago got smushed together, the lively pedestrian neighborhoods look like someone took Manhattan and stretched it out just enough that it could breathe. Catholic monumentalities look like someone tried to build Ancien Regime France in the middle of Iroquois country. Which, I guess, is exactly what happened.

Seriously, though, the term ‘meatgasm’ is not hyperbole. It seemed to be everywhere in Montreal. The local cuisine’s mix of French elegance (read: fry everything) and North American hunting meant pretty much everything seemed on offer. The exception was greens. I suppose that when you live that far north in a colony settled by people who think ‘flavor’ means ‘butter’ you’re not going to get the salad as an elaborated cultural form. Ditto with spices.

And then there was China town, which was like some sort of Stanislaw Lem short story: complete with Chinese gates, but filled with Vietnamese restaurants, which were in fact all run by Chinese people speaking southern dialects with small figures of Guan Yu and Guanyin perched over the cash register.

I may seem overly focused on food — I’ve been accused of this in the past, folks — but it was unfortunately the only reason I had to leave the convention center. As we continue on with the post-game coverage, feel free to let me know what of Montreal you saw when you were there. I’m hoping especially more coverage of Occupy stuff as we move forward.

So consider this an open thread: beyond the AAAs themselves, what did you think of Montreal?


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

6 thoughts on “Meatgasm in Montreal: AAA 2011

  1. I was also enchanted by the architecture and the aesthetic of the city. Some night views seemed like a cross between the Gilded Age and 30s/40s New York–like something out of Mark Helprin’s “the Winter’s Tale.” Also apparently like three blocks from the Palais there was a haunted house with a Tim Burton/Edward Gorey kind of look to it that was also a restaurant–I only saw it on my last day, but I wish I had discovered it earlier. Occupy Montreal was a block from my hotel (The Delta) and OM-ers spent a lot of time using wifi and charging phones at Java U right across from the Convention Center–that was a good pace to chat with them, and many people, including myself and my friend, did that there.

  2. I asked my friend who lives there (a French-speaking Anglo) “Is Quebec a Frencophone version of Appalachia, or a major world center or French culture?”, and his answer was “Yes.”

  3. I had some amazing vegan food in Montreal–and some tasty duck. It struck this great balance between North America and Europe for me–sophistication and choices. I’d go back in a New York minute.

  4. Thank you Rex for these reflections. Had a great time in Montreal and wish I could have explored more–nice to know it is <5 hours from my Oneonta home.

    Wish I knew more French, but food was great–could have spent every meal in the Asian district, and also some amazing districts further out. People seemed always very stylish, and I felt under-styling from the moment we arrived in the conference Hyatt.

  5. A touch of randomness, but I couldn’t help but notice another Ayla! It’s not a common name, just had to point it out 🙂 I had never been to Montreal either, and I just loved it. Gotta love a place that lets you buy booze at a corner store at midnight.

  6. I had been warned that the people of Montreal did not take kindly to those that attempted to speak Francais Francais, and that one should either speak Quebecois French or default to English. I decided to give it a shot anyway, and I never had a bad experience. Everyone was great – if they corrected me, it was always with a smile, never irritation. The city itself was amazing. Everything was in walking distance, but I spent most of my time in the Latin Quarter or Chinatown. I made it to Old Montreal a few times, but the Latin Quarter just felt more comfortable. The food was cheap, the beer was expensive (and the horse was delicious) – just how I like it.

    I loved Montreal so much, I’m tossing around the idea of going back on a regular basis.

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