Ode to the Dépanneur

Cher Yukon,

Comment ca va?

In any urban centre, on the island of Montréal, or in any neighbourhood, just about anyone can go to their pantry (a.k.a. the corner dépanneur) for that loaf of bread or that litre of milk they forgot to get at the grocery store.

In our burrow of Verdun, there is a dépanneur on every corner, it seems. Our street alone has one at each end of the block. Dépanneurs are very popular with the local school kids. Where they can no longer buy pop or junk food at their schools, they can certainly load up on goodies at the dépanneur.

These corner stores also sell cigarettes (“boo”), lottery tickets, newspapers, wine and beer. Usually, there are shelves lined with items such as soup, sugar and garbage bags, etc. Although neat and tidy, one can see a thin layer of dust on them as, let’s face it, the main purchases are usually smokes, wine, beer and lottery tickets.

One night during reading week, Grant, Chelsea and I went to a little Greek restaurant near Boulevard Saint-Laurent. We looked at the menu and saw that there was no wine selection.

Now, Greek food without a nice glass of wine didn’t make sense to us.

We looked around and saw that other people had bottles of wine on their tables. We asked the waiter and were told it was an “apportez votre vin” restaurant (bring your own wine). There are actually a lot of restaurants of this type here. The waiter said to just go across the street to the dépanneur for a bottle of wine.

I ran across the street, chose a bottle of red and zipped back to the restaurant with my brown paper bag. The restaurant supplied the corkscrew and glasses. We had a delicious meal with our glasses of wine, thanks to the dépanneur across the street.

The SAQ (liquor store) sells every type of liquor except beer. Beer has to be bought at the grocery store or the dépanneur and, get this, you can’t get Canadian, let alone Kokanee or any other western or Northern beer.

You can get Labatt Blue, or “Labatt Bleue” as it is called here, and you can buy your beer in giant bottles or cans containing 1.18 litres. To me, beer that size looks pretty funny and a little scary. I am not a beer drinker, but Grant has occasionally bought a “jumbo Bleue”.

It usually lasts a few nights, thanks to a screw cap so it doesn’t go flat.

A dépanneur can save the day when you need a certain ingredient in your special supper and you have run out. Some of the Yukon dépanneurs have certainly come to the rescue for us in the past. Good old Riverside Grocery, Tags and the old Jamieson’s (before it became the Adult Warehouse) have been frequented by us on many occasions.

I guess you could say that dépanneurs are a way of life here in Québec. A lot of lottery tickets are purchased here. (Yes, Québecers love their lotteries.)

A lot of cigarettes are bought here and you know my take on that (cough, cough). A lot of beer and wine is bought here. Although I don’t have stats on it, based only on my own observations, I don’t think that easy access to beer or wine has made drinking a problem here any more than it has anywhere else.

I love the local dépanneur.

My “Lovely Chinese Lady” (mentioned in my first “Cher Yukon”) owns one of these corner stores on our street. We get a chance to visit occasionally. We smile and nod at each other. That is our way of saying “Hello” or “Bonjour.” That feels good.

Well everyone, I’m out of chips and you know where I’m headed.

Until the next time,

Your friend,


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