Women have had an important role in the development of the region of Cancale. Traditionally, men were sailors, fishermen, naval ship owners, and captains. Cod fishermen from Saint Malo and Cancale would go all the way to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Laborador, in Canada, in search of cod. They would bring back marvellous catches, which they would then sell to wealthy Mediterranean-dwellers, and return to Cancale with their holds full of salt, olive oil, soap, and prunes. Salt was a prized commodity because it could be used as a preservative for meat. Upon their return, from October to March, the men would practice seaside fishing, vegetable farming, or oyster gathering. All too often, however, they would not come back at all.
In those days, getting a person from Brittany to eat even the tiniest bite of fish was next to impossible. That is because nobody wanted to eat a fish that reminded him or her of a dear friend or family member who had died at sea. In Celtic tradition, there are three types of people: the dead, the living, and those who go to sea. Hell is the abyss. Fish were for the poor, for those who didn't have the choice what to eat. People from Brittany preferred the products of the land, such as cabbage and pork. Plates brimming with seafood are an entirely Parisian invention, as is the dish called sole meunière. If sole and turbot were brought from Brittany to Paris, it wasn't because they were the best — it was because they were the types of fish that conserved best.
Those of us who grew up between the tip of the Grouin in the North and the Phare de la Pierre-de-Herpin, which marks the entry point to the Bay, were bathed in the tales of adventures. Personally, my heroes were Jacques Cartier, Robert Surcouf, and Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais. They were captains, explorers, and seafarers who brought back from their expeditions new, hitherto unknown scents and flavours: cocoa, cumin, all types of pepper, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, and ginger, among many others. We must remember that the spices had to travel across oceans to arrive at our table. Cuisine has much in common with the sea, in the fact that it connects people.