Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
OTTAWA, ONTARIO — It seems like Canada has always had a sweet spot for US President Barack Obama.
Or in this case, a sweet tooth.
On February 19, 2009, just a day short of a month after being inaugurated and sporting a crisp, sharp haircut with noticeably fewer grey strands in it than he now wears, Obama made Canada the first foreign trip of his presidency. When the president stepped off Air Force One at Ottawa International Airport you would have been forgiven for thinking it was 1964 again and that the Beatles had magically reunited and made a triumphant return to Canada. Indeed, one of the things that defined the visit was how well Obama was received, with people driving great distances and braving chilly temperatures to get a glimpse of the first African-American to wear the title of president.
Famously, one moment that stood out during his visit was away from the pomp and ceremony on Parliament Hill. His motorcade made a stop so that he could pick up some cookies for his daughters, Malia and Sasha, at Le Moulin de Provence in the Byward Market, located less than a kilometre from the Parliament buildings.
And with that, the Obama Cookie was born. According to the Le Moulin de Provence website, “These cookies (simple shortbread in the shape of a Maple Leaf, with ‘Canada’ written on them), represent a new era in US-Canada relations. With the exclamation ‘I love this Country!’, Obama warmed the hearts of every Canadian on this cold February afternoon, during this historic visit to Ottawa.”
Le Moulin de Provence general manager Alice Gonzalez says, “The recipe hasn’t changed, and we don’t want to change it. We decided to keep it that way. It’s the same cookie that the president purchased. It’s a unique product, the customers get the same recipe every time.”
There’s no mistaking Le Moulin de Provence. If you didn’t know any better you might think you were walking into a US consulate. The first thing that grabs you about this establishment is Obama — pictures of the president are prominent within the bakery and on its front door, which also features a photo of him walking with former Governor General Michaëlle Jean. If the 44th president of the United States isn’t your favourite person, then don’t even think of coming here.
President Obama is a real crumb
With so many Obama pictures on the front door and on the walls you can’t help but wonder what Le Moulin de Provence would do if Obama ever found himself holding a political hot potato the way Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon or George W. Bush did. Or worse, ensnared in a juicy sexual indiscretion like Grover Cleveland or Bill Clinton.
But the first term of Obama’s presidency was free of salacious scandal, as has been his second term to this point. And this means that even in the early stages of 2013, the president and his namesake cookie are still getting solid levels of support in Canada’s capital.
“Yes, the Obama Cookie is still very popular,” says Gonzalez, adding that it was a fantastic experience meeting the president. “After the visit, so many customers were asking for the cookie he bought, that we decided it would just be easier for the customers if we created one area for the cookie. That’s why you see so many pictures of Obama in that one section of our store.”
More About the Obama Cookie at Le Moulin de Provence
Location: 55 Byward Market Square, Ottawa, ON (see map below)
Price: The Obama Cookie will cost you $2.55 plus tax; there’s a discount if six or more are purchased.
More Info: While the Obama Cookie is by far the most visible product Le Moulin de Provence has to offer, it’s not the only one. The menu includes lots of fresh baked goods, sandwiches, soups, salads and pastas as well.
Contact: Visit the bakery online at moulindeprovence.com, or telephone the store at 613-241-9152.