I'm not alone in my love for it. Here in Canada, maple syrup is the culinary equivalent of hockey—a national obsession (our flag bears a maple leaf, after all). How it improves pancakes, coffee, doughnuts, beans, and ham is one of the few subjects on which all Canadians can agree. I often add a little to my salad dressings to balance the acid, and a bit of syrup in a stir-fry of ginger and bok choy tastes just right. My favorite local bacon is cured in it, as are innumerable other proteins, like the gently smoked salmon that chef Mark McEwan has been making for the past 14 years at North 44 restaurant in Toronto. Though we continue to eat an awful lot of syrup, today, as more of Canada's population migrates to cities, gathering in a sugar shack has become something of a nostalgic adventure; chartered buses take urbanites like me, whose family shacks are long gone, out to the countryside during sugaring season for old-fashioned sugar shack meals of pork and beans, crepes, and eggs. Even chefs like Montreal's Martin Picard, of the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, have made a cause out of reviving the cabane a sucre. Yet in pockets of rural Canada, sugaring is very much a living tradition. Last March, drawn to the promise of reliving the sweet early springs of my childhood and tired of the slush-brown city streets of Toronto in late winter, I decided to make a sojourn. Following the advice of a syrup-obsessed friend in Montreal, I traveled to remote Auclair, about 200 miles northeast of Quebec City, to spend some time making and eating maple syrup with Nathalie Decaigny and her husband, Vallier Robert. Quebec produces close to 75 percent of the world's supply of maple syrup, which is used in abundance in Quebecois cuisine. Tarte au sucre d'erable, a fudgy pie made with cream, milk, and syrup, is ubiquitous throughout the province. (Nathalie Decaigny serves hers with whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup and frozen blackcurrants that she picks from her garden in the summer).