Comfort Food From the East

While speaking with my sister, this morning, she reminded me that today, January 15, is the anniversary of the day our brother, John, went into hospital.  It was from this date, onward, that our family was sucked into the vortex of the medical system and diagnostic testing.  As it would turn out, our brother would celebrate his last birthday in Peter Lougheed Hospital.

I begin this particular post, writing about my brother, because I’m thinking about comfort food and what happens when people gather with foods that are familiar and rooted in memory.  These foods will often vary depending on cultural context…sometimes an affordability context…regardless, if my readers look back into their journeys, they will find foods that mark various moments along their journeys.  Stories and narratives will endlessly surface of childhood and Mom or Grandma or Great Gramma’s cooking.

For example, if I type the words, FRIED BOLOGNA (Baloney) SANDWICH…what memories are evoked?

We brought foods to hospital and those we love, also fed us.  My brother enjoyed jello and Cozy Shack rice pudding during those end days.  He also enjoyed fresh ju-jubes for the duration of his hospital stay.  My sister-in-law sent loaves.  John shared birthday cake. Spaghetti was brought from home.  Things we create in the kitchen, we have control over (usually).  Sharing food creates a feeling of joy, constancy and being rooted.  I am grateful for how food brought some pleasure to my brother in his last months.  Now, the remainder of this blog post will explore one particular recipe that comes from my memory banks and my Acadian family’s tradition.

Our little Airforce family found itself in Quebec and New Brunswick for two of its postings.  These postings gave some proximity to my Great Grandparents, Mamie (Sugar Arsenault) and Papie (Gabriel Gallant) and my great uncles and aunties.

My Grandmother, in back and my mother, directly in front of her.  Jimmy Fardy, my Mom’s cousin is directly to her right.

My Mamie, with my mother in her arms.

Mamie and Papie.

I knew when I went to Prince Edward Island that I was among some of the dearest people who were in my mother’s life.  I knew, also, that when we traveled there, my mother was home.

Memories of that little Summerside house on Front Street are connected with wood stoves, home made rolled cigarettes, potatoes grated and cooked up into pancakes, horse drawn milk delivery wagons, coal chutes, seaside smells carried on the wind, bingo chips, coffee, bottles on the kitchen table, loud laughter and kitchen gatherings.

It was in 2015, when I attended a library program with my friend, Pat, that I first considered researching this childhood dish. The topic of the presentation was on foods as they relate to a cultural road trip across Canada.  The presenter was going to be Julie Van Rosendaal, but as it turned out, she required a replacement.  The session did not disappoint.

Shortly after the session, I sent my Mom’s youngest sister an e mail. “I was telling Dad about a cookbook that was mentioned at a Library program I attended last night.  It’s called Feast: An Edible Roadtrip.  I asked the speaker if the recipe for “Rapeur” (don’t know the spelling) was in it.  One Acadian lady sitting next to me said it was called Rappi Pie  hmmm…Dad told me that you make Mamie’s recipe and I was hoping you might send it to me.  I know it’s a big job to make and that it needs a special touch to turn out right, but I would like to share it with my daughters.  If you would be so kind…I’d really appreciate it.  Kath”

I sent that note in 2015 and received an expedient reply that included these steps.  I quickly learned that the spelling of the recipe was Rapure and that its translation is coming from the word grate in french.

[cheese, carrots] râper

to grate some cheese râper du fromage

This recipe was followed by one through the post…thank you, Auntie Pat.

Some time during the Christmas break, I decided to invite a small circle of friends to the house to share some Clam Chowder, also made in my mother’s east coast tradition.  Clam Chowder also varies depending on where you grew up in eastern Canada.

With the invitation to my friends, came an opportunity to try making my very first Rapure, without any of my matriarchs present for help.  My friend, Hollee, was visiting from Vancouver in order to attend her Auntie’s 100th birthday, so she became my cheerleader as I endeavored to bring my east coast traditions in comfort food, to life.  I remember, well, this dish being prepared by my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my Mom.  It is important to me that I share this, along the journey, with my children.  One thing I decided, after looking over the recipes and speaking with Hollee, I was going to borrow my daughter’s food processor!!

The Rapure brought back particular aromas in the little PEI kitchen of my memory, pork and onion fried up on the wood stove, along with a scoop of lard.  This dish, along with my mother’s Meat Pies, was very much a symbol of home for me.

Nervous, the night before, I spent a lot of time seeking out Youtube videos, learning for the most part, that the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were using chicken stock and chicken in recipes that they called Rappie Pie.

 

On the Arsenault Facebook group, I put out an all-call for recipes and these are some from the Rappie Pie tradition.

These were the posters’ connections with their recipes.

Judy Arsenault I recently made a Rapure from the cookbook Abram-Village Handcraft Co-Op Recipes (which I purchased from the Bottle House (PEI) that my cousin use to own) and it didn’t turn out. Has anyone used this recipe from this cookbook? How did it turn out for you

Thelma Arsenault Hack I have varying results with rapure, regardless of the recipe. Choice of potatoes makes a difference – I don’t think ‘baking potatoes’ work as well. And whether the grated potatoes are rinsed and dried well makes a difference. It’s a lot of work and very frustrating when the results are not good. I’ll be interested in what others comment. Good luck to you.

Jim N Wendy Spain This recipe was made by my great grandmother Catherine (Lefave) Doucette, from Nova Scotia. I recently typed it as shown, for a family reunion. 🙂

With great courage, Hollee and I peeled 10 lbs of potatoes and I chopped up the pork roast into 1 cm cubes, setting aside the pork fat to coat the roaster surface, keeping all chilled and prepared for the morning’s culinary adventure and the visit with my friends.  I decided to stick closely to my Auntie’s recipe.

At 7:00 am…I began my processing of the potatoes and put my pork to browning.

I’m going to log my notes here, for future reference.  I had my daughter’s food processor set for grating and tried both the medium grate and the fine grate.  In future, I would  use the fine grate setting.  Whoosh…out spewed the gratings of ten pounds of potatoes.  The kitchen smelled yummy and CBC radio was turned up, as the pork, onion, salt and pepper were bubbling in the 350 oven.  (use the roasting pan for this)

Once the potatoes were done, I quickly covered them with wrap so that oxidization wouldn’t happen. (green bowl) I cut up my cheese cloth and began the process of removing starch from the potatoes. (I will use my red bowl for this next time.)  I transferred my shrunken potatoes into my large soup pot.  Once finished the cheese cloth step, I added the yummy pork and onion to the big soup pot and mixed and mixed and mixed some more.

This is the step where I decided that in future I would use the fine grate.  I remembered my Great Grandmother’s Rapure being smoother in texture, but being coated with crunch.  This is what my kitchen looked like, right before beginning my Clam Chowder.

From the mixing stage, I pressed the mixture into my roasting pan…nicely greased with some cubes of pork fat (not all), and pulled from the oven.  (don’t burn your hands, here)  I roasted the Rapure at 275 for an hour and turned it up for three hours at 350.  Next time, two hours at 350 for me!

Thank goodness, Wendy brought a salad as it made the appearance of the square of Rapure look more appetizing, on the plate.  I began apologizing before we even sat down because I knew already that the topping was TOO crunchy.

My guests are such dear friends that I could tell them I expected them all to try a piece, as I was very much in the mood to share my PEI nostalgia.  They all carried on, without complaint.  I love them so much! Photo Credit below: Wendy Lees.

Later, I discovered that the crust softens with just a short wait after removing from the oven, so I would serve it a little differently next time, and definitely crust up instead of flipping it over (lol).  I have been happily nibbling on the leftover Rapure ever since and I am generally really happy with the flavours and it very much reminds me of Mom, my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.

See the next post…the feast…for the treasured gathering.

When I remember my brother, I also remember the family meals that brought us together.  I remember celebrations and loud responses to the yummy-ness of food!  Much of the recollections of family come with the memory of food.  I am so grateful for this.

Thanks to Lauraine, who remembered that her mother made ‘Snowballs’, those red cherries wrapped up in coconut buttery sweetness and rolled in graham cracker crumbs.  Isn’t comfort food amazing?

 

For Love of Louis

GO MYERS RIDERS! GO!

Yes!  I DID attend a football game.  I wouldn’t do it for just anyone.  Ask my father.  But, I would do it for Louis.

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The thing about living in a family rooted in Canada’s military, is that we are intense about our Canadian identity.  We also find ourselves living from east coast to west.  It matters not the distance between us because over the years we have been able to remain connected by heart strings and when we are together, it is pure magic.

Dad and I recently drove to Ottawa and really enjoyed the time, food, love and dogs!  One fun afternoon was spent watching my awesome nephew play a game, his team, the Myers Riders!  GO RIDERS!!

Honestly, I know very little about what was going on, but I did see my nephew pushing through to gain yardage….MOVE THOSE STICKS!  MOVE THOSE STICKS!  He is an intense and smart player, (from what I can tell…you just have to trust my judgment here) and he made his auntie proud!  Yes!  They won the game!  And, YES!  He received the MVP football during the post conference.  YEAH!  I love you, Louis.  This is just a smattering of images from my experience.  I have absolutely no permission to share these, but, heH!  I’m a proud auntie.

Keep an eye on the pink gloves and # 75!  Love this boy for his beautiful heart.  Yes, he is a talented athlete, but foremost for me, is the respectful and kind hearted and caring man that he is becoming!  He’s a great team player.  Love you, Louis.

Here ends, likely, the ONLY sports post that you will ever find on my blog.  I love you, dear family.

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Where are you, Auntie Eleanor?

Somewhere in our interview, Auntie Eleanor told me that she received names from both of her Grandmothers…Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and Mable Burrows Elliott. Eleanor Mable, of anyone, brings to mind my own Gramma Moors.  While our time was so short, I have to say that I absolutely loved having Auntie Eleanor all to myself.  It seems that when families get together, they are all about LOUD and CRAZY…so much food…so much laughter and fun.  On Tuesday morning I reveled in having quiet conversation with this dear dear soul.

For a zillion years, Auntie Eleanor and her beloved husband, Uncle Ted, hosted our family reunions.  There was always a campground bustling with fun of every sort, a family program in the afternoon to show off just what an insanely talented family we have, big meals and candy toss.  So many golden memories come from our family reunions.  In the days of being a wee little thing, my most precious recollection is of our Grampa Moors sitting on a chair all by himself…his huge family sitting perfectly quiet in front of him on the grass.  His eyes watered with his smile…he tapped his toe…held both hands on his knees…his racing cap on…looking out upon his family…and sang Froggie Went a Courtin’.  He knew all of the words.

John Moors Hanging With a few of His Crazy Grandkids

John Moors Hanging With a few of His Crazy Grand Children

Auntie Eleanor told me that she didn’t remember much of anything.  Hmmm…funny…as we connected with one another she spilled out all sorts of little narratives.  It was pure magic.  That evening, I slept out at the farm…all alone with Max.  It was funny, but at the same time frightening because it was dark and perfectly silent.  I wanted to go out and buy myself a snack, but I was afraid to leave.  As I write, this sounds ridiculous.  My second cousins, Kecia & Mack and their beautiful baby, Maverick, delivered chips, dip and a can of pop and just hung with me for a while…that was awesome!

When they left, I took photos of the photos on the walls.  I felt surrounded by the spirits of my ancestors…very powerful experience indeed!  Thank you, Auntie Eleanor.  I love you.

George Elliott and Mabel Burrows Elliott

George Elliott and Mabel Burrows Elliott

My Great Grandfather, John Moors

My Great Grandfather, John Moors

My Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors

My Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors

This…from my beautiful cousin, Margy…daughter to Auntie Eleanor…a treasure to me in my deepest soul…this free write is something that she wrote ages ago.  I cried when I first read it, but it sort of captures what happens when our family gathers.  While the shape of our family changes over the years as we lose precious members and gain so many new babes, the love remains the same, forever.

Tents, trailers, cars and campers, sleepless nights, babies screaming, pancakes in the morning, soothing. eggs, bacon and parade, duck pond, and the creek, stinky suckers float on by, laura screams, we’re all insane.

Family in one space, generations multiplied by genes of persons past, I don’t wonder anymore, your ears, your lips, your skin.  Aunt Ruth,  always here, feelings, love, connections, Our family made from all that’s good and all that made us strong. move over now, get me cake, this program will be long.

God has made us one, you have my eyes, energies, blood that pulses through our veins, we are the same, different, strong, loving arms embrace, come and sit, you are so beautiful, sit down, spend some time.

pains, children, love, divorce, disease, wisdom, who is who? great aunts and uncles, getting old, sadness seems to flee away by memories of love, hope, hearts and blood flows through our veins, with all the world we stand apart, brought together by our hearts.

how is it that we fit so well? friends are in, so are we, they feel right, everyone will it better, united, open, fresh and new, old ones, young ones, blessing on the food,

dig in, bottomless pots of heaven sent. salads, salads, feed my sheep, in a line we go to graze on carrot cake, barbeque beef, Mom exhausted, wouldn’t have it any different. chinese salad, pasta too. Baked beans, grandpa, chocolate cake, belly ache, fruits and greens, bowls of color, left over food, feast continues far past noon.

Kids with tap shoes, clogs and strings, made up songs they will sing and family grins, French, english, hip hop dance, pride, laughter, sweet, kind, upside down on the table, puppets talking, let’s go on, parts and pieces glued together, flexibition, poetry, babies sit on grandma’s knee, Aunt Jackie holding two or three, there’s jamming in the kitchen

Here’s the show, the drums, the sticks, music played, with energy, and laughter fills sacred air and hence the divine, togetherness, thrill of thrills, here we go, old times, gay little eskimo, a froggy went a courting go. sit still, quiet say the mothers. tradition has it place.

rodeo and competition, candy throw, run and play, peanuts for our uncle bob, coffee on, he drinks the pot. cousins, sisters, aunts and uncles, grammas, grandpas, brothers, hope you make it, distance time, life beginning, life change and happens, who is sick? and who is able? what age are you now,? heart to heart, eye to eye who’s your Father? never mind, I see it in your smile.

Now stand quiet, hold it still, seems the same, just new faces, children, family, other races, permeates, with resounding pleasure. Cecil’s boat, and strong wind, take it home, no fun again. disappointed children.

freedom to be who you are, who’s your partner? who’s the star?, who affords such a car? circles, squares and dirty looks, just be forward, don’t be shy, get another plate, here we feast together, have a smoke behind the barn. I’m sure you’ll find another.

fishing like they have been given, grandpa moors, river banks, lakes and roadside fishin. breeze, smells, don’t stay long, mosquitos, flies and black eyed suzannes, come back just in time for seconds. adults sit in shelter, wait, guarding home, home, always there’s forever.

genes, talents, eyes, hair, lips and disguise, I fit in, so do you. come back and stay awhile, you are a puzzle piece, without you there, I wonder why.  I have your butt and you have mine, Moors they say, what about this nose I carry, it’s a guess, it’s from genetics, blood and cells, make impressions, we are tied with heart of hearts, we are strong, weak and needy, we have life, we have freedom.  Life is good, we’ll meet again if God is willing

In this photo, the two lovebirds that started it all, John Moors (my grandfather) and Florence Elliott (my grandmother).

John and Florence Moors

John and Florence Moors

A portrait I painted just yesterday of my Auntie El, to celebrate her 90th year….she is now 91, going to be 92 in January.  I love you, Auntie.