Month: July 2013

Acadian Cookery at the Village Historique Acadien

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It was Friday and the smell of fish cooking came from every home in the Acadian village. The Catholic faith of the villagers required no meat on Fridays, so as I dropped in to visit I would see the varied ways fish was cooked through the years in the Acadian tradition.
I was visiting the Village Historique Acadien in Caraquet, New Brunswick. On a quiet river side is a cluster of Acadian buildings, each one moved from a different region of the province to showcase life as it existed from 1773 to the 1920’s. The village is alive with interpreters in period costume. Visiting period homes, I saw food being cooked as it would have been through the years on everything from open hearth fireplaces to ornate cast iron woodstoves.
Visiting Homes at Dinner
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In many homes, dinner preparation started early in the day ensure the meal would be ready for the hardworking family by midday. Each home prepared a regional meal representing that home’s original location.
In the tiny log cabin by the river, Mr. Martin shows how he cooked dinner in 1773 using cast iron pots over the open hearth fire. He was cooking a simple meal of salt herring with potatoes for his meal that day.
In the 1852 Cyr farm from the Saint- Basile area the kitchen was buzzing with activity. They were preparing Salmon in a sauce and potatoes, a cornmeal cake, and Tétines de souris (translates into “mouse’s tit”.) The Acadian names of some foods have a smile cooked into them. This Cyr family used a cast iron stove situated in the middle of the house to provide heat for the home as well. That day they were baking bread in their outdoor oven, and the smell must have attracted farmers in far away fields to come home for dinner. The lady of the house told me that to test the temperature of the oven after burning wood for hours; she would put her arm in the oven and recite the “HAIL MARY”. If she could leave her arm until she completed the prayer, it was cool enough to add the bread. She could tell it was done “just by the smell.”
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In a quiet village corner sits Poirier Tavern. In the dim light of a single oil lamp, bartender LOUŸS PITRE regales me with intoxicating drinking tales of days gone by.
“Booze back then was called medication”, he told me. And a proper lady would steer away from the tavern until as recently as 1960. Jamaican rum was imported but local men would also try to brew their own using potato peelings. This process used the same ingredients for brewing and bread yeast making. The men had to be careful not to incur the wrath of the women of the village who were highly protective of their yeast.
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At the Léger House that once stood proudly in Memramcook, they were cooking as if it were 1836. The woman of the house explained that she was boiling potatoes in salted herbs. The oral recipe she gave me for salted herbs was:
Cut the tops of green onions and put layers in a jar alternating with layers of course salt.
She told me that she would use this as well as summer savoury as the two seasonings for most of her cooking.
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In Madame Godin’s 1890’s kitchen dinner would be Fricotte à la truite with potatoes and onions and an apple pie made from dried apple rings. She had numerous pots cooking on different parts of her woodstove.
“Cut the core from the apple she told me, slice the apples, string them up and hang to dry. This preserves them until you add water to reconstitute and sugar to make the pie filling.”
In each home, if I happened to drop in just as the food was cooling on the oven, I was invited to taste just as in days past when visitors arrived and Acadian hospitality was offered.
Tasting Acadian Food at La Table des
Watching all this cooking made me hungry. I stopped into La Table des Ancêtres, located in the Dugas home. Here, traditional cooking is served for visitors in the 1867 home. The menu is brought to the table on a small chalk board.
I tried the yellow eyed beans served with a side of molasses, biscuits and blueberry cake for sweets (the name for dessert.) It was a simple and very delicious meal made using authentic recipes from the past.
As I took the path out of the Acadian Village and back into the future, I could hear families laughing and enjoying dinner together as I walked past each home.
I took with me the secrets of the proud Acadian women who cooked what they had in the best way they knew how, all the while adding love, care and laughter to their recipes.

Visiting the Village Historique Acadien
For information about the Village: http://www.villagehistoriqueacadien.com
Visiting times: June 9 to September 15/13 from 10 AM to 6 PM

September 16 to Oct. 5/13 – a guided tour each day at 10AM
Dining out in the Village:
La Table des Ancêtres: offers traditional meals served in a historic setting by costumed interpretive staff.
Staying in the Village: Hotel Château Albert
This Village offers a unique sleep over that truly takes the visitor back in time. 2013-06-27 16.05.15
Hotel Château Albert is a replication of a Caraquet hotel that dates from 1907. From the time you are picked up in the “hidden parking lot” in a Model T Ford and delivered to the front door of the hotel to the minute you are returned to your car, you experience a night from the past. The guest rooms are furnished in reproduction furniture and not even a modern light switch, television or telephone gives away the secret of time. Dinner and old time theatre are offered in the hotel nightly during the summer.
For more information: http://www.villaghistoriqueacadien.com/hotelchateaualbert.cfm
Children of the Village is a program that invites young people between 7 and 12 years to dress as in the past and join a family in a traditional meal. They also learn the work of running farms and craftsmanship in the village.

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Dining out with history at Upper Canada Village

MORRISBURG, ONTARIO
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Upper Canada Village is one of the Canada’s largest living history sites and brings to life this part of Ontario in the 1860’s. More than forty historic buildings were moved from the St. Lawrence River banks in 1961 to save them from the flooding that would develop the St. Lawrence Seaway. At each building visitors are greeted by interpretive staff in period costume who tell the stories of that home and life of the past. The culinary customs of the day are demonstrated in the gardens, kitchens, bakery, cheese factory and general store around the Village. In the summer children can participate in Time Traveller’s programs and live for three days to a week in the Village as a child in the 1860’s. They help with the chores and learn how food was cooked in the past.
Guests can enjoy a traditional meal at Willard’s Inn. Here is a peek at some of what you can see.

2013-06-26 13.20.20 Bread making and eating
The smell of baking bread led me to the bakery. The baker’s muscles rippled as they kneaded two massive balls of dough in a big wooden trough. Keith Johnston and Eric Forbes have been making bread in period dress at Upper Canada Village for many years. The two of them work together like a well oiled machine. They cook their bread in a wood oven that fires up during the night. In the morning the fire is removed and the bakers know “by feel” if the temperature is right to bake the bread.
Every day, they produce many loaves of bread just as they would have in the past to feed the men in the work camps and soldiers. Each man was entitled to 2 – 2 pound loaves a week so each clump of dough was weighed to ensure equality. Bread was important to the men. White, bleached flour was expensive in the past and only the wealthy could afford to serve white bread. Common men ate whole wheat bread made from locally grown and milled grains. The grain now comes from Bellamy’s Mills.
Bread was sold for 3 cents a loaf and it cost 2 cents to make. Cakes of yeast were imported from Germany. Families made their own bread in those days and selling it sometimes supplemented the farm income.
Keith and Eric and their assistants are proud of their bread, and so they should be. School kids lined up at the Gift Shop to buy a loaf to take home as a souvenir. They had learned the magic of bread making.

2013-06-26 11.52.20 Making Canadian Orange Cheddar in the Village
Dennis McKnight gently stirred the long metal vats of heating milk with a rake, just like he has for the past eight summers. He was making Canadian Cheddar the old way. He showed us how the milk separated into curds and whey and told us how he would turn that mush into cheese.
Surprising how much work goes into a hunk of cheddar, I thought after learning that it took 900 lbs. of milk to make 90 lbs. of cheese.
“Everyone made their own cheese at home, back then,” Dennis said.
We learned how the cheese industry started in Canada after the British began to buy our Canadian cheddar when they stopped buying it from the United States in 1864. They would import it on one condition – that it was orange. Secret be known, white and orange cheddar are made the same way and have the same taste. Dennis taught us that orange cheese has annatto added which is an oil squeezed from the South American Lipstick Plant. The locals provided the milk to the cheese factory, but couldn’t afford to buy the cheese that was imported to England. They shared in the factory’s profits and took home the whey to feed their pigs.
I would taste the bread and cheese at Willard’s Hotel for lunch after stopping in at the Louck’s Farm to see what they are eating today.

2013-06-26 13.09.41 What’s cooking at Louck’s Farm?
Dinner was cooking in the summer kitchen in the woodshed of the Louck’s 1850’s farmhouse. The fancy cast iron woodstove was fired up for a meal of salt pork with governor’s sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots, garden salad, homemade bread and a jelly roll cake with fresh strawberries. Barbara McKnight and Lynne Chagnon acting as members of the Louck family had been busy cooking all morning to feed their hungry farming family. The table was set with blue willow dishes and looked so inviting that I wished I could be invited to sample the fare.

Willard's Hotel

Willard’s Hotel


Bread and Cheddar made at Upper Canada Village

Bread and Cheddar made at Upper Canada Village

Dining out with history at the Village’s Willard’s Hotel
I headed to Willard’s Hotel, an historic eatery for modern folk. A sign on the porch said “Only Heritage Meals served here”
Built originally in 1790 as a home for a New York Loyalist, it was then bought by John Willard in 1830 who was a tavern keeper from Montreal. It was located halfway between Cornwall and Prescott and made a welcome stopover for travellers.
On the Menu’s Midday Bill of Fare was a variety of dishes replicating meals served in the past. I chose the Village Bread and Cheese, served with fruit chutney, so I could taste the creations of the bakers and cheesemaker I had earlier seen working. My husband tried the Welsh Rarebit, “Old cheddar and dark beer cheese melted over sautéed mushrooms and onions on a thick slice of village bread spread with a grainy mustard”. Both were divine. Also served were such classics as Split Pea Soup, Bangers and Mash and Johnny Cake served with Maple Syrup and whipped cream.
This eatery gives the visitor to Upper Canada Village an authentic culinary experience of the past.
I left Upper Canada Village with warm bread under my arm and a plan to dust off my Grandmother’s cook books.

VISITING UPPER CANADA VILLAGE IN MORRISBURG, ONTARIO
For information about the village: http://www.uppercanadavillage.com
Hours of Operation:
May 18 – September 3/13 – 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM daily
Sept. 3- Oct. 1/13 – Wednesday to Sunday – 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Special Event : August 17 – 18/13 – FOOD LOVERS’ FIELD DAYS
Sample and buy food from an outdoor farmer’s market held on the fairground field of Upper Canada Village. Ontario food growers and producers will show off their best for those who love to eat.