The Acadian Pictorial Cookbook by Wayne Barrett is a wonderful collection of delightful Acadian recipes with colour photographs.
This well-presented book is filled with notable illustrations that quickly help to set the mood with regards to Acadian heritage. The cover alone (Church at Grand Pré and the statue of Evangeline) evokes conflicting feelings as a result of its breath-taking beauty. I simply must take the time here to commend Mr. Wayne Barrett on his photography.
There is a most interesting introduction in the book that was written by Dr. Barbara LeBlanc (former superintendent of the Grand Pré National Historic Site), current instructor at Université Sainte-Anne. I will attempt to outline the important aspects below.
The foods of the Acadians reflect a blend of traditional French eating patterns adapted to a foreign land and influenced by contact with Micmac and Malecite peoples.
Most Acadians in the Maritimes are descendants of farmers and labourers who came to the New World from central western France in the mid-seventeenth century. They began a new life in Acadie, where strong family ties and a common religion, language and ancestral tradition helped to create an independent, cohesive community.
The first group of Acadian settlers landed at La Have, Nova Scotia, in 1632. In 1636, they moved to Port Royal, and as the population grew, they began to settle farther up the Annapolis River and, by the end of the century, along the Bay of Fundy. Eventually, a group settled on Prince Edward Island. As a result of the Deportation (1755-1763), these Acadians lost their land and were scattered around the world.
Descendants of the Acadians who resettled in the Maritimes after 1763 can be found today in pockets along parts of the coastline of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Acadian cuisine has not changed much over the centuries. Simplicity is STILL the main character.
In the early settlements, Roman Catholic religious restrictions partly dictated food consumption. Acadians abstained from meat for more than 150 days a year, and this, in addition to the abundance of seafood in the Maritimes, offers an explanation of fish, herring and cod in particular.
Contact with native peoples also influenced the Acadian diet. Corn, not used in Europe, became an ingredient for dishes such as corn chowder and cornmeal cake. Acadians probably learned hunting techniques from the Indians as well, bringing rabbit, moose and game birds to their tables.
Pork was one of the principal meats, along with some beef, mutton and chicken. The main vegetables included beans, corn, peas, carrots and onions. The most popular were cabbage and turnip, probably because these vegetables stored well over the winter. The potato was not part of the Acadian diet in the early period. Once it was introduced, however, it became a mainstay.
The Acadian settlers, mostly farmers and fishermen, led a less-sedentary existence than that of their descendants today, and hard physical chores necessitated hearty meals. Breakfast, for example, often consisted of foods such as blood pudding, baked beans, head cheese or leftovers from the previous evening's meal.
Grist mills supplied whole wheat, oats, buckwheat and barley. Acadians traded flour made from grains for molasses and sugar from the West Indies. Consequently, molasses became an important ingredient.
Journals written by visitors to Acadie in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries refer to various drinks. French wine, home-brewed apple cider, spruce beer and fir beer, rum from the West Indies and milk accompanied meals. Milk was also left to thicken and sour, to serve with bread. Historical documents suggest as well that Acadians were the first to cultivate apple orchards. Cherries, pears and wild berries such as blueberries and blackberries were served fresh or used to make jams.
The recipes in the pictorial cookbook are but a sampling of the rich Acadian heritage in the Maritimes.
Recipes include: Head Cheese, Blood Pudding, Fish Cakes, Cabbage Soup, Split-Pea Soup, Mussel Stew, Corn-Chowder Bisque, Fish Chowder, French Acadian Soup, Vegetable Soup, Oyster Soup, Rabbit Fricassée, Rappie Pie, Tourtières, Partridge with Cabbage, Chicken Fricot, Acadian Meat Pie, Poutines Râpées, Boiled Ham, Restigouche Potpie, Seafood Casserole, Poached Cod, Clam Pie, Fried Smelts, Fried Eels, Salt Herring and Potatoes, Lobster Sauce, Egg Pancake, French Bread, Blueberry Muffins , Cornmeal Cake, Molasses Cake, Acadian Fruitcake, Vinegar Pie, Acadian Sugar Pie, Irish-Moss Blanc Mange, Poutines à Trou, Old Acadian Dessert, Jumbo Raisin Cookies, Ginger Cookies, Sucre à la Crème, La Tire, Apple Cider and Spruce Beer.