Real Poutines! An Acadian Tradition.

Real Poutines! An Acadian Tradition.

(The original idea for this post was to have a fake beef with Quebec, then the direction looked like it was moving to show my American friends one of my family traditions. I think it turned into a sneak peek into what it’s like to be part of a huge Acadian family? Like most of my posts, I just let them be what they want to be. And like all of my posts, I hope it inspires you to make an effort to do things with your family; may it be the family you’re born into or the one you create for yourself).

When I was growing up no one but Acadians knew what a poutine was. Fast forward a few decades and poutines are now a global thing, but those aren’t real poutines.

Sure french fries, gravy and cheese curds are delicious, but they aren’t what we call poutines.

I am not going to accuse Quebecers of high jacking the name poutine from the Acadians; oh wait, yes I am!! Do Acadians have a beef with Quebec for stealing our poutine name? We do!! Have we ever made a fuss over this theft?? No, no we have not! It’s just not in our nature.

Could our Acadians poutines  compete with Quebec poutines in the global market? In a word…no! Our poutines, the real poutines aren’t…how do I say this diplomatically? Let’s just say they aren’t pretty!

What is an Acadian poutine? It’s basically a slimy boiled potato ball with pork in the middle. Am I tempting you yet?

Poutine or poutine acadienne are a staple for French speaking Maritimers (from the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). Although you can now buy them throughout the year, they have traditionally been made for the Christmas holidays.

Before we dive into things, I do need to share a few key words, so my none-Acadians can follow.

râpures  – grated potatoes

poutine – a slimy grayish boiled potato ball

poutine râpé – Acadian poutine, we have had to add the Acadian part since we were ripped off by Québec, lol

râper – verb to grate potatoes

râpe – a home made machine used to grate potatoes. Pronounced rawwwp. This word has an unfortunate pronunciation in English

Épurer – verb to squeeze the water out of grated potatoes

My family has made poutines for generations, there is no recipe per say; you have to “intern” for decades before you can become the top baller. Ok top baller isn’t really a thing to anyone but me, I am hoping it catches on.

I have an un-scientific theory why Acadians originally made poutines and English speaking Maritimers didn’t. I think they just didn’t have the proper manpower needed. Historically, French Catholics had large families while English Protestants had smaller families. I suspect the real reason may have been that the Acadians were poorer and potatoes were cheap and readily available?

My theory is based on the fact that it takes a village to make a batch of poutines. I think the rule is that you need a minimum of 3 aunts, 2 uncles and a combo of 2 nieces/nephew or 2 cousins. One doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide; hey, I think I am going to make poutines today, it takes planning and a team.

In this post I am going to share with you how one Acadian family, mine, keeps the tradition alive.

Most large extended families would have had one or two râpes in the family; yes this word sounds horrible in English, so please refer to my keywords above.

So here’s how it worked in my family growing up. It gets complicated, so please try to follow.

My mother’s father was the top baller because he owned the râpe. He decided when he would make his poutines and the others would plan accordingly. The râpe, again it’s a machine that grates potatoes, would go from house to house to house.

Example: pépère DesRoches, my moms father, would make his on the 21. My mom would make hers on the 23, in the morning. As soon as she was done, she would call my fathers mother and tell her to send someone to pick up the râpe. Once they were done, they would passe it down to my dad’s sister, who would then drop it back off at our house.

I should note that not only were Acadian families large, once you married into another Acadian family the two families often merged to create a super family.

Eventually my moms sister, tante Irène, and my mom got their own râpes, which made our family super fortunate to have 3 in rotation!!

Example of the Acadian super family; my moms sister, tante Irène, who lived across the street from us, wasn’t actually related to my cousins from my dad’s side, who lived next door to us, but she was automatically called ma tante Irène by everyone, related by blood or not. Side note, Acadian families also tended to cluster together. I had 7 cousins living on my street; my brother and I made 9 of us (kids). Needless to say, no one picked on us. The older cousins would look out for the younger cousins; sure the older cousins would beat the shit out of us from time to time, but no one else was allowed to.

Getting back to poutines; you couldn’t just go to the store and buy a râpe, you had to know someone who would make one for you. It was a small motor with a circular thingy that was pierced and would spin quickly and grate the potatoes. It was usually made by someone who worked at the CNR, Canadian National Railway. Ok don’t ask why someone who worked with trains would be making these on the side; it’s too complicated for this post.

Now, let’s fast forward to the present and get to making poutines.

After my moms father passed away, my mom became the top baller. You need a top baller to test the texture and taste the potatoes. The top baller title will make sense, just keep reading.

Today we went to my uncles,  my moms brother, with our râpe in hand to help him make his poutines. Because her little brother and his wife, who are both in their sixties have not yet achieved top baller status. She was needed to oversee everything. I guess it’s a bit like the mafia, there can only be one top baller and once top baller status is achieved, he or she rules for life.

The ingredients are very simple, you need potatoes, porc and porc fat. Peeling the potatoes is a pain in the ass.  I think that 50 pounds of potatoes will make 47 ish poutines. I am not a top baller, nor do I aspire to be, so I don’t need to know the correct potato ratio.

You also have to cut the meet and fat into small cubes. So far I have avoided having to help peel and cut. When the knives come out, I volunteer to run errands, no one has caught on as of yet!!

The next step is to start passing the potatoes into the potato grating machine, la râpe. Now you maybe wondering if you could use a food processor? You can’t.

Here’s were it starts to get weird, once all the potatoes are grated, we call that la râpure. You have to go through la râpure and remove any chunks of potatoes that weren’t liquefied; does it look yummy yet??

That isn’t the weird part, the Râpure is very liquidity, we use a large measuring cup to scoop some of the râpure into fabric square and we squeeze out the liquid, that is the weird part. And it’s at this stage that the top baller comes into play. The raw squeeze potatoes are mixed in with mashed potatoes. This mixture can’t be too dry or too wet. You need to adjust how much liquid you are squeezing out. The top baller also needs to taste the mixture to make sure it’s salted enough. It looks gross, but remember these are just cooked and raw potatoes.

EC1A54CC-6AA4-4026-8726-05324C3C112A

This next step of making balls is where the baller and top baller names come from. I’ve been calling my aunts and mom the ballers for years, I think it’s funny.

The photo below shows my ballers, my aunt Claudine and my mother, she’s in the red apron. She let me wear my grandfathers white apron this year, which is an honor, she is so happy I am back home. She may also be grooming me to someday be the top baller, but I don’t think I can handle the pressure!

The potato mixture is flattened and the porc is added in the middle. If you put too much meat or your ball walls are too thin, they will bust once dropped into boiling water; please note, ball walls isn’t an official poutine term. Poutines are made in French or Chiac, I am doing my best to translate in English.

As a child, this is the part that you begged to get in on because it’s basically like making snowballs.

The balls are gently dropped into a pots of boiling water. The pots need a constant slow boil. The poutine balls will float to the top and then sink to the bottom of the pot as they cook.

6F1AF698-2F0A-4423-8CAA-0FEDAF50DEDA

It takes 3 ish hours for them to cook, all the while you need to keep checking to make certain they aren’t boiling too much or too little.

And voila!! They are ready to eat!! The photos above are why our poutines will probably never go global, but trust me they are delicious!

Once my uncle and aunt’s poutines were ready to eat. That evening there were 11 of us for dinner, you don’t have to be invited, you can just show up. It’s also acceptable to show up with an empty pot, because as soon as we make them, we start giving them away. An Acadian will share their poutines freely, but they won’t share their pots, so you have to bring your own!!

As mentioned above, they look slimy, but keep in mind that they are just potatoes and porc, so not so exotic. We eat them with salt and pepper, others add brown sugar, which seems odd to me, but who am I to judge what others put on their slimy potato balls.

We made my uncles poutines on Dec 21, we made my moms poutines on Dec 23. My mother’s sister, came over to help. My brother and I now have more responsibilities since my father has passed. My mother’s brother joins in for the squeezing part.

This process will go on in several of my families homes around town. Once done and the families come together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the first thing you are asked is: combien de poutines avez-vous fait? Which means how many poutines did you make? The bigger then number the bigger the bragging rights. They will also ask if any have busted, this makes a mess in the pot and is a sign of bad ballers.

Fun fact, the pots are so big that if weather permitting, if it’s cold enough, they are usually stored outside. From the 23 to the 26, there is always a warm pot of poutines on the stove ready to eat. Anyone who enters is offered a poutine. And anyone who is leaving is asked if they want to bring some home.

And this maybe hard for some to wrap their minds around, but we eat these on Christmas morning. Even now my brother, nephew and 3 cousins show up at my moms house Christmas morning for a poutine or two!

That’s my sneak peek at our Acadian tradition of making poutines. I hope you are enlightened and if you are brave enough to want to try one, hit me up next year and I will hook you up!

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you and your families a Happy New Year! May your hearts be happy and your bellies be full!

muah!

Liette

 

 

 

Merry Christmas & Happy Everything!

Merry Christmas & Happy Everything!

I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you the very best Christmas! I hope you get the opportunity to chill and enjoy these next few days with your loved ones.

Oh my goodness the weeks leading up to the holidays are insane! I feel like we put so much pressure on ourselves, why???

I decided that the weeks leading up to Christmas would be the perfect time to move from the US back to Canada; here I am! Eh!

Like many this time of year, I may have underestimated the time it would take or the energy needed to get everything on my list done. One casualty was my annual Christmas card.

I put a lot of thought into my Christmas Card theme each year. I try to make them as ridiculous and funny as possible. Last year’s was just so so, so I needed to nail this year’s.

I had an awesome idea, but it was a total funny fail! We did laugh our butts off trying to pull it off, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

My idea was to show that living in Las Vegas hadn’t changed me a bit. I would of course be dressed up as a show girl, but instead of feathers I would have pine branches. These costumes were my inspiration.

334FF0FB-9D6D-4F2A-8557-423D65C489B3

The plan was to have a headpiece and tail made of greenery that looked like these lovely ladies above.

I recruited my brother and my nephew Jack to help me. My brother builds and fixes things so I thought he would be up for the task.

0E357684-63A1-4BF3-9586-BBE893545528

Well…let’s just say that I overestimated our costume abilities. I also discovered that duct tape can’t fix everything…oh and that it can easily cut off your circulation if too tight!

Instead of looking like a NB showgirl, I looked like a green angel who got punched in the nose in a bar fight.

73B7BACE-BEBB-402D-A2CD-19C298A8FB2D

Not one to give up that easily, I decided to change locations. So I gracefully climbed to the other side of the wall.

6E7B92A3-FEE9-490C-B8D1-32613512D91E

Ok, maybe gracefully is a bit of a stretch?? Lol.

After ditching my wings, we did manage to get some cool shots. The life lesson here is to always have a plan b and to laugh your way through your fails when possible.

3344AE06-2A28-4CE4-ACF7-384B0FAE5030

I was going to get my friend to photoshop the  cut on my nose, but I decided to keep it as is, because it shows that nothing is perfect. Shit happens, life is messy, you can roll with it or hide away. I choose to roll with it, 99% of the time anyway.

Thank you again for reading! And Happy Holidays!

muah!

Liette

7BD2F9B0-3B39-45A8-B663-3E038B6A2B70

 

 

Holiday Staycation!

Holiday Staycation!!

With the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and burnt out.

You’re giving so much to others, how about you treat yourself to something fun for you?? It’s not being selfish, it’s taking care of your heart and soul so you can be there for others.

Now this idea will vary depending on where you live, but it works anywhere and everywhere! The basic idea is to escape from your daily grind for 12 to 24 hours; with all the time that you spend doing laborious tasks, you deserve some time to yourself this month.

It’s easy and doesn’t have to be too expensive.

Step 1 – Find a holiday activity and book it!

Every city, large or small have holiday things to do. Look it up and buy tickets for you and your mate, friend or mom; whoever you want to share your Staycation with, just be sure it’s someone you like, lol.

If you don’t like concerts, go see a movie or find a craft show, just make certain it’s an activity that you enjoy.

I staycationed last night in Las Vegas; and yes, this city has a lot of options, but I couldn’t help but notice all the concerts people back home in my little hometown of Moncton are posting on social media. So you don’t have to live in a big city.

Seeing Mariah Carey perform her Christmas concert has been on my  bucket list since I moved here three years ago. I missed her last year, her Christmas concerts were too close to Christmas, I was already back home for my Christmas vacation.

But not this year!! I asked two of my close friends if they were interested and they said yes!! We bought our tickets in August.

6469244B-432D-4FB3-A35B-87EB9D293D53
The lady can sing!! Her show was so much fun!!

Step 2 – Get a room!

Now you maybe thinking, why would I get a room in the city that I live in? It’s a waste of money. First of all, no it isn’t a waste! It’s part of your “you need a break” staycation.

So get a room, have a romantic night with your partner or have a pajama party with your BFF.

Here’s a helpful hint, if your schedule is flexible, pick a night that the hotel isn’t busy. Sunday nights are usually the best nights to get the best rate. Also, ask if they have a locals rate? Or ask them what night in the next few nights could they offer you the best rate? Call the hotel directly and tell them you are planning a special night and that you live in the city, they will help you, I promise!

My friends and I have booked a hotel room on the strip, because if you live here going to the strip is sort of a pain in the ass. The traffic, the people, the parking, the people, the walking…

But, if you have a room on the strip, you can have a few drinks without having to drive home; instead of dreading all the crazy party people who invade the city, you become part of the party.

Step 3 – Make a night of it!

So you have your show tickets, you booked your hotel room; now get dressed up and go out to dinner. Think of it as your very own Christmas party and make it special.

D9E84D34-2A4C-4056-B1BA-34CDE4B16912
My friend Shondra never disappoints! Her silver sequins jumpsuit was on point! Woman kept walking up to her all night to rave about her jumpsuit!

For our night on the strip, we booked a fancy restaurant and got dressed up in our shiniest outfits; Shondra out shined, as she should, because she is fabulous!

If you are parents of small kids, maybe your staycation is getting a hotel room, ordering room service and watching Christmas movies in bed? Hey, do you! Whatever you need to recharge your batteries.

Step 4 – Gifts!!

This is a bonus step; ask your staycation partner or partners if they want to exchange gifts? I mean it is Christmas!!

My friends and I did a « our favorite things » gift exchange. Turns out all of our favorite things include fuzzy slippers, candles and luxurious face masks and lotions!

C902BDCC-24C9-48A3-83F0-42593EADC848
What a treat to get back to our room, take our heels off and put on our new fuzzy slippers! 

As we packed up and left Caesar’s Palace this morning, Shondra mentioned that it felt like we had been there for the whole weekend; which was exactly the point. We spent a solid 12 hours away from our regular lives; we laughed and made great memories that we will treasure for years to come. Moving forward, Mariah Carey’s, All I Want For Christmas, will make me think of my awesome friends in Las Vegas.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you are planning or could use your own Holiday Staycation!

For more pictures, videos and holiday gift ideas, follow me on Instagram and Facebook at: @oui-liette

Muah!

Liette

5DD4F6D3-250B-409D-96DB-6B681FA8C06D
So full disclosure, I am not a big drinker. I only drink 4 or 5 times a year and this was one of the nights. I think I started a trend, because after my impromptu photo shoot in front of this random hotel wreath, there was a line up of people waiting for their turn, lol.