Saturday, June 2, 2012

Milk and Water and French Canadian Tourtiere

Someone at the Justice Ministry or whatever it is called in Canada, downloaded my story Milk and Water the other day. (It's the Department of Justice.) It could have been anyone, and there's no proof anyone read it..but just to say "We can see you too."

My story is about 1927 Montreal, during the Era of American Prohibition and features a discussion between my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services and my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells.

It's about the birth of the social welfare state in Quebec, sort of, and about the 'human right' to fresh clean water.

And no one in my story is honest, except perhaps for one Presbyterian Social Reformer. And everyone is 'good' in their own way.

Anyway, I'm off to my son's convocation today. Hours of sitting with a bad back. What a parent has to do!

In my story Milk and Water, I reveal that my grandmother is a great cook, despite being upper middle class, she prepares all the food in her home.  My husband's grandmother, being from the Deep South, doesn't step into the kitchen. That is 'low' work. (All true!)

My son works in a upscale restaurant as a sous chef (Philosophy degree!) and the other day he was asked to make a stuffing for a  fowl dish. He used the recipe his grandmother, my mother gave him. It is actually her mother's recipe, so his Great grandmaman's recipe, the hefty woman in the picture above.

An old French Canadian recipe. And apparently, 90 percent of the patrons who ate it complimented the chef, a great achievement. There's nothing like an old fashioned recipe. My son updated the herbs, that's all. Too bad we don't have my grandmaman's recipe for her tourtiere, which was supposed to be amazing! Or her baked beans. My son could start his own restaurant.

My son's restaurant uses all local and natural ingredients and 'organic' meats including pork. That makes the place perfect for exploring vintage recipes, which were simple, by design, yet the ingredients all fresh and wonderful... if you could afford it.

Anyway, Christmas's where I made the meal, my Mother always brought the stuffing. I would make my own, too, usually using some fancy modern recipe from Gourmet magazine, something with exotic nuts and bizarre fruits.

Guests hardly touched my stuffing. Below: My grandmother's pot for baking beans (so I have been told).
Beans were one of the first modern convenience products, I am guessing the first product of the Heinz Corporation.  And so began the century long trend of less tasty but more convenient foods. And so began the need for advertising writers, like myself, to create little white lies claiming any canned product is as tasty as home-made. (My play Milk and Water also touches on advertising style lies.)

Here's historian and broadcaster Pierre Berton ranting against the pseudo food movement, in a 1967 CBC video.