Des recettes à peu près.



Illustré par Elaine Castonguay 
pis Adèle Saint Pierre


Recipes by Heart



Illustrated by Elaine Castonguay
and Adèle Saint Pierre


 The long, rectangular table of solid pine, covered that morning in huge piles of green beans I had helped snip, is now set. My mother has lined the edge of the table with thirteen plates. On one side of each plate, she has placed a fork, and at those places designated to her children old enough to handle one, she has also placed a knife. Into each glass she has poured the milk we buy from our neighbor, Thompson. In the middle of the table are several plates piled high with slices of her homemade white bread, butter, sugar for her and my father's tea, and a glass full of spoons for the dessert she'll serve after the meal. Because it is summer, there is also a big bowl of tender garden lettuce seasoned with salt pork drippings, vinegar, salt and pepper. My mother brings a large steaming bowl of green beans and baby garden potatoes that have been cooked with salt pork and chunks of beef. She prefers the taste of salt pork only in the green beans, but it is important for my father, who works hard all day, and for my brothers who will spend the afternoon haying, to have meat. 
 My father serves himself first. His hands betray his work: even a good hand-scrubbing before eating hasn't removed the oil from the creases, or the undersides of his fingernails and the cuticles. If he is lucky, there will be no customers to disturb his dinner. Most days, he is not. He never complains when Rudy barks to signal the arrival of someone, but instead takes his plate and his mug of tea with him into the garage to change oil or a tire. When my mother has finished serving us all, and the older children have buttered the bread for the younger ones, she sits down on the bench to the right of my father's chair, to the left of Melinda, Jeanette, me and Antoine. Thomas and Jean are at the end of the table opposite my father, and the other five--Marriette, Corrine, Ida, Diane, and Lena--sit on the bench to the left of my father's place. When we have finished eating, sopping up any juice with chunks of bread, we flip our plates over to be served a piece of upside down cake. My mother asks out loud to no one but herself what she will make for dinner, and I run outside to play under the afternoon sun, Rudy at my heels.
 On my parents' farm, we harvested our own vegetables to eat and preserve, raised our own pigs and chickens, and made our own maple syrup. We bought our milk, unpastuerized, with the cream on top, from our neighbor. We picked wild blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Beyond the part I played in the work involved, I never gave much thought to food. In our house, my mother did all the cooking, and all that was expected of me was to sit down with the rest of my brothers and sisters in my allotted space three times a day to eat what she made. Like any child, I had my likes and dislikes (the latter of the two being relatively few, certainly in light of my mother's militaristic, no-room-for-questions approach to feeding us), but as I started going to school and seeing what other people my age were eating, I became increasingly unsatisfied with my mother's idea of food. Her homemade bread paled suddenly next to store-bought bread, the graham crackers dipped in melted chocolate didn't quite have the same effect on my peers as their oreos did on me, and little pre-packaged bags of chips and crackers became some kind of irrational necessity. My mother's argument against buying these things--that the other kids' mothers cared less about them by not taking the time to make them the things she made for us--was not satisfactory reasoning, and I believed myself deprived of all that was good in the world. 
 As a student at the University of Maine at Farmington, I got my share of store-bought food. Being the second to youngest in my family, I had never really learned how to cook, and under the constraints of an undergraduate budget, my weekly groceries consisted mostly of pasta, pasta sauce, bread and cold cuts and tomatoes for sandwiches. I missed my mother's cooking. I longed for homemade bread with her jam in the morning. I wished to walk into my kitchen at night and have it be filled with the smell of onions and peppers frying in salt pork drippings. It never occurred to me to do the same. I was not my mother, and only she could cook like that. The kitchens in my various apartments were small, shared spaces; nothing like the large, well-lit place in which my mother created her dishes. I spent a semester abroad in France, the culinary capital of the world, and yet came home after three months of eating mainly in the cafeteria with no new outlook on food preparation. I did, however, return to the United States feeling somehow like I belonged in France. I liked the way they ate--that is to say at specific times, sitting down and talking during and after the meal, and most importantly, with limits to quantity. It would only be three years later, after spending two years in this country, that I would come to understand the quality of food, the importance of seeking out and preserving that quality, and the parallels my own parents' eating habits made with the French, their long lost ancestors.
 When I graduated from UMF, I took a position teaching history and geography to French high school students in Le Mans, a city in western France. Until I could locate an apartment, I lodged with Annick and Yves, friends of my French university professor. Yves was an amazing chef. On my first Sunday staying with them, he took me to the open air market to buy the food he needed to prepare his grand Sunday afternoon meal. The odor of cheeses, roasting fowl, fresh baked bread and fruit filled the air. Old ladies pulled small carts full of fresh food, vendors called out their prices and joked with their competitors about who offered the better product, and young couples with children strolled up and down the rows, buying what they needed until the market came again on Wednesday. Yves knew many of the vendors by name, and each one we came to was introduced to the American girl starving for a taste of real food. I was the daughter of a farmer, a French Canadian one at that, and this alone exempted me from the American stereotype of capitalistic overweight people walking around with a coke in one hand and a super-sized hamburger in the other, so I didn't take offense to his remarks. I liked Yves, and I liked his humor, and I especially liked that he had taken me under his wing and was introducing me to the world of food. We went home that day, and I helped him prep one of the best meals I had ever eaten in my life. 
 Over the next month, and occasionally in the ensuing two years, I would help him prepare these meals. After bellowing in his rumbling, baritone voice that Americans had no place in his kitchen, he would put different piles of vegetables on the table in the dining room. Sitting opposite me, he would demonstrate how he wanted each one cut, looking over the rims of the glasses on the end of his nose every few seconds to see if I understood. After giving me the knife, he'd put both hands on the table and push himself to standing. "Now shut up and get to work!" he'd say. From wherever she was in the house, Annick would yell, "Yves!", but he was already gone into the kitchen and the sound of clattering pots and utensils echoed off the stone walls. After a short while, he'd charge into the dining room to check on my progress, gasping and saying in a high pitched voice, "Ah! Adèle, are you sleeping in here? Ah! The whole thing will be ruined! Annick!" Sometimes, he would take something from my finished pile, take a bite of it, and then throw it back in. When my work was done, I graduated to the kitchen where I got to watch Yves cook. He never measured anything, and almost always tasted everything before, during and after cooking. Before adding any spices, he would open the container and put it under my nose. He'd announce it's name, and say in English, "Niiice!" before taking a pinch of it and adding it to the dish. As the smells of this wonderful meal infiltrated all the corners of the house three or four hours later, Annick would come out of hiding. She would ask what wine would go with the meal, and Yves would holler, "No women in my wine cellar!," before dropping his voice to a normal tone to say, "Okay, well, better you than this American!" and Annick would descend the stairs with very specific directions for the wine he thought would go best with his dish. When she emerged, we would sit down to eat: Yves in a chair at the end of the wooden, rectangular table, and me and Annick on the benches lining each side. 
 After two years of living in Le Mans, I came back to Maine for graduate study in French at the University of Maine, Orono. That summer, I had bought my first cookbook by the Shakers at the Shaker museum store on Sabbath Day Lake Pond. I was interested by the simplicity and resourcefulness of these people, of whom there were only six living members. The black ink drawings of plump-looking men and women gathering vegetables, churning butter or knitting in a rocking chair felt inviting. None of the recipes called for anything that couldn't logically be found in the average kitchen, even mine, and within a matter of months I had tried many of them, earmarking the pages of those I especially liked.
 In January, I started dating Josh, a tall, lean, English major with hair that never did the same thing twice. About a month later, my brother had given me some frozen ground venison from that fall's deer, so I called Josh and told him I was going to make Steak au Poivre and that he was welcome to eat dinner with me. There's no telling what he was expecting from the patty of meat covered with the thin red wine sauce and onions on his plate, but when he took his first bite, he closed his eyes, put his fork down on the table, and leaned against the wall, rubbing his head against it like a cat would when it is content. And I knew he was mine. Though he differed in every other way from all the men I had ever known, one thing was the same: His heart could be won through his stomach.
 Now it is two years later, and I coordinate a food pantry and make teen lunch at a soup kitchen in Portland, Maine. On an average day, my volunteer prep staff consists of three to five adults with differing degrees of downs syndrome, all of whom, with the exception of one, must never be given a knife, and Barry, a retired advertising agent with a big heart and a funny bone. Paramedics are in the dining room helping a man who has just had a seizure as the breakfast crowd clears out and the English as a Second Language group takes its place in one of the dining room corners. One of the breakfast volunteers stays to make quiches at one end of the 12-foot stainless steel work counter. When the phone rings, it could be the woman in charge of food rescue asking me to move the van so she can park, someone from the upstairs day shelter wondering if anyone can make an emergency food box for a client, or a community member asking either about volunteer opportunities or the pantry hours. When the doorbell rings, it could be someone donating anywhere from a bag of canned goods to a truckful of food that I have to take care of or an intoxicated man who, upon taking shelter with a friend or two in the kitchen doorway, has leaned against the buzzer by mistake. A separate charity organization shares a part of the kitchen space with us to prepare lunch for the adult community of Portland. There are anywhere from 5 to 8 volunteers from this organization, 9 if one of them brings her 4-year-old granddaughter who likes to turn the light off when I am inside the walk-in refrigerator. In the pantry food storage area, the large can of red kidney beans I know I saw the day before has disappeared somewhere, and as I search through the dozens of other boxes for more cans, one of them spills on the floor and I have to clean up the mess. Sometime during all of this, lunch is made: two large pots of chili, one meat and one vegetarian, a salad consisting of a medley of raw and sautéed vegetables, some bags of cornbread donated that morning from a local baker, and a huge salad of mixed fresh fruit. At 11:45, it is taken away to the teen center by one of the staff. Only then can I take off my apron and walk home to enjoy the quiet of my apartment for an hour.
 I think about my mother often these days. I imagine I am like her as I put on my apron and set to cooking, whether it be in my own kitchen or at my workplace. Though I may credit the lessons I have learned about cooking and the importance of using natural and organic ingredients in my recipes to far away people and places, I take comfort in the fact that I could have learned them without ever having to leave my own mother's kitchen. Life is funny that way: my travels have brought me home, and I am not a stranger here.


 I approached the idea of this cookbook almost immediately upon the completion of my master's thesis entitled An Historical and Phonetic Study of Palatalization in Quebec. When I embarked on this project, it had been one year since my return from France where I lived for two years. It had been almost ten years since I had started studying standard French, and more than 13 years since the death of my paternal grandfather, which marked the decline in my use of the French dialect I was raised speaking. Through the transcription of the taped conversations of three of my aunts, my mother's youngest sisters who continue to live together on the family farm, through subsequent question and answer sessions with them and my mother, and through the research I  was conducting on pre-Quiet Revolution French spoken in Quebec, I found myself relearning my own maternal tongue. I had, of course, never forgotten how to hear it and understand it, but it had been more than a decade since I had spoken it, and I discovered that the relearning process involved the same kind of work it took me to learn standard French. There were patterns to memorize, vocabulary to learn, and an accent to master, all of them unique to the dialect that traveled across the Canadian border into Maine more than 100 years ago. 
 As I researched and wrote my thesis, I thought a great deal about the advantage my mother and her sisters had over me. While the words and phrases fell out of their mouths naturally and without need for prior reflection, I struggled to keep my consciousness of standard French out of the pronunciation and vocabulary use of my maternal tongue. Despite my troubles, I became aware throughout the year how comfortable it felt to speak my mother's French. It felt like going home. I found myself picking up the phone more and more often to call my mother, just to hear her speak, and more times than not, my excuse for calling involved cooking: how long did she cook a roast? how much butter did she use to make a white sauce? I could have looked up the answer to any of these questions in my various cookbooks, but I discovered that my mother was the most valuable source of information I had. Thus I became aware of yet one more advantage my mother (and later her sisters) had over me: an almost innate, ingrained knowledge for cooking that doesn't involve reflection, that doesn't waste time with books and measuring. It is, then, like the language they speak, something that can be lost if no one takes the time to record it.
 As I compiled the recipes my mother and her sisters learned from their mother into one book, I also envisioned a sort of study that would be a written testimony to the language in which those recipes were communicated to me. This language, which has its roots in 16th-century France, is unique in the sense that it has preserved what many classify today as archaic, or old, French. When the first colonists came to the new world, they came from different regions in France, each of which is said to have had its own fairly unique dialect. However, they all shared an understanding for a more standardized, common language and were able to live amongst each other with no real problems of communication upon arrival in the new world. Early contact with native peoples enhanced the vocabulary of the colonists as they adopted words like ataca (cranberry) into their language. Even the word Quebec comes from a native word meaning "where the river narrows". The French foothold in the new world would be challenged with the fall of Acadia in 1713 to the English and later sealed with the conquest of Quebec in 1763. Though the English deported the Acadians from their land in what is now called "Le Grand Dérangement" (1755-1763), for refusing to take oaths of allegiance to the language and the religion of the crown of England, they allowed the French-speaking colonists in Quebec to continue practicing Catholicism and speaking French. Contact in the cities with English speakers, (and later Americans) who controlled the economy, government and social services in what is now Canada, would also influence the French language which adopted the words and phrases necessary to express itself in a changing world1.
 When my grandparents came to Maine, they brought with them this language. They were farmers, uneducated in reading and writing, a factor that greatly influenced the evolutionary path of the language that would be passed on to me at my birth in 1975. It includes phenomena like palatalization, the topic of my thesis, in which the articulators, (the tongue, teeth, lips, etc.) unconsciously produce t's for k's and g's for d's and vice versa (like in the word moqué for moitié, meaning half), and reinforcement, the technical term behind the g sound we hear at the end of words that end in the standard French yod in words like fille, and travaille (girl and work). It also includes the loss of clear word boundaries. Take for example, the words de ça, meaning "of that". Without the written knowledge needed to reinforce that this phrase consists of two distinct words, who is to say that it is two? The phrase de ça, then becomes one word, and it becomes necessary to set off this word with another de to preserve the meaning of the phrase and the result is ded'ça. We see the same phenomena in English. When speakers of English say "a whole nother..", for example, they are exhibiting their confusion for the boundaries of words. Another, which is one word, takes on the quality of two words A and nother. This confusion does not by any means prove the speaker stupid; instead, it shows two things: though the speaker may be ultimately ignorant of the original boundaries (or lack thereof) in the word another, he/she is exhibiting an understanding for the manipulation of his/her own language, that is to say, that a is an indefinite article introducing a noun. Thus, a speaker would understand the word another, to have the same quality as the phrase a cat.
 This cookbook strives to celebrate the women in my family and their innate knowledge for cooking, a skill and art they have learned from their mother and continue to practice on a daily basis. It also strives to be true to the language in which the recipes were communicated to me. Their manner of cooking and the language they speak risk being lost if they are not recorded. Let this book, then, be a humble picture of the lives of 6 amazing women whose generous and simple hearts testify to the rich and beautiful history of French culture in North America.

1 Poirier, Claude. La langue parlée en Nouvelle France: vers une convergence des explications. Dans Les origines du français québécois. Raymond Mougeon and Edouard Beniak, 1994. Sainte-Foy: Les Presses de l'Université Laval, p. 237-273.


El corton, c'est comme un delicacy, on vâ dzire. Ça se mange chaud ou bédon frette su dzu pain de femme, surtout quand qu'i sort de fourneau. Pepère, parsâume, mangeait çâ des fouet avec des patates, pis menonque Frank, lui, i mange çâ s'es toasts pour el dejeuner.

Pour faire el bon corton, faut user la partsie d'a fesse pis el boutte d'a patte dzu cochon, el bartan, qu'on appelle. Y a un os là-dedans qui fait el bon goût dzu corton, mais si t'a pâs de cochon à la maison à tsuer, tsu peux t'acheter dzu pâurc au staûre pis ça vâ aîte bon pareig. 

Quand que pepère tsuait les cochons, i mettait toutte la panse s'a tab, pis memère trippait toutte çâ. Ça s'appelle el 'grâs de panne'. Quand que c'était toutte rôtée ded'là, alle coupait çâ en marceaux pour el faire routsir. Comme pour el laûrd salé, a finissait par awoaîr d'a graîsse pis des grillades. A prennait les grillades toutte crispy, a les coupait, pis a mettait çâ dans ses cortons.  Mais, bon, t'es pas obligé de faire çâ, toué. 

4 liv de pâurc 
1 gros agnon coupé par tsits marceaux 
4 cloves d'ail, écraûsés
1 c. à tab de sel 
A moqué d'une c. à thé de poaîv

Dans un gros chaudron, mets une quâute et demi de l'eau, ton pâurc, l'agnon, 
l'ail, el sel pis el poaîv. Chauffes-le jusqu'au temps que l'eau bouig, baîsses ton feu su medium-low, pis couves ton plât. Laisses cuire el pâurc jusqu'au temps qu'i seg ben cuItte, à peu près un heure, un heure et demi. Pis là, faut que tsu watches 
pour pâs que ton eau baîsse trop, on va dzire plusse que la moqué. 
Dans ce cas lâ, mets un peu plusse d'eau.

Après que c'est ben cuItte, laisses el paûrc refridzire, rôtes la 
viande d'après l'os, pis haches-la dans un tsit moulin à viande.
Armets el porc haché dans el plât avec l'eau, l'agnon pis l'ail. Baîsses 
ton feu encore plusse pis laisses-le cuire sans couvaîr dzurant 10 à 15 
mInutes. Goûtes-le pour voir s'il est assez salé. Après que toutte l'eau 
évapâure, paquetes el corton dans dzu tupperware ou bédon dans des 
tsits plâts de beurre ou bédon dans des plâts un peu plus beau si 
que t'âs d'a vIsIte. Tsu peux meime el geler si tsu filles pour.



Creton is a sort of delicacy, you might say. You can eat it warm or cold on a slice of homemade bread, especially when it has just come out of the oven. Pepère would sometimes eat his creton with potatoes, and Mononcle Frank will spread it on his toast for breakfast.

To make really good creton, you should use the bartan, the part of the pig that includes the haunches and the leg. There's a bone in there that gives creton its taste, but if you don't have a pig at home to slaughter, you can buy some pork at the store and it will be just fine.

When pepère used to kill his pigs, he would bring the intestines into the house and put it on the table, then emère would go to work taking all the fat off of it. She would cut the fat, chop it up, and fry it. In doing this, she ended up with grease and crispy rinds which she would chop up and add to her creton. But you don't have to do this if you don't want!

4 pounds pork
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tblsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Place all the ingredients in a large pot with 1 and 1/2 quarts of water. 
Bring everything to a boil, then drop the temperature to medium-low
and cover the pot. Cook the pork for approximately 1 and 1/2 
hours. Check the water level from time to time and 
make sure it never diminishes past the half mark.
If it does, you can add a little more water.

When the pork is cooked, take it out of the 
water and allow it to cool. Cut all the meat from 
the bone and grind it or chop it very fine if you don't have a 
grinder. Place the ground pork back in the water. Drop the heat 
down to low and cook, uncovered, for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Taste it to see if there is enough salt, and add more if necessary. When
all the water has evaporated, pack the creton into tupperware, empty
butter containers, or fancier pots for company's sake. You can freeze it.


Tsu peux manger les pettes de sahr drette 
qu'i sortent de fourneau avec un peu
de creume par dessus, ou bédon frette.

Une croûte (p. 34)
A moqué d'une bolle de creume
2 bolles de suc brun

 Chauffes el fournea à 350° pis 
graîsses une câsserole avec dzu beurre.

Brosses la creume avec el suc brun. Roules platte ta croûte en carré un 1/4 de pouce d'épais. 
Graîsses la mélange de creume pis suc dessus, pis roules ta croûte d'un boutte à l'aute. 
Coupes el rouleau en marceaux d'une pouce d'épais pis arranges-les 
ensâume côte à côte dans la câsserole. Mets-les dans el fourneau pour 
35 à 40 mInutes. Armets el syrup qui coule en dehors back dans 
les milieu avec une cuillaîre dzurant qu'i cuisent. 



You can eat nuns' farts straight out of the 
oven with a little cream on top, or cold. 
They're great either way!

1 pie crust (p. 34)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350*
and butter a casserole dish. 

Mix the cream with the sugar. Roll the pie crust into a square on a floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. 
Spread the cream and sugar syrup onto the crust, and roll it from one end to the other. 
Cut the roll into 1/2 inch pieces and arrange them side by side 
in the casserole dish so that they are touching. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. 
While they are baking, spoon any syrup that spills over back into the centers.


Graphic taken from:
Agency/Agence: Bos 
Client:Les alimentations couche-tard 
Ad/Pub.: Les pets de soeurs (Nun's farts) 
Creative Director/Directeur de la création: Roger Gariépy 
Art Director/Directeur artistique: Renaud Séguin 
Writer/Rédacteur: Louis-Thomas Pelletier 
Photographer/Photographe: Pierre Longtin 
Production:Marie Trudelle 
Printer/Imprimeur - Typographer/Typographe: Graphiques Mett

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