Saturday, November 08, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

Making poutine râpée in Leominster, Mass.

Leominster Champion
November 7, 2008

Break the weekend routine with some fresh poutines
St. Cecilia's Holiday Fair serves up French treats, along with family fun

By Diane C. Beaudoin, Champion Correspondent

Pictured (front to back) making poutines are Germaine Gagnon, Jeanette Nolan and Ginette LeBlanc. (Champion photo / Cheryl Cuddahy)

"How about those poutines?" That was one phrase that was heard throughout St. Cecilia's School's kitchen earlier this week as the annual gathering of French Canadian and French Acadian men and women peeled, eyed, rolled and stuffed pork into snowball-looking dumplings to make thousands of servings of the famous French Canadian dish poutine râpée.

Poutine râpée is a dish that originates from the Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island and consists of a potato dumpling stuffed with a pork filling. Don't confuse the dish with the Quebec fast-food snack called poutine- -french fries and cheese curds covered with brown gravy—the two dishes are completely different.

St. Cecilia's Holiday Fair has become a landmark for the Acadian treat, thought of as a treat by many. The fair has become synonymous with poutines, which completely sell out every year.

According to Gary Roy, one of the workers in the kitchen, this year the fair workers will make between 2,400 and 2,500 poutines.

"We have 110 bags of potatoes, each weighing 50 pounds, so that is a lot of poutines," he said.

Louise Boucher is in charge of organizing the workers, as well as selling the dumplings prior to and during the fair itself.

"There are many jobs with making the poutines. We need the potatoes peeled, take the eyes out, they get grated, some potatoes are cooked, others are left raw. Then the water has to come out, then it's the making of the balls. Then they have to be boiled for three hours," she explained.

One clever invention to get the water out of the potatoes is to put them in a special washing machine used just for that purpose. The potatoes are put on the spin cycle and that saves hours worth of manual work.

Germaine Gagnon was one of the ladies who measured out the potatoes prior to them getting the pork in the middle. Mrs. Gagnon said poutines are eaten many different ways, including pouring molasses over them, brown or white sugar sprinkled on top, and even ketchup poured over them.

One of the original poutine ladies is Fleur Ange Bachand who really does not remember when she didn't help out in the kitchen.

"I've been coming since the first year to help out. It's been years and years making these," she quipped.

Jeannine Brideau is another long time worker, taking over the kitchen duties 30 years ago when the original kitchen manager, Eileen Gionet retired.

"The poutines are what everyone asks for," she noted.

Claire Robichaud worked for hours taking the eyes out of the peeled potatoes and making sure all the little pieces of skin were off.

"These are made with love," she joked.

The fair also features french dishes like pork pies and rappe.

As the assembly like of potatoes workers snaked from three rooms, everyone had fun with whatever position they held. Buckets of potatoes waited to be grated, peels were collected form the workers, and the aroma of potatoes simmering away permeated the entire area.

The beehive of activity has become a tradition in the French community with most workers looking forward to the call to duty that it is once again poutine time.
"It's a week long event getting all the food ready, but we have fun doing it all," Boucher said.

St. Cecilia's Parish Annual Holiday Fair
5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7 and 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8
St. Cecilia's School 188 Mechanic St., Leominster, Mass.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So a person runs up, gives you a hug and. . .

Hump Day
by Brian Cormier
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

It happened again this week. Someone came up to me in a public place and was absolutely thrilled to see me. I got a hug. I got introduced to their better half. They mentioned the column and how much they enjoyed it.

And I sat there completely blank. Not a clue. Oh, I knew her. I remembered how I knew her, too. But I would have sold my soul to the devil right then and there to remember her name.

All of a sudden, a mutual acquaintance came by and started chatting up my long-lost nameless friend. "Great," I thought. "Surely they're going to scream out 'Martha!' or 'Mathilda' or something!" But no! As I stood there squirming and trying like mad to remember her name, the mutual acquaintance simply squealed, "Hey you!"

Oh lovely. That was a big help!

So we kept on chatting. I asked her about her son. At least I remembered she had a son. He's 24 now and I felt very old when we eventually figured out that the last time I saw him, he was all of nine years old. We also chatted about her career and she told me what she was up to. "I'm in the Yellow Pages!" she said, quite excitedly. I would have been excited, too, had I remembered the poor dear's name. The least I could do is remember her bloody name after she was so happy to see me.

She told me where to find her in the Yellow Pages and in what section. By then, I was pretty much weeping inside. "For the love of all that his holy, woman, remind me what your name is!" I screamed internally.

We chitchatted some more and eventually went on our separate ways. I told her I'd drop by to visit her business and prayed to every saint in heaven that I would find the listing and finally get a clue to the name of who I was talking to.

Finally, I arrived home and dove at the telephone book like a cat on a mouse and tore through the pages until I finally found the page she said she was on. "Barb!" I screamed like a banshee, sounding so happy you'd think that I'd just won the lottery.

Now, why couldn't I have remembered that? And more importantly, why couldn't I have just admitted to her that I couldn't remember her name for the life of me. It must be that same phenomenon that stops us from admitting that we were sleeping when someone calls on the telephone.

Someone could call me at 3 a.m. (please don't experiment with this, by the way) and I swear I'd probably answer and say, "No no . . . it's OK. I was up."

I'm not sure why we can't just admit that our memory has temporarily failed us. When someone is so happy to see you, I guess you don't want to make the other person feel bad or unimportant if you break down and honestly tell them that you can't remember their name.

This goes for forgotten addresses, too. Last Saturday, I visited with friends. We had a nice chat -- that was, when I finally found their house. I'd been there before, but that was months ago and only during the day. When I left home on Saturday night to head over, I found the street fine, but couldn't remember exactly which house they lived in.

Finally, I had it narrowed down to two, but wasn't about to show up at some stranger's house with a bottle of red wine. Had I knocked, I would have likely panicked, and in a desperate move to save face would have tried to convince them that I was with the local neighbourhood committee and was there to welcome them to the area. "But we've lived here for 15 years," they would likely say, with my luck. "Hey!" I'd reply, in complete snit, "I didn't say we were efficient."

Of course, then I'd have to show up at my friends' house with no wine and either go through a long song and dance about how I'd completely forgotten my manners or tell them a teary-eyed story about how I'd purchased a beautiful $100 bottle of wine and was mugged at their doorstep by the alcoholic grandma next door.

So when I showed up at the house with 162 on the front, bottle of wine in hand, I realized that I was really looking for 172. My finger was practically on the doorbell when I slinked away, hoping to goodness that no one inside saw me walk up. By the time I made it over to 172, the correct address, I walked in like I'd been going there for years.

I'm not sure why we feel the need to cover up our tracks when we make a mistake or are caught in a moment of weakness. We should just make a self-deprecating joke about it and move on . . . you know, have a good laugh about our fallible human condition. But no, we somehow feel the need to keep our egos in check.

Had the people at 162 actually opened their door to find me -- a complete stranger -- there with a bottle of wine, I'm sure I could have thought up something and we could have had a laugh.

And if I had just fessed up to my old friend and admitted that I couldn't for the life of me remember her name, I'm sure we could have had a few chuckles and weaved in a joke here and there about getting older and how our memories are failing us. I guess ego-preservation took over.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to break it to my bosses that a hungry hippo ate that overdue project. A terrible tragedy! I hope I manage to cry when I tell them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In honour of Barack Obama's election...

... here's Seal with A Change Is Gonna Come.

History made in U.S. election

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

U.S. election is today

If you're a political junkie like me, then you'll likely be watching the U.S. election results tonight. I'm going to go out on a limb... take a huge risk... (I'm being sarcastic)... and predict that Barack Obama will be elected President of the United States tonight. You can't argue with polls... every one of them. Whatever happens, it will be very interesting. And if Obama wins... historic, too.

If you're reading this from the U.S., VOTE!

This week's Hump Day column...

... is all about trying to cover up innocent mistakes and lapses in memory. Instead of just admitting to our human failings, why do we keep trying to pretend they didn't happen and make up excuses?

Check out Hump Day on the editorial page of tomorrow's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted here online on Thursday.

Monday, November 03, 2008

SNL's parody of The View

This is too funny. If you watch The View regularly, this is pretty much bang on the mark.

Sunday, November 02, 2008