When I first got to know and love Fahbio, I learned that his mother was Italian and his father was Acadian. I didn’t know anything about Acadia or Acadians other than they were from the Atlantic coast of Canada and that they were French descendants.
Coming from an Italian home (Fahbio grew up in a duplex with his Italian grandparents living downstairs), it wasn’t surprising how many memories of childhood were food related. One of the things I kept hearing about was “raw pea pie”. Even after I had met his parents and siblings, and they had all spoken the name out loud, “raw pea pie”, I was still in the dark as to what this could be. I imagined a vibrant green pea purée (raw seemed a bit weird but whatever), maybe enriched with crème fraîche, poured into a baked, homemade tart shell.
Imagine my consternation, and surprise, the first time I was presented with this (and given butter and molasses to pour on top):
The beloved Acadian dish was “rappie pie”. I admit I was still in the dark. It turns out that the name refers to the grating of potatoes (râpure).
The history of the Acadian people is fascinating but complicated. Here is the shorter-than-Coles Notes version. They came from France in the 17th century and settled on the East Coast. Their culture evolved independently of the French settlers who came to live in Quebec. In the 18th century they were expelled from Canada when France and Britain were at war. Canada was part of Britain at that time and it was feared that they were French sympathizers. Over 11 000 Acadians were deported. Many were sent back to France or to Louisiana where they developed the Cajun culture. Some Acadians eventually returned to Canada and settled back in the Maritimes.
Fahbio’s family is from southern Nova Scotia, near Yarmouth. This is a proudly Acadian part of the province where you will see Acadian flags flying everywhere. They speak a unique French dialect here. Acadians in Nova Scotia are also fluent in English and will often mix the two together.
The neat things about this part of the province are: how there are so many locally owned businesses; how unique the culture and cuisine are; and also how “regionally diverse” this small area is. By “regionally diverse” what I am trying to say is that you will find a local specialty prepared a certain way in a village and the next village over, you will find the same dish prepared in a different way. Each village is, of course, biased to their own way of doing things.
And that’s where the rappie pie comes in. You’ll get rappie pie anywhere you go in Acadian Nova Scotia. You can get frozen blocks of specially grated potatoes in the grocery store. You’ll see family heirloom, handmade rappie pie graters. But Jeez Louise don’t go to Eelbrook and expect to get a Wedgeport style rappie pie. In fact, if you know what’s good for you, don’t even mention Wedgeport rappie pie in Eelbrook.
Okay – that’s enough for one day. Stay tuned next time for the actual recipe. Abrams River style. I asked Fahbio the population of Abrams River and he said 7. He’s exaggerating but not by much. Now I need to get some rest because when I publish the rappie pie recipe, I expect the grated potatoes to hit the fan.