Monday, November 29, 2021

Rant: Preserving Family Traditions

This past Thanksgiving, we had a nontraditional dinner, without even a drumstick of turkey. We enjoyed a large pan of Rappie Pie, also known as Pate a la Rapure, although many people may not know this dish. 

Rappie Pie is a traditional Acadian dish. Around the 17th century, the Acadians were the earliest European settlers of Canada, having originated in France, and primarily settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the English expelled most of them in the 18th century, with numerous Acadians relocating to Louisiana.  Rappie Pie may have made its first appearance in Nova Scotia around 1755 when the Acadians were expelled. There are a few legends though that it's creation may actually extend back to the 1500s. 

Rappie pie is a made from grated potatoes or in French, "patates râpées." The French word râper means "to grate." Thus, that became transformed into "rappie" pie. Once the potatoes are grated, most of the water and starch is removed. This used to be done by squeezing the potatoes in a cheese cloth, a laborious process, so that it took two to three days to make rappie pie. Then, broth would be added along with meat, onions and pork fat to make a casserole type dish. Nowadays, it is easier and quicker to prepare as you can buy frozen packets of potatoes where the water and starch has already been removed. 

There are a number of variations on this basic recipe, some people using different types of meats or even seafood like clams. People may top their rappie pie with butter or molasses, and there is an old adage that the English use butter and the French molasses. Some people may top their rappie pie with other items, such as even ketchup, but that is much less common.

In our family, Rappie Pie was usually made for special occasions, and often at large family events, a time for everyone to gather together, catch up on our lives, and enjoy great food and drink. This was a fine tradition, and an excellent way to keep Rappie Pie relevant. However, to keep this tradition alive, the new generations need to learn how to make Rappie Pie, so they can eventually take the lead and prepare this Acadian dish for future generations, 

Fortunately, there are members of our newer generations who have taken up the gauntlet, to learn how to prepare Rappie Pie. When my sister-in-law prepared the Rappie Pie for Thanksgiving, her son helped her, learning how to make this dish. Earlier this month, other members of the newer generations were also given lessons in making Rappie Pie. It's a tradition that will live on for future generations and that is a wonderful thing.

Preserving such family food traditions is important, to ensure those old and treasured recipes don't die out, and to also help brings families together. Sometimes these recipes are oral only, and it is vital for someone to write them down, to record them so they can continue. Younger generations need to step up and learn how to prepare these family traditions, to prevent them from dying out. I'm sure many of my readers have their own family food traditions and I hope that they will continue to be cherished by the newer generations. 

For our family, Rappie Pie will live on!

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