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Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset

A century of faith,   pp. [39]-108

Page 107

In the Province of Quebec, the average farm is z acres
wide and 40 acres long, so one's neighbors are close to each
other, as all build on the short side of their ribbonlike farm
with the houses facing the road.
During Lent the visiting is practically stopped, but as spring
rolls around another type of gayety begins, when the maple sap
starts to run and the maple sugar and syrup harvest starts. Prac-
tically all of the farmers have several acres of maple trees on
their land, called "the sugar bush" . . . Cabins are built near the
sugar bush where practically the whole family stays during those
few weeks.   It takes 30 gallons of sap to make a gallon of
syrup, so they have to work almost continuously at the boiling
and filtering. Every member of the family helps and they are
really kept very busy.
Maple sugar time, the city people made up sleighride
parties to go to the maple woods for celebrations . . . When the
boiled sap reaches a certain stage, spoons full of it are ladeled
out and spread on the clean snow to harden, making a sort of
maple taffy . . . Another delicacy was the poaching of a whole
egg in the boiling syrup  . . Really delicious, the egg served float,
ing in the syrup . . . Another tid-bit that was really enjoyed
was the "beignets" - a rich egg dough was made and cooked
by dropping by spoonsful in the boiling maple sap - a sort
of maple fritter.
Fast and abstaining of meat during Lent and Holy Week
was really very strictly kept. My mother (who came from
Trois Rivieres, Quebec) often told me that when she was young
no meat was eaten from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday was a very busy day indeed - polishing all
meat cooking utensils, many of them copper, in preparation for
the feast on Easter Sunday.
For the Easter feast a tiny new spring lamb, called "Agneau
de Paques" was the piece de resistance. It was roasted uncov,
ered, with thick slices of onions giving it special flavor. The
lamb was used because it is symbolical of The Lamb of God,
Risen Savior.
In the latter part of May are the Rogation Days - 3 days
set aside for special prayers for a successful harvest.  Farmers
brought their seeds to church to be blessed with special prayers
by the parish priest. . Because 9 5 percent of the French Can,
adians are Catholics, many customs- observed are religious cus-
The national feast of the French Canadians is celebrated on
Midsummer Day, June 24, St. John the Baptist Day, patron
of Canada ... It was a holiday in Canada, and was so observed
in Somerset when I was a child. There was a special High
Mass in the morning attended by almost all the parishioners. In
the afternoon several families would get together, driving with
horse and buggies, to a nearby lake or river for a big picnic.
And when a family could not get away, there was a picnic
planned for their own yard. It was a day to be spent outof,
doors. Other days on which family picnics were held were
Pentecost Sunday, and the feast of St. Anne.
The feast of "La Toussaint" (All Saints Day), November
i, a holy day, was the day set aside by the French Canadians
to pay their debts . . . When one would say, 1Il pay you on
All Saints Day", it was as good as a note . . . The harvest had
all been gathered and their hay and grain sold, so they were
ready to pay their debts. The next day, November z, is All
Souls Day, a day set aside for special prayers for the departed
On November 25 was celebrated the Feast of St. Cather-
ine, the patron saint of all unmarried girls.  On that day a
French girl who has reached z5 officially becomes an old
maid, and wears a special little white cap to show that she is
unmarried and over 25 . . . That evening taffy pulls were
usually the form of entertainment.  If fresh snow had fallen
recently big pans of it were brought into the house and the
warm taffy syrup was poured on it to cool before it was pulled.
A girl always picked her special boy friend to help her pull
her strand of taffy.
The French are noted as good cooks - and are proud
of their table service. The French feel that some mysterious
relationship exists between a spotless tablecloth, nice silver and
dishes, and good food on one hand - and a happy home with
a proud contented father and smiling happy children on the
And French foods . . . "La Soupe au Pois" Pea Soup is
almost known as the national dish of the French. Because it
is often served on Fridays, the French cook makes it without
any ham or meat stock, using butter for richness, and rice, celery
and onions with seasonings. The green peas are usually pre,
ferred by the French. Pea Soup is good.
Pork roast is also a favorite . . . The fat drippings from
the roast are put into a bowl, and when cooled and set is
spread on bread instead of butter.  It was called "Grece de
The most luxurious dessert served is "Crepes Suzette".
They are very thin pancakes, luscious with sugar, grated lemon
and orange peel and liqueurs, and fried on hot buttered pans.
The cakes are then rolled and a hot sauce, made of butter,
sugar, orange and lemon peel and curacao. The rolled pan-
cakes are placed in this sauce, sprinkled with powdered sugar,
and brandy poured over and ignited.  This sauce is usually
made in a chafing dish right at the table and served from it.
"Charlotte Russe" was another favorite dessert.  A mold
is lined with lady fingers and then filled with whipped cream,
stiffened with gelatine, and tinted a delicate pink and flavored
with peppermint.  When brought to the table on a pretty
crystal dish it looked as good as it later tasted when rich
chocolate sauce was poured over each serving.
And maple syrup . . . It has been said that most French
cooking would lose its appetizing flavor without maple syrup.
It is used with cream on puddings, apple dumplings, and even
poured over apple pie ... delicious ... And maple syrup pie is
really delectable. the filling is made with I cup maple syrup,
1/2 cup water, yolks of two eggs, z tablespoons of flour in a
small amount of water. Cook in a double boiler until thick.
Pour into a baked shell and either make a meringue from the
z egg whites, or cover the pie with whipped cream.
Christmas, the last feast day in the year . . . Every house
would put up a "creche", sometimes a very humble one, simu-
lating the manger in which the Christ Child lay. At dusk my
mother always made quite a ceremony of lighting the candle
in the window - to light Him on His way.
The house was always decorated with boughs, garlands and
wreaths of greens, but the Christmas tree was never trimmed
until the small children were fast asleep on Christmas Eve.
We used to pin up our stockings and in the morning find them
filled with fruit, candy and nuts, but if one had been naughty
he would find only a small potato in the foot of his stocking ...
Everyone went to Midnight Mass, and afterwards there was
a "Reveillons" at home, everyone bringing along a friend. There
would be hot, rich oyster stew to open the supper, then fresh
"tete fromagee' (head cheese) with bread and butter, and for
dessert, fritters cooked in maple syrup served with hot black
coffee.  Not until the wee hours of the morning did the
celebrants go to bed, but the children, who had slept all night,
were up early to see what "le bon Nicolas" had brought them.
Mornings were spent in delivering gifts to neighbors and friends
nearby . . . In the late afternoon the festive dinner was served
with either a goose or turkey, and for dessert a flaming plum
pudding . . . The singing of Christmas carols, with all members
of the family joining in, closed the day.
And here we are, ready for another New Year's Day, filled
with blessings, kissings, and visiting . D d   a     e
-By 1Donalda LaGrandeur

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