Simon Thibault celebrates the Acadian cooking of his childhood
This interview originally aired on Oct. 8, 2018.
A few years ago, journalist and food writer Simon Thibault received a cache of old notebooks filled with family recipes from his mother. It was handwritten, with footnotes and annotations from each generation. It became the basis for Thibault's cookbook Pantry and Palate, which celebrates Acadian cooking.
Writing about Acadian cuisine
"I came to writing Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by chance. A publisher here in Nova Scotia who came to me and said, 'Would you like to do a book about Acadian food?' To be completely honest, my first reaction was, 'Who cares?' I thought nobody was going to care about this little book about Acadian food.
"But because I am a cookbook addict — I collect cookbooks like other people collect tchotchkes — I kept on thinking. There are no books about Acadian food that fit in the same mould of the books that I like to read. I thought, that's my responsibility to other Acadians and to all of the grandmothers and grandfathers who forged the way and fed us into being who we are."
Acadians do it differently
"When people ask me to describe Acadian food, I pull out this joke that it's humble, it's homey and it's a little homely. Often times, you are talking about dishes that have textures and appearances that may not always click with people's idea of what it should be.
When people ask me to describe Acadian food, I pull out this joke that it's humble, it's homey and it's a little homely.
"The perfect example is how Acadians use potatoes. Something very simple, everyone uses potatoes, but they are often rasped or grated in Acadian dishes, giving them this very specific texture, whether it be for rappie pie to make this mass that's vaguely gelatinous to this poutine râpée from New Brunswick, which has this gummy thick stodginess to it. But this was food that was made to keep you on the go. It's subsistence food. It keeps you on the go when you're in the field, on the boat — that's what it's made for. It fills you up and keeps you going."
Simon Thibault's comments have been edited for length and clarity.