Our daughter is a student at our local Waldorf school, a school that does things a bit different from the norm you could say. Their intent is to meet the child where they're at based on their development, and each grade has a series of stories or theme to the year. This year being Grade Five, they are in a year of transition, not quite a teenager yet but not feeling like they can relate to the younger kids in the school either. It is a year meant to give them a solid foundation, preparing them for the Middle School and all of the tumultuous things that await them in the coming years. (Hormones! Projects! Realizing the world around them is bigger than their family and friends!) They start with a focus on the world directly around them through local geography and botany, studying how the people adapted to the land and hearing their stories. They start to branch out into the greater world, starting with Ancient civilizations. They learn about history through mythology to see how myths were born out of reality. Their teacher will tell stories and lead them through work on Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, the culture of Ancient Egypt, dabbling in Greek Mythology and ending the year with a tremendous travel themselves to a city in BC to meet up with other same-aged Waldorf school children, at the Greek Olympics. These stories and ways of leading these 10- and 11- year olds through this year is meant to give them that solid base of home and understanding of the outer world, and starting them on their path of figuring out how they fit in to the greater world and just what is their contribution to that world. Diversity is celebrated, and in fact, tonight's dinner was a celebration of that diversity!
Her class teacher organized a Multi-Cultural Night at our school, in celebration of those cultures that are represented in our class families. Each family was encouraged to bring a dish that celebrates their culture, a food traditionally found in their food repertoire. There were delicious offerings of sushi, perogies, samosas, salami and sauerkraut, pastries, bannock, an eggplant dish, empanadas, BBQ pork buns, jambalaya, pea soup, lamb stew, clam chowder, corn bread and green beans; it really was a feast fit for royalty. Countries represented at the dinner included Norway, Canada, England, Afghanistan, India, Ireland, China, Korea, Scotland, France, Colombia, Denmark, Germany. Our family contributed from both sides, we are lucky to be sharing a city with one set of grand-parents. They represented my father-in-law's roots from Mississippi and brought corn bread and green beans. As my ancestry is part French-Canadian, it was a no brainer that our family's contribution would be one of those staples from Christmas time at my house, tourtière. But not just any tourtière, the Acadian version.
I grew up in a home where my Mom was cooking from scratch all the time; we were the lucky consumers of homegrown veggies and meals made by my Mom. My grand-parents lived next door, so it was a regular thing to go over after school to help my Grand-Maman make cookies (she never followed a recipe! She was amazing!), tarte au sucre, or my Grand-Papa's favourite, Tarte aux raisins. You knew Christmas was upon us when you could smell my mom and Grand-Maman making tourtière, the traditional meat pie served at French-Canadian Christmas feasts and Réveillons since the dawn of time I think! Those scent memories still live in me, witnessed by my gut reaction when preparing this pie last night for the celebration tonight. I was misty-eyed, as the flood of memories came; I immediately thought “Christmas is soon! Everyone will be here soon! This must also mean there are Christmas cookies already baked and stashed away in the house somewhere, I should go look!” Sigh.
Tourtière is a traditional French-Canadian meat pie, and most would be familiar with the version made out of ground meat, either a combination of meats or one single type of ground. My dad has gotten into making a ground chicken version these last few years; I refuse to veer away from the ones that were regulars in my childhood. Call me sentimental, call me old school, I just love this version so much better. If done correctly and with enough time to allow the meat to mellow, it just Melts. in. Your. Mouth. The Acadian version uses stew meat instead, 1 part beef to 2 part pork. Onions are also added late in the game. It's really quite a simple process, and one I continue offering in tradition to my family at this time every year.
I'm including the recipe here, as it was dictated to me by my Maman some 10 or more years ago. The colours look bland, and with such a short list of ingredients, do not be fooled. This ain't a bland tasting seasonal treat at all. I hope you like it.
TOURTIERE DU LAC ST-JEAN (à Grand-Maman Lena et aussi Lorraine)
This amount makes about 2 pies
In a big pot, add 1 lb stew beef cut in cubes and 2 lbs pork shoulder roast cut in cubes. (You might want to remove the fat off of the pork.)
Put enough water in the pot, not enough to cover the meat but enough to see that there is water in there.
Add some salt and pepper.
Stir the meat from time to time as it cooks, breaking the meat up into shreds as it cooks. When the meat is about shredded and is almost done cooking (it will give up its toughness as it cooks), add 4 chopped onions. Let this cook until it's a good consistency. This will take a total of about 5-6 hours, with the onions added for that last hour.
Drain fat or juice if it's too soggy, or add bread crumbs to help absorb those juices in order to make it not leaky. Adjust your salt and pepper. Put in your pie shell, and add your pie lid. Bake at 350F for 1 hour or until the top crust is a nice golden brown.
Wishes to you for a smooth sailing kind of season ahead. Keep chaos at bay, friends. And make some tourtière.
*And truly, this being 2015 and in the spirit of sanity, I opted to use a store-purchased pie shell. I found a quite clean version in the freezer at my favourite local Health Food Store I felt ok using, from Wholly Wholesome. Straight up ingredients: organic wheat flour, organic palm oil, water, organic cane sugar, sea salt. My adrenals were requesting a free hall pass for this one. I obliged.