Simplifying and updating our traditions to fit our lives – I’ve written and spoken about this lately. And so today, we have a guest blog post, from my friend, Donna, about how her family has continued important tradition, but modified it with each generation to make it “theirs.”
Matriarchs & Meat Pies
ack to the days of my great, great grandmother at least, our family has enjoyed the tradition of the making of French meat pies for a traditional New Year`s Day party. The tradition originated with our family in Melansonville, Nova Scotia.
These days, I make the family meat pies with my two oldest nephews. They have no idea how unique they are, in this tradition.
Tradition says that the matriarchs make the meat pies, and the children do not assist. The females wait their turn which is when the current matriarchs can no longer handle the responsibility.
So my grandmother (Memere) made the meat pies with her sister, Aunt Leonie, until the ends of their lives. My mom, Yvette took over, with her sister, Dot.
I could watch, with my younger brother, but we never helped because that was not our role. Making the meat pies indicated who the matriarchs were, and they were strong women, my family.
ack then, the women made 30-35 meat pies. It`s a lot, yes, but even more of a feat when you know that the pies were made in a kitchenette, which measures about 4 B= feet square.
When the meat pies are ready for storage, we put them on the front porch. And each year, another part of our meat pies tradition is to pray for cold weather ` not cold enough to freeze the pies, but cold enough to keep the meat fresh! These days, the porch is glassed in, but it was open air back in the day.
Some Changes – “Firsts”
My dad was the first male to help make pies. My mother was the last surviving female of her generation, so as she aged and had health issues he got involved, although she supervised and did what she could. As gentle and loving as he was in taking care of my mom, he also used those skills as he took on a role in meat pie cooking. He is Portuguese, and back then, the marriage of a French woman and Portuguese man was frowned upon, and nearly disallowed by the church and their families. So this was, indeed, a special honor he was given, on many levels.
I am the first to involve children. My two eldest, twin nephews helped make the meat pies beginning at the age of seven. We have great fun as we discuss life at their age and love the time we spend, just us. Last year, it was a discussion of how we`d structure our French meat pie making business. Who the CEO, CFO and chief baker would be.
My housemate has helped for as long as I have made the meat pies. And my cousin has also helped. So we`ve mixed it up a bit, but we continue the tradition every year.
We share the pie outside family. My dad`s social group meets at the local McDonald`s almost daily. They go out dancing and take field trips together.
So he has a new tradition based on meat pies. He has a party for his group and it`s in February near the date of my mother`s passing. He serves meat pies; we make extra for just this purpose. I love that we honor her in this way.
Special ingredients: My meme`s friend first did this. She had run out of milk to brush on the crusts so that when you pinch the bottom and top crusts together, they stay together. She licked her two fingers and pinched! So, just to be funny, each year, my meme, my mother and now I lick our fingers for one pie crust, honoring a tradition!
Each year, dad finds the best price for ground pork. I pull out the recipe in my mother`s handwriting. We discuss many times how we`re going to find the time to travel to dad`s so we can boil the meat in time but not too early (an hours-long process), and how many pies we`ll be making this year.
I took on the tradition at a mere 50 years old, so I had still waited a long time for the privilege! And now, each year, we have the pleasure of `my boys` joining us to carry on our traditions, just in quite a different way from the family ever imagined, back in Melansonville, Nova Scotia.