BRYSON, Que. — Ivan Saunders stood in the kitchen at the Lions Club, filling a metal bowl — a particular metal bowl, so big you could bathe a dog in it — with cups of flour and bricks of lard. He started to spoon in baking soda, then paused, nodding at one of the dozen other cooks.
“Would you —”
The cook walked to the kitchen’s electric panel, opened it and squinted at the faded label stuck to the inside of the panel door. Then he barked out the number of tablespoons of baking soda required and Saunders, 80, went back to mixing, spraying flecks of lard and flour onto his shirt.
Decades earlier, an old man who cooked at the logging camps in northern Quebec saw Saunders struggling with the dough and passed on his recipe. Ivan used a blue pen to scratch a few numbers and letters on the electrical panel as a reminder — more a code than a recipe. Those numbers have served ever since as the only written instructions guiding this contingent of amateur cooks in their summer ritual. They guard it carefully, always cognizant of their rivals in neighbouring towns.
Here, in Bryson, Que., a village of 647 people, west of the Gatineau Hills along the Ottawa River, the long weekend in August is reserved for the picnic. It is a festival with one purpose: to honour an extraordinary, endangered meat pie.
©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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