The past month since my Aunt's ( Ama as she was known ) passing has been one of reflection and rembrance. My childhood mostly. Baking at Christmas with my Grandmother and my aunt, the road trips to Canada bringing food home to NY, the Holiday dinners just to name a few. Ama gave me a handwritten book a few yrs ago with family recipes in it. The first page was the dedication page upon which she wrote, " Dear Michele, Keep the memories and the traditions. Enjoy! Love, Aunt Marie Anne ". It was very important to her that we kept the memories in our hearts and taught are children what we were taught. I grew up proud of my family, my Canadian roots , my name, the country and especially the food. One of my most favorite dishes...a true "COMFORT FOOD", is a dish called Pate Chinois, which means Chinese Pot. It was delicious and I couldn't wait for my Grandmother or my aunt to make it. I wanted it more often so learned to make it myself, as its really not very hard. Never understanding why it was called Pate Chinois, I googled it and came up with these possible reasons for its name.....The first possible explanation for the 'Chinese' reference is that it was introduced to Chinese railway workers by Canadian cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. These cooks made it under instruction from the English bosses as an easily-prepared, inexpensive version of the popular shephards pie, with the sauce in the can of creamed-corn serving as a substitute for the gravy. The French Canadian railway workers became fond of it and brought the recipe back with them to their home communities. Another more probable explanation for the name was traced by Lionel Guimont, a student of linguistics at Laval University, who shared his idea with Quebec language historian Claude Poirier. Mr. Poirier later published an article to this effect. Mr. Guimont had met an old native of Maine who was visiting Canada for the first time and had heard the man call the dish "China pie". Based on the fact that "pâté chinois" would normally translate in "Chinese pie", referring to the country (like in "French fries" as opposed to "*France fries"), Mr. Guimont wondered why the old man said "China pie", which in English refers to a city or a region (like in "Boston cream pie" as opposed to "*Bostonese cream pie"). He then found that two towns in the state of Maine, called China and South China, had been a favorite destination for Québécois forest workers, who came down from la Beauce along the Kennebec river by the turn of the century. Even today, a vast portion of the population of the China region is from Québécois descent and still bear French names so Mr. Guimont concluded that the name "pâté chinois" had not come down to Maine from B.C. via Québec (and become "Chinese pie") but rather went the other way. "China pie" must have been a common dish in lumbering camps and in mills kitchens around China. It had been (wrongly) translated later by the workers returning to Québec into "pâté chinois" because of the awkwardness of "pâté de Chine" in the French language. In parts of Maine, "pâté chinois" is referred to as "Chinese Party" -- phonetically more similar to the French term. How the dish was named is still a mystery to me but it is one of many reasons I love my Canadian heritage. Today I am making Pate Chinois for a supper tommorow as I will be spending the afternoon and evening with my Aunt Carole Anne ( Aca as we now refer to her....the Sister of Ama ). I thought it fitting that we are spending the night at Ama's house with a little comfort food from our younger days. Here is to you Ama and Grandma......I hope I do you proud!
Pate Chinois Recipe:
2 lbs ground beef....browned
1 medium onion chopped
1 tsp olive oil
4 small cans corn or creamed corn ( I have never used creamed corn )
Mashed potatoes to cover top of casserole
1.cook the onions in the oil until translucent. Add ground beef and
brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Layer meat and onions into
casserole dish ( approximately 2in layer )
2. Layer corn ( if using reg corn- drain liquid , if creamed use all of the can) on top of ground beef
3. Layer mashed potatoes on top of corn approximate 2 inch layer
4. Bake in oven at 375 until inside is hot and potatoes are golden brown on top.
It is delicious and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Rappelez-vous, la vie est pleine de délicieuses bouchées!!