Acadie Authentique hopes to spark a conversation about Acadian culture around the dinner table

When I walked into Marc Bastarache’s kitchen for our interview I could see his ‘tools of the trade’ laid out on the counter: pots, pans, pickles, potatoes, and a history book. The book, dog-eared and erupting with sticky notes, is historian John Mack Faragher’s A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland. Although seemingly out of place, a quick conversation with Bastarache will show you that it is anything but. 

For a champion of Acadian cuisine, the history of the early Maritime settlers goes hand-in-hand with their food culture. “The Acadian story is regionality, their similarities and differencesthat is reflected in the food,” he explained. “The tiny details matter.”

Bastarache is the owner of Spud Venture Inc, a new company that plans to sell unique Maritime-processed foods under the brand name “Acadie Authentique.” The goal is to have products for sale in time for the Congrès mondial acadien (World Acadian Congress) that Prince Edward Island is co-hosting this month.

Currently, Acadie Authentique offers blocks of specially prepared grated potatoes, a fundamental ingredient in many dishes, and salted green onions, another Acadian staple. More products, like sweet bread and butter pickles, are expected to be added to the lineup in the future. “What I’m set up to do is provide these specialty Acadian ingredients,” Bastarache said. “They’re ingredients to produce Acadian foods that are difficult to find, difficult to make, or simply not accessible to certain people.” 

The larger idea behind the brand is that people can use the premade ingredients as a tool to explore Acadian culture around the dinner table. Bastarache uses the grated potato as an example to explain how it could work. In the past, many Acadian families would spend labour-intensive hours grating potatoes and squeezing the water out of them. “By processing the potatoes ahead of time, it gives people the ability to actually get the food to the table and tell that story,” he stated. “All the while remembering those moments of hard work.”

Growing up in Nova Scotia, Bastarache became familiar with cultural fare early in life. His parents, both Acadian, often made dishes from their home regions in the Maritimes. Those traditional recipes, like priceless gems to a “foodie”, were eventually passed down to him. His mother, hailing from the St Mary’s Bay region in Nova Scotia, taught him how to make rappie pie, a comforting “variable” dish made with grated potatoes and meat (chicken, beef, game meat, or bar clams are popular choices). His father, with roots in the Bouctouche region of New Brunswick, showed him how to make poutine râpée, a special boiled potato dumpling with a pork filling. 

Still, it was just three-and-a-half years ago (and several thousand history book pages) that Bastarache began intensely researching his heritage and family history. As someone who was always curious about food, the topic of Acadian cuisine quickly became an obvious point of interest. After a move to Prince Edward Island with his wife and family in 2014, things for Spud Venture Inc “just fell into place.”

When asked about his personal sense of cultural connection through cooking, Bastarache became thoughtful. “You do think about the history of it…the people that have made it over the years, the different kitchens, the work that it took, and how it has stuck through the generations,” he said. Then, with a pause, he walked over to a long and rounded potato grater that was hung on the wall—his grandmother’s. “This is what I think about when I make it,” he continued with a smile.

Regarding potential customers, Bastarache hopes that they will enjoy the products, and the preparation, as much as he does. “I want them to be curious. I want them to try this Canadian food that’s pre-Canadian,” he remarked. “A lot of our other foods have been adopted, but this is a different part of Canadian history.” 

As for the business side of things, Spud Venture Inc and Acadie Authentique mean a little bit more than the average venture to Bastarache. “It’s about providing ingredients for people that know it and want it… and those that don’t know it and want to explore. It’s about creating a stimulating discussion through local and valuable products,” he continued. “I would love for people to buy the products, of course, but if it inspires them to buy their own potatoes and do it their own waythe old waythen even better. Even greater is to spark a conversation about the food.”

About Molly Pendergast

As a self-proclaimed "broke bon vivant," Molly spends a lot of time thinking about food, talking about food, and trying new food. She is a recent graduate of Carleton University's Journalism School and loves nothing more than telling/listening to a good story. If you ever need to chat with her, the topic of baked goods is usually a great place to start.

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