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Writer's Corner- New Brunswick

Mom's Little Treasures
Mom's Little Treasures
By Brigitte Greene
Saint John New Brunswick
Written in November 2007

   This next story was submitted by Brigitte Greene on behalf of her mother who is no longer with us. This one I'm sure will bring out some good memories for who read it, I know it got me! Thanks for sharing Brigitte.

   Many of my favourite childhood memories are those that involve Christmas. Lately, I especially love reminiscing about holiday traditions handed down from my parents. One tradition I am especially fond of is the baking of meat pies or as mom called them - "pâtés" or "p'tits cochons". For as long as I can remember, there was not a Christmas that passed without this annual treat in our Northern New Brunswick home. Mom only made them at Christmastime. Because, after all, if you make something this special too often, it may become a bit ordinary and risks loosing that unique feeling of a true Christmas tradition.

   So, each year mom would take on the task of baking these little treasures. I vividly remember coming in from the cold after having played outside for hours to find mom busily stirring a large pot of meat boiling away on the stove. She would be wearing a brightly coloured dress protected by a holiday apron and she always wore high heel shoes. I would always manage to sneak a spoonful or two from the large pot, in spite of mom's watchful eye.

   Granted, my aunts also made meat pies but their recipes weren't quite like ours. They would likely grind their meat that would include beef, chicken, pork and some diced potatoes. Then, they would fill regular size piecrusts with this mixture. Mom, on the other hand, used beef, pork, savory and sometimes rabbit, if someone we knew happened to snare some for us. Then instead of the traditional pie, she made what we called "des p'tits cochons". These were little turnovers just the right size for one serving. This recipe was one handed down from my grandmother, Mémére Chamberlain.

   As years passed and mom grew older I was determined to carry on this tradition. So, I asked mom for a few baking tips. Any help was appreciated because to this day, basic pastry is still a challenge for me. My mother, on the other hand would bake every recipe from memory. So her pastry recipe consisted of 5 cups of flour, 2 fingers shy of a pound of shortening and enough water to wet the mixture to the right consistency.

   For the following 15 years, I always made a point of calling my mother on the day I set out to bake my "pâtés". In earlier times, I called mostly for advice or to chat about how big of a mess I had managed to make in my kitchen.

   Then, in recent years, my mother started showing signs of dementia. So, mostly I called to remind her how special this tradition was to me. I called to tell her that her love of Christmas had sparked my love for this special holiday. My mother's enthusiasm and childlike fondness shown through, even as her memory was fading and familiar pleasures sometimes got lost in the back of her aging mind. Her face still lit up at the mention of Christmas.

   Mom passed away this passed October, just shy of her 90th Christmas. So today, as I play some of her favourite Christmas music, I am especially looking forward to baking a batch of "pâtés". I feel as though I should be wearing a lace trimmed apron and high heel shoes. I let my mind wander back to my childhood days when mom was her vibrant self. My mother's passion for life's simple pleasures, still warm my heart. So, as I glance at my mom's picture on the mantel, my eyes tear up. Let's see now, 5 cups of flour, two fingers shy of a pound of shortening…"Merry Christmas mom, this batch is for you!"


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