Riches of Richmond County

Pauline Bona in front of her Inn, Arichat, Cape Breton

Pauline Bona in front of her Inn, Arichat, Cape Breton

I’m starting to feel like that crazy road runner; wheels spinnin’, darting in and out all over the place. But I always come to a screeching halt somewhere—and relish what’s there to discover.

Like the time I landed smack in the middle of Richmond County, Cape Breton, NS. It’s full of small villages and people with big hearts. Where else would a chance meeting with a complete stranger lead to coming home with a cookbook, fresh cranberries, shortbread cookies, date squares and a whale of a story,?

Picture this: I’m attending a kitchen party in Arichat where The Island Steppers are performing, directed by Trina Sampson. Later that evening, Trina and I strike up a conversation. In less than 24 hours I’m visiting Trina’s grandmother, Marie Boucher, who is in her 90’s, knits 30 pairs of mittens a year and is an avid wrestling fan. Trina and two of her daughters were also present. What a hoot!

Marie Boucher knits over 30 pair of mitts a year

Marie Boucher knits over 30 pair of mitts a year

As I was getting ready to leave, and knowing my passion for food, Trina gave me a copy of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association Cookbook that she helped to compile and market as a fund-raiser to send members of the association on a trip to Scotland. “And these are for you too,” she said, loading me up with freshly picked cranberries, shortbread cookies and the best date squares I’ve ever eaten. (Her mother’s recipe below).

An Acadian comes home to her roots.

That’s the kind of thing that happens in Richmond County. I love meeting people there. Like Pauline Bona, a fourth generation Acadian who returned to her roots in Arichat. By the way, Arichat is located on Isle de Madame, which is only seven miles wide and 10 miles long. Yet it has 12 fresh water lakes and more charm in its wee harbours than can be imagined.

When Pauline bought L’Auberge Acadienne, she fulfilled a lifelong dream for her mother who yearned to come back “home” after raising 10 children in Halifax. Bonus for visitors: Pauline has a restaurant on site that has an impressive menu featuring Acadian dishes. I always order Fish Cakes for breakfast and never tire of her Acadian Meat Pie (Below).

Do you have any favourite “road runner” stories? Any recipes you’ve picked up along the way? Would love to hear from you!

Sylvia Hall’s Date Squares

Trina Sampson and the recipe book she helped produce

Trina Sampson and the recipe book she helped produce

1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C margarine
1/4 cup pure lard
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C rolled oats

Mix all dry ingredients together

1 pound dates
1 1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar

Cook filling in saucepan on low heat for 10 minutes. In a 9 x 13 glass pan put 1/2 of the dry mixture evenly on bottom and pat down. Spread filling evenly over dry mixture then cover evenly with the rest of the dry ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Acadian Meat Pie (Pâté á la Viande)

7 boneless stewing beef
5 C water
salt to taste
½ C salt pork finely chopped
1 large finely chopped onion


6 C flour
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
½ lb pure lard
approx. 1 C meat juice

Cut stewing beef into small cubes. Add water, salt and salt pork. Boil meat until tender.

Pastry: Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the lard and blend well with dry ingredients. Add enough juice from the cooked meat (approx. 1 C juice) to moisten dough. Divide dough in half.

Roll dough with a rolling-pin and spread in a 12×16 in. pan. Add cooked meat. Roll the other half of dough and spread over the meat in your pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 min. or until crust is golden brown. Cool in pan before cutting. Steam to reheat.


All photos Sandra Phinney

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