Want to know how to make the quintessential Acadian dish of râpure (rappie pie)? How about meat pie or pets de soeur, along with some jerk chicken, pastel de papa, and egg mankoushe thrown in for good measure?
A new, free mobile app officially being launched at Clare’s Acadian festival on Thursday is showcasing the region’s culinary creations in a new light.
The Clare Cuisine + cooking app is the brainchild of Chad Comeau of Fring Frang Games. The video game developer’s work has focused on a range of subjects — from Acadian heritage and 2SLGBTQ+ issues to the Halifax donair.
His latest project included spending time in the kitchen with not only the traditional Acadian dishes from his childhood, but also food representative of his home community’s newer residents.
“When I just had this quick idea of ‘Oh, it’s a cooking app for Clare,’ of course I just thought of the classics, the traditional stuff,” Comeau recalled in an interview.
But that quickly changed. After securing Canadian Heritage funding to develop the app, Comeau also partnered with several organizations, including the Communautés francophones accueillantes (CFA) program.
That organization helps Francophone newcomers create meaningful community connections when they settle into life in Canada. Last summer, Comeau found himself in a rented community kitchen spending a weekend with other Clare-area residents — including those newer to the region — who’d contributed recipes to the new app.
‘Contributions bring a richness to the app’
He said the Lebanese breakfast pizza recipe contributed by “local pizza guy” Wissam El-Jakl has since become a huge hit with him and his friends.
“Having everyone come in and meet each other and cook and share all their recipes together was super cool,” Comeau recalled. “Their (newcomers) contributions bring a richness to the app that wouldn’t be there if I had just focussed on the stuff I grew up with.”
Creating a cooking app that was interactive and with features that made it easier to use than a typical recipe site had been on Comeau’s radar for a while.
“Whenever I’m cooking with my phone, it gets all smudgy with butter or dirty with flour. And I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool if you could do it hands-free via audio,” he explained.
Although Comeau initially intended to create a podcast-style cooking app where listeners would tell the app to move ahead as they went through each step of the recipe, it quickly became obvious that wouldn’t work.
“If the app is talking to you, you can’t talk back because it would just loop into itself if it’s always listening,” he said.
While most of the recipes in the app are just “regular” recipes, Comeau said one feature that makes it easier to use is that the screen stays on the entire time — a huge help when glancing back and forth between a phone and your ingredients, bowls, and cutting board.
There is one audio recipe in the app that Comeau refers to as “dynamic.” Its large stop/start and backward/forward buttons make it easier for listeners to navigate. It also required more work to create.
‘Little tastier than my usual works’
The audio recipe features Comeau narrating the preparation for fring frangs, a creation he describes as a classic Acadian dish from his community in southwest Nova Scotia.
Comeau notes that variations of the basic fried potato and onion creation exist in other parts of the world. He also seasons his instructions with humour.
“As you’re grating, watch your fingertips. This dish can become non-vegetarian in a hurry, and we don’t want any blood around here,” Comeau tells listeners as they follow along.
“It’ll make interacting with the phone a bit messy, wouldn’t it?”
While he didn’t undertake “exhaustive” research into the existence of interactive/audio recipe apps, Comeau said he was unable to find anything comparable and was forced to start from scratch with the fring frangs interactive recipe.
“Although it’s not a game, which I’m usually doing, it’s still somehow an interactive app,” he said. “It’s kind of another storytelling device really. Except it’s a little a little tastier than my usual works.”
Definition is expanding
Comeau, 32, just finished five years of study in Germany. He hasn’t lived in Clare for 10 years, but always spends his summers in the community where he grew up. That’s why officially launching the app during the Acadian festival he’s attended for as long as he can remember made sense.
“You grew up with these stories, like, ‘Oh, we’re Acadian,’ and whatever. But I think that for a lot of people, the definition is expanding,” Comeau said.
“We’re seeing more migrant stories finally being valued in film projects and novels. So I think it’s cool to acknowledge that everyone’s here and to value people equally.”
One of the app’s goals is to preserve the dishes and stories surrounding them.
“We’re very influenced by the U.S. culture and I didn’t eat that much traditional food growing up. So, it’s kind of cool to rebuild these traditions and cook these things again,” Comeau said.
“But also for me, I do a lot of cultural projects and games. (They’re) not the types of projects that will make me rich or that I can even sustainably live off of. But for me, it’s always really cool to connect with people in the community, to hear their stories, and share them with others through the media making.”
Available in English and French, Clare Cuisine + is available for Android and iOS. Now that the app is built, Comeau expects to add another batch of “regular” recipes by next year. While the dynamic/interactive recipes are a bit more expensive and complicated to create, he expects to add others.