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Date:12/25/2014 3:27:35 PM
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Frydough, Part IV
My French Canadian ancestors were called "coureurs du bois", "hivernants", "engages", or "mangeurs de lard". What this all means is that the Trottiers have been a part of the life of New France and the settlement of this area for over 350 years. "Coureurs du bois" means "runners of the woods", those experienced Frenchmen who ran trade operations with the First Nations people. "Hivernants" referred to the Frenchmen who "wintered over" with the Indians. (L'hiver is French for winter). These hivernants often took on temporary native wives. Their metis children often enjoyed special status within their tribe.

"Mangeurs de lard" refers to those "tenderfoots" who couldn't provide for themselves in the wilderness and had to eat stored provisions of pork. This also meant the "engages"; young men from the French settlements and cities who were "engaged" as oarsmen for the summer months of river navigation throughout New France. They were hired for the months from May through October to paddle "bateaux" (large canoes build for bulk cargo). Their voyages originated as far east as Quebec and ran throughout the Great Lakes region (Les Pays du Haut, or Upper Country). Many of these young men had grown up on farms near the villages and had never been out into the deep wilds. Local historians Les and Jeanne Rentmeester write that "mangeurs de lard" referred to the pemmican-like traveling provision that the engages ate. This was rendered lard stuffed with shelled peas. This provided the fat, protein, and vegetable-based vitamins that the hard-working engages needed for sustenance. Hence, their definition of "mangeurs de lard".

As mentioned in my first post on this subject, Frydough was just one of many wayfaring foods eaten by my ancestors. It was quick and easy to make over a campfire, without needing the time for the dough to rise. Furthermore, it was tasty.

Again, as mentioned earlier, a small cafe' next to Lambeau Field, called "The Blind Ref" offers "frybread" on its menu. One of the owners is a member of the Oneida Nation. One day last December, as I took Eldest Brother David to a doctor's appointment, I told him about the place. Since he was having a good day, (one of his last) we swung by "The Blind Ref" and I ordered him a frybread. On the way home I had him open the tinfoil and smell the bread. He said, "It smells just like what Ma used to make!" I told him to tear off a piece and eat it. He tried a bite, tilted his head back and rolled his eyes. "Oh that tastes just like I remembered," he sighed.

Later, when David was in hospice, I offered to get him another frybread, but he said he was too weak to chew it. Nevertheless, I was happy I was able to give him one last taste of his heritage. --Gary
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