Serving up pancakes and Métis culture
The 37th annual Maple Syrup Festival at Central Lake Ontario Conservation Area Purple Woods
Submitted by: Ted McNally, MNO Oshawa and Durham Métis Council Councillor
Pancakes, flapjacks, johnnycakes, grill cakes, they had them all. From March 29- 30, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Oshawa and Durham Métis Council volunteered at the Maple Syrup Festival at the beautiful Purple Woods Conservation Area just north of the City of Oshawa.
Most would agree that this winter had been long and cold, and was not giving any indication that it had any intention of going away. Fortunately, that weekend in March gave hope that maybe spring had not gotten lost after all.
Visitors were treated to a horse drawn wagon ride down the hill through the sugar bush to see how maple syrup and sugar is made. There were demonstrations of the modern methods, as well as the more traditional ways shown by re-enactors who set up shop over an open fire in front of a Tipi. After that, they would either hike back along the scenic trails, or hitch a ride on the wagon, up the hill to the large wooden barnlike structure where their fresh spring air appetites were about to be satisfied.
The sound of Métis Voyageur songs and fiddle music greeted them as they entered the door. MNO citizen Clair Kearns entertained the young ones and got them dancing along with her little wooden step dancers, as the adults joined the already long line up to pick up their stacks of pancakes drenched in natures liquid gold.
The kitchen was a regular beehive of activity. Sash wearing people flipping cakes, stirring batter, measuring portions of fresh syrup, serving guests, preparing beverages and cleaning up. MNO Oshawa and Durham Region Métis Council Councillor Ted McNally was in charge of mixing up the batter and after the first couple batches someone pointed out that he looked like he was paddling a canoe, remembering how our Voyageur ancestors used to sing to help pass the time and keep an even stroke at the paddles, he sang out “Alouette Gentille Alouette”. A dozen voices joined in and after that, every new batch would get a song. If McNally and his fellow Métis brothers and sisters were not exactly melodious, at least they were loud and even some of the guests found themselves joining in.
Saturday was busy and Sunday was even busier. People were lined up out the door and in spite of the long wait; they had no intention of leaving for home without full bellies. The Council ended up serving long after the regular closing time.
Song, laughter, and camaraderie was the order of the day, all weekend long, and as exhausted as they were, the Council couldn’t help being very happy and proud of themselves. As they dragged their tired bodies out through the parking lot all anyone could talk about was how next year it’s going to be even better.
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