On Sunday, I went to Susan (aka Ida LeClair) Poulin’s house for a Franco Salon. A bit of backstory: For the past few years, Franco-American writers, musicians, educators, and story tellers have been getting together once a year for what we call Rassemblement, a gathering. The past couple of years we have met at the Darling Marine Center in beautiful Walpole, Maine. At the gatherings, we read, we perform, we present, we sing, and being Francos, we talk. A lot. At each Rasemblement, there is a wonderful feeling of support, of camaraderie, and a sense—to borrow from Susan—of coming home.
(The history of Franco-Americans in Maine is not a happy story. It’s filled with prejudice and discrimination, ranging from voter suppression to the Klan marching against Francos. By Maine law, French—as it was spoken by Franco-Americans—was stamped out in schools, at work places, and other public institutions, and by the time my generation came, it was mostly gone. No bilingualism for Maine. No, siree.)
Anyway, we all enjoyed being together so much, that someone—perhaps Denis Ledoux?—suggested we get together throughout the year to share our work and support each other. So various people have opened their homes for Franco Salons, and last Sunday Susan Poulin—a talented storyteller and writer—and her husband Gordon Carlisle—a Francophile and a talented artist—opened their home to us.
As a good eater, I must first comment on the food. There were 13 or so of us at the Rasemblement, and I swear we had enough food to feed at least 20, maybe even more. We Francos are taught, at an early age, that to not have enough food at a gathering is a very, very bad thing. Maybe not a mortal sin, but certainly a venial sin. Indeed, to run out of food at a party would be enough to make most Francos twist inside out with mortification.
Therefore, there was quantity—breads, cheese, crackers, oranges, and a multitude of desserts—but there was also quality. Oh, there was quality. Susan made two delicious soups—a turkey sausage soup and a peanut stew. She also made a huge salad so delectable that I could have filled up on just that and some of the wonderful bread other guests brought. Part of what made the salad so good was the dressing Susan made, with a high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar she gets from a local shop. I can truthfully say that I’ve never tasted such a good dressing.
After we finished eating and talking, we settled into the living room. I read a couple of posts from my blog, and Susan read from her “Ida” blog as well. David Morreau and Susann Pelletier read poetry. Michael Parent told a story of the legendary Ti-Jean, sometimes a fool and sometimes a genius. Lucie Therrien sang two songs. Bob Perreault read from his novel, and Denis from a memoir he’s writing about his time in the seminary. Joan Vermette read a portion of an imagined monologue from a long-dead cousin who talks from way beyond the grave. Norman Beaupré read a scene from of one his novels.
As I listened, not only did I feel as though I was “at home” with these gifted Franco-Americans, but I also felt proud to be a part of this group, proud to be Franco-American.