The Buckwheat Pancake- the Ploye
Many localities specialize in a dish that they offer as typical of the area and which tastes so delicious that even the uninitiated want more after their first tasting. For some, this dish “par excellence”, is “poutine rapée” (a potato dumpling with a pork interior); for many it is the “soup à la baillarge”, a barley soup with a mixture of diced vegetables, or the “six-pâtes”, a casserole made with several layers of game meat and potatoes. For others it is something else. However, for Madawaska residents, they argue they have a very original dish, the “ploye”, made of wheat and buckwheat flour. Nevertheless it has been said, that the only original thing about the “ploye” is its name; there are conflicting explanations about its origins. First, some say a good “ploye” requires the stirring of its batter until it makes a sound like “ploye, ploye, ploye”! Others think that its rather odd name comes from the fact that the pancake “ploguent” or plugs up a stomach. Whatever origin, the “ploye” recipe in Madawaska and the buckwheat pancake recipe of the Acadians in southeast and northeast New Brunswick are very similar. However, the Madawaska “ploye” has its distinctive quality. In the past, the batter was generally started with baking powder and was always available from one meal to another: it served mainly as a substitute for bread. In addition, a true “ploye” should not be turned during cooking, some say, while others argue the opposite.
Did Madawaska residents invent the ploye? Did the Acadians or Canadians introduce it to northwest New Brunswick? A religious nun, a Hospitaller of St. Joseph en route to the Madawaska region in 1873 wrote in her travel journal that a good country-woman in Cabano had served her and her companions, some pancakes made on the stove, called “plogue or ployes”... “It was a delight,” she added.
What can we conclude from this? Invented in Madawaska or not, the "ploye” is an integral part of the Madawaska legacy. Food for the poor, before becoming food for the tourists, a stack of ployes once had “the” place of honour at the table of the large-numbered families. The homemaker who knew how to make good “ployes” could get along with one good bread-making session a week, which spared her considerable time and energy. It is also said that during the Depression of the 1930’s, the “Ploye” was the main food of the unemployed and working poor.