In 1906, the Lafayette brothers settled near Rosetown. In 1910, a group of twelve families led by Joe and Mattie Mayes homesteaded near Maidstone. That same year, the Smiths settled at Lashburn. Many more went to Alberta.
Why Oklahoma? In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and began passing laws to discriminate against its African American citizens. Vitriol and violence were not uncommon. At the same time, Canada was advertising for farmers. For the Black pioneers, some of whom had known slavery, Canada was the Promised Land.
Of course, they brought their southern food traditions with them. Fried chicken, sugared ham, button bone ribs, boiled greens, minted carrots, biscuits and gravy, corn bread, ice cream, molasses cookies, cinnamon rolls, sweet potato pie. Some of those ingredients weren't available in Saskatchewan a century ago, but the cooks made do. Like many pioneers, they hunted rabbits and other wild game, planted large gardens and ate a lot of potatoes. They adopted sauerkraut and saskatoon pie. Sweet potato pie became, quite humbly, just potato pie.
Calgary author Cheryl Foggo is a descendant of Saskatchewan's Black pioneers. She provided her mother's (and grandmother's) recipe for potato pie, inspired by a recipe from Mrs. Mayes and still a staple at family gatherings.
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed potatoes
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon extract or zest of one lemon
1/2 cup melted butter
Unbaked pie shell
Put evaporated milk in an ice cube tray and freeze for 20 minutes, then beat the cold milk until it stands like whipped cream. Blend the whipped milk into the potatoes and beat until smooth.
Mix the remaining ingredients. Stir into potatoes and milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake another 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool pie. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
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The article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.