Heads were turning at the Huntingdon County Farmers’ Market on September 8 to catch a glimpse of Boucar Diouf, the celebrated writer, storyteller, and comedian, who was visiting the region to film segments for the new season of his documentary series, Manger.
The market and several of its producers will soon be featured in several segments of the program hosted by Diouf, which focuses on the origins of certain foods and the stories behind them. The episode filmed locally will aim to demystify squash and cabbage and will air on Explora and Radio-Canada sometime in the new year.
The film crew was already planning to film at the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site in Saint-Anicet for the series. According to Cynthia Roy, the Huntingdon Farmers’ Market coordinator, a producer for the show was looking for an add-on and reached out to see whether the market would be interested. “We had to be available on September 8 and we had to have the products he needed: pumpkins and cabbages.”
Although pumpkins and cabbages are not always ready for harvest in early September, the warm spring and summer helped to ensure that market producers Ian Ward of Les Jardins Glenelm and Caroline Machabee of Les Jardins de Caroline had some of the vegetables ripe and ready in time for the filming.
Diouf filmed his segments at the market in the company of chemistry professor Normand Voyer of the Université de Laval, who explained the different properties of the vegetables while debunking certain myths or misunderstandings about them, such as why cabbage smells and certain stimulating properties of pumpkins.
For Ward, the interaction with Diouf was unexpected. “I thought they just wanted to see some pumpkins,” he says, noting the script he was sent prior to the filming included dialogue only between Diouf and Voyer. “Boucar was actually really interested in knowing about pumpkins from a producer’s perspective,” says Ward, before adding that the alleged libido-enhancing properties of pumpkin added interest to the segment, “…and I had a ‘naked seed’ variety on the table.”
Ward suggests Diouf was very aware of the importance of buying local food, from a community perspective as well as for the health benefits. “The whole crew was impressed by our market – they must have spent two hours filming, but also meeting producers and buying food,” he says.
Several other producers were also impressed by Diouf’s laid-back nature during his visit.
“It was a wonderful experience to sensitize people from urban areas to local markets and the variety of products that can be found,” says Roy.
Before their arrival at the market, the film crew and Diouf spent the morning filming in the garden at the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site, where they delved into the storied history of squash and the important role that vegetable played in the lives of early indigenous populations. “It was fascinating, watching them,” says site director Nathan Carrière, who admits he was a little starstruck by Diouf’s presence.
Carrière was particularly impressed by Diouf’s focus on the cultural heritage of squash. He is hopeful the documentary series will attract new people to the site when it reopens to the public next spring. “It is a very different type of publicity for us,” he says, with a laugh.
Once on location in Huntingdon, the film crew was also able to take advantage of being near a fine restaurant. An addition to the segment on cabbage was shot in the kitchen of Citron & Basilic, where chef Didier Le Mouellic prepared a cabbage soup while talking with Diouf about the importance of cooking with seasonal food. “We have to stop buying from here and there,” he says, suggesting Diouf was especially sensitive to this aspect of “buying local.”
“It would be good if people listened to what he says,” says Le Mouellic, before adding that the celebrity’s visit will no doubt be very good for the town of Huntingdon and surrounding region.