Hump Day: Chef Speranza’s great Cy’s legacy lives online

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

The Internet is a great place for sharing of memories through a variety of means, including music, photos and messages. Although many curse it, the Internet is an excellent resource for local history. I run a Facebook group dedicated to the much-loved (or much-maligned, depending on what side of the fence you’re on) poutine râpée. There are nearly 1,100 members in the group sharing memories of days gone by, including recipes and tips.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said they remember their grandmother making poutines when they were little, I’d be rich. Several of these people — including many from the United States — have resurrected the old poutine-making traditions of long ago. An Acadian descendant now living in Texas even made a batch and posted photos. Without sharing via the Internet, cultural food such as this often fall by the wayside, left only to the memories of your taste buds and old family photos.

One of the most popular posts on my website is my reprint of a promotional recipe book issued by Moncton’s Cy’s Seafood Restaurant in about the 1960s. Unfortunately, there was no year or copyright information inside. (Editor’s note: For a PDF version of the book, click here.)

The booklet belongs to my mother and her husband and I was happy to get my hands on it so that I could scan it and post it online as a bit of Moncton’s food history. The recipes in the promotional booklet are the creations of Cy’s famous chef, John Speranza, who died in Moncton at the age of 75 in July 2006.

Some of the Chef Speranza’s recipes include lobster newburg, stuffed oysters, baked stuffed shrimp, spaghetti carbonara, manicotti, lasagna, oyster fiorentina, minestrone, pair parfait and the highlight of the entire booklet, at least in my opinion, the incredibly addictive seafood casserole. In fact, that recipe was even mentioned in his obituary! “In the late sixties, his seafood casserole recipe was introduced to the Canadian consumer through Salada Teas’ ‘Great Recipes from World Renowned Chefs.’”

I’ve tasted other seafood casseroles, and some very good ones at that, but they still pale in comparison to Chef Speranza’s recipe, if you ask me. It would be a shame not to share it with the public so that his recipes can live on now that he’s gone and the restaurant is but a memory in photos found on the Vintage Moncton website.

Now, seriously, before the Internet, how could this delectable piece of Moncton’s culinary history have been shared with everyone? This way, Chef Speranza’s delicious creations live on, as do the happy memories we have of Cy’s Seafood Restaurant.

After my father passed away last August, my cousin gifted me with an antique cookie tin from Marven’s, the landmark Moncton cookie factory that closed in 1978, only to live a second life as an office complex. My father worked there for 29 years. I’ve mentioned this before, but my memories of walking through there as a kid are incredible. The heat from the massive ovens. The incredible aroma of freshly baked cookies.

I was happy this Christmas when my cousin once again shared some of her Marven’s memorabilia with me when she included some old Marven’s promotional recipes in her Christmas card. The recipes are for four retro desserts using Marven’s brand graham crackers. The recipes were for napoleons, cream ‘n’ cinnamon pie, cherry-mallow pie, and breton squares. (Editor’s note: For a PDF version of the desserts, click here.)

Again, how could I not post these to the Internet to share with everyone who had happy memories of Marven’s and who may have even enjoyed these very desserts on their dinner tables back in the 1950s and 1960s? Like I did with the Cy’s recipe booklet, I also posted the Marven’s dessert recipes to my website and shared them with my newsletter readers, as well. They’re both proving to be popular posts so far.

I’ve also shared family videos on YouTube. These old videos are clips from 8-mm movies taken by my uncles in the 1960s. What good would they have done sitting there on reels of film that no one could watch? Who has a projector these days, anyway? No one, that’s who. So, I made the personal investment once I got my hands on some of them and got them digitized onto DVD. (Editor’s note: See below for video.)

From there, I posted several of them to YouTube to share with friends and family. It’s like watching ghosts from the past because so many of the people in the movies have died! What precious memories these movies are — and I’m so grateful my uncles took the initiative to record family history when it was a luxury to do so. Today, everyone and their dog have access to good-quality digital photo and video technology through their smartphones. In the era in which these home movies were made, it was much rarer.

Imagine my surprise when, just before Christmas, I received an email from a television production company in Pennsylvania who wanted permission to use clips of one of the home movies I posted to YouTube for a 1960s-era program they’re producing! The clip they’re interested in is of a New Year’s Eve party in the early 1960s featuring many relatives, including my parents. Who would have thought that their dancing of The Twist and The Limbo Rock could end up on television 50 years later?

For all the bad that goes on online — the vicious trolls, the misinformation and hoaxes spread by so many who don’t check their facts first before sharing — there are just as many wonderful historical memories out there just waiting to be rediscovered.

One Response to Hump Day: Chef Speranza’s great Cy’s legacy lives online

  1. great article worked close by clam chowder and rolls in the bar could not be beat…..pdf worked great. thanks for the memories. ken