Anita Stewart’s cookbook, as described by the publishers, “with recipes from traditional dishes like clam chowder and dried apple pie to gourmet creations as Mussels in Wild Mushrooms and Chanterelle Soufflé, demonstrate the inventiveness of chefs who live a long way from the nearest supermarket. Food supplies from “outside” are only available occasionally, when tender boats or helicopters visit, the this produces an emphasis on local ingredients: garden produce, wild mushrooms and BC’s famous salmon”
“Tales of shipwrecked adventurers seeking refuge at lonely lighthouses, cougars attacking hikers, and a maritime Santa Claus accompany the recipes, along with descriptions of the lightkeepers’ lush gardens, their wine cellars and their philosophy of food. The keepers talk about isolation, but only as an aside to the challenge of self-reliance and the joy of living amidst such beauty…”
Anita Stewart visited the lights of BC’s Inside Passage and the isolated northern stations, braving rough seas, high winds and even a torpedo testing range to collect over 150 recipes and cooking tips used by families on the lights. She is a former chocolate bar salesperson, and also the author of the bestselling FARMER’S MARKER COOKBOOK, COUNTRY INN COOKBOOK and the ST. LAWRENCE MARKET COOKBOOK.
I found The Lighthouse Cookbook listed on Amazon.com priced at $21.95 new, or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy. (Remember that shipping and handling is always $3.99 from private vendors for pre-owned books.)
Alibris.com has The Lighthouse cookbook priced at $3.09 for a pre-owned copy (very good price!) or new at only $5.80. **
My next lighthouse cookbook was a Christmas present from my British penpal Eve, who, along with her husband Ron, now live in Western Australia. The title of the book is THE LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOK, compiled by Shirley Baker for Friends of Deal Island and Tasman Island, with proceeds from sales going to fund restoration projects on Deal and Tasman Islands.
In the Foreword, written by Sally Wise, we read “Since the early 1800s, the Kent Group of Islands, of which Deal Island forms a part, have been admired for their rugged beauty. Although a threat to early travelers entering the eastern side of Tasmania’s Bass Strait, its islands have become quite literally a beacon for the safety of those who would pass through those unpredictable waters.
The island of greatest note is Deal Island, where a lighthouse is perched 280 meters above sea level, from which its light cast out its warning for almost 100 years. The lighthouse keeper’s residence, built in 1847, is thought to be the oldest in the southern hemisphere.
Ms Wise also notes that “the lighthouse itself was opened in February 1848. It was automated in 1921, and in the late 1930s was converted to electric operation and continued until 1992, when it was decommissioned and automatic lights established on islands nearby.
She goes on to say that such a history and immeasurable natural beauty were not to fade into obscurity. In the tear 2000, Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service instituted a volunteer caretaker program providing visitor information on the protection and management of the natural, historical, and cultural values of the Kent Group National Park and its surrounding marine protected areas.
“Tasman Island,” she writes, “off Tasmania’s south-east coast, is also one of Australia’s most isolated light stations A familiar landmark for mariners as they sail across Storm Bay, the island’s grey dolerite cliffs soar 250 meters out of the sea. A narrow channel, little more than one kilometer wide, separates the island from the Tasmanian mainland.
Although a site was cleared for a lighthouse on Tasman Island in the late 1800s, it was not until 1906 that a lighthouse was finally completed. Initially lit by kerosene, the light was converted to wind power in 1975 and its operation was automated in 1976. Access to such a remote light station was very difficult and seas were frequently too rough for supply ships to approach the island..”
Today, Sally Wise tells us, Tasman Island is the icon of the Tasman National Park and managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.
The cookbook was created to assist volunteers who take the time to care for this legacy of history and natural beauty to continue their work and Sally Wise was honored to be asked to write the foreword.
She notes that for the lightkeepers of old, as indeed for the stalwart volunteers of today, cooking in such remote circumstances presented a number of challenges. Recipes had to be concocted or adapted to cater to the paucity of ingredients and equipment on hand. Out of these challenges came a whole culture of recipes and cookery; simple, tasty meals and more, prepared with basic ingredients.
I wholeheartedly agree, friends. You know, (and I am sort of abashed to admit this) I never really stopped to consider how foodstuffs reached remote lighthouse stations or – when they received it – what challenges they faced cooking with what they received. These lighthouse cookbooks are a testimony to all those lighthouse keepers, long ago and still, today.
In the Introduction to the Australian LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOK, contributor Shirley Baker writes “Food and kitchens in remote and wilderness areas offer so much more than sustenance to the body and a place to prepare and cook food. The food brings comfort, revitalization and a welcome break from the rigors of the day and the kitchen provides that wonderful old feeling of relaxed belonging, a place where mind and soul come together to share life’s experiences as well as culinary delights!
Shirley says she was in just such a kitchen in Quarters 3 of the Tasman Island lightstation in conversation when she suggested that a lighthouse cookbook should be included on their list of fund-raising projects. Experience as caretakers on the Deal Island Lighthouses…gave Shirley and her husband a
first-hand understanding of the importance of food and meals in the day to day life of those who spend extended periods of time in isolation in remote areas.
But, says Shirley Baker in the Introduction, “Life in isolated areas still involves a great deal of ‘entertaining’. In today’s world nowhere seems to be truly isolated. Visitors arrive by all manner, overland, by sea and waterway and from the skies. It seems to me that just as one feels truly alone, someone turns up! One of my favorite sayings is ‘The more remote the area, the more of the World turns up!’
Remote hospitality begins with boiling the kettle. A good cup of something hot is a most welcome introduction to a traveler whether they be weary, cold, stressed, injured or simple just dropping in for a chat. Just to fill the kettle with water may mean stepping over to the tap above the kitchen sink or may involve dressing in full thermal and wet-weather gear and a lengthy walk outdoors to a water source.
Remote area cooking may be as simple as opening a foil-lined packet containing a dehydrated meal or spending hours on a rocky outcrop with a fishing line or the setting up and checking of rabbit traps. Preparing and cooking meals in remote areas often requires a level of resourcefulness and a mind for innovation, especially when a meal planned for two may suddenly be required to feed six!”
In the final paragraph to the Introduction, Shirley Baker writes, “One of my earliest and happiest memories as a child is the time spent in the kitchen of the family home with my mother by the warmth of the old wood stove along with the wonderful aromas of homemade soups, stews, cakes and biscuits. Now, as a ‘grown-up’ I never feel a closer connection with humanity than when sharing a kitchen in an isolated or remote area. I have welcomed hundreds of total strangers into my kitchen in remote place where I have spent countless hours listening and sharing stories over cuppas, scones and biscuits. A great many of my closest and dearest friendships have grown from these experiences.”
There is a great deal more to this Lighthouse Cookbook from the friends of DEAL Island and friends of Tasman Island. There is a chapter on volunteer caretaking on Deal Island. There is a lovely black and white photograph of Tasman Island Lighthouse at dawn, taken by Shirley Baker. There is also a great black and white photograph of Deal Island Lighthouse taken by Shirley Baker (she makes me want to return to black and white photography!) There are the recipes – lots and lots of recipes, proof-positive of the ingenuity and skill with which the residents of the Aussie lighthouses make-do with what they’ve got. The book would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen but I was thinking that it would be especially good for a young son or daughter embarking on adulthood and learning how to cook.
I was unable to find copies of my spiral bound edition with a lighthouse photograph on the cover. I couldn’t find it on Amazon.com or Alibris.com. I did find it on Google and if you type in the entire title, Google will provide you with a number of websites to check for a copy.
The next three lighthouse cookbooks are mainly recipes, not a lot of background material, so I will present them “as is”.
First is PIER PLEASURES published by Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in St. Joseph, Michigan in 1981. In the Introduction, Carol Starks, President of the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary writes “The recipes for Pier Pleasures were chosen from many submitted by the members and friends of the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. Their aim was to present some different recipes—not found in the usual cookbook—with emphasis on dishes appropriate to their area.
“St Joseph is a city settled in the early 1800s”, she writes, “and located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the St Joseph River. In the early days large excursion boats as well as commercial fishing vessels were prevalent in this area. Today these boats have left, but pleasure fishing has remained a great sport in our area. In the spring of the year we are blessed with the beauty of a variety of fruit blossoms, as this is one of the large fruit belt areas of the Midwest…”
PIER PLEASURES offers some unusual recipes, including “The Recipe” which is also known as Dandelion Wine (despite being from the fruit belt). There is also a recipe for Plum Brandy that I may give a try if my plum tree produces anything this year. There is also a recipe for Orange Sangria that sounds interesting. Actually, there are hundreds (at least!) of recipes in PIER PLEASURES—surely something for everybody’s palate.
Some illustrations of local points of interest in St. Joseph provided by local artist Elizabeth Mandarino add to the unique flavor of PIER PLEASURES. One of MAIDS OF THE MIST FOUNTAIN reminded me of the Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.
Amazon.com has several copies of Pier Pleasures priced at $17.99 and up. I couldn’t find any listings on Alibris.com.
When my sister Becky and I were driving around Lake Michigan in the late 1990s, we visited the town of Mackinac and enjoyed a great meal at a mom-and-pop type of family restaurant. However the weather was wet and dismal, not conducive to going out to the Mackinac Island for a visit. We photographed the lighthouse on the mainland. This cookbook is available on amazon.com for $3.00 for a pre-owned copy. Alibris.com has a lot of pre-owed copies starting at about $3.00 and up.
The final cookbook, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Favorite Recipes, compiled by the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse commission of North wildwood New Jersey was last published in 1991 and is strictly a cookbook – no historical information. Amazon.com did not have any copies for sale. I couldn’t find any listings on Alibris.com. Next, we’ll start discussing some of the informative, historical lighthouse books.
I’d be the first to admit there is a great deal about lighthouses that I don’t know. Some years ago, I gave my Oregon penpal, Bev, a year’s subscription to a lighthouse quarterly magazine and she was off and running with a new interest. And, being in Oregon she is only a few hours’ drive from visiting some of them. During my 2007 visit to Oregon, the two of us visited three of their lighthouses. We planned to visit the rest of Oregon’s lighthouses when I returned. I did make it back to Oregon for a return visit in 2012 but the weather was dismal most of the time I was there—and so we spent our time doing other things.
In June of 2012, I visited Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Florida with my cousin, Diane—but we opted not to make the climb to the top of the lighthouse due to problems I was having with my legs. I do buy lighthouse post cards wherever I go—often times, the post cards provide better pictures than what you can obtain with your own camera. And to think I lived in Florida, three miles from the beach, for three years—and didn’t visit any lighthouses (I wasn’t “into” lighthouses at that point in time in my life).
I don’t think it’s possible to write a “brief” review of any of the books about lighthouses. Two I have in front of me right now are “LIGHTS OF THE INSIDE PASSAGE”(a history of British Columbia’s Lighthouses and Their Keepers)” by the aforementioned Donald Graham. The other title is “WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS/An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers”. Many of my other lighthouse books are what is generally thought of as “coffee-table” books because they are oversized.
Donald Graham’s LIGHTS OF THE INSIDE PASSAGE, subtitled “A History of British Columbia’s Lighthouses and Their Keepers”, published in 1986, was a mammoth undertaking. In the Foreword he writes, “Lighthouse: the very word conjures up an image of solitary, sweeping power setting the mariner’s infinite domain apart from the landlocked. Canada really begins at Langara Island and ends at Cape Spear, and whatever goes across that mind-boggling expanse in between, no one shares as much in common as the keepers of those two lights…”
You may wonder—and rightly so—WHY? Graham continues: “for all the political energy expended in the century between the National Policy and the Just Society, for all that sweat and hammering at the dented anvil of ‘national unity’, they personify the elusive dream of forging a nation from one sea to the other. They could have traded places eighty years ago or last week with less dislocation than two-thirds of Canada’s rootless people who pack up and move every ten years…”
He says they also share a perception of their life and work far removed from the imaginations of some twenty million who talk on telephones, open their mail every day, have no inkling of how sweet a fresh pepper tastes after a month, who seldom thought of seals, whales, and wolves before Greenpeace, who waste more water than they drink. On the lights, nothing goes to waste. Even bent nails can be straightened and meals planned a month ahead to that day of delight when a helicopter comes hammering down through the drizzle with fresh food and a fat sack of mail. Reveling in their quarantine from smog-locked cities, where the future seems always a car payment away, lightkeepers still wonde3r, what they might be missing…”.
Graham continues “The seventy-odd families who keep lights on the West Coast (bearing in mind this book was written in 1986 and things may have changed in twenty-seven years) are heirs to one of the most effective and extensive networks of manned lighthouses left in the world; forty-three beacons while evolved piecemeal in the wake of shipwreck, brainchildren of an unsung architectural genius..”
(Per a check with Wikipedia on Google, According to the Canadian Lightkeepers Association, there are now 37 staffed lighthouses in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, though the Canadian Coast Guard has plans to automate these installations. Machias Seal Island, in New Brunswick, has a lighthouse manned by the Canadian Coast Guard. It is kept manned for sovereignty purposes due to the disputed status of the island with the US).
Canada took over three colonial lighthouses—Fisgard, Race Rocks and Sandheads—when British Columbia joined confederation in 1871 Then, writes Graham, “In belated grudging response to an appalling sequence of wrecks along the dreaded West Coast of
Vancouver Island (culminating in January 1906 with the wreck of the S.S. Valencia, which took three days to go down, off Pachena Point with 117 passengers and crew) it made the graveyard of the Pacific, proof against further catastrophe with nine manned lights and foghorns forming a corridor of light and sound from Sheringham Point in Juan de Fuca Strait to Triangle Island off Cape Scott.”
Elsewhere, in The Inside Passage, one reads “Dreadful as it was, the West Coast of Vancouver Island still remained British Columbia’s safest shipping freeway well into the late 1890s.
Graham goes on to describe the lighthouses featured in his book, from the Inside Passage (from Active Pass to Pine Island) and the Northern Lights, (from Egg Island to Triple Island) and finishes with “Endangered Species” a summation of all the lighthouses and their teetering place in Canadian history, how little was done for the lightkeepers through its history in Canada. This is an excellent history of the lighthouses and their keepers in Canada’s British Columbia.
It can be purchased for one cent and up on Amazon’s pre-owned list of books, or for $22.39 new. I found it listed on Alibris.com for 99 cents. If you are a fan of lighthouses, this is surely a book to add to your collection.
Similarly but with a more focused point of view is Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford’s book WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS. What makes this illustrated history of female lighthouse keepers so appealing is that the women featured within the pages were lighthouse keepers at a time in history when women were generally considered not up to the task. Granted, none of these lighthouse keepers were doing their keeping in Canada; all of the women written about in WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS were American and the lighthouses were located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maine, and New York on the east coast, and in Michigan and Indiana in the Midwest, Louisiana in the south, and then California on the west coast.
What a massive undertaking this project had to be for the two Clifford women. They write “Piecing together WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS was very much like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces are still missing, but a great many generous people helped to provide the pieces that are assembled here…”
Their search began at the National Archives in Washington, where an Archivist was very helpful in acquainting the authors with extensive lighthouse material. At another branch of the National Archives, they located many of the original lighthouse logs kept by women and copied requested pages for them. The two women wrote letters to every imaginable source and received information that pointed them in other directions. I was interested to discover that docent Clifford Gallard at my beloved Point Pinos Light in California set about collecting information on women lighthouse keepers and in fact, wrote some articles on the subject—but never did a planned book. Gallard’s wife submitted all of Gallard’s records and information to the Lighthouse society in San Francisco—which in turn became available to the two Clifford authors.
The files of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office in Washington, D.C. provided information about several of the women lighthouse keepers of yesteryear—and so the two women finally had collected enough to tackle the job of putting it all together.
They learned, for instance, that the first woman known to keep a lighthouse in America – Hannah Thomas – lived with her husband at the end of a very long narrow spit of land that forms the protective northern arm around Plymouth harbor. “Local records tell us”, they write, “that the lighthouse with its twin lanterns was built in 1768 on land belonging to John Thomas. Massachusetts Bay Colony paid him rent of five shillings for his land and 200 pounds a year to act as keeper. In 1778, John Thomas joined a Massachusetts regiment and went off to fight the British, leaving Hannah to tend the lights on Gurnet Point”.
They write that “very little is known of Hannah Thomas’s experiences in that isolated spot through the long years of the War for Independence . She must have been lonely and occasionally frightened. Certainly the responsibility of keeping the lamps burning night after night as hostile British frigates cruised up and down the coast was unrelenting. We can only assume that she met the challenge…”
The Cliffords note that when the colonies formed the United States, Gurnet Point was one of the 12 existing lighthouses that came under federal ownership and became the responsibility of the Treasury Department. Twelve more were built on the Atlantic Coast by the turn of the century.
They write that lighthouse keepers in the 18th and 19th centuries, male and female, faced much danger and performed heavy physical labor. And yet, women—as well as men—rose to the task. WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS is a great additional to your lighthouse reference collection.
WOMEN WHO KEPT THE LIGHTS, originally selling for $19;95 is listed on Alibris.com for 99 cents for a pre-owned copy; I found it on Amazon.com starting at 68 cents. There are new copies available on amazon.com but the prices are higher.
LIGHTHOUSES OF NEW ENGLAND/FROM THE MARITINES TO MNTAUK, by Donald W. Davidson, is an oversize coffee-table-size book features beautiful colored photographs of the lighthouse on the east coast, as well as extensive lighthouse history.
LIGHTHOUSES OF NEW ENGLAND by Donald Davidson is listed in Amazon.com starting at one cent and up—fair warning though; if you type in LIGHTHOUSES OF NEW ENGLAND, you will get numerous ‘hits’ on the internet site. Alibris.com also has Donaldson’s book; their price starts at 99c.
This is a topic that has something for everyone. When my sister Becky and I drove around Lake Michigan in 1999, we tentatively planned to return to Michigan and drive to the upper peninsula; we wanted to search for lighthouses there. We never made the trip; the following year she was diagnosed with cancer. She battled with cancer for four years before dying in 2004. I like to think she is looking over my shoulder as I type.
–Sandra Lee Smith