Monthly Archives: March 2013

EASTER GREETING!

So often we lose sight of the original (or perhaps not so original) reasons for celebrating holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and other events that were originally pagan holidays. When Christianity was in its fledgling years, the church elders wanted to steer people away from celebrating pagan holidays and instead, celebrate Christian ones, so many Christian holidays were built on a foundation of a pagan one. Sounds confusing? It is.

From Wikipedia we learn that Easter (also called the Pasch or Pascha) is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as described in the New Testament.  Easter is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper and its preceding foot washing, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Easter is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday.

What adds to the confusion is that Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox. (I can write it down much easier than I can explain it to anyone).

Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21,  (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between 22 March and 25 April. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian calendar whose 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian calendar, in which the celebration of Easter therefore varies between 4 April and 8 May.

But, like so many Christian holidays, Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for “Easter” and “Passover” are etymologically related or homonymous.  Easter customs vary across the Christian world, but attending sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church and decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb, are common motifs. Additional customs include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades, which are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians. Try explaining to any non-Christian how it is that Christians celebrate Easter and credit the Easter Bunny (which does not lay eggs!) with putting colorful eggs in a basket or hiding them in the back yard.

EASTER MEMORIES

The onset of Easter is on Ash Wednesday. Having gone to Catholic grade school, we went to mass every day before classes began, so on Ash Wednesday everyone walked around school with a black smudge of ash on their foreheads. Then we always made a big deal about what we were giving up for lent. The usual things were candy, soda pop, movies (not that we had very much of any of those things to begin with). In my family we always had some kind of fish on Fridays and there wasn’t that much meat to go around anyway.

I do remember my mother placing orders for new clothing from Sears or Montgomery Ward but the highlight of pre-Easter celebrations was going downtown to Shiff Shoes to get a new pair of shoes. These would become our new Sunday shoes and the old Sunday shoes would become everyday shoes. I think most of our shoes were functional, seldom dressy (until I got old enough to buy my own). I leaned heavily towards penny loafers and rarely wore saddle oxfords.

The Stations of the Cross would be said – I think – on Wednesday and Friday evenings. The statues inside church would be covered with purple cloths during Lent. In retrospect, I see that much of our lives revolved around the Church. Our church was St Leo’s, just down the street from my grandmother’s home. My father, uncle and aunt all went to St Leo’s too. My grandparents bought this three storied brick house when my father was about seven years old. Aunt Annie was a toddler who only spoke German and she got lost in the shuffle of the move. My father was sent to find her. I imagine most of the neighbors spoke German too. That part of Cincinnati was heavily populated with German and Italian immigrants.

The day before Easter we boiled eggs and colored them. Easter morning there would be a basket hidden somewhere for each of us. Imagine never refrigerating the boiled eggs—I told my granddaughter this recently. She was astonished. I said we never heard of salmonella poisoning.  And nothing in our baskets lasted very long anyway. Easter dinner may have been one of the holidays where the Schmidt family got together – often at grandma’s – and when everyone  had eaten, an adult would take the carload of kids to a movie theatre and drop us off there with just enough money for admission and either candy or popcorn.  I think Uncle Al usually gave us each a quarter. We thought he was rich.

By the time we got back to grandma’s, the adults would be playing cards and all the dishes had been washed up…by then everything would be brought out again for a snack before going home.

I don’t seem to remember very much about our Easter celebrations.

I remember buying a new outfit for myself, for Michael who was three at the time, and Steve, who was a baby. We were living in an apartment near the Warner Brothers Studio. I never gave much thought to whoever might be going through the nearby studio gates.

Well, I’m not here to explain Christian holidays—what I would like to do is share with you a couple of my favorite Easter holiday recipes!  My #1 favorite is my Cool Rise Cinnamon Rolls. Even as we speak, I have a pan of the cinnamon rolls rising in the refrigerator, to bake tomorrow morning.

cool rise cinnamon rolls 002

Cool Rise Sweet Dough for Cinnamon Rolls

Stir together in a bowl:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp dry yeast (or 2 little packets)

½ cup (1 stick of butter), softened to room temperature

Pour in 1 1/2 c. very hot water. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add:

2 eggs (at room temperature) and

1 c. flour

Mix on high speed for 1 minute.

Gradually add in 2-3 more cups of flour until the dough is thick and elastic, pulling away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto counter or a cutting board. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two balls. Roll out one ball at a time. Roll out into a rectangle that is roughly 10×14 inches. Spread melted butter over the top of rectangle to within 3/4″ of edges. Sprinkle sugar on top of the butter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of that. Distribute raisins over the butter/sugar/cinnamon. Starting with one side, roll up the dough into a long, thick roll. Slice into individual rolls and place in a 9×13″ pan on their sides. I try to get 12 rolls out of each ball of dough and put 12 to a pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. The flavor really improves if you refrigerate this recipe overnight. Before baking, remove from fridge and let sit on the counter for at least an hour.

Bake at 350° until golden brown. Remove from oven. While they’re still hot, drizzle some glaze over them. Serve warm. Glaze: a cup of powdered sugar, a drizzle of melted butter, and just enough milk or lemon juice to make a runny glaze. Recently, I saw a bunch of glaze recipes and so I tried one. I was very disappointed with the results. Note to self: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This is a versatile sweet dough recipe and you can make a lot of coffee cakes with it.

My next favorite holiday recipe (for any holiday!) is my friend and former co-worker Nina’s recipe for making deviled eggs.  I have no idea how many different recipes I have tried for deviled eggs—but always come back to Nina’s recipe!  At work, when we had pot lucks, Nina had to set out one batch for immediate consumption as people arrived at work. She’d have a second batch when the dishes were put out for the department at lunch time.

To make Nina’s Deviled Eggs

6 hard cooked eggs
1/4 C mayo or salad dressing (less if eggs are very small)
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp horseradish
salt to taste
dash of pepper

Nina writes, “I very rarely add salt or pepper, but it depends on what you like. My recipe book also has alternatives: Add 2 TBSP crumbled crisp bacon, or 1 TBSP finely chopped olives, or 1 TBSP finely chopped green-onions or chives.   Enjoy!”

Sandy’s cooknote: I made two batches of Nina’s eggs today, for tomorrow’s Easter dinner at the home of my youngest son and his wife. Don’t add salt! There is already a salty taste to this recipe, which I think comes from the mayonnaise (always Best Foods or Hellman’s brand of mayonnaise) or the horseradish. I topped the filled eggs with a very light sprinkling of Paprika.  **

I   generally associate cookie making with Christmas but Easter is also one of the occasions when I make up lots of large egg-shaped cookies; two of the cut-out egg shaped cookie dough fit on a cookie sheet so you will go through a good amount of cookie dough and I prefer to bake one sheet of cookies at a time* so it takes a while to get the cookies baked.  I baked cookies for all the ladies on my bowling league last week—they each got a carrot-shaped glazed cookie, along with a yellow chick cookie and a white glazed bunny cookie. I’ve done this a few times for holidays – Christmas and Valentine’s Day and now Easter. Now they call me the Cookie Lady.

*The reason I bake one sheet of cookies at a time is because my stove is almost as old as I am and I can bake two sheets at a time, by checking them after five minutes and switching the trays around – but if I am in a hurry or working on frosting, I do one tray at a time and set the timer. I made a lot of cookies this year—who doesn’t like cookies?

I made a batch of Hot Wings for an appetizer but those are so easy—does it even constitute a recipe? I like the McCormick’s brand of Buffalo Hot Wings spice mixture and bought a 4 pound bag of wings with the tips already cut off. All you have to do is mix the raw chicken wings with the seasoning mix and bake them on a cookie sheet in the oven. The directions don’t say so, but trial and error has taught me not to put the wings directly on the foil-covered cookie sheet—I use a rack. You won’t believe how much oil collects on the sheet underneath the wings. A lot!

My sons like the wings best if they are “dry” (not greasy) so I baked them at 450 degrees for 25 minutes according to the package directions—but they weren’t “dry” so I turned the heat down to 250 and kept them in the oven for well over an hour checking every 15 minutes to see if they felt and looked “done” enough. These wings are not mouth-burning hot like many hot wings ARE but we have young children who like hot wings and so the recipe has to be toned down for them.

I’m not hosting Easter dinner this year—I haven’t for a few years. Tomorrow I will prepare for the kids to come and decorate Easter cookies and then make some Easter eggs with construction paper and stickers. Then there will be an egg hunt at my son’s and after dinner, I am going to my sister’s so I can see my nephew and his girlfriend and my niece who I haven’t seen since Christmas. Our holidays are a far cry from those of my childhood.

I wish you all a Happy and Joyous Easter holiday.

Sandy

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BOUNTIFUL OHIO

BOUNTIFUL OHIO, subtitled “Good Food and Stories from where the Heartland Begins”  by James Hope and Susan Failor, and published by Gabriel’s Horn in Bowling Green Ohio, (1993) is the kind of book you will read again and again, with heartland recipes to refer to time and time again.

I hardly know where to begin—this book is so jam-packed with information and recipes.

Mr. Hope is rightfully Professor Hope; he taught at a university in rural Ohio. A native New Englander, James Hope set out, one summer, along with professional home economist Susan Failor, to “discover” Ohio.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is my birthplace; I was a native buckeye up to the age of twenty-one when my husband, baby, and I set out to drive across country to California.  But Ohioans never forget their roots and I have spent many summers, with my children, visiting relatives and friends in Cincinnati suburbs.

During those summer vacations, we made numerous trips to the famous chili parlors for platters piled high with Cincinnati chili, a concoction like none you have ever eaten. (A Four Way consists of spaghetti, topped with Cincinnati chili, chopped onions and grated cheese, topped off with oyster crackers. The best place to go to is Camp Washington Chili Parlor).

We ate wonderful German sausages with sauerkraut, farm-fresh sliced tomatoes and sipped Ohio’s famous Meier’s wine….so imagine my delight, discovering BOUNTIFUL OHIO—An entire cookbook devoted not only to recipes                              and foods cherished by Buckeyes, but filled, also, with the foodlore of Ohio.

I always knew that Cincinnati was famous as a meat-packing town, most notably Kahn’s, just as I always knew that Proctor and Gamble’s first company was located in Cincinnati. What I didn’t know is that P&G owed its origins to the meat-packing industry, too, that candle maker William Proctor and soap maker James Gamble married sisters and combined forces to form one of the most successful American business enterprises ever. This business owed its foundation to the fats and scraps collected from meat-packing plants.

Comment the publishers, “The recipes in this book range from cheesy cornbread to Sara’s Amish dressing and from Firelands Braised Beef Noir to Di’s Ohio sour Cherry Pie (winner of the best pie in America). They are the wholesome flavors of good food from home in Ohio”.

I also discovered an apple maple chutney recipe that I can’t wait to try, and along with an authentic recipe for Johnny Marzetti, the story behind its origins.  If you have very many regional cookbooks in your collection, you most likely have an assortment of Johnny Marzetti recipes, with Marzetti spelled many different ways. Here, then, is the true story behind Johnny Marzetti.

While not a community cookbook, BOUNTIFUL OHIO is definitely a regional cookbook, a book you will thoroughly enjoy and treasure for many years to come, whether or not you are from Ohio–or neighboring Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia or Pennsylvania.  While numerous books have been published, extolling the virtues of Midwestern cooking, few have delved so deeply to explain why it is so good.

In the Preface, James Hope and Susan Failor write “You don’t have to travel far to go a long way in Ohio: the state is so diverse—geographically, economically, ethnically—but the scene outside your window changes constantly. Sometimes that makes it hard for Ohioans to figure out just who they are—but it intrigues and delights the authors of this book, and is one of the reasons we decided to write it…”

The authors say they’re glad they did. Being interested in food, they ate their way from border to border and found a lot of it, in a variety ranging from five star virtuosity (The Maisonette in Cincinnati that held that rare ranking for decades, closed its doors in 2005).

The authors say that Ohio is one where farm and cookie factory literally exist side by side.  Ohio is smaller in land area than 33 other states, so it packs a surprising amount of agriculture and industry into a small space.

“Midwesterners that they are,” write Hope and Failor, “Ohioans don’t toot their own horns much. But Ohio ranks among the nation’s top ten or twelve states in corn, soybeans, wheat, fresh vegetables, dairy products, chickens, egg, hogs and vegetables for processing. It does more than grow food, too; it also processes vast amounts of ketchup, pickles, soup, ice cream, Swiss cheese, cereal and many other things. Most people don’t realize what an efficient little cornucopia this state is…”

The authors owe the success of BOUNTIFUL OHIO to all the people listed at the end of the book—farmers, grocers, chefs, food processors, homemakers, extension agents, professional government officials and dozens of other Ohioans who helped them write this book.

Chapter One is titled “IN SEARCH OF BOUNTIFUL” and Professor Hope explains that he took to the road in mid-August, a few days after teaching his last class of summer session at a university in rural Ohio and was now free for a year, on leave to do research of the kind that is supposed to add to the world’s body of knowledge. He would do that, but had something else in mind, too.

He says that like William Least Heat-Moon in BLUE HIGHWAYS and Ishmael in MOBY DICK, Hope was in search of something. While those writers were trying to fill gaps  in their souls, he was hoping to fill a different kind of vacancy—he was looking for good things to eat.

(Many books have been written in the past three or four decades about finding good food to eat throughout the USA—I know because I have collected a lot of those books–but this was the early 1990s and a lot of those books hadn’t been written yet).

Professor Hope confessed that after years of gulping quick lunches between classes, he was hungry and intended to eat leisurely and well—but there was a deeper purpose to this as well. He had a theory (as professors often do) that food, and the search for it, would help him come to know Ohio, perhaps become even more of an Ohioan.

Culture, he writes, is all the things a people value—it is how they establish their identity, their sense of who they are, their uniqueness. Culture, he says, is art, music and literature but it is also film, furniture, car ornaments, roller coasters and merry go rounds. And, says Professor Hope, it is food. Especially food: our foods are among the common statements of who we are; we create and consume them all day long. (I would have said it’s also our cookbooks. In the mid 1960s when I first began collecting cookbooks, I started with a church cookbook my father bought from a co-worker at Formica. Dad bought several copies of this Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook, for my sisters and my mother and me.  I cherished that cookbook and began to wonder if there were of it “out there.”  I have learned a great deal over the years about places from the cookbooks published by churches and clubs).

Professor Hope says that getting to know this place and its culture—to become part of it—was important to him.  He had lived in Ohio for more than a decade and a half, but still felt like a New Englander, someone from away. “I couldn’t blame the Ohioans,” he writes, “they seemed friendlier than the taciturn Yankees with whom I was raised.  The problem was this: I had never really taken the time to get to know the place, and Ohio seemed more like an address than a home.”  (This is something I can relate to—when we first came to California in 1961, I didn’t feel like a Californian. We returned to Ohio in 1963 for the birth of our second son, Steve, – but before the year was over, I knew we had to return to California. Ohio was no longer my home. I had somehow become a Californian).

But, back to James Hope and BOUNTIFUL OHIO – in which he says that New Englanders know exactly who they are and they have the sights, the sounds, the ancestors and the flavors to prove it to you, whether you ask them or not. They claim a sense of place as birth right and have all the materials for it. Professor Hope says he grew up surrounded by mountains and Indian trails, Revolutionary War battlefields, home ports for clipper ships and brooding houses with small-paned windows that concealed secrets.

Further on he writes how, in the sixth decade of his life, he knew where he had been; he did not know where he was now and meant to do something about it.

There is a great deal more to the Preface to BOUNTIFUL OHIO but I would be remiss to write too much of it and take away from you the experience of seeing my home state of Ohio from another’s eyes. (I have been seeing Ohio through my birthright eyes and then, later on, I began seeing Ohio in a different light—becoming more appreciative as I got older and would visit places with one of my brothers or one of my nephews. With my brother Bill over the span of several years – we visited Hale Farm and Cuyahoga National Park, as well as Stan Hywet mansion in Akron, Ohio. This is a 65 room Tudor style mansion built in 1912 by Goodyear Rubber company founder F.A. Seiberling and his wife.  It was touring the house and gardens that made me realize how much I love old houses. Curiously, the house is not named after a person, as commonly believed, and it took 4 years to build at a cost of $150,000.

You can spend a lot of time reading BOUNTIFUL OHIO—it’s the kind of book to read a little at a time, relishing all the history—and the recipes!

BOUNTIFUL OHIO can be purchased on Amazon.com at one cent and up for a pre owned copy.  Mine is a softcover (oversized) cookbook.   A great addition to collectors of regional material.

Alibris.com has pre-owned copies of BOUNTIFUL OHIO starting at 99c.

A great regional cookbook to add to your collection!

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

 

FRESH FROM THE FARMERS’ MARKET by Janet Fletcher

I love the synchronicity of things. It was when I first began collecting Farmer’s Market cookbooks and writing about them that I discovered one I hadn’t known about.

This is FRESH FROM THE FARMER’S MARKET by Janet Fletcher. (Let me tell you; the cover of this cookbook is totally captivating).

Ms. Fletcher’s book, published in 1997, comes to us from Chronicle Books in San Francisco (one of those names you come to recognize as hallmarks in cookbooks).

The publishers at Chronicle Books tell us “Across the country, consumers are rediscovering the old fashioned pleasures buying direct from the growers. (and as I write this, fifteen years after this book was published, I’m sure you will agree; this is as true today as it was in the 1990s). They write, “They’re also discovering the wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables available fresh from season to season…FRESH FROM THE FARMER’S MARKET, by Janet Fletcher, offers cooks a seasonal produce guide plus eighty fabulous recipes…”

Mary Ann Gilberbloom, a publicist at Chronicle Books, says that, on a personal note. since she started working on this book, she began taking her daughter to local farmers’ markets. She says it has changed her very picky ten year old’s view of fruits and vegetables.

Explain Chronicle books, in their press release, in FRESH FROM THE FARMER’S MARKET, Fletcher celebrates America’s incomparable harvest with recipes and photographs that showcase the riches of each season.  Her compelling text conveys the pleasures of shopping the farmers’ market and highlights the benefit of buying direct from the growers access to fully ripe, fresh-picked produce; the chance to buy unusual varieties, many that supermarkets never carry; and the availability of more organically grown produce….the text includes the voices of dozens of farmers describing the special attributes of the produce they bring to market, explain why it’s so often superior to the wares at the local  grocery store. Then, in eighty tantalizing recipes, Fletcher puts these fruits and vegetables center stage, motivating readers to make the most of their purchases….”

“Noted photographer Victoria Pearson,” Chronicle Books proclaims, “captures the year round beauty of the farmers’ market in fifty stunning natural light photographs/…” (Trust me, they do not lie. As someone who has studied photography and spent years trying to capture the perfect photograph, I am in awe of Ms. Pearson’s  work).  Victoria Pearson is a  Los Angeles based photographer whose work has appeared in ”A BREAD FOR ALL SEASONS,” as well as MARTHA STEWART LIVING,  CONDE NAST TRAVELER and TOWN AND COUNTRY magazines.

And if someone out there is saying “so?, I simply want to say, it isn’t often that photographs of a recipe that ensnares you and piques your interest, so that you say “I can do that!” (whether you realize it or not, a gorgeous color photograph of a recipe for, say, a collage of fruits as shown on pages 114 of Ms. Fletcher’s book—is often the impetus that motivates us into rushing out to buy the necessary ingredients  to make a yummy-sounding recipes). Even the cover of this great cookbook is a collage of fruits, veggies and the farmers’ market.

Janet Fletcher trained at the Culinary Institute of America (a name most of us are familiar with) and the Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California, and at the time of publication, (1997) was a staff food writer for the San Francisco, Chronicle, and she also contributes frequently to magazines on wine and food topics.  She has authored or co-authored eight cookbooks, including MORE VEGETABLES, PLEASE, GRAIN GASTRONOMY and PASTA HARVEST.  Ms. Fletcher lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, who is a Napa Valley winemaker.

“Season by season” proclaim Chronicle Books, “Fresh from the Farmer’s Market guides readers to fruits and vegetables at peak freshness and explains how to recognize quality.  Did you know that a fresh strawberry is a shiny berry?  Or that a squeezed artichoke squeaks when fresh? (go ahead! Squeeze the artichokes!  Or that a fresh green bean will stick to your clothes?  (and no, I didn’t know that!)

“Regular farmers’ market shoppers,” say Chronicle Books, “will find fresh  inspiration in recipes such as Festive Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets and Feta, Tapioca Pudding with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce and Quesadillas with Squash Blossoms and Corn…”

For my money, not much can compare with the Blackberry Macaroon Tarts, the Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Olives and Capers, or the fresh fig galettes (these were a must when our fig trees were in season, back in the day).

Along with the great recipes and mouth-watering photographs, you will surely enjoy Ms. Fletcher’s chatty style when she shares with you the background to her recipes, The farmer’s markets and her experiences. It’s like spending an afternoon with a good friend over for coffee and….fig galettes.

FRESH FROM THE FARMERS’ MARKET is available at Amazon.com starting at  sixty cents for a pre-owned copy. I couldn’t find it listed on Alibris.com but if you go to either of these sites, you will find a bumper crop of cookbooks relating to farmer’s markets.

If this review generates enough interest, I can review more farmer’s market books.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

LIGHTHOUSES AND LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOKS – PART 2

Part 2

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

LIGHTHOUSES AND LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOKS

What is it about lighthouses that captivates so many of us?  I didn’t even know how crazy I was about lighthouses until one year I was going up the California coast with my sister and her husband, to visit their oldest son and his wife in Vallejo, stationed near San Francisco. Whenever Becky or I spotted a lighthouse we went bonkers over it (much to her husband’s chagrin and dismay) although I think there was only one, the lighthouse in Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco, that we were able to visit and explore. This was sometime in the 1980s. From then on, Becky and I became devout lighthouse fans.

Did you know there are about a thousand lighthouses in the United States? Not to mention the hundreds of lighthouses throughout the entire world (13,700 according to the lighthouse directory). Some are open to visitors; some have been privately purchased and lived in—presumably by others just as gaga over lighthouses as we are. Some are in ruins and greatly in need of restoration, such as the Point Abino Lighthouse on Lake Erie, Ontario, established in 1917. My girlfriend Sharon took me there when I visited her in 2009 at her home in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  You can reserve tickets to visit the Point Abino lighthouse and then a short tram takes visitors through a private road to reach the lighthouse. They are working on raising money to restore the lighthouse which looks quite majestic from the outside but is damp and mostly in ruins inside. Visitors cannot go over the private road unless on the tram.

Well, getting back to that trip up the west coast with my sister and her husband–that car trip was the “aha!” moment for my sister and me. We began to visit lighthouses whenever and wherever possible and both of us began collecting lighthouse “stuff”—some of my lighthouse things are well-made sculptures made by companies such as Danbury Mint. I have a cherished collection of lighthouse ornaments that fill a 4-foot high tree at Christmas, and a large collection of light house postcards and photographs that need to be sorted and mounted but aren’t yet.  I was taking photography classes at that time, so photographing the lighthouses I was able to visit became a new hobby. I am most fond of the B&W photographs of the lighthouse on Monterey Bay peninsula that Bob and I visited one year; some of these are framed and on a wall in my bedroom. Another favorite was the lighthouse down in San Diego, Old Point Loma lighthouse, that I photographed my brother Jim walking towards the structure, away from me, when he and I visited the lighthouse one year.  I entered the photograph in a Light House society contest – and did not win anything, but a few years later found my lighthouse photograph in an issue of the Light House society. I wrote to complain and was told to prove it was mine. I sent them a copy of the proof sheet on which it appeared and they acknowledged that it was my photograph and they would not use it again without giving me credit for it. I didn’t object to its being printed – I just wanted credit for it. I have that one framed and on my wall as well – in addition, my younger sister did a pencil drawing of that photograph, which is also now framed and on the wall.

Well, this is how I got into lighthouses.  The love, the sudden passion for something like a lighthouse was baffling to both my older sister and me. We were both born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio where the largest body of water is the Ohio River working its way south. In turn, our lighthouse photographs piqued our Aunt Dolly’s interest and she, an artist, began painting them after we gave her a lot of our lighthouse photographs. Consequently, I have a number of her lighthouse paintings on my walls.

The Lighthouse Directory provides information and links for more than 15,900 of the world’s lighthouses.  This website keeps lighthouse fans informed of important facts, such as the Canadian coast Guard is planning to transfer thirty four Prince Edward Island lighthouses to community groups—and Virginia’s Wolf Trap Lighthouse is for sale for “only” $249, 500, while in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, voters have voted to acquire the endangered Gay Head Lighthouse—and a new LED light has been installed in my beloved Point Loma Light in San Diego, California.

I’ll tell you a curious story; one year my sister Becky and I were in Michigan visiting our mother who was in a nursing home, and we decided to try to see as many lighthouses as possible, while driving around Lake Michigan. I had a map showing the general location of the sites. According to one lighthouse historian, there were as many as 247 lighthouses in Michigan, but now less than 100 are in good condition. My information was sketchy—we didn’t know exactly where many of the lighthouses were located, and we didn’t know which ones were open to the public or were privately owned. But off we went, driving around Lake Michigan. I think we managed to see seven or eight lighthouses. Some were really off the beaten path—but here’s the curiosity – no matter how far off the main road, no matter what the weather (it was raining buckets when we found Point Betsie) – when we finally found the elusive lighthouse – there were always cars parked here and there and tourists busy taking pictures of the lighthouse.  We laughed a lot about this (and probably should have asked people where they were headed next and did they know how to find it?).

And then, when we reached Holland, Michigan, and called our brother Jim, to tell him we would be back at his place the next day, he decided to drive over and meet us. Well, we didn’t know exactly where Big Red, the Holland lighthouse, was located. So we asked three or four employees in the restaurant we visited for breakfast, if they knew how to get to Big Red. No one knew. We laughed uproariously over this. One employee was new to the area. Another wasn’t interested.  And so on. Jim took the wheel and we drove around until we found Big Red. I thought of that roadtrip as the Where’s Waldo of Lighthouses.

A thought occurred to me when I began typing this—I think the first time I gave some serious thought to lighthouses as being structures in which someone might actually live was when I first read CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN many decades ago.  Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, two of the twelve Gilbreth children, wrote Cheaper by the Dozen and the sequel BELLES ON THEIR TOES; the family packed up and went to the coast each summer–where they owned and occupied an old lighthouse.

Well, long before I started collecting lighthouses, I became interested in cookie jars and cookbooks. I think of it as a twofer if you collect cookie jars and find cookie jars shaped like lighthouses, or you collect cookbooks and find cookbooks dedicated to one or more lighthouses. How cool is that?

This is what I have been working my way up to announcing – cookbooks about lighthouses.

Books about lighthouses are plentiful, now.  (Not so much years ago), but it seems like interest in lighthouses has grown by leaps and bounds. If I have any disappointment in lighthouse books, it’s that so many of them are coffee-table size which makes it a bit difficult for someone like me to write about each one with the limited space on my computer desk.

What has surprised me most are the cookbooks with a lighthouse theme.  So, I would like to share a few of these with you. Then, perhaps in a separate post, I can delve into books about the lighthouses I have books about.

One of the first that came to my attention is THE LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOK by Anita Stewart. This book was published in 1988 by Harbour Publishing Co LTD, in British Columbia.  The dedication page offers “For all the families who keep British Columbia’s lights shining.  And for my own, who kept the home fires burning”.

The introduction to THE LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOK is illuminating in more ways than one.  Ms. Stewart writes “…This  book offers a glimpse of a Canadian way of life and its foodways which, despite the protesting chores, may eventually be lost. Although the ‘demanning’ process has been stalled, it has not been stopped altogether. Many of the lights are going, some in this book are gone.

The lightstations of British Columbia are unique to North America. With the exceptions of a few lights protecting the rugged coast of Newfoundland, all the others across the nation are situated so that the keepers drive to them, work their shift and return home to their families. The Americans have automated all their lights so that the role of the keepers has been reduced to mainly grass-cutting chores…”

Stewart explains, “In September, 1986, I was on a assignment for Canadian Living at Steveston’s  Fisherman’s Market. Among the crowds of the busy fishing dock, I met Mike Glass, a photographer from Saltspring Island who was there to take location shots….”

Anita and the photographer hit it off right away. They talked about Canada and Mike Glass told her  he was about to set off on a nation-wide photographic odyssey and she was drugged by the beauty of the Pacific coast. It was during that brief meeting that he told her the saga of the lightkeepers, and how, at that moment, they were fighting for their existence.  Anita says without Mike this book would never have been written.

In May, 1987, Anita was to board CCGS (George R. Pearkes) or so she thought. Her baggage did! Anita was shuttled to the helicopter pad where a veteran chopped pilot and his engineer were waiting. They were to visit Race Rocks before landing on the ship.  “Landing on the ships??” she exclaims. She says it’s hard to act cool when you’ve never flown over the ocean at less than 20,000 feet much less never had the dubious privilege of flying in a helicopter. “But we survived,” she writes, “dipsey-doodling above Race and finally without a shiver, onto the deck of the Pearkes while she pounded through swells and hobby-horsed on their crests….”  She says it was her first hair-raising encounter with the Coast Guard and it wouldn’t be her last. Describing herself as “a meek, mild mannered housewife” she became adept at swinging over the ride of a rolling icebreaker, down rope ladders and onto rollercoasting work boats.

Anita says it was during that trip, which circumnavigated Vancouver Island, and later that year on the CCGS Martha L. Black in the northern district of Prince Rupert, that she visited the last of the twenty-eight lightstations (sic) that are represented in this book. She landed on most of the southern stations via Messerschmidt helicopter.  In the north she made the trips ashore in a work boat that was pushing a 17,000 liter fuel barge or in a gutsy little zodiac. “Wearing a bright orange survival suit,” she writes, “and rubber boots that always seemed to gurgle with sea water, I was welcomed with open arms, steaming mugs of coffee and plates of cookies, squares and cakes. Never in all my travels as a foodie, have I encountered such a consistently excellent group of cooks as on the lightstations of British Columbia…”

She explains that once a month food arrives. “Sometimes it’s dropped by helicopter, but most often it is loaded into deep work boats and sloshed ashore by the crew. Winches and pulleys help to sling the monthly supplies, sometimes sodden, onto the cement pads where, as quickly as possible, they are stored safely away. The grocery bills range from $400 to $700 per month and most stations have a storeroom that has a few months’ supplies ahead, in case of emergency. Flour and many other staples are purchased from the wholesaler in bulk, to be dumped into big plastic storage buckets.

With limited freezer space—indeed, freezers have only been available for the past twenty years or so—the families of the lights have to be pioneers in the truest sense. They are left to their own devices. And those who are resourceful survive in a wonderful way—freshly baked breads, home-grown vegetables, the ultimate in just-harvested shellfish, wild game, and an incomparable chance to touch the earth…”

Stewart goes onto say that lightkeeping is much, much more and provides examples from lightkeepers she became acquainted with.  “Lightkeeping,” she writes, “is the commitment to build a good life—the magnificent stone greenhouse at Ivory Island, a microphone listening for the undersea singing of whales at Boat Bluff. It’s the peregrine falcons of Langara and the hummingbirds of Scarlett Point. All of which is completely new to me and demonstrates how much there is to learn about light houses and how little I know. Stewart adds that it’s also a life of danger and darkness, lost at sea bulletins and tsunami warnings. She warns that weeks creep by without a break from the relentless pounding of rain and the winter surf. Gale follows hard on gale. The skies ooze, she writes. Fishing boats go down, search and rescue operations begin. Coast Guard and keepers work together to pull survivors to shore, salvage the wrecks and constantly monitor the area for other incidents.

Anita concludes the Introduction by writing, “I hope my book brings to you, the reader, a sense of what lightkeeping today is all about Here is one last image: at Estevan, the sweeping buttresses of the magnificent lighthouse, the most beautiful on the coast, stood between me and the blood-red sunset streaking the late spring sky. Gardens of sturdy, gem-like flowers spread at my feet. The rocky short seemed to be lovingly stretched by the sea breezes for miles in both directions. My hair blew in the winds of the beautiful cool evening. The clean scent of the ocean filled my lungs. But the reverie was broken by a conversation about the washed-in wreckage that had been seen down on the rocky beach, what boat the battered hull belonged to and when it    might have gone down…”

Lightkeeping”, she finishes, “is a life of contrast, one of utter extremes.”

The book begins with a chapter of HEART-WARMING SOUPS AND BEVERAGES illustrated with a drawing of Point Atkinson. This chapter begins with a recipe for Lighthouse Borsch, provided by Elaine and Donald Graham of Point Atkinson. There is a brief profile of the Grahams in which Anita Stewart writes, “Although the Grahams hardly fit into the ‘isolate lightkeepers’ profile—their children attend school in West Vancouver and Point Atkinson is close to much of the best shopping in Canada—they were keepers for a number of years at both Lucy and Bonilla Islands.

They are perhaps best known for their role in fighting the automation of BC’s lightstations and for Donald’s two excellent histories of lightkeeping in British Columbia, KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT and LIGHTS OF THE INSIDE PASSAGE*. Those two volumes were my nightly reading aboard both the George R. Pearkes and the Martha L. Black.

When they left Regina and headed for British Columbia, on their way to a posting in Central America that never did materialize, they took with them the recipes of Ukrainian prairie cooks.  This soup recipe was ‘invaluable during the winter months on lighthouses because root vegetables store so well.” (The recipe for Lighthouse Borsch follows.

*I have a copy of LIGHTS OF THE INSIDE PASSAGE and more information about this book will be provided later on in this post- sls

Incidentally, the recipe for Lighthouse Borsch would be a winner for Weight Watchers such as myself or for anyone watching their weight.

Also from the Grahams is a recipe for Basic Chicken Stock which I love. The Grahams advise that the stock can be made with an old stewing hen or from chicken parts that you have saved in the freezer. Elaine Graham confides that she always makes a huge batch and freezes jars of it to be used in cooking everything from soup to rice. (I often assume everyone knows that tip about collecting undesirable chicken parts until you have enough saved up to make stock—if not, then  let me tell you, it’s easy to do—put the backs, necks, wings or giblets from chicken in a large plastic freezer bag. On a day when you aren’t too busy, throw the chicken parts into a pot – no need to thaw – and add onions, celery, including leaves, some diced carrots, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves and a handful of your favorite herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme, and fill the pot with water and let the whole thing cook over a low flame to simmer for 4 or 5 hours. Voila—you will have chicken stock.

Another recipe that I like is “Back of the Stove” Vegetable Soup contributed b Gwen and Doug Fraser, at Pine Island. Gwen writes, “I have never used frozen veggies. I get fresh vegetables from my garden…broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I don’t measure. Oh, I use about half a head of cauliflower, several carrots, and as far as broccoli goes, it must be cup up into between 1 and 2 cups. It’s just one of those soups that get better in flavor the next day.”  Gwen makes the soup with a pound and a half of ground beef, onion, stewed tomatoes, beef bouillon cubes, uncooked rice, salt, basil, pepper and “loads of fresh vegetables”.

END OF PART ONE