THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION by Beatrice Ross Buszek
While I was still mulling over the multitude of single topic cookbooks, I found a few more to share with you.
Three of these, about berries, were written by the same cookbook author, Beatrice Ross Buszek, of Nova Scotia.
The author tells of leaving her home in Nova Scotia and spending thirty years in different parts of the USA. However, in the introduction to The Apple Connection, Beatrice writes about her childhood in Nova Scotia, how everybody in the town had at least two apple trees and there were orchards as far as the eye could see.
Beatrice recalls how her father would put a barrel of Northern Spys and a barrel of Winter Gravensteins as well as a box of Russets in their basement.
Beatrice writes that in the thirty years before she returned to Nova Scotia, she was fortunate to live in apple country—Massachutsets, Washington State, Michigan, Northern California, and up-state New York (which is where I got the idea that her first cookbook was the apple connection—but I was mistaken). She says it was her experience to find such a similarity between the cooking customs, temperament, attitudes, and values of apple country people. She thinks the link was not so much the climate as the rural ambience, plus an unconscious reaching out and finding familiar traits and ways when far from home.
In the Introduction to the Cranberry Connection, the author writes, “Someone asked me where I got the idea for a cranberry cookbook. It was a simple question but with a not so simple answer. I thought on the many events of the past year and it occurred to me to put them together, to write the story of the bog adventure before getting into the berries…”
She continues, “As the tale unfolded the pages soon outnumbered the recipes. It would fill a second book to recount the many beginnings, diversions and intrigues of the cranberry caper; for example after many years away, I returned to the land of my childhood and bought a little old house overlooking a deserted cranberry bog in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. What a wonderful spot! I shall always remember the first time I stood in the yard and looked all around me…”
The author recounts that the house sits on a knoll alongside the post road just off the main highway. Her nearest neighbor was an old Baptist church and the earn morning sun rising out o f the mist and shining through its windows, blessing the little house with its golden rays.
In June [of that year] the author moved into the house and in October came the Crimson harvest. Beatrice fired up the old kitchen range and began to cook and experiment, beginning with a spiced version of cranberry sauce. The cookbooks were not much help as, like herself, most cookbook editors thought of the cranberry mainly in terms of the turkey but here and there should found creative and tested ideas using this inexpensive native fruit .
Beatrice goes on to write, “some Nova Scotia mothers still believe that a daughter who goes off to the “States” is automatically neither interested in nor skilled in kitchen happenings…” She says her mother was amused at the sudden cranberry craze but she was also astounded. She thought it was silly to bother with “those sour berries” when “everybody knows they are only good to make sauce”. Her mother became a cranberry convert.
“And”, Beatrice continues, “there are things that only obscurely relate to the origin of the cookbook”, like the day she climbed into the attic of the little house and found a bundle of old diaries. (Be still my heart! What I wouldn’t give or just to be able to READ such a find!) Beatrice read and read; the diaries upset her. She began to feel very close to the woman who wrote them. Her life was a yearly repeat of the same routine and the only diversion from her duties were Church and the cranberries. Beatrice writes that she now thinks she only had no choice about Church and cranberries either. She was glad when she read that the author of the diaries like to walk across the lane in the wet early morning July grass to find spots where the cranberry blossoms were most plentiful and pinkest and that she would pick a sprig and put it in a jar on the windowsill in the kitchen. (I had, perhaps, a sensation of kinship while reading the above—after spending the last two summers canning tomatoes and tomato juice from the produce in my son Kelly’s garden).
Beatrice writes that the cranberry quest opened many old and new doors to the past, revealing, for instance, the many links between the “Boston States” and Nova Scotia. She read of the planters from New England, prior to the coming of the Loyalists, who developed this section of the province, sowing seeds of their culture wherever they settled. Beatrice read of old Cape Cod and how the cranberry was first cultivated in Canada. Now, over a hundred years later, Beatrice found herself in the midst of another cranberry adventure. (*note: Beatrice’s cookbook, the Cranberry Connection, was first published in Canada in 1977; a second Canadian printing took place a year later, in May of 1978).
In November of the Beatrice’s first cranberry adventure, she spent a few hours in the botany laboratory at Canada’s Arcadia University where, among other varieties, the large American cranberry and the wild foxberry, were well researched. Her mind wandered, she writes (still in the introduction) as she wandered across the campus, pondering all that she had learned about the cranberry—its colorful past and even brighter future*. As she wandered, a cranberry cookbook took shape in her head and she could imagine the pages with bits of fact and folklore as could be fitted in between the pages. (*It should be noted that the beautiful sketches in Beatrice’s cookbooks were created by her daughter Christine and Jeanie, a friend from Ontario
Beatrice continues to explain, in the Introduction. “How the long winter weekends at Cranberry Cottage were spent collecting, sorting, testing and printing recipes”. (It should be noted that all the recipes in Beatrice’s cookbooks were handwritten).
Beatrice recalls “the country smell of the wood stove in the kitchen and the apple wood flames in the Franklin* filled the house and me with a feeling of warmth and excitement.” (*a kind of wood stove. I have one in my living room–sls)
Beatrice continues, “it was uncanny how accurately my mood or liking for the recipe, or time of day or night was reflected in the handwritten recipes. Later I could easily spot those recipes printed over the holiday season when I was snowbound for eight days or those printed during a long dreary rainy spell…”
Beatrice also explains how many recipes were discarded,keeping those she liked best and hoped would win over cranberry skeptics.
THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION reads very much like a kitchen diary; the recipes are all hand-printed; the drawings done by her daughter and a friend. It wouldn’t be fair for me to copy any of the recipes but I hope that readers who love cranberries will get a copy of the Cranberry Connection. There are many cranberry recipes in the cookbook—all tested by Beatrice. It is a testament to the Cranberry Connection that it went through more than one printing.
I found it on Amazon.com for various prices, new copies are available for about $18.00; pre-owned are available on different websites starting at one cent & going up. I recommend this book.
–Sandra Lee Smith