“Warm familiar scents drift softly from the oven,
and imprint forever upon our hearts,
that this is home,
and that we are loved”
William Barclay once said, that there are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born, and the day we discover why. As we get older, we may not be as eager to mark the day, or to be reminded that another year has passed, but as our late father often reminded us, it is better to have another birthday, than the alternative. It was, and still is, difficult to argue with his logic.
To mark the day, in 2019, my work-mates treated me to a memorable afternoon. Not only did I enjoy the pleasure of their company, but I was given a special gift – a birthday cake, made by Carol-Ann McDougall, following my late mother’s recipes, from “Recipes & Recollections”.
Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen
While leafing through some old books late one evening in December 2010, a couple of my late mother’s recipes fell from between the pages, and landed on the floor. I paused, and began to remember all of the wonderful dishes we had growing up. Many of these were prize-winning recipes. Mother had competed in the Home Baking division of the local fairs for nearly three decades. Wouldn’t it be nice to gather her recipes together, so the younger generation could enjoy a collection of their grandmother’s recipes.
I reached out to my four siblings, Tim, Judy, Jackie, and Roger, and asked them to send me any of our mother’s recipes that they had. Within a few weeks, I had gathered together 93 recipes, and along with these, came stories from my siblings, about growing up in rural Eastern Ontario, after the war.
Judy Stafford (Ryan), Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford (Wharton), and Roger Stafford
When we began to share memories from our childhood, I realized that this could be much more than a recipe book. This could be a snapshot in time, for us to pass down to the next generation.
When I had finished assembling the manuscript, I realized that there were over 300 pages, and so we all agreed that we would donate proceeds from the published books to the little church on the hill, back home, where our mother had taken us each Sunday, as children.
Calvin United Church, Cameron Side Road, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County
The book was well received, and there were many kind requests for more stories, about growing up in a rural community, in the 1960s and 70s. This led to six additional books being published.
Carol-Ann McDougall, who now resides in Lanark County, has delighted her family and friends by making many of the recipes from the book. In recent years, Carol-Ann, like our late Mother, has become a keen competitor, in the Baking Division, at the annual Perth Fair.
“The Perth Courier” – Sept. 1965
Judge Audry Stafford, South Lanark Agricultural Society, at the Lombardy Fair
(from ‘Recipes & Recollections’ – page 232)
Carol-Ann followed the recipe for ‘Chocolate Cake’, minus the 1/2 c. of cocoa,
to produce a rich, moist, vanilla cake.
(from ‘Recipes & Recollections’, page 241)
Preparing the birthday cake – Carol-Ann’s kitchen, on the shores of the Big Rideau Lakes
Preparing the Cake and Boiled Icing in Carol-Ann’s kitchen
The finished, homemade cake – light, rich, with the heritage-style boiled icing
The Boiled Icing has a delicate vanilla flavour, not too heavy, but rich, and sweet.
The Stafford House, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County
Known in the area as ‘The Stafford House’, this is where County Fair Judge Audry Stafford, crafted and perfected her prize-winning recipes. The house and grounds were featured, along with 7 other homes, in a ‘Heritage Christmas House Tour’, in 2014.
Sign in front of the ‘Stafford House’, Heritage Christmas House Tours
Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour
…and so, the memories of the cakes and pies, of the old house under the sprawling maples, and of the baker herself, brought back to life by a new cake, made with an old recipe, for an unforgettable birthday.
Many thanks to my kind colleagues, for making my birthday so memorable, and special thanks to Carol-Ann for re-igniting priceless memories from my youth, and bringing my mother’s legacy along to the party.